Day 52: The Man and the Triumphant Return, Post-Retreat

It is a strange feeling to be back. I actually got home late last night and with no real time to transition from the retreat world to the real world, I find myself on the road again already, traveling in eastern PA for the week. I am writing as much for the benefit of the blog and my own personal reflection as I am to record the immense amount of knowledge and wisdom I have gained over the past three days for future reference. I hope also that what I have experienced and learned I can share with others who might also benefit from it.

Eagle Village.jpgThe shift in mentality, physicality, activity, and awareness is almost jarring. For the past three days I’ve been completely unplugged. Not isolated or removed, just unplugged. The location was actually gorgeous. In Southbury, CT the school rented a couple cabins. We still had shelter and light and running water but we consciously chose to leave all our technology in our cars, locked away, to use sparingly if at all. I personally chose to go on a complete withdrawal from it all to ground myself again. There is a purposefulness that is wonderfully fulfilling and totally absorbing when you choose to focus your entire day on only a few certain tasks. Not that there aren’t ways to capture that sensation in our everyday lives, but imagine having a full day devoted to only the things you choose to do. To get up early because you want to feel the sun rising on your face during morning meditation. To fill your lungs with cool air and feel the wet morning dew on the grass as you begin your practice. Sharing a breakfast with people who are fully committed to the same goals and values and motivations as you are. Feeding off of that energy, that vitality. To rush back to the hot sun and be completely oblivious to how the hours melt away as you practice. We would take sporadic little breaks to cool down, drink some water, have some fruit, and we’d be back immediately, wanting to learn more, enjoying and valuing every moment as an opportunity to learn and improve and grow. A full day of personal, physical, and mental growth. We practiced until the sun would set and then, as a group, would find a local restaurant to have dinner together. At the school back home, there is a protocol of Interiorinstructors, assistants, and students. And even within the students, there is of course a ranking of seniority among the higher and lower belts. But on a retreat we wear no uniforms, bear no distinctions, and within respectable reason of course, honor no separation. It is only here that I can have a beer with an instructor or play pool with some of the assistants. It is here, learning something completely different and unique to the retreat experience, that seniors and juniors find themselves on equal footing and able to learn, practice, and spar on equal grounds. At night those of us who have not yet tired of the day’s lessons will find some private secluded areas to continue our practice, share knowledge and advice, and prepare for the next day.

I did not once think of Beautiful or of relationships or loneliness when I felt at all times surrounded by such engaging company. My body was too busy to feel lethargic and sad. My mind was too excited to wander into distracting thoughts. I find the first day back too numbing. It is busy but it is unfulfilling. I think a retreat is always a wonderful idea and it doesn’t necessarily need to be for martial arts. You can retreat within your own home to write, to sing, to draw, to feel, or to not feel. What I have come to realize is that the effectiveness of a retreat is not measured during its own time, but in the time after. Can you capture that feeling of peaceful and serene purpose and carry it with you back in the real world. Can each retreat slowly find its way into your daily heart until you feel it in every waking moment. That is the Zen. So the first goal, above retaining what was learned and practicing it physically, is to retain what was felt mentally and recreate it in every new morning. That is where I start my post-retreat journey.

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This week will be dedicated to sharing the lessons I learned from my weekend. During the retreat we focused on two new aspects of the martial arts practice that are not normally taught in the regular curriculum of the school. The first was Yin Meditation, a form of deep relaxation and stretching meditation much like yoga that focuses on benefitting the internal organs, emotions, health, flexibility, and relaxation. We learned and practiced various poses meant to stimulate certain organs and emotions and I will share the poses, how to do them, and how they relate to the very deep and complex world of Chinese philosophy and meditation. I am currently beginning a 100 day challenge of Yin meditation to see how my body and mind change from the regular practice of these poses for specific purposes. I will also share the martial aspect of the retreat, where I am very happy to say I was able to learn a new skill that has always been on my ‘must-learn’ list. I am a huge weapons enthusiast and I love being able to practice as many of the traditional Chinese weapons as I can and over this weekend we learned the double broadsword. Oh yes, that’s right you martial arts fans and nerds out there, we learned how to wield not one but two of the Chinese daos, considered among the family of traditional weapons of kung fu as the ‘General of All Weapons’. I am particularly keen to share my experience and insight into this practice not as it pertains directly, as I do not think I am neither qualified nor equipped to even begin to explain or illustrate the principles, but I am excited to share my insight as to how weapons apply to martial arts philosophy and how that can apply to the nature of relationships as well.

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Oh yes, I’m back, I’m energized, I’m inspired, I have a goal and a reason and a purpose, and I cannot wait to share.

