Day 21: The Man and the Power of Routine, Executing a Plan

It’s 12:40am and I have my past post up on another tab to compare and contrast. Today was…interesting. Plans, am I right?

Flight got in early, nice tail wind. I worry that this means on the way home the flight will take longer than anticipated since we’ll be going against the wind. As a former travel agent I am supposed to hate JetBlue for its bully tactics and refusing to work with the industry, but after my third bag of those blue Terra chips, I had to give in.

Rental car is standard. Because my company pays for the rental and adds the CDW, I drive these cars like I stole them. The traffic in Fort Lauderdale is…almost nonexistent. The freeways are relatively open and the speed limit is already pretty high. But god damn Florida…use your blinkers!

Store visits took a bit longer than anticipated. The consultants here are just so averse to change; they hit one obstacle in the new process and they just walk away and don’t try again. It’s frustrating because it makes me almost not want to help them. The new systems have been up for two months now. Are you telling me for two months you never tried to use the system because you couldn’t get it in five minutes. How lazy are you. If I had not been sent down here, what would you have done. It’s deplorable. Terrible work ethic. Having to work straight out of the gate, I didn’t have the patience to deal with this.

Okay first, and really only, major obstacle of the day! I have learned that sleep is the great momentum killer. I check in to my hotel at 3pm, as planned, and decide to take a quick nap to restore my energy after the early morning flight and work.

I didn’t get out of bed until 7pm.

What the hell?!

ShirtSleep is terrible for someone who is trying to accomplish things. Or maybe it’s just me. I don’t have the discipline or the persistence to get myself out of a relatively comfortable bed. I lost all momentum at that moment. Luckily after dinner I still went to the fitness center and still did my time. I’ve never been an Adonis or anything. But there was a time that I possessed the perseverance and the motivation to look my best, and I did. I’m ashamed, embarrassed, and scared that a good portion of my clothes don’t fit me well anymore. Look right now I’m not even trying to be better than I was, I’m just trying to maintain some semblance of what I was before, to prove that I can balance everything with this new job and not forsake my own health.

About dinner: Old Heidelberg’s is a…fascinating kitschy German/Bavarian themed tavern style restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. I am sad to say that I did not get a picture with the accordion player as live music is only on Wednesday and Sunday. But theOldHeidelberg.jpg decor inside was pretty cool, and it’s nice that some of it is actually tied to heritage and not just gimmick. There are lines from some famous German writers painted onto the rafters: Goethe,
Hesse, Schiller. The beams are adorned with assorted kinds of mugs and steins. I will admit the waitresses in the Bavarian dresses is a bit much but they own it and enjoy it and no one is doing fake German accents and singing birthday songs so it’s not that bad. The tables are remnants of the former oyster bar that used to be where the restaurant is now and are made of reclaimed wood from ships. Pretty cool history.

LambShankThe food was excellent as well. Of course for a German restaurant I had to start with the sausage sampler to test the quality of their kielbasa, bratwurst, and knockwurst. The sausages had a satisfyingly crisp skin with a great bite and you could taste all the seasonings mixed into the meat inside. The star was my ‘Munich Lamb Shank’. Two generously sized lamb shanks slow cooked in a creamy bell pepper sauce with onions and a slight spicy kick served with spatzle and red cabbage. The lamb was incredibly succulent and had a good amount of meat on the bone. The meat was so tender I could have carved it with a spoon. I love that gamey slightly sweet taste of lamb and it was perfectly complemented by the bell peppers. The spatzle could have used some more butter and nutmeg but I forgot all about that when I was using the little noodles as sponges for the lamb sauce anyways. Never much of a fan of red cabbage, I will have to admit that theirs was actually quite enjoyable. Not mush and not bland. All in all a very filling and satisfying meal.

Once I finish this I’m off to bed. First day a success. Second day will be important. I will have to be sure to wake up at 6 to accomplish everything I want.

Day 21

Man: 17 Loneliness: 4

Day 20: The Man and The Power of Routine, Setting a Plan P.3

NewarkIt is now 5:17am, and this post is actually for Sunday. I’m sitting here typing on Word because the internet at Newark Airport is pretty much nonexistent. I wonder when I’ll actually be able to post this. It’ll be interesting, considering that today’s (Monday’s) post will be in direct response to this.

As I mentioned last week, I need to do a better job of setting a routine whenever I’m on the road. For the myriad of personal physical and mental health reasons. A routine will help me get back in shape and not let the road add too many unnecessary poundage. It is also necessary if I hope to stave off loneliness and insecurity that comes from being alone with your own thoughts too long. It’ll help me better enjoy and appreciate the destination and the opportunity afforded to me by this very unique and dynamic occupation. A routine sets discipline and order, which, paradoxically, gives me better chances for some spontaneity and excitement. I don’t have to worry. I know where I am, what I’m doing, and why. And when I afford myself the chance to indulge, it’s guilt-free and I can be 100% committed to enjoyment without worry.

I’m actually grateful thatJetBlue.jpg this time I get to set up a home base for the three days I’m in Fort Lauderdale. None of the stores are more than an hour away from each other so I just chose a hotel that is at the nexus. This means I don’t have to pack every morning and unpack every night. I get to spend more time getting to know my surroundings better. I already picked the restaurants and can’t wait to try them. With more time free because I won’t be relocating and checking into a different place each day I can work to better follow the schedule I set for myself.

So here’s the plan:

Monday July 18, 2016

Flight arrives at 9:30am

Pick up rental car at 10am

Arrive at first store (Davie, FL) at 10:30am

Arrive at second store (Boca Raton, FL) at 12:30pm

Check into hotel at 3pm

MUST GO TO FITNESS CENTER FOR AT LEAST AN HOUR

Shower

Dinner at Old Heidelberg’s, this crazy looking German themed bierhaus with accordion players and girls in those Bavarian dresses and corsets. I have to take a picture with at least the accordion player and hopefully one of the Bavarian girls.

