Mikes Thoughts

News, Views, Subterfuge

I ended a number of train rides across the United States yesterday. It was glorious and full of the little moments. The station in North Dakota. The plains in Montana meeting that big sky. Seeing deserts sweep the view in Arizona. The big cities and beautiful train stations it all came to pass rolling out slowly as it should.

Now I’m on the tail end of the US adventures. I have about a week give or take left before going to Vietnam. People have asked if I’m scared of the coronavirus. I am not. Life goes on with its goods and bads and I have this path to take. Vietnam is the place for me to find the path and the way. A virus is not going to stop me.

I also found I have to say goodbye to someone important in my life. I gather I have higher demands but I value those that do not lie by omission or commission or cheat me. It hurts to make an ending but I require a higher standard in a person and I always will. She could not take any road even the low one. On the flip side someone else entered my life so perhaps each thing cancels out. It’s hard to get old and maintain relationships folks. Especially when you are as contrary and finicky as I am.

I move on and find my way on this path. A year in Vietnam in front of me. Friends there to see. Moments to wander and be that vagabond only now within Vietnam. In May I’ll visit Cambodia because the Kingdom is dear to me and there are people there to see.

Now the road reaches to me. Being solitary is not being lonely. Tomorrow never makes it. Today just reaches forever onward and a path or paths are shown. I’ll the the one. There is nothing wrong or right about a path. Each one presents itself and you make the call.

Now I’m sitting with latte this morning in Seattle. Only three days here. Then a week in San Francisco. Then gone to the edge. Back to where

same same but different

guides me. Where life is different and full and has demands and needs and fulfillments to exercise.

Another day on the rails turns. Evening falls to the beauty of clouds and water and solitude. Take the moment. Fly. Wander. It’s yours to find.

I finished up with Orlando Florida yesterday and boarded the Silver Meteor train for New York. It’s an overnight voyage and now I’m in Washington DC. Taking Amtrak requires rethinking things but it fits with my approach to vagabonding around. Basically,

  1. Don’t be in a hurry. If you are riding Amtrak the joy is not in arriving but the going itself.

  2. Don’t book connecting trips within an hour or so of arrival. Each of my connections are 4 hours later.

  3. Give yourself time but enjoy the moments. Nothing beats the everyday things you will see from a train that are invisible when flying.

For me the act and art of train travel harkens back to a yesteryear when my mom and I would watch the trains roll into Lancaster station. Beautiful cars and equally beautiful people would be seen. I remember thinking then that one day I would venture forth myself. See those sights and tell those tales.

It has taken awhile to reach the moment again. From my mom holding my hand to the world opening it’s hands. That little me then would be amazed if he could see. Maybe my 7 year old me would nod the head, smile that bashful smile, and tell this old version that some good things require patience. Much like riding Amtrak. With age though has come things far beyond the ken of my 7 year old self. Amazing and sad. Wondrous and tearful.

I reached the moments perhaps then that could not be seen. From the window of a Silver Meteor with the opening act of sunrise showing me another day. Another set of moments. Truly these are Amtrak tales.

Done with five days in Orlando Florida seeing my daughter and her boy friend. Also went to Disney World Magical Kingdom and Epcot Center. I enjoyed Epcot a lot more. It has technology, nice international park areas and great food. For a price. A high price. I bought two tickets for two parks and it was $500 just about. A lot of money! I doubt I will ever return to Orlando.

Next up its back on the Amtrak trail with a ride to New York Penn station tomorrow and then an Amtrak trip to Seattle all the way across the US. After 4 days in Seattle, back to SF for a week. Then I leave this place for home. Hanoi awaits me. Friends there to see and days to spend in idyllic pursuit of nothing. On 17 March I fly to Can Tho to see a friend and then 3 days in Saigon with my L. Finally two days in Da Lat and back to Hanoi.

So that wraps up the US and seeing family and realizing I don’t belong here and I miss the edge terribly. Will be so glad to get back to Southeast Asia!

I don’t like doing the 5 things to do in a place or tours to take or writing tips type blogposts. I think there are plenty of those out there already and you can find the 25 things to do or things to see or places to go easily.

There’s always another side to things though. Cities are not 5 or 25 things. Places of natural beauty like Halong Bay are not a group of things to see in a day. Taipei or Saigon or Hanoi or Kuala Lumpur are not just marks in a blog. The same with San Antonio. So I could write a few places to go see here:

  1. The Alamo. A historic site downtown San Antonio but surrounded by beautiful historic buildings as well. City streets that are mostly square or rectangular in nature in a grid style that lets you wander easily. You will end up at the river walk if you keep on going past the Alamo. Blocks away is a beautiful Main Street district with the courthouse and wonderful old buildings with their elegant yet simple lines that strike the beautiful balance of utility and use. While I can start at the Alamo, its likely I will wander down streets to see the small buildings that dot the blocks with wonderful lineages of time.