Day 52

Man: 36 Loneliness: 16

Day 48: The Man and the Retreat

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I’m going to have to go on a very brief hiatus over the weekend and will be back on Tuesday.

If I could I would type and write until I wore my fingers down to the knuckle. Writing in this blog daily has done incredible things to help me sort my emotions, move beyond the initial hurt, and remain hopeful for growth and change.

Recently I have not really thought much about the events and people involved that brought me to this point. I have been too busy looking forward and enjoying this new creative drive. It has been amazing to witness the ease with which so many words now pour from my fingers. When I started I was so out of practice that simply trying to find a message was difficult enough!

But this journey is two-fold. I have been working on taking care of my mind and sharpening the sense of my writing, observation, and reflection. It is equally important to take care of my body. To remind myself that a little sweat and a little struggle can do a whole lot of good. To feel the sun on my skin and feel the natural breeze, not the one from the office vents.

It has definitely been difficult to find a way to adapt and negotiate my way around the craziness of my work schedule. Being on the road 90% of the time nowadays I do not have the luxury of familiar surroundings and routines to keep me balanced and in check. When I am finally back home on the weekends I am so consumed with the desire to spend time with family and friends, share stories, catch up, indulge, that I lack the incentive and motivation to do otherwise.

At least Pokemon Go has me walking to hatch those eggs. And I am fortunate that almost every hotel I stay at during my travels has some form of make-do minimalistic ‘fitness center’ that I can spend an hour in each night. But it does not replace where my body craves to spend its energy and effort. An elliptical does not speak to the blood that flows through me. For that, it has been, and will always be, my martial arts.

I have been studying and practicing martial arts for the past 19 years. I spent 12 of them at one school studying ba gua zhang and I’ve spent the past three at the school I am currently in learning a system that teaches a combination of eight traditional styles (kung fu, kung soo, ba gua, yudo, tai chi, aikido, the eight fundamental weapons, and kendo separately).

Jackie Chan.gifLike many Asian kids, I grew up watching Jackie Chan films. He was the one who inspired me to start learning kung fu. My father, who studied in the Philippines, was happy to help me find an authentic school that would teach me true martial arts, vetted by practicality, philosophy, and authenticity. I was ecstatic when we found my first school, then a small group that simply rented a space from a dance studio and taught authentic ba gua zhang, an internal style of kung fu (a la Avatar: The Last Airbender). I studied there for 16 years, progressing from the children’s classes to the adult, only stopping when I had to go to college and could no longer attend regularly.Aang.gif
During my 4 year hiatus I continued to practice what forms I could remember if just to retain the muscle memory and the flexibility and strength. After college I went through a particularly difficult time relationship and identity-wise, and what helped bring me back to center was my martial arts. I sought a new school and a new teacher and found the school where I am currently. My background helped me to rise fast and my hunger after being starved for so long of new material and techniques propelled me forward.

Before I began this new job I was attending practice four nights a week and every Sunday. I would then go with a friend I made at the school into the city and continue with more practitioners in Chinatown.

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This is in fact a picture of the school where I now practice.

Martial arts has provided me with more than just a more dynamic and useful way of keeping in shape. Yes I have had to use it on occasion in the past and yes it has prepared me to be able to protect myself and those around me. But more so than that it has always provided me with a moral and philosophical foundation to living. True martial arts begins in the mind. It begins in the way you think. It has provided me with discipline, sincerity, benevolence, and bravery. Through my studies I began regularly practicing meditation. Developed a more level head. A keener sense of awareness. I admit my old school was a bit too traditionalist and isolationist. My new school is much more open and interested in other styles and schools. Through them I have been able to become a more active member of a community I did not know even existed. A community of truly dedicated and committed martial artists practicing mindful, authentic kung fu. I have been able to meet and practice with some incredibly gifted martial artists. I have developed friendships and relationships that center around one key fundamental interest and it has allowed all of us to improve with our continued interactions.

Both schools have had a regular tradition of taking one long weekend in the summer to take a retreat and focus solely on practice. It has been a yearly occurrence I have made sure never to miss, negotiating work, play, family, friends, and relationships around four days in August.

That is where I will be this weekend until Tuesday. That is what I am currently, in between paragraphs, packing for. Just the essentials. A toothbrush, toothpaste, contact case and solution, soap and shampoo, and clothes for changing out of each day. No cell phone, no laptop, and therefore, no blogging.

This retreat is as much about the physical aspect of martial arts as it is about the mental. We will spend time meditating, practicing, practicing, and then meditating. It is a true retreat from over-stimulation and indulgence. The most authentic and traditional form of practice we can recreate. A temporary but all-encompassing immersion in the art. I don’t know yet what we will be focusing on but I am excited to learn and spend more time with my kung fu brothers and sisters.