Write blog post. I’d like to maybe for once not be up at 3am writing in my hotel room, and maybe I can actually take care of myself and post at a reasonable time which means sleeping at a reasonable time. All part of being responsible.

Sleep, preferably no later than 1am.

 

Tuesday, July 19 2016

Wake up at 6am

MUST GO TO FITNESS CENTER FOR AT LEAST AN HOUR at 6:30am

Breakfast at 8:30am

Arrive at first store (Hollywood, FL) at 10am

Attend First Year Consultant meeting, lead with area Career Coach

Back to hotel to change out of uniform

MUST GO TO FITNESS CENTER FOR AT LEAST AN HOUR

Shower

Explore town, actually investigate. Maybe I’ll check out the beach. Hope to catch lots of Pokemon.

Dinner at Catfish Dewey’s. Another promising seafood shack with daily all you can eat specials. Another place with a bar. Another opportunity to take to always sit where the action is. Sustainable Florida stone crab claws.

Back to hotel. Write blog post. Relax. Sleep early.

Wednesday, July 20 2016

Wake up at 6am

MUST GO TO FITNESS CENTER FOR AT LEAST AN HOUR at 6:30am

Breakfast at 8:30am

Explore town again. Maybe catch a movie. Do something for me. I worked enough.

Must be at airport by 4pm.

Back home.

 

This routine should help me get the most out of my trip and work to better myself at the same time. Obviously the next days’ posts will be about how well I can stick to this expectation. But I have to remember I’m doing this for me. That this is for my own benefit. I’m taking personal incentive in taking care of myself, not waiting for someone else to crack the whip or kid myself in thinking this is for someone else. When I land and get settled in, maybe I’ll see if there are any movie theatres nearby to catch a movie on my last day.

 

Day 18 & 19: The Man and the Recap

There are only two reasons why I would miss two days’ worth of posts. I’m either dead, or busy living. I’m glad to say it was the latter and not the former.

Friday was a refreshing taste of the familiar routine of being home that I miss when I am on the road. Still had work. In Manhattan and Brooklyn so I just took public transportation. Nice not to have to drive around, not that I ever would in the city. But it felt good to have a regular schedule (actually, finished and came home by 4), then to have a light dinner, to be able to go back to my martial arts school and to have them be so ready and eager to catch me up on what I missed this week, to come back to a cool shower, to dry off with my own towel, and to spend the night playing video games with my brother. That’s the routine I missed. That’s the routine that’s best for my body and mind.

But Saturday was great for a different reason. Not for the routine, since to be perfectly honest I had none. I woke up at 3pm. Let’s start with how self-indulgently great that is. No, Saturday reminded me to enjoy and appreciate the relationships I already have. To focus on cherishing and fostering the relationships that have sustained me through good times and bad and have lasted longer than any relationship with any single person. My friends.

I have to remember to appreciate them for who they are and what they are to me. And I have to get it in writing because I know how I get when I am single for too long; I will need this reminder at the six, seven, ten month mark. My friends have always been great to me and loyal. But we don’t necessarily share all the same interests. I love to drink and gamble. They play it safe always. I love to chase adrenaline. Paintballing. Racing. Martial arts and fighting. I’ve always considered them to be too safe, too pampered, too comfortable. I consider myself a pretty reasonable, restrained, balanced person. But sometimes next to them I feel like some wild ape-man, beating my chests into the echo of the jungle, marking my territory. Which, if you knew me at all, is ridiculous. The balance used to be, inVenn.jpg the triple venn diagram of my life, there were my interests, my friends’ interests, and my girlfriend’s interests. In the small intersection between myself and my friends I would content myself to the more safe and tame activities. Every Saturday we go out to eat, have a few drinks at my place, and play board games or watch a movie. If this goes on too long though, and the repetition begins to eat away at me, I feel like a ball of energy bouncing against the walls, trying to push the borders ever further. So I would satiate myself by sometimes going off on my own. Watching the horror that no one wants to accompany me to. Try the restaurant that is too gourmet (save for one they aren’t much on appreciating food and drink) on my own. And that would work a good while too. But eventually it gets to the point where I want more. More excitement. More activity. More company. And I have always put that responsibility and expectation on whoever I was dating. And because that would only be the very end of the line, when I would be single for a while, I am ashamed to say that sometimes I would resent my friends, because I felt they represented a restraint in my life that was preventing me from enjoying the things that I loved.

That complex, that emotion, is something I’ve always felt and always wanted to flesh out and understand. What it feels like when trying to plan things. The perceived lack of interest when I try to drum up excitement for our adventures. I even have specific examples, like Las Vegas, or what we call ‘Big ‘Un 1’. Maybe when the feeling comes up and it’s fresh and I can taste the bitterness in my mouth and I want to expel it like the poison it is I will be able to do it justice and bring it to light in the way I’ve always felt and hidden from them. But my goal today is not to remember that emotion, but to remind myself of how I can feel when I am with them and I know they are there for me.

Saturday wasn’t even some crazy wild romp through the town. In fact, it was hilariously ironically typical and if anything, childishly silly. I picked up two of my friends because the third was celebrating her father’s birthday. We didn’t know where to go for dinner. Which is surprising because that’s normally the only thing we DO know. So…we picked a place to eat based on Pokestops in the area. Ahahah. Yes, really, we all play pretty seriously and we decided if we were going to be out that night anyways, we might as well make it count. So we went to a nearby town that had a pretty good amount of stops and some activity. Stopped at a park along the way just to claim a gym. Parked way further than we normally would have. Walked around the town. We did admit though that if not for this game we never would have explored this much of a town that has been literally five minutes away the entire time. We’re all childhood friends and went to the same schools and lived in the same town so this is all our territory. But we never explored this particular area. We walked a lot and hatched some eggs. Met and chatted with other players along the way (it’s easy to spot, find the people walking around with their phone and camera). Sat in a nice park and just caught Pokemon. It was simplistic and refreshing. We ended up by a pub and had dinner and a few beers there. Well by a few I mean five pints. And by we I mean me. Like I said, very disparate interests and hobbies. When it was getting dark and we were tired of walking, we went back to my place so I could show them the new game I was playing in hopes of getting them to join up so we could play together. And what I really appreciate from it all, is that when I told them my cousin from the Philippines was coming next week and I wanted to take her out and show her around on Saturday, all of them, even the one who couldn’t come in yesterday, set aside their schedules to make sure we were all together. We’re planning a little weekend getaway in the Poconos soon, too. It’s nice that they’re all responsive now, makes planning and scheduling a lot easier.

