"Sailed not as a seaman, but as a traveler..."

"Sailed not as a seaman, but as a traveler..."- Sir Thomas More's Utopia

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Living on scotch and cigarettes just like a real writer.

Image: San Fernando's Giant Lantern Festival illuminating a black sky.

As a break from all the story writing, sometimes I dabble in poetry. Actually, it really isn't poetry so much as it is word vomit purging itself from my mind-pools. The following is my latest - enjoy the word porn.

I will find your heart
Amidst these crushed twigs and fallen leaves
Buzzing and humming to the key of coughs
I don't know if you exist
Or if you do if you'd dwell in these dark woods
Of well worn blues bars
Wearing the patina of countless nights spent awake
Same as me
Gobbling turkeys through measures of shot glasses too heavy for one hand
While drowning in sounds of every night's mournful howl
Filtered through a horn pressed againt the lips of a man with too much story to tell
Sifting through the smells of lotion and cigarettes
I will find your hands
Like yarn finds its shape upon the points of needles
We will find beauty in the residue of discarded dreams
I don't know if you exist
Or if you do if you'd dwell in these sultry nights
Running to the rhythm of hurricanes
But I will find that faint funk of festering divinity
Of marionettes unhinged and unbound
I will hear that delicate tremor of a voice buried under thousands of plywood puppets
Dancing to the tune of forsaken scores
For these are the portions for those who are not we
For these are the lives of those who easily erase the things they've seen
I don't know if you exist
And I have no inkling of your name but
Together we will be peacocks on power lines
Dancing across electricity

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Still alive and kicking.

Image: Rizal's words emblazoned on the walls of his former prison.

I just realized that I haven't posted anything in over a month. Here's a post to let y'all know that I'm still alive and kicking. I've just been very busy frying up fish heads and whatnot.

Here is another excerpt from a story I have been working on. It really is amazing to be in a country so full of inspiration. Sometimes my hand can't keep up with the ideas pouring out of my head. If you know anything about Philippine mythology, you might be able to pick out a few reinterpretations in this little excerpt. Enjoy!

The Apricot Farmer

Ruled completely by logic, Don Adarna considered his predicament quite closely. The only logical solution would be to swallow an apricot seed and become an apricot tree himself. Without much ceremony, he picked an apricot from a nearby tree and began to eat.

"I have collected much happiness and sadness in the course of my life," Don Adarna thought aloud. "If this is where my story ends, then this is where it must end."

Savoring the essence of the apricot, he particularly enjoyed the subtle but complete and permeating pleasantness of the apricot. He took the last morsel of the fruit's flesh clinging to the pit with a tinge of sadness. Sadness for the fruit because it had ended and not because the fruit's end might also somehow signify the end of his own flesh. Don Adarna understood that although all things must end, all things also continued in manners unseen and immeasurable.

Unlike the yielding flesh of the apricot, the pit drew its course down his throat like the anchor of a ship hastily thrown overboard for a desperately quick halt. The anchor dragged on until it caught the stone of Don Adarna's heart. Taking root in the coolness of the beating organ, the apricot pit began to pull sustenance from his very blood, slowly transforming bone and sinew into moist and fertile earth.

Completely conscious throughout his entire metamorphosis, Don Adarna wondered if the excruciating pain of change would ever end. He waited patiently for the strength of stillness. When the inertia of his evolution finally came to a halt, his leaves unfurled and out came forth a most delicate rustling, the sweetly sad song of melancholy humanity. He listened and he wept for reasons indescribable by words.

All things have their place. Even the most doubtful of minds and the coldest of hearts can give way to beautiful trees with branches hanging heavy with succulent fruit, bursting with understanding.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

To give or not to give.

Photo: Dried fish vendor getting rich during Fiestang Apu

In every country I've been to, there are beggars. The streets of neither the richest nor the poorest countries are spared this simple fact - there are always people in need.