I am looking forward to this yearly opportunity once more. I cannot wait for us to hire more people in my department so that I can spend less time on the road and therefore more time at home and at my second home, the school. My body has sorely missed the sensation of struggle and growth. My body and mind are ready, eager, and willing.

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Too bad DailyPost doesn’t give previews of the next days’ prompts though. I hope I don’t miss anything good!

See you all on the other side of the weekend. Until then, take care, and don’t forget about me!

Day 48

Man: 32 Loneliness: 16

Day 48 Supplemental: The Man and the Daily Prompt; ‘Eyes’

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They say that eyes are a window to the soul

But a window can be viewed from both sides

So what happens if you have resting bitch face?


 

My friends used to tell me I have serious resting bitch face. Or whatever the equivalent is for a guy. What message does that send to people? It can be useful at times but if I am unaware that I have it, I can’t use it to my advantage by being able to turn it on and off. How do you control something like that? Scotch tape on the edge of my eyes?

But I mean…Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza have great resting bitch faces. So I’m not entirely without some good company.

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Or worse yet, I used to date a girl who said my default face was ‘constipated’.

Day 47: The Man and the Fortuitous Madness; ‘Moon’

I’m not kidding, I sent this email to my friends two days ago. When I saw that the prompt was ‘moon’ I thought, how fortuitous, I could show you all what madness you would be in for if you were ever unfortunate enough to have to take a vacation with me.

Please note, this is just what I write for a simple, TWO NIGHT THREE DAY trip to the POCONOS. Last year we did five days in Vegas and I wrote a novel. 

But I’ll tell you what, no one can argue that my friends aren’t prepared when we go on trips together.

So without further ado, the email I sent my friends to prepare them for our vacation next week.

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Hello lovely people,

In a little more than a week we will be on our second annual Little ‘Un. Congratulations on achieving this milestone in consistency and travel.

As a reminder, we will be away from Saturday, August 27th, to Monday, August 29th in the beautiful Poconos Mountain area in eastern Pennsylvania.

Prepare for a weekend of excitement! Intrigue! And perhaps even….MURDER! Or maybe just some good food, good drinks, and good company. You know, whatevs.

Of course before we embark on this most epic of journeys, it would be most prudent to prepare properly, please.

Proposed Itinerary

Saturday, August 27th

We shall all congregate at the house of [name removed] on Saturday no later than 10am. This will provide us with ample time to go to Total Wine to procure our alcoholic purchases and, I recommend, have lunch together at Green Papaya to discuss preparations.

Upon completion we will begin our trek to East Stroudsburg, PA. Estimated travel time will be an hour and a half with a cruising altitude of…zero feet. We anticipate good weather and a smooth ride but your captain does advise that you have your seat belt on at all times.

We will unload our noble vessel of all our earthly belongings and begin claiming rooms at the house. We will also take inventory of the supplies provided by the house kitchen (as all meals will be prepared in-house) and once we are comfortable and confident in our selection, we will begin the task of grocery shopping for the duration of our stay.

Dinner on the first night will be expertly prepared and provided by none other than our dynamic duo, [name removed]!

Our nightly entertainment for the first night will be a visit to Mount Airy Casino Resort, a lively, upscale casino resort 11 miles from Camelback Mountain on the Pocono Plateau. May the odds be ever in your favor!

Sunday, August 28th

A hearty and filling breakfast will be provided by the Korean Culinary Conquistador, [name removed]!

I would recommend that breakfast be scheduled and provided at 10am.

Sunday is our day of outdoor adventure and fun!

I would direct you to this site, which lists all of the outdoor activities at our disposal at the Skytop Lodge, the premier family and conference resort in the Poconos. Located only half an hour away from our temporary palace activities INCLUDE, but are NOT LIMITED TO, archery tag, a treetop course, lawn bowling, hiking, paintball, and clay shooting! Spots fill up fast so I recommend we discuss and book as soon as possible. Our gated community also has its own park and canoe/kayak lake as well.

This is the most transient of elements in our trip, completely open to customization and recommendations. Please let your server provider know if you have any requests.

After a full day of physical activity what better way to relax and reenergize than with an overly complicated and prepared meal by your very own humble author.

Night’s activities will include games, drinking, drinking games, and games of drinking, and when drunk enough, completely violating the community’s ridiculous ‘quiet time’ rules and howling drunkenly at the moon.

Monday, August 29th

We will prepare for the long road home with a meal by Iron Chef Taiwanese, [name removed]!

Afterwards I think a visit to the Pocono Bazaar on the way home would be a fun side-trip. Who knows what strange and unique wares we’ll find and ultimately not buy?!

