Jerel Says, ‘Hello World’; Caper

It’s funny just how much you all actually know about who I am.  You know most of my hobbies, passions, and interests. You know a lot of what I don’t like, because I am more passionate against things than I am for. Hahah. You know my hopes, aspirations, and struggles. I dedicated a month to sharing as much as I could remember of my complicated, rocky relationship and a year to sharing as much as I could remember of my complicated, rocky  relationship with ‘relationships’. If my life were conducive to capers, you would have definitely known about those too. My likes, my career, my travels, I’ve shared a lot.

You know how this blog started out of immense heartbreak. How at times when I felt more alone than I ever have, and had nothing but bittersweet memories to keep me awake and afraid at night, I would instead write, opening a vein, bleeding my story out. You know my continued hopes for love and companionship and warmth and connection, and for as much as I myself have figured it out,  you know what it is ultimately I am trying to look for. You know how random words or encounters or  conversations would light a fire in me and how much I would want to share it here, to see if my thoughts and musings could hold up as well on screen as they do in my head.

But you don’t know my name.

Hello world, my name is Jerel. This is my blog.

In a Suit

In Toronto for the wedding of one of my best friends.

There is a chance that there are new readers and new eyes looking at this blog right now. See, I happened to coincide the first post of the new year and my face and personal life reveal with letting friends and family know that I’ve had this, and that they are now welcome to read and be a part of this world. But unlike Man, Jerel has a very minimal and often times  unnoticed social presence, so who knows. Hahah. But in the rare case there are, that means some of you are for the first time finding out about this blog, while most of you are for the first time finding out about its author.

Just so you know, Man also has a twitter you can follow at @ManVsLoneliness.

NoFilter

But you won’t be able to find absolutely adorable photos of me like this even if you follow me. #nofilter

I started this blog as equal parts therapy and exploration. Getting over the past and figuring out the future. I took a year off from relationships and just wanted to focus on figuring out who I am, what I want, what I’m looking for, and why I’ve been such a shitshow trying to find it. In a year’s worth of posts you’re going to find very personal writings about my past relationships, personal reflections on heartbreak and hope, and personal pieces just about who I am, what I love, what I hate, and what I think. The number on the top of the page there, in case you’re wondering, is a score count. As the days went by, I’d take a mental inventory of how it went. My mood, my attitude, my outlook, and I would decide if it was a day to be proud of, happy with, satisfied with, or if it was a day I let my pain, insecurities, or fears get the better of me. Overall, long story short, I didn’t.

Sleeping

I’m an image of grace and beauty in repose.

But for most of you reading,  I’m finding it difficult to think what there is of Jerel there is to share that hasn’t already been a part of Man. I’m 27 years old, I was born and raised and still live in New Jersey with my incredible family and ‘eh’ friends. (Kidding.) I went to elementary, middle school, high school, and college in New Jersey. I hate when people refer to it as ‘dirty Jersey’.  I’m left handed and flat footed. I really really want to be able to describe myself as awkward, quiet, reserved, but the truth is I’m awkward, loud, and just a damn good charmer. Hahah.

Ladies Man

And I’ve always been quite the ladies’ man.

I don’t get very many opportunities in real life to be as expressive or to share like I do here, though. And that is actually true. I’ve kind of developed all of this train of thought on a parallel path to my regular day to day. But I would like to think, I hope, that a lot of what I’ve learned and realized and grown through has changed me and made me more aware of my personal life. Now that everything, Man and Me, has been combined and integrated I’m hoping to share more of how the thoughts and reflections I share here affect what I do out there.

HighSchool Jerel

Peace, love, and chill is all a high school Man wants, man.

I’m not entirely sure what will change for the blog, but I do know there won’t be a day count anymore. And I’d like to still keep up a relatively consistent and reliable stream of posts. I may want to explore various other media, if I can find the right equipment. Maybe my personal connections can help with that, as I know some of my other friends and family have blogs or do things with social media. Maybe I’ll just keep posting baby photos because adorableness should get me a few more likes, right?

Strike a Pose

Outside of this, the future of Me, Man, and this blog are unknown to everyone here. I mean, I’ll keep writing, you’ll just know who the writer is. It’s not gonna affect what I choose to share or how I choose to share it. BUT, I do have a request of  you all reading.  I do know for a fact that something I’d like to do in the near future is a ‘get to know Me or Man’ kind of thing. I’d love to hear all the questions you might have either about me personally or about the blog or anything really.