FriendsVegas.jpgWe can’t always choose the friends we have in life. And we don’t always know how we find each other in the chaos of the world. But we should always appreciate the people who have, through time and tide, found their way to us and have stuck it through. Maybe it is true that a good friendship can never really substitute a strong relationship. But it is a nourishing form of companionship and relationship nonetheless, one that I could not survive without. I am, at this moment, tremendously grateful for my friends. I should feel this way always. Whether single or in a relationship, I have to understand that each person in my life is there for a reason and should be grateful for that. Especially now that I am #committedlysingle, I must remember to foster the relationships I still have.

Day 18 and Day 19

Man: 15 Loneliness: 4

Day 17: The Man and the Power of Routine, Setting a Plan P.2

Nice to have an opportunity to write again from the comfort of home. The coziness, the company, the chatter, it’s all so refreshingly familiar and reassuring. I have Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to take it all in and savor it before my next assignment: flying to Fort Lauderdale, FL for three days. It is in Fort Lauderdale that I will take on part 3 of this Power of Routine series, the actual implementation of the routine and how to handle obstacles.

See at home, the routine is very easy. There’s work of course, but then there’s relaxation and watching DVR shows with my brother. Then martial arts practice. Dinner. Shower. Some video games. Catch up with friends and plan the weekend. Sleep. Not much room to dwell on past regrets or to wander about aimlessly. It’s that purpose and knowledge of what to do and what there is that can be done that is missing from the travel aspect of my life. So the routine I really want to develop is one for travel on the road. How to fit in allowing for some self-indulgences, enjoy good food, exercise, etc. The day starts pretty much the same regardless. You wake up, you do your work. Whether that is a regular 9 to 5 in one place or hopping from store to store and driving in between. You have the regularity of work to provide you with a structure for a good part of the day. It is the afterwards, in the silence and in the dark, that we must define ourselves and our goals. Do you go back to that hotel room. Blame it on the long drive or the jet lag or whatever. Order bad takeout and fall asleep. Never really knowing where you are, where you’ve been, or where you’re going. Do you never take care of yourself mentally and physically. Do you let the mind get stagnant and the body weak and large. Do you succumb to all the pressures and fears that bond you to meekness and regret. Do you let the world pass you by when it finally asks of you, ‘what is it that YOU want to do’. Void of any structure or expectations. How do you tackle freedom.

DreadI feel I should be honest with you for a second here. You need to know, as I know, that a routine is a great tool for structure and for stability. That it is a wonderful instrument in gaining control over one’s life and thoughts. But it is not the end-all be-all. It is not a perfect solution and the process is more than just simply repeating the same activities over and over again.It is about consciousness, mindfulness, and awareness. Your mind and body enjoy the consistency and over time learn to focus for you. There will be times that, struggle as you might, there just aren’t enough things to do in the world to distract you forever. But setting a routine and working through it has two benefits. The first is, as you prepare yourself to face your demons, process that heartbreak, or resolve to chase your dreams, you are keeping yourself healthy and busy. You are still being actively engaged and so like any other muscle, you strengthen your heart and your mind. The second benefit is even when the world knocks you down, you find your legs limp and heavy under the sheer weight of your unhappiness, your routine promises to keep moving you so long as you still believe in it and yourself. A routine is only good if it’s followed through. And it’s only worth following through if you’re still doing so even in the toughest of times. There will be days it just isn’t enough. I know, I’ve had those days, and I know I will have more in the future. Nothing goes your way, or everything reminds you of her. You can’t cherry pick the rest of your life to avoid any remnants of the past. Some days DontLetItloneliness wins. Some days her words just ring too clearly or too loudly in your ears. It is important in those moments to remember that you are not alone. That you are not lost. Get back on the horse. Do something you love. Commit yourself to what it is you are supposed to be doing. Sometimes a little pain is necessary. It reminds us of what it is we love, want, cherish, miss. It’s the pain that helps to define what we want. Is is the pain of loss. The pain of being replaced. The pain of losing her. The pain of loneliness. How do we deal with each of these different kinds. Work through it.

Vacuum.jpgWhen all else fails, go back to your routine. Go back to what’s familiar. Go back to what is comfortable and perhaps maybe even comforts you. Don’t lose hope. Just keep going. Tidy up a bit. You have no idea how much more relaxing and recuperative a good night’s rest is especially knowing that your surroundings are neat, tidy, organized. I get a sense of pleasure every time I check into a hotel room. Opening the room for the first time. I know what temp I want my A/C on. I scout a bench to put my shoes under. I slip on some hotel slippers. Toiletries are hung on a hook in the bathroom. Laptop is placed on the desk. Cell phone by the bed. Everything neat. Everything clean. Another important gesture of taking care of oneself. You don’t clean for others. You don’t clean because you have to. You don’t clean because you were told to. I am telling you, promise yourself that you will clean yourself because once again, you are showing that you are someone worth effort and care. And sometimes no one is in more need of that reminder than yourself.

So there you have it. What is for me, the necessary elements of an effective routine, at home or abroad. Remember to enjoy the little things that make you personally happy. Feed yourself more than just what’s good for the body, but good for the soul and the heart too. Take care of your mind and body as an investment in self-worth and future self. Know that there will be obstacles, and days when it is difficult to just get out of bed. Do not fear or avoid these moments. Process them. Understand them. Allow them to let you feel what you need to feel. Then move on. And finally, take care of your surroundings.