Is what I’d say if it weren’t for the fact that Pocono Bazaar is closed on Mondays! So…iono…we’ll figure it out. We will endure. We will remain calm and carry on. God we better do something though. Maybe local back home? Get on this, guys.

What to Bring

Now that you have all been made aware of the activities and itinerary, let’s discuss provisions!

Please remember that the house DOES NOT PROVIDE LINEN SERVICE. Therefore you will be required to bring your own linens, towels, etc.

Apart from daily attire, please bring something for our casino night and active wear for our day of adventure.

Along that note, for those of you so inclined, please remember to bring bug spray and sunscreen. Brown don’t burn, baby.

For our game night, I will bring a deck of cards and Spot It. If you request any other board games from me, please let me know. Otherwise if you would like to bring any, please feel free to do so.

Money

The cost of the accommodations is $726 to be divided by five, which is $145/person. I have already charged this amount to my card so you would need to pay that to me either in cash or, if you prefer by check, I would need it asap, to make sure it is in my account before this month’s billing statement.

At the beginning of the trip I will have a full tank of gas, and at the end when I refuel we will split the cost of fuel plus any tolls incurred.

Aside from this, please bring enough in your budget to account for casino night, any activities we decide to book on Sunday, and the cost of your groceries as well as any provisions we purchase as a group (such as water).

Speaking of which…

Food

As you know, one of the more interesting and exciting twists to this year’s trip is that all of our meals will be in-house. You are free to do whatever you choose for your allotted meal, picking any dishes from any cuisine or preparation. We will have a full kitchen and outdoor grill at our disposal. Please bear in mind that while we will go grocery shopping in PA, if your dishes require any unique or particularly difficult to find or highly specific ingredients or instruments, you will need to bring these along with you. Or if you need only a specific amount of an ingredient that you happen to already have, by all means to help you control cost feel free to bring it. There’s plenty of space in the car to accommodate for Kitchen Stadium.

Weather

It is still summer and therefore hot weather wear is highly recommended. However we are in the mountains and in very shaded wood areas so bring layers.

Additional Information

Attached you will also find the house rules provided by our lovely hosts.

Well there you have it. The wild ramblings of a man with too much time on his hands and too many things to concern himself with when traveling. I hope you found it as amusing and useful as I did, and not just overbearing. Hahah. 

I really am excited for this trip though. It’ll be great to be out in the woods to clear my head, spend some time with friends, and I love the opportunity to cook and gamble and drink and everything else we’ll be doing. 

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Day 47

Man: 31 Loneliness: 16

Day 46: The Man and the Haunting; ‘ Ghost’

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What will the size of your ghost be?

We leave fleeting impressions on the world. Our existence is just the tiniest drop in the tiniest part of the large and infinite expanse of reality. But even a tiny drop, consistent enough, can make a mark on rock.

If we focus enough on concentrated areas, the hazy mist of our existence begins to take shape.

Focus on friends and family, and your ghost will be as large as your family tree, as deep as its roots, and extend as far as the very last leaf on the very last branch.

Focus on your trade, and your ghost will be as widespread as the fraternal order of skilled artisans you have contributed to.

Focus on your craft, and your ghost will reach through to the physical realm in your body of work, living for as long as your medium is relevant.

Focus on others, and your ghost will live in the hearts of those you have touched with your work.

Focus too much on yourself, and your ghost will fade with you.

For as long as immortality continues to elude the lives of mortal men, the best we can do to fend off the deep and profound fear of obscurity and oblivion is to tend to the ghost we leave behind.

I hope I love my friends and family enough. I hope they feel the presence of my affection and care long after I am gone.

I hope I find fulfillment and purpose in my career and that what I do is recognized and respected by my peers.

I hope my words find home in the hearts and minds of those who read it.

I hope to return some of the vast amount of blessings I have received in my life back to the world.

I hope to seek beyond my own understanding and my own reality to understand the tide that pulls and flows us all together.

We are all striking back against the wall, pushing against the barriers of our own mortality. As writers we scream and throw our words out into the void, trying to stake our place in the halls of memoriam. Do not concern yourself with immortality.

The grim but beautiful reality is that we have but a few decades to touch the world in some way. But without the luxury of time we are given a different gift. An impetus, a drive, a motivation that comes from being hyper-aware of our human condition. Do not squander this opportunity. Do not strive for more than your own ghost. Stretch every fiber, every tendon, every ligament of your being and reach as far into the forever as you can and know that your ghost will remain where you once stood for as long as you have fed it.

What will the size of your ghost be?

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Day 46

Man: 30 Loneliness: 16

Day 45: The Man and the Things He Carried; ‘Carry’

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“Everything had its own little home, neat and tidy. The white linen handkerchief on the inside pocket. The little mints… A single key on a fob.”

