Pride and Prejudice

So pride is this month. Which is cool, that increases the chance of me getting free various rainbow nick-knacks to by about 200%.  Which is cool. I can't help but be critical of the commercialization. Like I enjoy free stuff but I feel strange about waving a rainbow flag with Suntrust written across it.

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I surround myself with some pretty awesome people and sometimes it makes it harder to interact with people that are more hostile to non normative identification. I mean most people are ok with gay, meaning that they don't have a strong opinion about gay relationships, as long as they are recognizable as a hetero-normative relationship.  Meaning there is clear gender definition between the partners and if that line is blurred it is in a way that is stereotyped enough to be comfortable, e.g. the "butch" lesbian or the "flaming" gay man. If it's not then people have opinions, which is pretty fucked. Like, you're opinion on me isn't going to change who I am, it might make me feel bad, or distance myself from you, but like if you want to understand what I like or how I feel, get to know me. Respect privacy and be a friend first, and don't ask about my gentials. 

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That all being said.  I got way trashed like the friday night before DC Pride aka. Capitol Pride aka Capitolist Pride. Thankfully I wasn't on my normal game of taking tons of pictures while I'm drunk and there aren't any from Friday night, just this gem. 

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I guess I haven't been drinking all that much recently and that has like not helped at all with the hangovers. I figured that if I gave my body a break then when I desided to drink again then it would be easier the nest day. I was fucking wrong, so so wrong. To the point that I think I might need to find a new drug of choice, maybe yoga. 

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All in all I'm still working on that whole balance thing. I think I'm looking back to much at the way I used to live for answers and getting ever more dissapointed. I'm kinda comforted, though, by the fact that I won't ever be that way again. I'm more comfotible now. Even though I still struggle sometimes, I find that I have a better handle on whats important and I feel comfortible communicating my need to the people around me. 

Diversity Training

So I've come back to America. Making a pit stop in Dublin, which ruled. I met some super nice people and drank some real good beer and saw some more castles and stuff. Ireland is another country that I need to spend more time in away from the big cities. It's apparently not hard to do. 

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https://nationalseedproject.org/white-privilege-unpacking-the-invisible-knapsack

Most talk by whites about equal opportunity seems to me now to be about equal opportunity to try to get into a position of dominance while denying that systems of dominance exist

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I also made a pit stop in Richmond, because I had to. 

But I am now back state said, living in Baltimore with my mom. 

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It doesn't feel like giving up and moving home, at least I'm trying to convince myself of that. Instead I am coming back to work on my relationship with stability. I have been floating for a long time, years before I moved to China. In fact China was the closest I've been to a stable heathly life, after I made a decision to be a little less toxic to myself.  But I realized, while I did a lot of healing in Chengdu, I was getting stuck in a rut and needed to make a decsion, Was I going to linger on a budget and party forever? 

I finding making a commitment is hard. I like being on the road, I like traveling and meeting new people, I just haven't been sustainible and now here I am. Should I stick around and try to save and then make my move, or find a job that moves with me? China is always calling my name. So many great mysteries of the East are still to be explored. Should I be a visitor or an inhabitant? What is really better, selfishness aside. 

Rule #3

Try not
to die
Proof that nothing is sacred.

Proof that nothing is sacred.

Corporatism is interesting. How it's pretty much impossible not to participate. Especially when traveling. I found myself, in China, frequenting Starbucks, opposed to other local coffee shops, mostly because they had soy milk and other places didn't. Chains offer familiarity. I know how it works so I feel more comfortable.  But I guess the entire point of travel is to make yourself uncomfortable, at least the way I try to do it. It also conflicts with my general "support local, F big business" attitude. What does it mean to say that you've been somewhere? Once you find the familiar away from the recognizable.  Once you've had that aha, cosmic unity, omg we're all connected moment. Like meeting people that have the same personality as someone you know that lives across the world and speak a different language, or finding people who like the same music as you, or watching kids in the street make games out of nothing and play with sticks. 

Little kid playing with a stick.

Little kid playing with a stick.

So, it took me the better part of two years in Asia to finally make it to Thailand. 

Evening in Koh Chang. #nofliter 

Evening in Koh Chang. #nofliter 

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I met Kat over the summer while in Richmond. She is chill af and is doing six months teaching in Thailand. We linked up once I got to Bangkok. We went out, rode tuk tuks, listened to disco and had a blast. She told me about a punk fest in the city the weekend after I got there. It was mostly hardcore (windmill) but it was still fun. 