I will begin to implement a more purpose driven routine next week on my travels in Florida, and I look forward to seeing how it helps. The road can be a lonely, desolate, and frightening place. Leaving you with just the worst parts of yourself that want to be called up and analyzed and fretted over time and time again. But it doesn’t have to be. And even a little routine can go a long way in enjoying even the spontaneity of life.

Sometimes Man doesn’t win. But that doesn’t mean you lose sight of the next day’s battles.

Day 17

Man: 13 Loneliness: 4

Day 16: The Man and the Power of Routine, Setting a Plan P.1

When your world starts to fluctuate wildly and the variables change more times than you can count, it is time to counter with some consistency.

There are immense advantages and benefits to be gained from setting and executing a successful, consistent, effective routine. This is about more than just organization. It is about exercising power and control over what is otherwise chaos and confusion. It is about more than just focusing on time and activity; it is really a way to harness emotions, memories, energy, positivity, negativity. It channels the restless soul and gives it an opportunity to express the excess. For someone like me who is constantly on the road, I know that there is a very good chance that every time I look outside it will be a different locale, a different environment, a different situation. I will wake up in a different city. I will drive or fly or take a train and be someplace completely different. At first it will be exciting and the thrill of the unknown will take over and you, like I, will be enticed and seduced by the unpredictable nature of constant travel.

But the road is long and the soul gets weary. Your body starts to crave some sort of familiarity, some knowledge to be able to prep and handle the challenges of the day. We are creatures of pattern and habit. We like to look for order where there is none. We seek patterns to justify the past and predict the future. Dipped into too much chaos, we freak out and strike back. Order from chaos is one of man’s greatest obstacles and is considered one of man’s greatest victories. We all need some semblance of routine.

I think the reason why the travel and the job seem to be taking a greater toll on me this past week is because I have not yet figured out an effective enough routine that I can faithfully and regularly execute within possibility. I can see the inklings of what it is I want to be able to do and accomplish in a day and I have an idea of when I would like to do it but no routine keeps me in check. No routine holds me accountable for the events of the day. No routine guides me out of recklesssness and abandon to drive against the tide of the world. I am listless and lack direction. I want to do something, but I don’t know what, and then I feel guilty for having done nothing in the interim. What happens after my workday? When I have visited my stores, trained my agents, what do I do with the day to a) feel accomplished b) take care of myself both physically and mentally c) appreciate my opportunities and surroundings and d) give myself a chance to process all of these pent up emotions and pain.

ShopTieDoing something for yourself is important. Allowing yourself to indulge in some pleasures, some activities that bring happiness, is never a bad thing within reason. This is by no means a license for lascivious self-indulgence. It is simply an important note to remember the things that make us happy and that we can do on our own for ourselves. Travel in and of itself can already be a source of happiness and pleasure but when a lot of it is for work, it is important to steal away a few moments to appreciate it for what it is. In Philly I visited the Magic Gardens. Had a cheesesteak. Walked along the waterfront. In Boston I explored the downtown area, went to Faneuil Hall. Next week when I go off to Fort Lauderdale, I won’t visit the beach, as I am not a beach person, but I will explore the area, as I’ve never been to that part of Florida. When I am home, I enjoy watching movies, hanging out with friends, or yes, shamelessly, I do also enjoy going shopping for new clothes. I may be a lonely man, but I am a well-dressed lonely man. During the weekends I make sure to spend one day with family and the other with friends. During the work week it is right after work, which incentivizes me to work fast and start early to capitalize on as much time as possible, that I explore my surroundings and commit myself to spending time outside and not curled up in my hotel room.

It is by now readily apparent I believe that I am also an Macaroniavid culinarian. I dislike the term ‘foodie’ for a myriad of reasons that I may indulge myself in explaining in the future but for the time being suffice to say that I prefer ‘culinarian’ as a more all-encompassing term to mean someone who not only appreciates food for the sensory pleasures but also appreciates the art of cooking and preparing and the culture and practice of good food and drink. Good food is nourishing for the body and the soul. When I travel I don’t seek out the familiar or the safe. I want local, I want authentic, I want it within my company allowance but apparently sometimes that’s too much to ask. I have loved the fact that I can discover delicious, honest, genuine pho in Catonsville, MD. Or that an elderly Korean couple has maintained what has become a hub for scattered Koreans and adventurous eaters in Lawrence, MA. I loved my experience at the Old Ebbitt Grill in DC, one of the cities oldest establishments. The wood in the bar expresses so many stories just from resting against it. When I am sent to Pittsburgh I know I will be both well fed and broke. When at home, I love to cook. I take the opportunity to be back in a kitchen to work out some emotions through my cooking. Emotional cooking is good cooking. Unless you’re angry. Then everything becomes spicier. Before I head out for another assignment, I use the weekend to explore the areas I will be in and find the restaurant I will go to each night. It is nice to have that promise of a warm, filling, nourishing meal to propel me through the day.

CardioI know I’m a big guy. I definitely stand to lose a few pounds. When I am on the road it seems even more difficult to find opportunities to stay healthy and exercise when in reality, I think it is probably the best thing to help me get to my goals. For one, because I focus so much on that meal after work, I don’t bother with lunch. And secondly, every hotel I stay in has a 24 hour fitness center free for me to use. So I should absolutely avail myself of this resource. I have sporadically found myself in and out of them on occasion, but I need to set a more consistent routine to promise myself that I will put myself in that room and exert a genuine amount of strain and effort and work however gradually, towards my goal. It is easier at home and more enjoyable as I have my martial arts school which I have been attending for the past 19 years. Martial arts is quite literally an exercise for the body and the mind. You are training both simultaneously and I feel so incredibly powerful and accomplished after a good practice. I kind of seriously can’t stand, alright I HATE, standard cardio. UGH. But whatever. They have elliptical machines that are easier on my knees and they TVs in the room. I can do this. And I should. Exercise is important. We can’t always be about what makes us feel good in the moment. The truth is today we are a society almost unilaterally and solely about immediate gratification. This is no surprise and I don’t want to indulge in cliches but…it’s undeniably there. Exercise is a promise. Exercise is an investment. The time you give yourself in the day to take care of your body will pay off in the long run. And when you spend a good majority of your day sitting in the driver’s seat or on a train or on a plane, it is important to work out those tired bones. Plus, it is a reminder that you are thinking of your future and reminds you that you have something to look forward to as you move ever forward.