Cooking Jerel

I will admit, I love including this photo in online dating profiles because women love a) guys who cook and b) cute little kids.

I’m hoping I can get a good number of really interesting questions that could lead to something substantial. Readers and subscribers will be able to comment right on here. Those of you who don’t have blogs can email me or Facebook me, if you got to this from there. I really want to compile all these questions and do a project with them. So please please please, ask away!

Momofuku

A surprise birthday treat at Momofuku Ko. With friends at one of the best, most memorable meals I’ve ever had.

Here’s something I can share with you guys about my real self. I was born with a full head of hair. Like, crazy amount of hair. And most family have this like, one famous photo of me as a baby with a wild untamed afro of hair. I was, according to some of the older folks at least, kind of an annoying child, pretty hard to handle, so maybe this is why they only remember me a) for my hair and b) before I could speak.

Famous Hair

My father likes to joke that I skipped the ‘adorable baby’ phase and went straight to ‘funny looking kid’.

 

Day 322: The Man and French Lessons, Part 1: Transportation; ‘Reprieve’

It has been too long overdue, friends, but I am finally back! Hahah. As most of you who have been following and reading this blog already know, I’ve spent the past week Snowpierceron an incredible trip to Montreal and Quebec. Further evidenced by the numerous photos and musings I’d been posting during my time there on my twitter (@manvsloneliness, please follow). I actually returned on Monday (absolutely rejuvenated and reenergized) but haven’t had a chance to share my adventures because well…I didn’t have a computer. I haven’t actually owned a computer since college. Hahah. Since then I’ve always had work-provided tech for personal use, and I was waiting for my new job to send me my laptop before I could finally start writing again (I’ve missed the sound and the fury of clicking and clacking keys).

But I’m back now baby and…better than ever? I mean, maybe. I definitely feel better. The wonders and freedoms and powers of travel. And with plenty to share. So I’m going to start a mini-series over the next few days highlighting the most memorable parts of my trip. Today I want to start with how any great trip starts. How to get there.

The Railcation of My Dreams

MurderontheOrientExpressThere is something immortally, eternally, and undeniably romantic about train travel. The gentle yet powerful ‘clack clack clack’ of the rails, the soothing almost imperceptible rocking of the train car, the seemingly endless panorama of scenery that speeds past your window with ceaseless variety. Romance, tragedy, murder, conspiracy, and comedy; all the great and wonderful and deep and dark emotions of life and humanity have been set on trains. The truth is, Newark runs daily non-stop flights to Montreal. I could have very well been in Canada within four hours. But let’s be honest here. Driving to the airport. Leaving the car in some uncovered shady parking lot. Or worse, stomaching an Uber ride. The TSA check-ins. Waiting in a stale lifeless airport waiting room trying to figure out a way to sleep on two chairs. Cramped seats, recycled air, limited food, and no room to walk.  Not the least also is the price to consider for all of this ‘convenience’. And if I flew United well…maybe I should bring some boxing gloves too. Hahah. No, for all intents and purposes, my first love will always be rail. And I was more than happy to entrust all my travel needs to AmTrak and VIARail once I was in Canada.

Adirondacks

Friday morning I left my home bright and early and took my express bus to Port Authority Bus terminal in Manhattan. From there it’s a quick five minute, two block walk to Penn Station to catch my AmTrak. Honestly, I was surprisingly pleased by how easy, StrangersOnATrainconvenient, and efficient the whole process was. There are two big screens constantly displaying arrival and departure information for trains within the hour and it refreshes, so if you arrive a bit early don’t fret if you don’t see your train info yet. If you’re still lost though, there are info courtesy desks stationed at various points with, get this, actually helpful and enthusiastic staff. I know, it’s crazy. Those taking trains across borders need to go to the ‘Canadian check in’ which is no more than a roaming desk where you present your ticket, passport, and have your luggage tagged. All in all, from getting off the bus to standing waiting in line to board my train, it took no more than fifteen minutes. A welcome reprieve from the two hour shuffle and kerfuffle at the airport.