The worst part of the poor here in the Philippines is that I speak the language. When beggars come up to me in Paris or even in the slums of Istanbul, I don't understand a word they say, making it much easier for me to continue walking without even acknowledging their existence. Here however, in the Philippines, the beggars come up to me pulling at my sleeves and speaking my mother's tongue, a language I only speak at home and to my family. How can I ignore a child, hair bleached a golden brown from the unrelenting sun, as he calls me big brother? How can the heart not be moved by an old woman, face leathered from weathering such tumultuous times, calling out to me, "son?"

It has always been against my nature to give my hard-earned money to beggars. How do I tell them that I'd rather not water the weeds of poverty? I'm torn because I cannot in good conscience perpetuate the problem, yet, neither can I just stand there and watch my brothers and grandmothers starve.

I wish against everything I have ever been told that I can one day tell my brethren as they ask for the loose coins in my pocket that I'm working toward a future that they may not see but will one day come.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Everything is possible. Nothing is permanent.

Image: Pampang Market at dawn. Everything moves, nothing is still.

I thought my very breath was connected to my iGoogle account. I thought my soul had rounded edges and a drop shadow. But here is my soul, thriving in trikonasana in sweltering jungle heat. Here is my breath, dwelling in the pipes that bring running water only when the water decides to run.

I think we're due for a little update of past events. I haven't done one of these in a while, so here goes.

What Erick has been up to in the Philippines for the past two weeks:

- Doing some freelance writing. Finally getting paid for the random ass shit I come up with.

- Test-rode a motocycle and ended up hurting myself. Which one's the clutch and which is the brake? I think I'll take it. Thanks.

- Completely owned at laser tag and rode my first roller coaster in the Philippines. Some of them kept braking down, but we rode them anyway. Danger is my middle name.

- Gave some architectural design advice for a building being built down the street from us. I just realized that I haven't discussed materials and column footings in over two months. They still use actual blueprints here. Yep, we're old school here on the Islands.

- Ate crickets, stuffed frogs, and water buffalo for the first time. Still on the list - python, dog, one-day-olds (think balut, but ones that have hatched).

- Helped plan a wedding while brainstorming awesome bachelor party ideas. What can I say, I'm a multitasker.

- Participated in a local fiesta (a feast in honor of patron saints) by eating, drinking, and merrymaking with complete strangers who are now well on their way to becoming good friends.

- Still looking for a job that will help change the world. On the list so far - teach children, work in urban planning, or fix air-conditioners. It is hot as hades here. Fixing broken air-cons will save lives.

Friday, October 1, 2010

I had my first motorcycle accident the other day.

Image: A grey day in Pampanga, Philippines

So I've been in the Philippines about a week now. It's great being rich. To give a little perspective, a beer is about 50 cents and a pack of cigarettes is less. Not that I'm a drinker or a smoker. I'm just sayin'...

I'm going to try a little something different. As most of you already know, I'm somewhat of an aspiring writer. Recently, with all of this time on my hands, I've been able to write a few stories. The following is an excerpt of one of the little stories I've been currently working on. I'd love to hear what you guys think of it!

The Power is Back On:

"The power is back on," she said as she inhaled smoke, keeping it in for as long as possible. Somehow, it felt indecent to watch her purse her lips around her cigarette now that the lights were back on. I got up to put on my clothes, automatic, like cogs in an old clock remembering that time continued to flow.

"I have to get home to see if I need to pick anything up for dinner," I said as I tied my shoes, ready to walk out of this lucid dream.

"Yeah, I need to get dinner ready, too" she replied. As deeply as we explored each other in the dark, we barely knew each other in the daylight. When the power was on, we were superficial acquaintances, so we kept the facts of our personal lives out of this transitional conversation. I suspected she had a husband, but I wasn't sure, and I certainly would not tell her about my children. These were the unspoken rules of Blackouts. We break down boundaries in the dark, rebuild them in the light.

At the office, I was a coordinator. I put ideas together and matched them to the staff whose talents best suit the tasks of implementing each idea. It was my job to undestand people, to know their capabilities. It was my job to measure ideas against personalities. I was damn good at it.

The first Blackout we spent together, Sorina had only been with our firm for a few weeks. I had given her a few projects and she was diligently doing them to the best of her abilities, which I knew would more than suffice. She was timid at work, unsure of her work and afraid to upset anyone, even those who ranked below her. We were staying late that night for a big deadline, when suddenly, the entire city went black. Without hesitation, I walked over to Sorina's desk and searched for her eyes in the near complete blackness.

