Off for the Philippines

 

Sometimes words are just simply not enough.  It’s easier to let one thought turn into another without putting any energy into it.  But I will give it a try…

I had Nick Huerra, Jamie’s husband, graciously take me to the Greyhound bus from Fresno to Oakland Thursday where Gordon Olson picked me up and transported me to Ed Angle’s in Alameda Thursday afternoon.  It just turned out Gordon was available and able to give me a ride over to Ed’s for a little more than 24 hours.  Gordon was still busy running errands and packing for the Philippine trip.  

Ed and his wife, Nicky, run an fantastic Air B&B out of their luxurious Victorian home and intermittently let Daniel Trebase use it when it is available so Daniel, with his legal knowledge, can work more closely with Ed as Ed does his legal advocacy work, harassing the legal system into obeying a more consistent code of law, which the legal system will cut big corners on when given the chance.  You gotta love Ed for the passion he puts into his work, biting like an ornery gadfly every judge and lawyer who resists the rule of law for the sake of simply streamlining a somewhat corrupt system.  

So that night Ed, Nicky, and myself went into downtown Oakland, which has been completely restored by then mayor Jerry Brown, and now seems more like San Francisco than the old East Bay, a decrepit, rundown, ghetto of immense proportion.  The restaurants now are natural foods, unique, and I hate to say it, but sort of upper middle class variety that one can find just about any desirable food on the market.  Being that it was my birthday, Ed treated me to my meal, not that he wouldn’t have offered to do so anyway.  I always sort of feel like I am with my father when it comes to his generosity.  

It was interesting that the same day, Kerry Thur called me on the phone and we were talking when he mentioned that he saw a program that highlighted Ed and his work on the 9-11 research proposing the conspiracy theory, that 9-11 was actually an inside government job.  I knew Ed and some other engineers from around the U.S. had done quite a bit of work trying to prove that the collapse of the twin towers could not have happened the way it was said to have happened, that there had to have been some help for everything to have happened the way it did.  Nevertheless, it was an interesting theory, and I was not a bit surprised that the theory made one of the networks on TV.  It was very typical of Ed’s work and whether one believes his theory or not, he presents some intriguing evidence how it could have happened.   

The next day, Ed, Daniel Trebase, and myself went out to the edge of Oakland where Alameda and Oakland meet, to some park that nobody has ever heard of.  It has an observation tower where Oakland and Alameda end at the estuary and the bay takes over with a terrific view of San Francisco.  Ed wanted to go out there to see if the park was ever completed.  Interesting. It was a park few people ever heard about.  Call it an inner city park.  It was surrounded by massive cranes and maybe miles of docks built for unloading ships of their cargo containers in stacks high enough to look like ultra modern pieces of sculpture artwork.  Strange place.  I guess after unloading, rearranging, dredging up, and transporting 50 bi-jillion tons of cement rock for the docks and wildlife preserve, they had a fairly large chunk of land left over for something—who knows what—-so they turned it into a “park”.   

Around dark we headed back to Alameda, via the Park street Bridge, and had an evening of Viet Nam food on the estuary.  Nice little surprise.  Then we headed back to Ed’s and met up with Gordon and his friend David, who we visited with for 30 minutes before David hauled the two of us to the BART station, back in Oakland, where Gordon and I began our journey to the Philippines.   

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Off for the Philippines

Oregon

Should I feel excited about travel? Maybe it is a good sign that there is a certain anticipation to travel rather than doubt and anxiety.  Maybe it is just the changing of the seasons and I happen to be hitting blue sky, cirrus clouds, and moderate temperatures, while in Ore-ee–gone, no less.  But then maybe it is because I’ve committed to another go at the Philippines only this time I am traveling on the same flight as Gordon Olson and we have nearly two weeks of travel together planned, before we break off and go our own separate ways.  I think it is all of the above, PLUS, my body seems to be healing, very slowly, but nevertheless, moving in the right direction!