-Nancy Sinatra on the contents of Frank Sinatra’s pockets

Coming from a modern culture of hoarders, gorgers, and over-indulgers, it was understandable that many people would take to the prompt as a call to remind us of the joys and inner-peace that come from minimalism and simplicity. Others feel the weight and burden of the word carry and reflect on the gravity of its effect on the body and mind. ‘Carry’ feels like a responsibility or an obligation. It is a duty, a chore, something we must bear.

But ‘carry’ can be positive, resourceful, or even romantic. What we carry characterizes our persona and hints at who we are, who we were, and who we strive to be. If you’re outside, stop for a moment and touch your pockets. Rummage through your bag. Take a look at the things you carry and ponder why and what and how and who. There is a story, no matter how big or small, in everything that we choose to bring with us.

Trade and craft men are rarely ever caught without their tools nearby. They live and breathe through their instruments. You do not question how much you rely on the implicit understanding that a repairman comes to you with his own tools nearby or that a chef inherently carries his or her own knives. Physical or metaphorical, what we carry makes up the better part of our stories. Writers carry words, messages, stories, that we wear on our faces and our hearts, hoping for the right opportunity not to alleviate ourselves of the burden but to share with effervescence our ability to elevate the human experience with poetry and prose.

What I carry everyday is a part of who I am and who I want to be for others.

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This is my EDC (every-day carry). The accoutrements to my very special and unique identity.

First, we have my metal card carrier. Inside are my personal calling cards with my name, number, and email address. I carry this with me for personal interactions. You never know when you might run into someone who could become a valuable friend, ally, or professional contact. It is important to be ready at a moment’s notice to leave a lasting (read: physical) impression. I designed the cards myself and had them printed online on thick cardstock and now I use them when meeting new people, RSVPing to events, or to write short messages to friends in birthday gifts or for the holidays.

A deck of cards. This would come to no surprise for anyone who knew me personally. Even in high school, I was known to always have a deck of cards in my backpack, always ready for a good game. I actually met one of my friends in high school this way. He surprised me when he came up to me and saw me practicing my one handed deck cuts and shuffles and asked if I knew how to play Pusoy Dos, a popular card game in the Philippines. He grew up in a predominantly Filipino neighborhood and learned from his neighbors. We became fast friends and rivals. I carry a very specific brand of cards, from Theory11. They make a certain kind of high-quality smooth-backed cards perfect for card sharps and magicians. Yes, I also know how to do card tricks. No, I don’t think I’m that much cooler than you. Yes, I have tried it to impress women. In fact, there is a great memory when I was in Boston with friends at a bierhaus. We were playing cards and drinking and as we were getting ready to leave, the group next to us asked if I would mind leaving the cards with them so they could play as well. There was a particularly cute girl in their group, so I told them they could have my deck under two conditions. 1) I would try to do a magic trick, and if I could whichever card the girl picked 2) I would keep that one card and she would write her name and number on it. I did, she did, and it makes for one hell of a story, even if I never did see her again.

My wallet. With some certain essentials. My student ID from college (I graduated four years ago, and unscrupulous as it may be, until I stop looking like that picture I will continue to collect my student discounts). My IATA card (International Air Transport Association), basically my membership card to the international association of travel agents. Making me eligible for travel agent discounts wherever applicable, including hotels, shows, and attractions. CASH. I don’t care if we are in the age of credit cards, QuickPay, ApplePay, and BitCoin, cash is still king. I dare you to walk into Chinatown and assert otherwise. Besides, since it is no surprise to ANYONE how many decisions I make revolve around beautiful women, I believe cash is more useful and universal when out with a cute date. And cash carries a bit more message and weight than a piece of plastic when it’s time to take care of the bill. Yes, I pay. Absolutely at the very least for the first few dates.

A handkerchief. Not necessarily always white. But certainly a sturdy yet soft piece of cotton. Something practical and useful with the potential to also be an attractive clothing piece. Once again, I say that a man should carry this not for himself, but for the person he is with. When they are teary-eyed, be there to wipe away their tears. If they get food or dirt or anything else on them, offer it to them to clean themselves up. Preparedness is sexy people. And when your date is done with the handkerchief, let them keep it. They will, if they are good people, take it upon themselves to wash it and return it to you, facilitating future contact!

Dental floss and mints. I’ll tell you what’s not sexy. Bad dental hygiene. Save yourself (or your date) the embarrassment of broccoli in the teeth or fish on the breath. Carry these around to use surreptitiously or to freshen up before the long kiss goodnight.