"Milos, is that you?" she probed.

"You are headstrong." I took in an inaudible sigh and carefully measured my words, "You hate that you tiptoe around the feelings of others, yet you continue to. But I think, secretly, you would stomp through life if you could. Secretly, you want to be a conqueror." She stayed silent as our eyes adjusted to the black cloak that had enveloped us so severely.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Leavin' on a jet plane, don't know when I'll be back again.

Image: My grandmother and her sister posing after lunch in Pampanga

Holding pattern finally ending. Thanks to Kayak, I have finally purchased my ticket to my first foreign destination - the Philippines! I have been on the road since the end of July so it seems a little fast to think that I have just one week to soak up the States before I move on to the next adventure. Let's see what shenanigans I can fit between now and boarding call.

When I get there, I bet everyone will ask me if I've seen that Julia Roberts movie.

Friday, September 3, 2010

I won't die without any scars.

Video: Old school crooning off of the East River (Credit: JL)

At the risk of coming off overly dramatic, this post is a little something for my loved ones, a little something that's been marinading in my mind pools for quite some time now.

Some of you, especially my closest friends and family, may know of the sad sequence of events, the slow unraveling of my life. The deaths, the loss, the betrayal, the redemption (movie transcript currently being drafted, possibly starring Edward Norton opposite Marion Cotillard). We are going through some tough shit right now, but we will continue to truck on because that's what we do. We barrel down the road of life, kicking ass and taking names.

I have always wholeheartedly believed in karma. You receive what you give. Crossing this country again and looking around at these vast expanses of land and all those billions of stars and all these fathoms of ocean, I am stricken with the question, What could I have possibly done to be worthy of bearing witness to all of this?

It baffles me that I can be so stricken with wonderment at the way in which a newly born calf suckles my entire hand. It astounds me how something as inconsequential as laying down on a dock along the Mississippi River, dipping my feet into its cold water, can bring me to such utterly complete silence. My point? Maybe there is no such thing as karma. Maybe all of our lives are simply sequences of events that we make the best of.

Oprah says not to ask why when facing hardships but to ask what can I learn from these experiences (saw her on TED earlier). I call bullshit on multi-billionaire Oprah and the whole learning from experiences thing. I'm sorry, but I have to. I am not that arrogant, Oprah. Sometimes shit just happens. Get up and walk it off. Who am I that the entire universe conspires to teach me lessons? I'm no one special. I'm just a guy who refuses to settle. For anything.

I don't claim to know or understand much but I will say that staring up at all these different skies, I have come to a realization. A distinction should be made between living in the moment and being present. Any oaf can do what he wants whenever he wants, we call this hedonism. Now, not dwelling in the past nor being preoccupied with the future while still understanding that every action causes ripples, this is being present. This is what separates the pleasure-seekers from the enlightened.

Thus, I will keep doing beautiful things. Sure, karma might just be an abstract philosophical concept that holds no actual value in a world of science and technology. But even if it is just a silly Eastern notion embraced by silly Western hippies, what would be the worst case scenario? My life will be a sequence of jaw-droppingly awesome events completely void of regrets. Somehow, I am okay with that.

No matter how much we try to justify and bring logic to our lives, the fact is, bad things happen to good people. Likewise, good things happen to bad people. As confusing and painful as this can sometimes be, I refuse to lower my own standards for life, for being alive. I'll be damned if I will allow the actions of others dictate my life. Come what may, I will continue to pour out my absolute everything to anyone willing to catch the deluge. Loved ones, I expect the same out of all of you.

Always keep the brilliance.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Unfurling sails to some stellar winds.

Living on the road for about a month now, I've noticed all of the time I've been devoting to reading while listening to some chill "international" music. Thanks to one of the most talented DJ's I've ever met, sometimes the music becomes less gentle ambient breeze and more raging tornado that completely drowns out the hippy musings I'm reading.