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I was advised to get out of Bangkok on my visit to Thailand. Kat suggested the island of Koh Chang.

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This Dave, I met him at the punk show in Bangkok, he agreed to join me on my island trip, didn't take much convincing. After spending the night in the bus station, we missed the last bus, we managed to get a 5am start to Koh Chang. 

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We woke up in the bus station and made it to one of the most beautiful places I've been, so far, in time for my 28th birthday. 

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We decided to walk around the island, which isn't possible fyi. But once we figured that out we found this really cool deserted beach. It looks like the area was once an old resourt but no one had been there for years.  Pretty sure if we'd stayed after dark we'd've found dinosaurs. (They're cold blooded and it's too hot on Koh Chang during the day)

Touched by an elephant.

Touched by an elephant.

We found a place that in exchange for some volunteer work put us up for three nights.  Here are some pictures of us working.

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Very stressful job.

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Left us with no nights to ourselves.

Rule #2: Don't throw up.

Rule #2: Don't throw up.

All in all a great experience. Felt great every morning. 

Green curry from  May Kaidee's  vegan restaurant in Bangkok.

Green curry from May Kaidee's vegan restaurant in Bangkok.

I thought that two weeks in Thailand would be enough, boy was I wrong.  I needed the escape and the heat, I am currently still escaping in a colder place.  And the foood so good. Tones of stuff came with fish sauce but with help from Dave's phrase book, it wasn't too hard to ask for food without it. Koh Chang is full of foreigners as well so many of the locals had a working knowledge of English. Yeah I felt like a dick speaking English in a foreign country but would I have been more of a dick if I just horribly mispronounce their language when they spoke mine perfectly? I dunno, English isn't just my language it's a pretty universal one like its a lingua franca... aw jeez no matter what at this point I sound like an ass. 

Travel more, see things, meet people, eat plants. 

Over and Out

New Years Eve was a blur.

New Years Eve was a blur.

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So, I’m currently in Thailand and I will have updates on that soon. But first, Christmas and new years. It seems so far away now. I really needed these friends in Chengdu. It really started to feel like home. But it almost broke me. I have suffered from depression for as long as I can remember. The combination of the cold and dark with the troubles at work, it felt like the only thing holding me together was these people. But they have their own lives and I am bad at asking for help. I know I have first world problems and I'm lucky to only have to deal with emotional health and hangovers.  That fact doesn't make them any less real. In a world of of "what about" culture it best to focus on what I can affect. 

There pomegranates doe... #nofilter

There pomegranates doe... #nofilter

That’s why I’m here, in beautiful, warm and vibrant Thailand. I’m starting to feel better. I still have avoidance anxiety and I’m still unsure about the future but I’m proud that I’ve done something for myself. I'm taking steps to a cleaner bill of mental health. When I'm ready I'll go back and take a healthy stab at teaching abroad. 

Puppies help.

Puppies help.

And it helps to have friends with senses of humor. 

And it helps to have friends with senses of humor. 

Someone brought a bunny to the bar. 

Someone brought a bunny to the bar. 

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Big parts of the reason I want to go back to Chengdu are the things I've started, including an awesome DnD campaign began a few weeks ago with some friends of friends.  I need to continue the adventures of Aleda the ex-sailor fighter that is secretly a fire Genasi. Neeeerrrddd. 

Also rugby, I have some serious rugby obligations that I will be neglecting. I'll try my best from afar but I'm gonna be selfish af this trip. 

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Chengdu became like Richmond to me. I stayed for the friends even though I was miserable. It’s like a shitty job that you should quit but you don’t because you love your co-workers and you don’t want to leave them or let them down.

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I am lucky to have experienced the love of so many awesome people. I think I will be back but I need time to collect myself. I haven't said goodbye yet. 

Thanks China

topical side note : If you gain the Senate seat but you ran against a pedofile... did you really win... can you really celebrate?

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So China doesn’t care about Christmas. Well, that’s not true. They make all of your Christmas presents so they do care quite a lot. The west funds their Chinese new year vacations. Also I’ve heard that pollution gets worse around Christmas because factories are working over time. Enjoy your world’s best dad mug you freakin fascist.