Cologne. Not everything I list here I carry in my pockets. I would look awkward and blocky, and risk bursting at the seams when trying to bend over to pick up at least one of the things that would inevitably fall out. I deploy these various items strategically around my person. Whether directly in my pockets or in my coat in winter (long coats, gentlemen) or always in my car. That is where you will always find some cologne to lift up the wear and tear of the day. Nothing too heavy. We’re not teenagers in the locker room anymore, gents. Something with a slight subtle presence, just enough to leave an impression when you get close to your date. Nothing to knock them out when you approach from a block away. The sense of smell is the one most strongly associated with memory. Be unforgettable.

My watch. I am still a firm believer and proponent of a man wearing a sturdy watch that frames his wrist well. A fashionable timepiece is a distinguished way to accent an outfit and again, presents an image of preparedness and practicality. This was a gift given to my upon my college graduation. I am rarely seen without it. I like to wear it with the watch face facing down, a habit I picked up from my grandfather. There is something alluring and impressive about the extra gesture of lifting your arm and turning your wrist out to check the time. It draws attention to the gesture and the instrument. I later learned that this was common among soldiers, as the position prevented glare and alerting enemy snipers. Whether my grandfather knew this as well or if it inspired him to wear it, it is still a fascinating piece of history that I now wear every day.

My keys. Organized on a single key fob (that happens to double as a carabiner and a bottle opener). Preparedness is sexy. Two house keys. One for the storm door (without a key cover) and one for the main door (the one with the zombie key cover). The zombie cover was given by a friend for Christmas back in college. I am a huge zombie fan: movies, literature, TV, games. I devour zombie lore. It was a perfect accent to a very personal piece of every-day carry. I live in and through my car. What some may see as a necessity of life I see as one of the great luxuries and privileges. We command the road, feeling every twist and turn in our feet.

So that’s it. Everything I carry with me. Never a burden, never a chore, always a reminder of who I am, what has made me, and how I want to live my life. We carry so much in our lives and not all of it is good or of our own volition. Sometimes it is important to remember the things we choose to and why. I think the Chairman of the Board would abide.

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Day 45

Man: 29 Loneliness: 16

Day 44: The Man and the Tickets

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She wrote to me today. Wanting to know whether or not I had already canceled the tickets for our trip to California.

I wanted to scream ‘YES!’

‘After I licked the wounds you left me and picked up the pieces of all my shattered hopes and dreams it was one of the first things I did for myself.’

I wanted to tell her ‘Of course I did!’

‘I am slowly and painfully learning to rewire and reprogram my thoughts and desires to not be of you. To realize that you are bad for me. And every day I held onto these tickets, like clinging onto a sinking boat, thinking about this trip, about what it could have meant.’

I wanted to let her know ‘You and I will never go on this trip.’

‘I don’t want or need your pity. I let go of these tickets like I have let go of any hope of you or us. There is a very significant part of me that still, if you had only asked, would have jumped on that plane with you. But that part is getting smaller and smaller and the part of me that will love again is growing and spreading and will one day completely take over.’

I wanted to say ‘I plan on using my share to take myself on a trip instead.’

‘I have my own wants and dreams that do not need to be supplemented by yours. There is a world all my own that I love and can explore. I once thought you robbed me of my partner, my best friend, my travel companion, and my opportunity for adventure. But I am learning to do all that with myself and those that love me. I have no time for taking you on your adventures.’

But even still this would have been too much.

Words are precious commodities, and I have not enough to spare. I am tired of writing beautiful things for people who do not care about me. I eagerly await the day I am strong enough to write my last lines of her.

So instead I wrote ‘Yes, and you can claim your half up to a year later with the confirmation code I sent you.’

She will never know how many words I keep writing to her. And she will never know the amount of effort and strength it took to keep it from her, or why it was so important for my future self that I do.

Day 44

Man: 28 Loneliness: 16

Day 44 Supplemental: The Man and the Daily Prompt; ‘Confused’

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Not all confusion is the same.

There are the larger, semi-permanent states of confusion.

Who am I. What is my purpose. How does a good man live. When will my reflection show who I am inside.

There are the smaller, fluctuating villages of confusion.

Where did I place my keys. Why is the remote control in the refrigerator. How much is the doggy in the window.

There are the things we did not expect to confuse us.

Am I happy. Where am I going. Why is banana.

And yet still those that we knew would come back to confuse us one day.

What was I thinking. What have I done. Dude, where is my car.

There are times when confusion is a bad thing.

Who’s out there. Am I destined to be alone. Is it supposed to look that way.

And still others when confusion is a great thing.

Does she feel the same. Is she the one. Are you my lobster.

No matter what kind of confused you may be, there are some constant truths.

To be confused is to be at the very edge of human experience.

It is life and the pursuit of learning.

If you are confused, it means you are not content to sit idly by with what you already think you know.