Part funky, part groovy, and a dash of gnarly - click on link for eargasm:

Monday, August 23, 2010

I am surrounded by incredible people.

Video Credit: JL

For a few weeks now, I've been living off of the kindness of others. Being that I am now homeless, I am touched at how people are so willing to help me out on this incredibly insane adventure I've so stubbornly decided to embark upon. I will travel the fuck out of this world, thanks to my friends and family.

Anywho, here's a brief list of highlights, continuing from where I left off in London, Canada:

- Finally got to New York State. Dug Syracuse for a few days. Went antiquing, got lost at a Wegmans, built a futon, explained the Buddhist origins of swastikas to a grown man who doesn't know how to scramble an egg.

- Drove down to Jersey City, NJ to meet up with a friend I haven't seen since a mini-quarrel over Quaker ideals in Istanbul almost a year ago. Gave said friend a huge hug and proceeded to drink copious amounts of beer. Nothing sm ells like Jersey after some summer rain.

- Got a few bikes and rode all around lower Manhattan, then over the Brooklyn Bridge, detoured into Williamsburg to gawk at all the hipsters. We eventually made it to the Brooklyn Brewery where we took a tour, drank even more beer, met a bunch of random people, played drinking games, got reprimanded for playing drinking games, and ate quite possibly the most delicious pizza margherita in the world. In the world.

- Went to a strange art-show-slash-concert thing in Red Hook, drank the free wine and ate the free cheese. Holy balls was it hot in that warehouse. Wandered to a nearby dive where I met a woman who swore she was 40, but didn't look a day over 24. There was a cigarette vending machine selling packs for $12.

- Went to St. Mark's Place. Shared a bull penis braised in peanut sauce with some friends, some old and some new. Yum. Woke up in a beautifully furnished Manhattan apartment in Greenwich Village. God do I love quarter sawn solid oak.

- Got a part time job at the coffee shop I used to work, way back when I still didn't know how to draft in CAD. Caught up with my Korean family and ate way too much spicy stuff.

- Met a writer who let me read his working manuscript. I felt like I was part of some secret society. I think I need one of those sweet rings with a matching medallion. The cape is a given.

- Made some new friends, (one guy had a propensity to "lose" his personal affects in blow-up dolls) at this heavenly place in Brooklyn where you order meat by the pounds and beer by the gallons.

- Layed under the FDR highway on the eastern edge of Manhattan listening to South Asian bands playing music from a whole different world. Ate food I can't pronounce while my legs fell asleep from sitting cross-legged for too long.

- Thanks to smartphones and Google Maps, we somehow ended up at a floating cabaret. Yes, it was floating. Yes, it was awesome.

- Did laundry for the first time since hitting the road.

By the way, I apologize for the lack of photos, but I keep forgetting to bring my camera. I try to use the camera on my mobile phone, but the quality usually is just un-postable. This post's visual is brought to you by JL via my pestering him. Everyone please thank JL for the great video. Thanks, JL.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why fly when I can walk?

Image: Cell phone shot of Chicago skyline from the city's famed "EL"

I have finally made it to the other side of the country. From California to the New York Islands, just like the song. It's been a whirlwind two weeks. I have driven cross-country before, but boy was this trip different. Now that I've made it back to New York, I hope it will begin slowing down a bit so I can finally get some serious writing in (this blog and a few other projects I'm working on).

To me, road trips are at the very heart of traveling. To get up and move yourself from one physical location to another, not to see the sights, but to meet people and to experience things other than those which have become routine. Sure, I could have flown to New York and it would have taken five hours instead of two weeks. But where's the adventure in that? Road trips allow you the experience of space, of the largeness of the world, of the smallness of your existence. Road tripping is traveling is learning of the awe that fills our surroundings.

It is so easy to get caught up in ourselves and our daily lives, to forget to look up and around. It is so incredibly easy to lose perspective. Travel resets our perspective and reminds us what awe feels like.

Taking a plane would have robbed me of feeling the gradual changes between state lines, of the rhythm of roads zooming underneath the gas pedal. I would not have met the wild, mad people that span the entire length of America, filling the air with their heavy, humid breaths - each one full of ideas to reinvigorate the spirit.