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I’m working through the holiday season. By a strange twist of fate I managed to get Thanksgiving off, my school was having an event… they didn’t need me. Any excuse to blow off my already easy as fuck job

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Well, it’s easy on paper. Trying to work through a language barrier with kids that are in school, a place they don’t want to be, to teach them something objectively difficult in a way that doesn’t make you and them want to die. It’s a balancing act that may try and fail at. I think I’m doing alright. The trick is, don’t teach the kids ways to criticize you in English and you can pretend you’re the best teacher in the world.

I’m working on getting my online teaching career up and running. I want the extra money, hopfully my laptop with holdout until I can earn enough to get a new one.

Side note: Is it fucked up to use your computer to obtain its replacement. I didn't mean anything by it robot overlords.

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http://pro.bols.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/atlas.jpg

I want to be able to make money while traveling. The closer I get to leaving China the more I realize I can’t go back to having a “normal” life. Working a job a hate for money I then spend on temporary good times. “When I think of all the good times that I’ve wasted having good times”. The only thing is I wish I had started sooner. I talked myself out of teaching abroad for years. The things I thought were important still are but what really matters will make an attempt to keep up with you.

C.R.E.A.M.

China rules everything around me.
An amazing view of the Du.

An amazing view of the Du.

I'm back offically it's been about three weeks or so, maybe, I'm not sure. I'm falling back into a rhythm. 

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It's my second week back at work. I'm surprised at how easy it's been. I'm at the same school with the same kids and teachers. I have a lesson plan writing system down. I'm feeling pretty condfident.

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Chengdu and I would assume most of the expat community in China, is a strange blend of maturity and outrageousness.  Most of us are adult enough to have our own careers, projects and creative outlets while maintaining a totally carefree attitude. It's almost like nothing really matters here so you might as well try to make it great.  I think that's the type of personality it takes to live in e place like this, equal parts nihilist and hustler. I love it. I feel free here. I don't have to fight for a job, I have free time to pursue things I love, like reading writing and rugby while creating amazing memories and having one of a kind experiences. 

Home is Where the Heart Is

I couldn't find my outlet adapter for my laptop charger. None of the stores near my apartment carried them so blah blah. It's all sorted now. Sorry about the huge gap between post. Hopefully it won't be an issue now. I'm going to try to average two posts a week, Mondays and Thursdays, depending on how interesting my life is. kthanksbye

 

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I left Tennessee for Baltimore. I spent a few more days with me mah. It was good. We went to the farmers market in PA and gawked at some Amish people. I'm going to miss her. I wish I could afford to see her for the holidays. 

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While in the area I met up with my buddy Eric. He's working in DC so we met at the Sticky Rice near his work for some mexican beers. I missed the crap outta this dude. It was nice how we could just jump back into our old rhythm even though it's been well over a year.  His comedy is taking off. Which makes sense because he's funny as heck. Take note of Eric Koucheravy, you'll see his name in lights one day, I'm so proud. 

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Then I went home home, Springfield, Virginia. Like the worst place. Mostly an highway exit and a commuter stop for the metro. Miles of subdivisions and gas stations. So glad to not call that place home anymore. Some of my friends still do, or have left and come back.

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Those were the people I went to see, litterally the only people in the Spliff I care about seeing.  I still had a great time with these folks. Good people and alcohol make any situation alright. Had some of those hard sparkling water thingys. Jesus Christ are the dangerous. Considering how much I love sparkling water, I have a problem. With soda water or alcohol...you decide. 

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To continue my boozy adventure I made a stop in Pittsburgh, PA to visit my friend from China. I dragged her to the goth night portion of Skull Fest 2017. My friend Aaron's band was playing the night I got into the city. We got too drunk, started at like 1:30, Jessie bailed around 1030. I managed to chug a mountain dew and got back in the game. Started talking to an old friend, Brandon, and ended up watching the sun come up after an after party. WTF they put in Mountian Dew is serious and probably shouldn't be consumed by anyone. 

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The next day Jessie and I went white water rafting. Total blast for me, trying not to throw up while waiting in the hot sun for our raft. No one wanted to be in our group so we got paired with one of the guides. Which ruled because he just told us what to do the whole time, so no thinking/drowning. Also he was chill and we taked and talked trash about the other rafters :)

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Saw the eclipse after we saw a guy lose his pants in the bar, 230 pm. That night I was back on a bus heading for Newark and ultimately Chengdu.