I have spent nearly four weeks up in Oregon, with no plans, hanging with kids, seeing friends, and family for that matter.  Oregon is a special place.  I take my metaphorical hat off to anyone who appreciates rain, storm clouds, sudden drops in temperature, unpredictability, and anything else that might prove to be Oregon-like, including mountains, fir and oak trees, a long and glorious coastline punctuated with streams, rivers, miles of beaches and small towns.  Oregon is truly a holy place, but put it under a sunny day, and I don’t know if there are many states in the union quite so special.  And of course it is not just north and south that define its rugged, wild, and hues of green land, but east and west as well.  To the extreme west you have the stormy coast line, whereas extreme east you have miles and miles of rolling wheat land surrounding islands of magnificent and remote mountain ranges no one has ever heard off.  Oregon is Oregon.  And it changes like a kaleidoscope with the weather and the seasons.  

So I have to say it was nice coming up here and letting the self just heal as is meant to be, doing nothing in particular but being very unpushed by those around me who are on a schedule, whether their schedule be self imposed or work required because they are on a wage.  Now it is time to return to California.  I have a few days to get ready for my excursion into the Far East and the Unknown despite my having already spent the better part of a year in the Philippines.  As Gordon says, maybe the trip will be short, two months at best, but then maybe it won’t.  It is possible that it might be longer than it has ever been.  The bottom line is, I have no plan.  If I return in December, then so it is.  I’ll figure it out when time requires it.

Oregon

Corcovado, Costa Rica

I apologize for jumping off the map for the past couple of weeks, but I have just been allowing myself time to “heal”.  For those who don’t know where I have been, I am up in Eugene, OR. visiting family, pretty much.  Most of my time has been spent between Doron and Sierran’s with weekend visits paid to Aria.  I have passed a little time with Francesca in between.

Little by little I heal, though I am not sure I will ever return to the old days of reckless abandon, driving long distances through strange cities, visiting places I’ve never been before, alone.  But who knows; I’ve discovered my memory may not be so acute, but once I start doing something, it comes back and the memory kicks in like an old engine that tends to work when you have given up on it.  

Sierran and I were reminiscing this morning about an excursion he and I took to Corcovado a few years back.  Corcovado is a National Park in the southern portion of Costa Rica.  I don’t recall what the purpose of our trip was, other than just doing a tropical rainforest hike; he had been to Costa Rica once or twice before, but the season was different so he knew Corcovado would produce some new angles on the outing.   

National Parks in most developed countries are much like the parks in the U.S: well developed, oriented to fees, camping, a well defined trail system, and rangers to maintain order and keep wild game from becoming a problem for the tourists that want to get up close and personal with the big game that attracts the sight seers, but I can say for certainty that in undeveloped countries that once you pay your fee, you are on your own.  You are suppose to use common sense which is a huge help in avoiding conflict between animals and humans, but that alone does not guarantee peace between parties.  

In Corcovado the trekker had to cross rivers and there were records of people being attacked (and killed) by bull sharks, so crossing at the mouth of a river wasn’t where one wanted to dawdle.  If you went up river there were crocodiles (as opposed to the smaller, more docile caiman also present).  There were always risks, but it was a three or four day trek that afforded lots of opportunity to prove your mettle. At one point I tried to goad Sierran into a free lunch by betting him that I would swim across a river and back said to have crocodiles, if not bull sharks.  I was sure that if I made lots of noise it would make a wary beast more wary.  I had my plan but Sierran wouldn’t take the bet.  Later I asked him why he didn’t take me up on it and he said because he thought I was dumb enough to take him up on the wager and he’d be the one forced to go into save my foolish ass when I was attacked by a crocodile.  I chuckled to myself thinking there might have been some truth to that especially when I found out that making noise was the opposite of what I should be doing while trying to cross the river.  Be very quiet I was later told.  I thought to myself how again I had been more lucky than good while trying to win a bet.  

Before we started our trek, we began our evening on the ocean shore where the rainforest pushed up against the steep, sloping  beach front.  We swam out in the semi dusk and treaded water together as we we watched the colorful macaws fly in tight flocks up the beach  and the monkeys run and jump from tree to tree up the beach.  We finally came to shore after concluding it was a good place for bull sharks to be and the right time of a 24 hour cycle for them to show up.  