Before I left San Francisco, seeing the wanderlust in my eyes, a friend shared with me the words of French explorer Alexandra David-Neel. No doubt, it would be appropriate to use her words for the closing of this post.

"Travel not only stirs the blood — it also gives birth to the spirit."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mosquito bites on my face - my FACE.

No, the above photo is not of Mars, but lately I have been feeling like I am suddenly on another planet. It's a shot I took while still at Yellowstone. This great American wilderness is absolutely wild.

As with the previous post, too much is happening for my feeble little mind to process. Thus, I am throwing another little list of highlights at you, my little handful of readers.

- Met the Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, Minnesota. Looked up his skirt/toga thing. It was very awkward.

- Skipped rocks along the great Mississippi River, then laid on a dock once I had exhausted the river bank of its primo flat skipping rocks. The sky seemed extra blue.

- Spent a few days on a Wisconsin Dairy Farm. Learned the delicate chemistry behind creating cow feed, rode on a tractor, harvested honey from a few bee hives, saw a cow giving birth. Making tunnels in cottonseed should be a game all American children play while growing up.

- Attended a traditional Wisconsin Friday Night Fish Fry where I was reprimanded by Grandma Brown, "Don't get any more tattoos because tattoos are ugly!" The next day she gave me a bag of her homemade cookies and I hugged her more times than I can count.

- Drank Spotted Cow on the back of a pick-up parked on the highest point of Observatory Road while staring up at the stars. Talked about life while living it.

- Finally made it to Chicago. Did a whirlwind walking tour of downtown and somehow ended up at the rooftop party of a friend of a friend of a friend's awesome Lincoln Park condo. Sometimes I feel like my life is a movie, this night was one of those nights. The people were awesome and the Chicago skyline from the roof deck was breathtaking.

- At the aforementioned rooftop party, Road Trip Buddy Jeff filled up too much with 312s and caipirinhas and started telling everyone that I spiked his drinks so we had to leave. The cab driver was from Somalia and we talked about Ohio.

- Met up with another friend of a friend in another part of Chicago and decided it would be a great idea to sneak into Lollapalooza. Successfuly got in once, but had to leave to see why Road Trip Buddy Jeff didn't get in. Tried to get in again, but failed miserably.

- Found two ladies who were also trying to get into Lollapalooza and together we cooked up an elaborate scheme to get all four of us in. As we walked to another gate to set our plan into motion, they suddenly disappeared. My pal and I ended up going to REI because I still have a hefty Member Dividend to use up.

- Reconnected with the friend of a friend who did successfully get into Lollapalooza. Had some tapas and sangria, played some pool, and ended up at Kingston Mines, the coolest blues bar in the world. One of the bands played a bluesified Santana song so we just had to dance. Met a few random people and taught a Chicago chef the spirit of omakase.

- Sweet Home Chicago is an actual song and is in fact my new favorite song.

- Drove into and through Ontario, Canada where we were quarantined and questioned twice. Apparently people take legal documents very seriously in the great land of maple leaves.

I am excited to ruminate on these past adventures. Thanks for reading all of this nonsense. Tchau!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

We brave bear attacks and all.

Image: Badlands National Park, South Dakota - literally minutes before a raging thunder storm.

Currently typing up this post in a coffee shop in Spearfish, South Dakota. Literally, the most civilization I've had since my last post in Idaho (what day was that and what day is it now? I've lost track of time).

It's only been a few days but so much has happened and I have not yet fully digested and distilled these past events, so I think I will simply list a few highlights:

- Finally made it to Yellowstone. Explored every geyser, hot spring, and valley. Absolutely the most breathtaking park I have ever been to. I wish I had more photos of the place, but my skills with a camera are far too inadequate to justly capture the sheer awe that is Yellowstone. Camping in Yellowstone is cold.

- Met a 67 year old motorcycle nomad named Rutt Stunns. He outlined how one could conceivably get two baths out of one water bottle. His logic was sound.

- Camped in South Dakota. Found that Lysol is a good alternative to lighter fluid. Gin is not.