Country Music Television

The weekend I spent in Nashville! yeee haw!

But for real Nashville is crazy. Left Richmond at 1:30 am Thursday and I got into the air bnb Friday night around 9. The plan was to spend the night in Nashville with Jay and Maria. They now live with Maria's parents somewhere out in the county, well outside of cab range. But, they had a windshield issue and I ended up beating them to Tennessee, so I had to fend for myself this weekend. I had a plan.

This really cool chick back in Richmond told me to go to The End, once I got to Nashville. Said it was live rock and roll club, heavy stuff. I wasted no time after getting in, took a whore bath changed my underwear and called a cab (my Chinese phone won't run the apps) to pick me up. I didn't even look up who was playing, I just went. I figured Friday night it's gotta be something good. Get there, hear what sounds like a sound check. Pay my ten dollars to get in aaaand it's a mother fucking dubstep show.  I'm such and asshole, should have checked. 

I gtfo. I took the 30 min walk to Broadway and 5th Ave. Not super scenic, besides seeing my first White Castle. But I got to walk down the hill into all the crazy that is Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee on a Friday night. Well, I heard it before I saw it. I imagine I felt similar to how the union must have felt walking into the rebel yell, confident while still being nervous and unsure of what lies ahead, probably certain death.

I was greeted by bright lights, overwhelming swarms of people and country music spewing from every opening.  I stumbled down the road letting the flow of the crowd direct me. I found myself at a bar that had "Hillbilly Music" written on the side of the building. "Alright, this could work'" I thought also there was no line, unlike many of the bars on the strip. I walked inside this place, Layla's, and saw exactly what I was looking for. Tatted grown men playing "American Music".  

I go up to the bar and ordered a shot of bourbon and a pbr. I love being home. I made my way down to the dance floor where the band, Hillbilly Casino, was playing Johnny B. Good. The band leader was wearing a Ramones shirt and I picked out one other rock-and-roller in the crowd. We started chanting "hey ho, lets go" and they played blitzkrieg bop. Which was tight. I thought I was going to be stuck with country renditions of "Love yourself" Journey covers and probably a lot of Skinnard. So hearing the Ramones was a huge relief. I got so into it, I didn't know that places like this were real. It was a caricature of everything I hoped Nashville would be. I could not stop laughing and dancing. I ended up talking to the rock-and-roller, Mookie, he invited to come with him and his buddies to another bar. Totes a safe decision ;)

Mookie wanted to go sing karaoke somewhere not on Broadway, still close by. I am always down for karaoke. On the walk I learned Mookie and his friends, were a band from old steel country Pennsylvania. They were in Nashville, from what I gathered, because Mookie wanted to live there at some point in the future. We also talked about traveling and music and nerdy stuff. We got the bar and his plan to get in without paying the five dollar cover backfired, I think he was trying to appeal to my bad kid sensibilities. We drank pbr, I sang Carrie Underwood, "Next Time He Cheats", and genuinly enjoyed myself. When we left he put the last one into my backpack, man after my own heart. We're supposed to hang when I get to Pittsburgh, looking forward to it.  

And that was night one in Nashville. 

Saturday morning, I woke up in my airbnb. I wasn't able to book it for another night, so I got bed in a hostel downtown, which I should have done from the beginning. I checked out at 11, and walked down to the bus stop with my hiking backpack, my regular backpack and my uke. 

My bus doesn't come for another 40 minutes, so I got prepared to chill. I'm standing there for two minutes with this guy lumbers up with arms full of groceries. Drops them on the ground with much relief. He then asked if I would watch his stuff while he ran into the store. I agreed and he gave me a big bottle of cold water for my trouble. He sees my backpack and other things and asks, "you're train hoppin ain't cha?" I told him no, that I was just a regular traveler. Apparently Tazz, the man later explained who he was by showing me his tattoo of the looney toons character, hopped trains all over the country back in his day. Now that his kids were all grown and gone he was free to make some money. First by selling Denver pot for Tennessee prices, then turning his Colorado warehouse into a smoke shop/restaurant. I told him I'd look it up in a few years and despite my protests he gave me three dollars for a bus pass. Best of luck to you Tazz. 