Okay, it’s 3am. That’s enough for today. I have one more store visit and then another 300 miles to drive. Remind me that ‘getting enough sleep’ needs to be on this self-help and self-care routine eventually. Part 2 tomorrow! Looking forward to writing it. I think we’re onto a winner here, dear readers.

Day 16

Man: 12 Loneliness: 4

 

Day 15: The Man and the Road to Boston, MA

300 miles is a very long distance to drive alone. I find myself increasingly talking to myself during these trips just so I don’t forget how to. At my first store training visit today my voice was actually hoarse from lack of use. I sing, badly, along with the songs on my Spotify. In my room I talk back to the TV characters.  a

I think I really miss having someone to talk to.

This job takes a toll on all forms of relationships. I only see my friends once every other week. I only get to spend two nights a week at home. This particular stretch has been rough because of the weekend away in DC. You know at least before when I was just an agent, I worked in one store. I went to the same place every day and spoke with the same people. I had coworkers and relationships with my colleagues. I used to drive one of my coworkers home each night and we’d get to shoot the breeze during the ride. DC made it abundantly clear that I am now a stranger in my own company. Migrating from store to store, state to state, interacting with people for no more than an hour before moving on, I don’t really know any of these people anymore. And they don’t really know me. I had no friends to at least enjoy the city with, and as you well know from the weekend, my plans to spend time with Bird didn’t exactly pan out either.

BostonHotel.jpgAs you may well also notice from the late posts, I’ve developed a bit of an extreme case of insomnia as well. I can’t fall asleep in a quiet room after such a quiet day. I keep the television on so that the room can at least be filled with the ambient noise of other people’s scripted conversations. I found out that when sleeping in a new city in new accommodations for the very first time, our bodies don’t ever fully lower its guard. One hemisphere of the brain stays awake while the other rests and they alternate. Because of this, you don’t actually get a deep recuperative REM sleep your first night in a new place. Which for me is every night. Sleep has been difficult, to say the least.

I’ve also started playing Pokemon Go as a means of getting outside my hotel room and exploring. It’s also been a great way to make brief connections. Back in DC I made friends Psyduckwith one of the National Portrait Gallery’s guards. He thought I was lost. Then realized I was just walking around being led by my Pokemon radar and told me where to find a few in the museum. Met a couple guys doing the same too. Then there was the guard who was concerned I was taking pictures. Hahah. At least Psyduck can keep me company while Law and Order plays in the background all night.

Cherish the relationships and the people you have around you. Ask them how their day was. Share at least one interesting story that happened to you. Ask a question and care about their answer.

I can’t wait to have someone to talk and share with again.

Day 15

Man: 11 Loneliness: 4

Day 14: The Man and the Road Home

In about six hours I hit the road again for another work trip. 300 miles to MA tomorrow, 50 miles within the state Wednesday, and another 300 miles to head back home on Thursday.

It’s always very difficult to leave home. I will miss the comfort of my own bed. I sleep in a twin sized bed. I’m six feet tall. But I’ve had this bed since I was a kid and it feels like home. I have spent almost every weeknight in the past two months eating at some of the best restaurants in each area I stay in. But I will miss the comforting familiarity of my mother’s home cooked meals. I will miss my friends. My family. The comfort and security that helps me sleep at night.

BabyThe truth is though, is that without the comfort of home, I could never appreciate my travels as much. It is the pain of leaving that reminds me of what travel ultimately aspires for. To feel at home. I appreciate so much more of what I see and do and experience because of the home I leave behind each time. I know travel is about connecting with people because at home I am surrounded by people I feel most connected to. My friends and family. I know home is about comfort and peace and warmth so when I travel I seek out much the same. See, you need to have a strong reference of what you have and leave behind before you explore what you want and what the world has to offer. Otherwise, for me it feels like you’re just…window shopping. Browsing. Something may speak to you when you see it, but most of the time you don’t even know what you’re looking at or for.

You cannot understand the world in front of you if you cannot appreciate the home you leave behind.

Build a home. Fill it with love and warmth and everything you’ve ever wanted. When you leave you’ll feel the twinge of homesickness that that grounds you to the world. As you travel you’ll have the framework of reference to appreciate everything you get to do and see and bring back with you. And when you return you know that you are in a place where you belong.

Now don’t misunderstand. By no means do I necessarily mean a physical home. I mean the feeling and the spirit and the embodiment of home. A state of mind and being. I am at home with friends and family. I am at home when I can feel completely at ease and secure. And now when I travel I chase after that. Good trips are the ones where I can feel like this all the time. Bad trips are when I can never seem to relax. Most trips are in between.

I am at a point now in my life where Toronto.jpgI have been happy and content with the home I have had with my family, but I am seeking the opportunity to build one of my own. When I travel I try to carry with me the values I seek in a home and wonder if I might ever find it somewhere else, somewhere where I can take root. I was seeking someone to build a home with. I thought I had everything I wanted in Beautiful, and I did seriously begin to consider the possibility of building something with her. When she broke up with me I saw my future home collapse before my eyes like a sad inflatable house. What I am rediscovering and reassembling is the confidence and resolution that I can do this on my own. I still very much miss that feeling of belonging with someone. And I still think relationships are really where my emotions live. I don’t know how much of myself I can really allow myself to feel and express and love to others. It is still a painful longing, to belong to and with someone again. But it is not a foundation to build a home upon. I cannot build something of strength and fortitude if I cannot do it on my own.