Stay hungry. Stay learning. Stay confused.

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Day 43: The Man and the Double-Dipped Cherry; ‘Complicated’

I got to do things yesterday that I didn’t think I’d get to do for a long time.

I got to experience some firsts again.

I love my friends. I’ve known some of them since elementary school. And because of that, I feel I know pretty well what we’re going to be doing every week. Eat, drink, play some games, watch a movie, chat, call it a night.

I never really looked to them for the excitement and variety in my life. I always looked to my relationships for that. First time to Mexico, that was with a girlfriend. First time hiking, girlfriend. Bouldering, girlfriend. Coney Island, girlfriend. Et cetera. Et cetera. So when my last relationship ended and I decided to take on this experience, I also thought I would be submitting myself to an understanding that my life would be simple, predictable, consistent, for that amount of time as well. I don’t hold that against them. God only knows with my job being the way it is and my emotions always on a day to day basis a little consistency and reliability is certainly appreciated. I have no problem with grabbing a good meal and having some strong drinks either out or at my place with friends. I have no problem with playing card games or board games or watching movies or just talking somewhere with a good ambiance. But that would never really extinguish a desire in me. A thirst for more. I crave new experiences. I am a frenetic ball of energy that needs to vent, to be let loose in some direction. So I was understandably a bit concerned in the long run what I was going to do. I could of course pursue activities on my own. But for even the most solitary of folk, I believe there is a limit to how much of the human experience can really be felt on one’s own. We are social beings, forming communities for survival and prosperity.

I was worried my life would become too simple without my usual outlet (girlfriend) to explore everything I wanted to.

But yesterday proved me wrong. It showed me that my friends, the relationships I already have, can also be a source of new and exciting things. I have discounted my friends too much. I have underestimated their own propensity for adventure. I am humbled and a bit ashamed of myself for that but I see them now for so much more than just the same old same old. I mean, my friends have all had very dynamic lives without me really noticing. Two of them have just recently changed careers and positions. I am so proud of them for chasing after more than what they have and acknowledging their self-worth. Another friend is just now beginning a brand new relationship for the very first time and I can see how much it has changed him for the better. (God I miss that. Hahah.) They have all been equally hungry for life and I was too busy focusing on someone else’s plate rather than theirs.

So we’ve started to do more new things. We’re exploring interests and activities and hobbies. I am allowing myself to let go of plans and pre-conceived notions, I’m learning to be more flexible and share more of what I want to do with them rather than hold it back and prevent myself from really living and enjoying myself during this year of singlehood.

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Your humble author channeling his inner Legolas. Or Green Arrow. Or Robin Hood.

Yesterday we tried something I’ve always been interested in and, I found out, another friend has always been interested in too. A new archery range opened up nearby and they had a Groupon for an hour’s rental and use of the facilities so we decided to give it a try. It was so much fun and there is a certain peace and tranquility in the sport. The guards and equipment make you feel like a superhero and there is a deep and profound satisfaction in the sound of the arrow leaving the bow, even before you concern yourself with whether or not you’ve hit your target. We had some friendly competition and they even tied balloons to our targets once we were more comfortable for us to try and compete with. As I mentioned I discovered that one of my friends had actually always been interested in this as well which was a pleasant surprise and in fact we are seriously considering purchasing our own bows in the future to practice and improve and become more involved in the sport. I think there is great potential in pursuing this interest and I am equally excited for the opportunity to pursue a new hobby with one of my friends and also for the potential it unlocks for future blog posts.

 

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I would love to see if you could all guess which hand is mine.

We also went to the Hoboken Pilsnerhaus for the first time. It is a biergarten in north Jersey with a plethora of imported beers on tap and a large menu of German cuisine, including an indoor grill which would have been awesome if a) it wasn’t already 100 degrees outside b) the grill wasn’t also contributing even more heat into the facility and c) the proprietors weren’t so stingy as to not have air-conditioning inside the building. There isn’t enough beer in the world to make you forget about the heat and humidity. It’s an awesome place and again I got a chance to get really serious about a passion of mine (good food and drink) with a friend. Comparing beers, ordering a few different styles, we definitely could have made a session of it if it wasn’t so unbearably hot and crowded. A note for the future, we should go back for Oktobertfest, or Winterfest, or just ‘you won’t need A/C weather’ fest. The beers were excellent and of a wonderful variety of taste and feel and aroma. The food was wonderful. We started with a grilled sauteed mix of calamari and German sausages with rosemary, garlic, and paprika. From the grill I had two very large but wonderfully seasoned currywursts with crispy shoestring fries and a wonderfully peppery and crunchy housemade sauerkraut. This place is such great fun with the large communal wooden tables and the old world warehouse feel (I just wish the warehouse feel didn’t also include feeling like I was in an old hot warehouse). Had I not been with friends, I actually would not  have even known of this place. It was my friend’s recommendation to go here after archery.