We were two nights and 16 miles in when we reached a campground that had vacant log buildings that for something like $15 you could spend the night, but neither of us were willing to spend the money and we said we would stay in our two man pup tent at the end of a very verdant air strip for free.  About sunset, I told Sierran I would sneak into a room (for free) and he could join me if he wanted but he insisted that he would pass (in order to save himself the humility of being caught in a room neither of us were willing to pay for).  In the room, I slept in a bunk and felt pretty good about going the entire night without getting caught like a  common burglar.  

The next dewy morning, I went out and met up with Sierran who was suffering a bite some jungle arachnid laid on him that was swelling and festering, turning all fair living flesh surrounding the wound into dead flesh.  It was a wicked looking bite.  We went down to a stream to indulge in our lunch and at the same time, clean the wound out when Sierran decided to sink his wounded wrist  into the cool of a jungle stream and it was immediately attacked by a school of small, but toothy fish who ate every iota of dead flesh from the wound.  It reminded me of those piranha-like minnows in Thailand they use for cleansing the feet of dead skin.  Good racket.

It was a tough hike, up mud slopes, across deep streams, and sleeping where I doubt I would sleep today if given the opportunity.  I did get bit by one snake.  It was a harmless looking snake (if found in the U.S.) and I tried using a method the Crocodile Hunter used to use: grab the snake by the tail and lag it out when it came into bite, instead of my technique of pinning the head down with a stick then grabbing it behind the head.  It turned out the snake laughed at my technique and reached in and bit me with no problem.  I later counted my lucky stars that the snake was non venomous.  

I confess, we saw lots of animals we probably would normally never see: basilisk lizards, spiders (by the dozens), caiman, and a tapir at night and by day javelinas, four different kinds of monkeys: squirrel, howler, spider, and capuchin;  coatis, exotic birds and a coral snake I had by the tail but released out of fear of it coiling back on me and getting a good bite on one of my fingers.  Coral snakes are first cousins to cobras and their venom is basically the same.    

All in all, it was one of those trips that left a lot of favorable memories, if not a few potentially close calls.  These are the kind of trips that a guy like me just hates to stop doing unless there is just no choice—you do until you are sure there is no more do left in the will.

Corcovado, Costa Rica

Contemplating the Way It Is

I am listening to music and hanging at Sierran’s in Eugene.  It feels good.  I took a hit of marijuana to remind myself of how life can be when you let things slow down just a tad.  Sierran has gone to jiu jitsu to sweat a little then he may go get Brianna and see if she would like for the three of us to go out for a beer.  She has got to fly to Florida tomorrow to help her mom out when Hurricane Irma leaves Puerto Rico and most likely heads up the path of south and east Florida.  Not good because Irma is suppose to be the largest hurricane on record going into the Atlantic.  It would not be good living in hurricane country.  I learned a little more about Typhoons getting caught in the path of a type 4 last year and feeling it hit Sabong pretty hard though nobody lost their life.  But flooding and death would sure put a different hue on the perspective.  I was in one of few buildings that were shielded from the frontal assault of blistering wind and rain.  But death and flooding, wow!

I’m hoping time in Oregon might be what the doctor ordered though so far it has been a slide from Fresno’s gray into a dark hole in Oregon with all the fires and abundant smoke.  The whole state seems in a dark wall of fog.  It’s hard to tell if it is real cloud cover or smoke.  

Though there seems to be no ‘good’ choice regarding my personal well being, I am hoping Oregon may be a reasonable option for the time being, i.e. family and friends.  I may need that.  The only real concern I have is this being the onset of Alzheimer’s.  That would be a real drag.  But then it doesn’t seem Alzheimer’s is brought on by a dive accident and then abstention from alcohol, pain killers, and meds (I keep trying to emphasize though in small amounts hoping someone will see the ironic humor).  

I was once told, back in my 30’s you have nothing to worry about until you lose your sense of humor.  I thought that was funny, but it made good sense.  Now I see.  I am hanging on to it by a silk thread, but every once in awhile, something makes me chuckle.  Thank God.