Made it to downtown Nashville, despite my protests Tazz gave me 3 bucks for a bus pass, with an hour to spare before check-in at the hostel. So I found a nice spot to play a little music. I put my bag down and ended up making 5 dollars and a poptart. I had a pretty nice time trying to match the right song to the people who were walking by. I got way more smiles than dollars but I'm ok with that, considering I was busking for play money not food money.  Aw jeez it's hard coming to terms with your own privilege. 

My hostel room has a first name. 

My hostel room has a first name. 

So using my debit card, I checked into my room at the hostel. Dropped my stuff off, I was on the top bunk, and went to find a place where I could plug my phone and also be on it, yeah I have a problem. I sat down at this table in the middle of the common room at the hostel, a few seats over from a guy on a laptop. Right after I plug my phone in one of the staff members made a grand loop of the room, weaving between couches, on one of those hover board things.  Me and my table neighbor make eye contact and the same shrugy face. He, Nik, says, "I didn't think that was necessary, but ok". "I was thinking the same thing" I laughed. Turned out this guy was a journalist from South African writing some heavy article about race and all that. He seemed sweet, if not unnaturally tall. We shared some beers, or he gave me beer while he worked so he felt better about drinking by himself.  We made plans to link up later that night. 

Credit: PLA Media

Credit: PLA Media

I left the common room with a charged phone, got cleaned up and set to wondering the streets. Again music was everywhere. Not just coming from the bars, every few paces there was a different street performer.

The bouncers from the night before recognized me as I walked by Layla's, nope not again. I crossed the street and entered Nudie's, "The Longest Bar in Nashville". The bar was long if not largely unoccupied. Making up for it, the band playing there had the most beautiful front woman I had ever seen. Well, maybe not the most beautiful but in that moment, as she was singing Enter Sandman into her pink microphone, wearing her cowboy hat and boots and her American Flag bandanna, I fell in love, at least until I finished my beer. 

Moving on, I met up with that guy from the common room. He was with a young guy who had interned with his network in SA or something. Super nice kid, made me feel old af. We wondered together looking for a place with the right vibe. As we walked, we saw so many mother fucking bachelorette parties, like at least 20. Apparently Nashville is like number two in the country as a bachlorette party destination.  As the night wore on the kid had to take off and me and Nik make a plan to smoke and go check out Coyote Ugly.

For real, that place was everything I wanted it to be. It had the purest concentration of bachelorette parties as well a perverts, as to be expected. We could not stop laughing the entire time. There were bartenders were  dumping water all over themselves and their body shot victims, dancing on the bar to "The Devil Went Down to Georgia", and a lot of awkward boners. Priceless. 

Twin Oaks

So, I'm an idiot and left my laptop in Richmond and I lost my draft for this post sooo it's been a while. I am currently at Maria's parent's house in TN on Jay's laptop. Best friends for the win.

I wanted to write a little about the freakin awesome time I had visiting my sister at Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, VA. TO is one of the oldest intentional communities in the country and is part of a large network of other egalitarian communities. For a year I lived in a community that was part of that network and now my sister lives at Twin Oaks. 

I swear I helped.

I swear I helped.

Emily has been at Twin Oaks for nine months. She's a full member. Which is pretty sweet. I had been to TO before but I had never stayed. And I really liked my week there. It was like going to summer camp. I did some gardening, swam naked in a pond, did some repair work. They even had a party one night, complete with a DJ and the good kind of party favors. I danced for at least two hours straight. Also had some rad conversations with some rad people. I could really see myself living in a place like that. Welcoming and free but also industrious and respectful. 

photo credit: twin oaks community, veganworldwide.com

photo credit: twin oaks community, veganworldwide.com

The greatest part of all was probably the food. TO makes Tofu. Like the greatest tofu and tofu accessories I've ever had and I live in fucking China. So naturally, there are some awesome vegan meals. Most of the food was at least veg, I think it represents the "from the earth" mentality that this community has. They grow a ton of food just to be consumed by the community. They also grow animals, which always makes me feel strange. 

Awesome party cat from the TO rave. I loved them so much.

Awesome party cat from the TO rave. I loved them so much.

One of the first things that surprised me when I initially came to community was the lack of vegans. I had always associated the "hippie" with vegetarianism. Likewise, I had always associated the radical with animal rights. I guess part of growing up is understanding that not everyone comes from the same perspective as you. Activism led me to veganism. For me, it's the easiest form of anti-consumer protest. I also know that they way I manifest my reality is my own. And I will continue to manifest, all in ya face.