 

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No I do not read or speak Korean. No not all songs are in Korean. This was just taken while my Korean friend was up and he figured if we didn’t know what he was singing, we couldn’t tell if he was messing up. He was wrong.

Even more significant and thoroughly surprising than the biergarten buzz was our Korean karaoke carousal. Yes dear readers after heat exhaustion and heavy drinking, we decided we wanted to spend the rest of our night singing (screaming). I have never been to a Korean karaoke studio before. One of my friends  goes semi-regularly with his friends in the city and another used to go in college with his Korean club (go figure). It would be a brand new experience for two of us though. I had always wanted to try one of these. I am a particularly compelling case of tone-deaf but I cannot deny a deep national heritage of wanting to sing karaoke. If you’ve never been, Korean karaoke studios are great because you rent a room per hour regardless of how many are in your party, the room usually has some sofas, strobe lights, a great sound system, and they are all BYOB and BYOF. We stocked up before heading to this particular one with some beer, some sake, some jelly wine (Yes this exists and it is incredible. Imagine a giant lychee pudding cup only alcoholic. And if you don’t know what a lychee pudding cup is, get an Asian friend and head to your nearest Asian market. This was the best after-school sweet and the best part was sucking up the sweet juice before munching on the lychee and the pudding and this wine perfectly captures that with a slightly emulsified jelly like filling.) and plenty of Asian snacks. You know, rice balls, sushi, fried chicken, it was a real party. I learned I love singing badly with friends. I learned that I am not, surprisingly, the worst singer in the group. I also learned who was the best (still not me). I also learned I really need to step up my old school hip hop game because I can’t get by on singing pop songs. I swear to you the next time I go I will have memorized No Diggety by Blackstreet and U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer. Maybe I’ll even throw some Salt n Pepa in there courtesy Shoop. Confuse the hell out of my friends. Hahah.

I had an incredible time yesterday, and it goes t show me that I do not have to wait to live. Just because I have decided not to pursue any relationships this year does not mean I can’t have fun with the ones I already have. Life does not have to be simple because you are single. It can be argued that it is definitely simpler than being in a relationship, but by no means does that mean it must be. Life is full of adventure and spice no matter who you choose to live it with. It is varied, complex, and dare I say, even complicated.

Boom. Drop the mic.

Day 43

Man: 27 Loneliness: 16

 

Day 42: The Man and the Other Hand

It has come to my attention that today (well, technically yesterday) is (was) National Left-Hander’s Day. As a fellow left-hander and extremely proud of it, I thought there couldn’t be a more appropriate opportunity to celebrate.

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I was always proud of being left-handed. I knew in my class back in elementary school there were a few of us but I did not know just how unique being left-handed was in terms of the entire world. My mother’s friend gave me a book on the world’s greatest left-handers when I was younger and I loved reading through the list of authors, actors, actresses, atheletes, and royals who were all southpaws.

But if you yourself are left-handed or you’ve ever spoken with a lefty about what it’s like, you’ll know the world has not always been kind to us. Most can tell you about efforts made by parents and even teachers to sometimes ‘correct’ left-handedness. My father insisted that I learn how to eat with utensils in their ‘proper hands’ and most instructors were so accustomed to teaching righties that they were unprepared on how to translate to my perspective. Lefties can also relate to the characteristic smudge whenever we write with pen or pencil. You could never really make out what you were writing after a while because your hand would drag across the paper, smudging everything along the way and catching most of the ink or lead on the blade of your left hand. I never knew that the reason why most scissors never worked for me was also because of a design flaw for lefties.

Overall though I love being left-handed. I don’t know how much credence there is in the oft-quoted belief that a lefty, wired into the right side of the brain, is more creative and artistic, but I do believe I am a creative and artistic individual and would have no problem attributing it to my handedness. In many of the sports I have played being lefty has proven to also be a competitive advantage. I’m a step closer to first base and the pitcher is not used to a lefty’s hit box. I have more access to an opponent’s inside in fencing. Even in bowling, the release of a lefty has a natural curve when the ball rolls down the lane.

Most of all I enjoy that feeling of being unique and having a unique position in the world. I love when my left-handedness is noticed by others and it becomes a conversation starter. I don’t mind the few obstacles, or that I’m in the minority. It becomes easier to stand out that way. And it also speaks to something very near and dear to me, which is that something is only worth doing if everyone isn’t already doing it.

It was kind of cool to find out that people were celebrating lefties today. I’m going to have to make a bigger habit of celebrating from now on.

Day 42

Man: 26 Loneliness: 16