I wonder what it means when you can no longer imagine what traveling to a certain place is like.  My dreams, literally, use to be smaller than the real experience.  Now I notice my dreams are even smaller than they used to be (though pleasant).  I wonder if that membrane that separates reality from imagination is something that can’t exist if one is to experience ‘all possibility” like maybe becoming president of the U.S. or maybe the most well-known person is the world, all the way up to a messiah.  

I have always thought I could handle just about anything that comes my way as long as it has a name.  But maybe there is an entire array of “things” that don’t have names, and maybe there are a number of things that are cumulative and numerous that make a person’s fate appear hazy.  Maybe a key to life is understanding that some things can’t be explained or aren’t going to be explained but that’s okay—it’s just one more thing to add to the mystery.  In the meantime, live life as though it is rich and full, and there is no membrane.  There are friends that are always with you, some that are with you a long time—the toughest to lose—all the way down to those who you’ve just met, you cross paths, and you lose them but never forget them.   I think sometimes we just get caught up on trying to hang onto what was just a temporary thing.  Maybe that is what I’m going through, just the realization that all relationships are temporary things on this plane…and it is okay; just the way it is.      

Contemplating the Way It Is

Reelin’ in Fresno

After wavering back and forth, trying to force myself to take on the biggest travel challenge of my career, I bailed on my Philippine trip.  I just could not bring myself to do it considering all my hesitation due to innumerable memory gaps that I felt would jeopardize the trip.  I talked to friends, I gave myself pep talks, I rationalized, but in the end, felt I could possibly compromise myself like I never have in the past.  I got to thinking about certain travel episodes last Fall and situations I found myself in, typical travel circumstances, and I just could not remember how I managed to get myself through the press, so to speak, but I did.  Now I am not sure how I would do it.  This concerned me.  How would I get through it when it started happening in the Philippines.  

After talking to Cousin Mike and Friend Gordon who both told me to be confident in holding off on the trip—both taking a very reasonable and non-judgemental position, my confidence peaked again.  However, within a couple hours I started doubting again which has proven to be the poison in my system…doubt.  I started thinking about no photos, may be limited diving, limited traveling while I waited for Gordon to make it to the Philippines, and worst of all, how I accessed my cash which is what gave me a certain freedom while traveling abroad in the past—I couldn’t remember how to access my cash! The memory thing, i.e. the apparent loss of some key information, which included the names of people, things, towns, and places just simply scared me.  It’s bad enough going through that struggle while here in the U.S. where I have friends, a car, and I know my way around, roughly speaking, but to have that happen in a foreign country—that was unsettling.  I kept telling myself it would work out, but down deep I evidently have not been convinced.  

This has been no fun, struggling with doubt, which I have never had in such large quantities.  I am completely baffled struggling with things that I have never known.  All my life I have scoffed at doubt—I have just done what I have done and figured things would work out.  Now I am a different person, hesitant and unsure about so much.  Where has it come from? And admitting this, publicly, wow! What a tough pill to swallow.  

So I gather my wits about me.  Take a few deep breaths, and then a few more, and tell myself a lifetime of being brash, being kind of reckless within reason, will prevail over three months of doubt, reservation, and simply the forgetfulness of all the things that seemed so simple in times past.  Is this what happens when one hits a certain age, or is this a fluke; the potential of what can go wrong for no explicable reason between injury and the withdrawal of medications.  

All I can say is there seems to be no choice except to stand up and face the things in front of me: confusion, doubt, and a certain self-imposed aloneness.  It has seemed easier to hide in a bedroom, a house, than to get out and face the little mundane chores that lead to progress.  Maybe this is where recluses are born: first comes doubt, followed by fear, then habit.  It is always about some new way to shrink away, inexorably into a smaller, less dynamic character.  Ugh. How does one draw the line and simply say, “enough”?  