I don’t think I could ever live without travel. I will always have that sense of wanderlust. It is a necessary part of life that broadens your understanding and appreciation of the world. But I will contend with every fiber of my being that without a root, without a frame of reference, a home in a person, a place, a thing, or even a feeling, it will all feel almost…the same. The world is vast and exciting and different. But it needs to have some thread that connects it all. That highlights the similarities so that we might feel like citizens of a global community but also contrasts the beautiful differences that make us appreciate who we are, where we come from, where we’re going.

Build a home, then leave it, and know that no matter where you are, you carry it with you. Know what your home is. Cultivate it. Then you will always be home.

Day 14

Man: 11 Loneliness: 3

 

Day 13: The Man and the Best Seat in the House

Whenever possible, always sit at the bar. Though I can’t speak to personal experience for every case, I imagine that this should ring true regardless of whatever form of bar you find yourself in.  I guarantee your experience will be that much more fulfilling and engaging if you find yourself in the heart of the action, at the very front of the bar, in what I consider the best seat in the house.

OldEbbittWhenever I am anywhere that has the option to sit at the bar, next to where all the creation takes place, I jump at it. When you’re seated that close to both the artist and the audience, you have a very different experience.

Today I want to talk specifically about the experience sitting at the bar for a good, strong cocktail and some incredibly comforting and honest food. The sushi bar experience, just like the cocktail experience, deserves its own attention one day.

The bar represents controlled chaos, a hectic frantic frenetic vortex of energy and booze. It is the heart and the nexus of the restaurant, connecting the haves with the have nots; the wants with the unwanted. Though the façade may be different, architecturally, spiritually, emotionally, each bar is essentially the same. Firstly, there is your seat. Your grounded connection to the physical world. Secondly is the counter where you lay down to rest your arms, your drinks, your hopes, your dreams, your ambitions, your fears, your doubts, and your insecurities. This is why good counters are designed to carry hefty loads. Lastly and most importantly, is the forbidden land behind the counter. It is only at the counter that we get a glimpse of the man behind the curtain and watch him work his magic. From the order to the pour, you are witnessing firsthand every drop, every nuanced addition, every calculated measure. You don’t have to be Dale Degroff or Tom Cruise in Cocktail to appreciate what is happening right in front of you. You only have to experience it once for yourself to understand, as I have understood these past five years, that there is nothing like being that close to the creation of something just for you.

HoneyHillA good bar is a connection between many disparate peoples, and a good bartender is a skilled ferryman. It doesn’t matter how exciting or innovative or distinguished the ship may be, it goes nowhere without a good captain. To appreciate the special kind of tortured artistic soul that is preparing your dirty martini, you first have to understand what kind of sick twisted person could possibly enjoy a job like this. A job that, were I less responsible, more transient, less spoiled, and more reckless, I would have loved to have. A good bartender must be part guru, part rock star, and of course, part chef. Make no mistake, for the uninitiated who have never bought their own home cocktail kit, a well-constructed cocktail requires no less than the same utmost attention to detail than the meal you enjoy with it. The guru is who we want the bartender to be when it is too late and we are too poor for a proper psychologist. Frank Sinatra has sung songs about the virtues of man telling his woes to the bartender and the Chairman of the Board never lies. The rock star is the man you engage with. The man who makes it seem like second-nature to be able to tell a joke to the person to your right, make the drink of the three people behind you, settle the tab of the person to your left, and still somehow make you feel like you and he are the only two people in the bar. I don’t need flipping liquor bottles or three foot long arching pours. I just expect my bartender to be able to be actively engaged with his or her patrons and to carry the spirit of the bar. I think it is fundamentally harder to be an authentically involved human being than it is to learn a parlor trick. Call me old-fashioned. (Get it. Old-fashioned. Like the cocktail. You know what I’m talking about Don.)

OysterShooterHad I not sat at the bar of Mid-Atlantic Seafood I still would have enjoyed my clam strips, my crab legs, and my steamed shrimp. I would not have struck a conversation with the two men next to me over the very picture you see here. I would not have met two people who
had similar job as I, travelling up and down the East Coast to train and promote their small electrical wiring company. I would not have talked to my bartender about the freshness of oysters. He would not have invited me to test for myself. We would not have taken oyster shots together. I wouldn’t have ordered a dozen to split with my new companions to teach them how to enjoy the briny delicacy. I wouldn’t have been reminded of the value of even fleeting, temporary, inevitably doomed connections.

Had I not sat at the bar of the Old Ebbitt Grill I would Negroninot have gotten to talk real shop with the seasoned veteran bartender who appreciated my Negroni. I would not have discovered the Honey Hill martini, a drink I now cannot wait to prepare and share with my friends. I would not have heard the people next to me ask the people next to them if the shrimp were any good. Then I would not have seen them, emboldened by the recommendation, order a dozen. Which then inspired me to order as well. And when they ordered the Blondie with vanilla ice cream…if I had not sat at the bar I would not have had the opportunity to ask them what they thought of it and they would not have offered me a spoon to try for myself.

Sitting at the bar is an experience of your own will and creation. All of the necessary components of whatever night you are looking to have are set before you. Pick the right bar, and it is very easy to have a quiet, solitary, singularly focused night of drinking to set your mind in the right place or to Zen it out of place completely. Pick just about any bar really, and your night of socializing can range from the meeting of minds and like-minded souls to a soul-ripping Pandora’s Box of raucous and rowdy romps. Through it all will be your spiritual guide, your bartender. There are times when I have contented myself with the passage of time and alcohol and others when my restlessness gets the better of me and I look to meet and make connections with my fellow bargoers. Purpose, proximity, and patience. Much like real relationships, the bar offers a microcosm for you to experiment with. Take your time and remember why you are here. Sit down. Get comfortable. Feel your feet on the stool. Feel your arms on the counter. Is it warm, like wood and leather, or is it cool, like glass and metal. Take in the senses. If you were at a table, you wouldn’t hear the ice being poured into the shaker. Smell the different liquers and infusions that imbibe your cocktail with life. Feel the electricity of a thousand things happening all at once. See the sureness of the fingers that pour your ingredients and the peaceful concentration of the bartender. Taste the cocktail at its freshest, when it has been thoroughly mixed and chilled without any chance of the flavors dulling down or the ice melting. At least once, and if your party size allows it, gift yourself the experience to see what it is like in a real bar with a real bartender making real drinks and understand you are part of a theme, a motif that occurs and reoccurs across all nations and cultures and times. Where there is good drink to be had, there is good company and good times as well.