And of course the benefit of your terminal being in the heart of New York is that you can literally have whatever you want on the train. (There is a menu on the train but let’s be real. $8 for a hot dog? That’s just poor planning and you know what, they can charge whatever they want if you’re not on top of your travel game. Seriously.) In this case I actually made myself a lunch to have on the train. I was inspired by the ekiben (railway boxed meals) of Japan. So in a bunch of  tiny but still cute disposable containers I made myself a meal of potato salad, macaroni salad, some grilled eel and rice, tea egg, and a few fruits. (It’s a ten hour train ride. And I believe in many small meals.)

HudsonRiver.jpg

So I rode the Adirondack from Penn Station to Montreal, which I have to tell you, is oneof the most beautiful and scenic paths on AmTrak. In fact, if I plan on going back for a weekend (and I just might), I would want to do it in fall when AmTrak adds the luxurious and picturesque dome car for a full uninterrupted view from a viewing deck with a giant glass bubble to appreciate the changing colors of fall foliage. When you’re really into rail travel, you appreciate that ten hours to the destination is still part of the experience. You can look out the window and appreciate views of the Hudson Valley, New York’s wine country, and the Canadian countryside. Tuck into a good book. Snack at your seat or grab a booth in the dining car. The very least you can do is appreciate the opportunity to stretch your legs walking and feeling that raw exciting energy of the rails racing underneath your feet as you move between cars.

AmTrakSeat.jpgSeating is incredibly comfortable. You have plenty of leg room, and (for better or for worse) since the trains are often under capacity, there’s a good chance that like me, you’ll get both to yourself. The train cars run two sears across, an aisle, and then two more. Just be aware, there’s no arm rest in between, so if you are sitting next to someone, it’s great for couples and friends but strangers might be leaning a bit for a while. All the seats come with outlets, a reading light, and large windows. There is also a pull down footrest as well as a pull out leg rest. The seats themselves recline to about 140°. For about five hours of the journey I just slept rather restfully. This is like, domestic flight first class level amenities and comfort. It should be noted  that AmTrak does offer actual first class amenities as well as sleeper cars on longer trails but the Adirondack offers neither so I wasn’t able to test them.

CanadaFarm.jpg

Pulling into Montreal for the very first time and hearing the conductor announce ‘ladies and gentlemen, we will be pulling into our last station, Montreal, in ten minutes’ filled me with excitement. It was around 9pm and the sun was beginning to set, casting a dramatic deep red highlight over the Montreal skyline. I had just finished the first leg of my first major railcation in extreme comfort and convenience.

MontrealRising

My experience with VIARail, Canada’s major rail provider, was more or less the same. The trains are a bit older and oh my god, their AC is really REALLY weak, but overall justReturnCroissant.jpg as enjoyable. (Side note, forgot to mention that you might want to bring a light jacket just for the AmTrak because unlike their Canadian counterparts, AmTrak loves to blast the AC.) The best part about VIARail is that I took it in Montreal from Montreal Central Station. Which means I had access to Montreal bakeries. So on my train to Quebec, and my train back home, I had the company of some of the finest baked goods I have EVER had. And I mean EVER. I am not a croissant fan. I’ve always found them to be underwhelming. All of the croissants I’ve had just couldn’t deliver on that promise of light flaky crispy layers with rich butter in between and an incredible crust. But let me tell you as I took that first bite of a Montreal croissant and I felt my mouth crunching through layer after layer and that rich creamy buttery flavor filling my nose and mouth,  I was converted. In fact the saddest part of my trip home was biting into my last croissant.

Starting a morning rail trip with an iced coffee and some croissants is my idea of luxurious and smart travel. Honestly if you’ve never taken a rail trip, I highly recommend it. European rail seems to be even more steeped in that wonderful romantic nostalgia, and Japanese rail takes comfort and efficiency to a whole new level. Hell, I would want to ride the shinkansen if just to try all the unique regional rail boxed lunches that stations along the route have! For solo, couple, small group, and family travelers alike, I cannot recommend rail travel enough. There is just no better way to fall in love not just with the destination, but the journey as well.

QuebecCroissant

Tomorrow I will be talking about my accommodations. I stayed at the Hotel Espresso in Montreal for four days the first part of my trip, the Hotel Clarendon in Quebec the second, and I ended my trip with one night at the Le Square Phillips Hotel in Montreal. I’ll share the highs, the lows, and the stories behind each one and share my recommendations and tips when booking a hotel in Montreal or Quebec. Feels good to be back y’all.

Day 322

Man: 289 Loneliness: 33