Reelin’ in Fresno

Cold Feet

badladz-4
I feel like a lazy day has been tugging at tears all afternoon, and here it is an hour or so before the sun is down. I have kept myself sequestered in the house, my room, most of the day, wondering about my fate. At one time my mood swung all the way to the left and I was sure I was not going to the Philippines. Maybe that is why I feel like I have been crying; it’s been a tumultuous episode with which to contend. I thought about maybe whose words I most trusted to touch with insight. I thought about Cousin Mike, Deacon Fletcher, at least a deacon until very recently, in the Holy Roman church. And I thought about Gordon Olson, simply insightful and level headed. I had tried to get a hold of Sierran, certainly wise for his years. There are more people I could mention, but those are three names that came to my mind this time. Eventually I talked to all three.

I wrote a whole blog on what I was going through, but maybe as a test to my fortitude regarding heart tweaking issues, I lost the blog in trying to print it out. So now, this blog is of an entirely different mood, different spirit. My moods have been seeing and sawing all afternoon. But I think the conversations I had with Mike and Gordon have pulled me back across the line of panic regarding the general mood of what to do with the Philippines. As Gordon put it, don’t think of the trip as a permanent thing—go over there believing it is just a vacation and if I have to pay more to get home (as I would to cancel the trip) just accept it—the original intent was just because I had no idea when I was going to be returning anyway I just threw out the most outside date I could imagine being gone and to have a return ticket is a lot easier than not to have one.

I wanted to call this blog “Cold Feet” because that is what I most felt: cold feet. I began to doubt whether or not I could do such a trip, but I think it was because I was getting too far ahead of myself. If I just thought six weeks ahead at which time Gordon would arrive, a seasoned and experienced Philippine traveler, all would be fine. I like to believe that even in a worst case scenario I could handle six weeks wandering the streets of a foreign city without my traditional means of accessing money. There is always a way to make things happen, as inconvenient or extra the cost of things might get. But after talking with Gordon (and Mike) I think it is just another adventure. And putting the trip into vacation mode, being away from my kids: Doron, Aria, and Sierran won’t seem too long, which strangely is becoming a factor whereas there was a time I could travel (and assume) things were fine. I have to chuckle because, like it or not, I am beginning to act/feel like a grandparent and relationships, i.e. close proximity, count.

One might ask the logical question: if a trip causes stress, why take the trip. The answer is not simple to a guy like myself. But if I had to simplify it, I would say because I need to rub elbows with a zone that challenges me. And if I stop doing things that were once comfortable, the zone gets smaller. That zone is me, who I am. And I know from experience (which I must remember), once I return to the zone, I will be fine, even if it takes some adaptation…

Cold Feet

Hot and Smokey Day in August

It blows my mind that I was going to head to the Philippines back around the beginning of August. What was I thinking. But then maybe I have just forgotten I was getting better as I was prepping to head for Az. and Colorado. What the heck could have been the setback?! All I can say is thank god I am beginning to improve again ½ % per day again. Yes, it’s slow but at least it is in the right direction.

Today I went to the hospital to get an MRA which is the brain’s version of an MRI. I am not sure why I went since I won’t be around for the results. Then a couple hours later my doctor called and asked if I could postpone my trip. He knows a very good psychologist who is an expert on memory. Now the two were not knowingly connected. It put me in a terrible spot since if I cancelled my trip at this time it would be like throwing a German Chocolate birthday cake on the floor upside down despite what truth there might be in his words. True, my memory is a mess. True, if I can create a mess out of an already messy situation, the Philippines would be the ideal place to begin—a foreign country where I had no real rights and an inkling of no true idea where to begin if complications did start to manifest. As the old saying goes, “six of one, a half dozen of another”. Or maybe it is more clear saying, “damned if I do, damned if I don’t”. Take your pick.

So, I went into a quiet period of “meditation” and thought, “yes, I need to stay”. But after thinking it over (and over again) I realized just go through with the trip—everything is sprung in that direction and I won’t have to worry about finding a home during the winter (now that I’ve rented my house out). Two full days to go: Friday and Saturday. Then Sunday Nick will drive me by my house to park the car, leave the keys with Patty, and I am off for the Train Depot. In the meantime, it is hot and it is smokey. And it is the last day in August. Be patient old friend. Trust yourself—that you will prevail…though this is like no trip I have ever taken before. So, just to make it clear, after wavering for an hour or two, I am back on the Philippine track.

Hot and Smokey Day in August