Day 13

Man: 10 Loneliness: 3

Day 12: The Man and the Mice

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

I planned on being a teacher for the rest of my life. I planned on moving out and having my own place at 26. I planned on being married to the love of my life at 28. I planned on two kids, one at 30 and the other at 34. They say if you wish to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. If that were true, I feel like one of God’s greatest jokes.

One of the hardest parts of getting over the end of a relationship is getting over all of the plans you had for it. You feel the weight and pain of all the unfulfilled plans. You spend so much time and energy and invest so much hope and emotion into creating plans with this other person who you can’t even begin to fathom a world without. Aside from the physical and financial strain of having to cancel plans and see them dissolve into thin air is the extreme emotional toll of letting go of plans and goals that revolved around the other person and the relationship. It is difficult yet you reassure yourself that it is indeed possible to regain the ability to make plans just for yourself. It is difficult yet you hope that you can one day be able to find inspiration and incentive in yourself to plan for your own future. It is difficult yet you tell yourself, after so many heartbreaks and so many painful partings, that it is dangerous to invest too much in plans that involve someone else. It is difficult yet, eventually, when you pick up the pieces and try again with someone else, you find yourself back in the light. Hoping and planning. Carving a new path forward for your new relationship, hoping that this time it will be it, the path you were meant to take forward for the rest of your life, and not another disappointing detour. Sometimes even more than the plans that are left unfulfilled, you feel the pain of plans never even realized. Each person, each relationship, is unique. It has its own life and takes on its own identity with its own dreams and aspirations. You are kept painfully awake late at night as you wonder about the ‘what if’s. ‘What if we hadn’t broken up, what if she hadn’t broken my heart, what wondrous activities and adventures would we have taken’? What places would you have only gotten to because she inspired you to or brought it to your attention. What world would she have brought into your orbit. What plans did she have. What plans did she hold back on. What plans will she make with someone else.

DCSuitBeautiful and I were supposed to go to California for her birthday. Well, two weeks after her birthday because that’s when I could get the hotel for free. The plan was two tickets for non-stop roundtrip airfare to and from Newark and LAX. Then, a convertible for five days. Then, taking the Pacific Coast Highway down to Anaheim. Then, two nights at Disney Land for the Disney princess I was in love with. Then, two nights at Huntington Beach to relax, romp in the sand and surf, and explore the city on foot hopping from bar to bar, restaurant to restaurant. The plan for her birthday was to take her locally to a beach to still get her beach fix. Long Beach Island, for example. Yeah I’m a Jersey boy. Now I am left with two non-refundable tickets that I will have to use in the future, minus the airline’s exorbitant change fee; a non-refundable car rental that I bought from one of those cutthroat online booking sites; and some free hotel nights I earned as a travel agent that I can plan on using some other time in the future. I am left wondering if our plans ever meant anything to her. I am left wishing she had been more honest and up-front about her feelings before I shifted so much of myself to allow myself to indulge in the sweet pleasure of planning a life with someone. Never having to plan on being alone again. The sweetest gift a relationship gives you is not one of monetary or physical value. The most blissful reward of a relationship are the promises and the plans. And they, unfortunately, are also the very first thing that she takes back from you. She may have left her sweater at your place, but the promises and plans that flowed out of the relationship and painted pictures of the future were taken down from the halls the moment the relationship ended.

Even this weekend was supposed to have a plan. Bird and I were going to take the early morning train on Saturday and spend the time together talking, sharing stories, listening to each other’s music, she even wanted me to try out Fire Emblem since she’s so crazy about it and I’ve never played it. We were going to check in to the hotel for our shared room, then explore the zoo and then the Spy Museum and then grab lunch. Come back to the hotel and we would alternate one taking a nap and the other taking a shower and getting ready for the night’s company ball. At least then I’d have someone to talk to and sit with. Afterwards we’d ditch the party early and go somewhere for a late night adventure.

Yeah so let’s see what actually happened…

My assignment took me to train stores in Maryland, so I had to leave early, arrive in DC Friday, and just meet her in DC in the morning on Saturday. Oh, and she brought along Hiro, a guy she had met online and was now seriously dating. So the zoo became a third wheel thing. That was incredibly painful. I ended up leaving alone later. I moved my Spy SmithsonianZooMuseum ticket to Sunday since my new train ride back home doesn’t depart until 8pm. I am sitting here typing in my single, king-bedded hotel room. I went to the party, double fisted four drinks, finished a bottle of white wine with my listless corporate dinner, then rushed out even earlier than planned, to sit here alone again, trying not to think about plans and people and Beautiful thinking about her ex or Bird with her new beau in their room.

I’ll admit. I know I’m committed to staying single this year. But…I did, do, like Bird. I was looking forward to spending some time together. I planned on becoming close friends. And maybe at the end of the year, I would have planned on asking her out. But she’s a bright, attractive, and fun person. It would be unfair to want, and unrealistic to expect, her to be single for so long.