- Met a diner waitress named Memory who told me to follow my dreams as she gave me a big hug. She also seemed to have an unnatural affinity for reptiles and a visceral hate for "getting stuck."

- Discovered how fun writing/sending postcards can be (send me your complete address if you want to get some of the most random postcards, ever).

- Went to Mount Rushmore. Got reprimanded by a Park Ranger and was asked to turn my track jacket inside-out. Apparently, middle-America found the acronym FCUK to be incredibly offensive. I made little children cry.

- Went to the Badlands and got caught in a thunder storm. I'm pretty sure I developed carpal tunnel syndrome from holding up my camera for so long trying to capture a shot of lightning. Lightning in the plains is quite a sight.

- While driving, birds would kamikazee themselves into the windshield. Pretty countryside birds like in the Disney movies, not ugly pigeons like the ones we have in cities. I'm worried about how this will negatively affect my karma.

- Went to a bar in the middle of the biggest biker rally in the world in Sturgis. So much leather and denim cut-off vests. I want a motorcycle.

That's about it for now. Off to the next adventure. I'm thinking Minnesota or maybe Iowa? I promise I will come up with something profound and meaningful to say. Soon. Maybe. Mahalo.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

My witness is the open sky.

My first official post as a nomad on the road. No real home, just a general direction. Last night I slept in my birthplace of California. Tonight, I sleep under Idaho's portion of the vast American sky.

As I begin crossing this groaning continent for the second time, I can't help but feel like Jack Kerouac and I would be best friends. Not just because I was born in San Francisco and we have a Jack Kerouac Alley a few blocks from the Beat Museum, but because I understand. I understand that by trying to fit our immeasurable souls into these limited lives we are all "beaten down and beatific."

I noticed that this blog has gotten a little too serious. So, to mirror my intro post, I will end this thought with Julia Roberts. A few of you have asked me why I hate Julia Roberts. Why do you hate her so, Erick? Let the record show that I do not hate Julia Roberts. I was being facetious. I loved her in Erin Brockovich. I would marry Julia-Erin in a heartbeat. Julia-Erin and I would have incredibly good-looking hapa babies while we saved the world, fighting one greedy utility company at a time.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Real men dance.

Video credit: HH

The above video is of a good friend of mine dancing with a man celebrating his bachelor party. The groom-to-be lost a dice game. His punishment? Dance with a complete stranger, who is also a man.

To me, this is what living is about. To amass experiences, not possessions. I will be the first to admit that I love a good handwoven kilim from Central Anatolia more than any sane person should, but I don't measure my life in the knick knacks I've accumulated. Truth be told, everytime I see that kilim, I remember the two-man team from whom I purchased it from. One so willing to please, with scalding hot cups of tea always at hand while deftly unfurling his carpets like giant sails catching hurricanes, and the other so easily able to distill the most complicated of life's mysteries into heartfelt laughter.

The only way to live is like these men. Allow this painfully enigmatic universe its bellows and sighs and you get this beautifuly unforced unraveling of moments, moments which you wish you could inhabit much longer than they turn out to last.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Enough won't do.

Well, I never thought I'd see the day. I am starting a blog.

Let me just preface this whole dive into the blogging world thing with the fact that I am starting this mostly as a means for friends and family to keep track of me while I take this world and wring its countries of absolute awesome. Basically, because blogs are cheaper (free) than phone cards (not free), this is how everyone will make sure I am not dead from dengue fever somewhere in the rural backlands of India. Or something like that.

Moving on, here is my plan:

  • Quit job [check]
  • Sell car [check]
  • Sell furniture [check]
  • Donate clothes [check-ish]
  • Cash in 401k [check]
  • Travel the world

Only one more thing left on my To-Do List, but to be fair, it's a pretty big thing. Ever since I can remember, I have dreamed about just packing up and going until one day it dawned on me - if not now, when? Now, goddammit. Now.

One last thing. Do not compare what I am doing to Eat, Pray, Love. This is not a trip contrived on the promises of the revenue of a book about self-discovery targeted at today's "modern woman" who is also probably a huge fan of all things Julia Roberts. Just. Don't.