That’s the thing about plans. I just don’t know where to put them or what to do with them. I wish I could say I’ve learned to live with or without plans. I wish I could say I’ve learned not to plan on plans. But they’re such a big part of life. Plans push us forward. I planned this blog and planned out my year. But yes, I also planned on being with Beautiful, or trying to be with Bird. I don’t even believe I could honestly say that one should only ever plan for oneself because you have to have plans for the future with someone. It’s in inevitability and it’s also one of the great pleasures of being in a relationship. I miss being able to plan things together with someone and try as you might, you can’t avoid getting drawn into that luxury. I have to learn to let go of some plans though. I do believe that there is a hindrance and an obstacle in holding back because of ironclad plans. I have to let go of certain destinations and vacations and activities that I’ve been putting back because I’ve said I only wanted to do it with someone I was with and realize I can love these things and do them alone or with family or with friends, all of whom are still special and full of love. And I have to lay to rest, eventually and with some great effort, the pains and pressures I have placed on myself because of unfulfilled, changed, or unfinished plans. I am not a teacher, not living on my own, not in a relationship, and certainly not getting married anytime soon. Part of being strong and #committedlysingle is to learn to live with plans, especially when they go awry, and to not lose hope, or to hitch too much of it onto another person. I’m not there yet. I’m far from it. Today was hard. I had to let go of an entire weekend’s worth of plans, and the plans for the future that today was supposed to lay the foundation for. I don’t think I handled it well. I can’t get past the hurt. Maybe, further on, I’ll plan on coming back to this. But right now, I’m not capable yet. I wanted my plans.

And how’s this for plans. I planned on having mozzarella sticks with my late night snack tonight. My bag sans sticks tells me that the pizzeria planned otherwise. Hah. Hah.

Day 12

Man: 9 Loneliness: 3

 

 

Day 11: The Man and the Road to Washington, D.C.

I’ve finally made it to DC. Three days ago I hit the road for another stretch of work and I’ve finally reached the last stop for the week. No more store visits, no more checking emails, no more scheduling. Now DC will be my home for the next two days as I find myself stranded for the weekend because of the company’s yearly schmoozing event. Until tomorrow night when I find myself insufferably surrounded by over-intoxicated travel agents talking about their clients and commission I will try to explore a city that in the past has only harbored bitter memories.

My first experience with DC was six years ago, when my family took visiting relatives from the Philippines into the city for a weekend of sightseeing and activities. It was around this time of year as well, and I remember the painfully piercing heat that just penetrated through the car windows and intensified on my legs. Tensions were high in the car as we were on the tail end of seven excruciating hours on the road and my two young nieces were already on the end of their tethers. I fail to even recall any of the sights as all I remember is a blinding rage at the congested traffic, the suicidal cyclists, and the blistering heat. I love driving. And I love being in places that are fun to drive in. DC is not one of those cities. So I made sure if I ever had to find myself back in this black hole of motoring, I would not be behind the wheel.

Therefore when I started dating a girl I knew from high school who was attending Georgetown and wanted to plan to visit her, I started looking at those discount Wi-Fi busses like Bolt or Megabus. That promised to at least be a much better commute in and I would have the added benefit of a nice hotel in the heart of the city only blocks away from the National Mall and I would have the weekend to spend with my girlfriend.  Unfortunately this plan would never come to light as once her parents got word that I was planning on visiting her and that we would be alone, they forbade me to travel to see her. She broke up with me for a guy she met in school down here who she said was, and I quote, ‘had more money, a better body, and was Chinese’.

I haven’t been to DC since, and I’ve always held a deeply ingrained bitterness towards the city and my memories of it. Fitting that I would find myself forced back into its thorny grasp just a few weeks after the hardest breakup I’ve ever had to go through. Tomorrow is going to be just great. Aside from the night of corporate schmoozery, I have to deal with third wheel syndrome again as I tour some parts of DC with a friend and her new beau.

Oh DC, why do you hate me so.

DCHotelI arrived just outside the city limits at around 1pm. Dropped off my rental car and was planning on hailing a cab to take me to the hotel as I did not want to deal with the obstacle of bringing a roller bag, gym bag, laptop bag, and a suit hanger bag onto public transportation that I did not know how to navigate. But wait, what’s this? The rental service is more than happy to use the car I just returned to drop me off at my hotel at no charge. Okay. I have a relaxing passenger side ride into the city while getting to know Carlton better. I even got some tips on public transport while in the city and places to go/eat. Huh. That wasn’t too bad.

Relaxing ride aside, I check in to the hotel. I find out that my family’s hotel club Lincolnmembership…thing…is on the reservation. Complimentary beverages and hors d’oeuvres from 5pm-7pm? Well…I did miss breakfast this morning. Complimentary breakfast?! I’ll be here two nights. That’s two breakfasts I don’t have to worry about. The lounge has key card access only. You enter your room key and if you’re authorized the doors slide out. Rocking the Gold status.

WashingtonI decide to explore the city on my own terms for once and see what all the fuss is about. The metro station is only a block or two away from my hotel. It’s not too hard to understand. I end up at Smithsonian Station and wander around the National Mall grounds. I catch the Washington Memorial at sunset. I watch tourists, families, couples, and feel their excitement. Ride along with their purposeful stride as they see the sights. It’s hot. Like, still fricking hot. But I’m not driving, I have nowhere to be, no one to take care of, and I’m surprisingly okay with it.

Tonight I am on my way to the Old Ebbitt Grill, one of the oldest taverns in the city, for late night specials on their oysters and crab claws and whatever spirit speaks to me. I’m looking forward to it with a, dare I say it, sense of excitement and eagerness.
Look at me. Look at what’s happening in this godforsaken city. I’m here today completely on my own with a self-driven purpose…and I’m enjoying myself. I’m still heartbroken. I’m still lost and confused about why I had to be hurt by one of the people I’ve loved and cared for the most in my life. I’m still lonely. Tomorrow is still going to be tomorrow. But today wasn’t so bad. Today was a glimmer of respite that reminds me that I am supposed to be searching for something on my own and for myself. I’m still supposed to be #committedlysingle.

I booked the Spy Museum admission and Spy Experience combo for Sunday.

I think I can give this city a chance.

Day 11

Man: 9 Loneliness: 2