  2. The River Walk area. A meandering riverwalk with restaurants, stores, and even historic districts to explore with arts and shopping. Sidewalks line the riverwalk areas and many people walk in a roughly circular fashion to see the combination of restaurants, shoppes, and history. When you stroll along the riverwalk area its more of a time away much perhaps like walking the riverwalk area in Melaka Malaysia. Melaka’s riverwalk area is dotted with bridges and eating spots much like the riverwalk here. People sit outside at tables and get ice cream there and simply watch. Perhaps time stretches out for them past minutes and hours. They maybe realize they have priceless moments to garner experiences. You can reach there a variety of ways including a large shopping center/mall area if you want but I think its better to just wander through the Alamo blocks and historic city areas to reach the river and its walkways.

I only list the two things because I rebel against writing lists of things but I could also have done this with wandering Hanoi and its maze of streets and Hems and districts keyed to different products to buy. One block has nothing but toys. Small markets dot Hanoi blocks with shopping for clothing but you can find tools, candy, coffee shops and restaurants that dot the landscape.

Let me ask. Have you wandered without the instagram and twitter and just gone to go? I wandered Da Nang so many times that way and found a park with a circular road around it where Vietnamese men sat out over morning coffee and greeted me warmly with waves and smiles. In Tokyo there are more than 5 things to do in a day but there are less too.

My view is settle for less always. Along with this always stay longer. A month in Taipei lets you see more with less.

Today though I cannot do that. I have a day but I will still ignore the travel blogs with their lists and hierarchies. In awhile, when I’m ready I’ll go. Walking to see fewer things but enrich the moments more. Maybe you will join me someday. Consider it. You can retire and do less and sit at the trailer and watch the world spin by. Or you can leave it all behind and be part of the world spinning around outside you. It’s not challenging or requires millions of dollars. It does require a new mindset. Much like the less in seeing places; its the less in having things.

One day in San Antonio Texas beckons. Your life beckons. Take some challenge, get rid of it all. You don’t need cars and property and things. The world can be your retirement haven. Give it some thought. Age is not some limiter. The limitation is what you adopt and propose.

Give it a few thoughts today.

There’s a solitary joy to a day spent in “some city” somewhere. When the sidewalks or park trails or a path meanders to no drummers beat. Where small things are never remembered and big things equally forgotten. Today was one solitary step to another and soon the joy and feeling welled up and I knew I would just go. And go. I don’t race walk nor do I really count steps or miles or set goals. I’ve come to realize as an old retired guy that things like goals and milestones and tasks and responsibilities are counter productive. They don’t yield accomplishment or fulfillment as one footstep leads to the next. Instead it’s a solitary joy of the moments spent most times dwelling on no specific actionable works. There is some saying like this,

a man is known by his works

I have none. So no one truly knows that single solitary joy of hours spent. Like today in Austin walking after some days of not. It’s a light bulb, a light in the darkness or it is the darkness. It’s a thing and the opposite of things. It’s all. And it’s nothing and it’s all in between. It haunts and praises and welcomes and damns me. But the steps lead forever on and the moment intertwine with today and yesterday.

It’s my life spent with nothing but everything that matters. It’s walking and feeling each step and knowing I can’t stop. No goals or special challenges or trails. It’s just me and the moment.

When I walk.

Tomorrow I catch the Amtrak from Oakland to Los Angeles and then on to San Antonio for a few days. I visit an old IBM friend in Austin, spend two days in San Antonio and leave for Florida.

It’s been two years gone to the edge for me. Two years of something completely different. Suffice to say that Asia is more fun, spontaneous, and prices are a lot different. The main thing has to be the people though. It’s just better there for me. After a week in California I can’t wait to leave.

All told I have about 4 weeks in the US. I could never live here again. There is simply not enough for me. So on to Texas. Two days on an Amtrak which is a thing I have wanted. On to things which are different but not different.

I don’t believe I will come back again. There’s just not enough compelling to make me want to make the trip again. I’ll enjoy my Amtrak trips all across the United States and then back to San Francisco but my heart and soul are not on this continent. It’s just a momentary wandering thing with some enjoyment here and there. Vietnam and Cambodia are not even close to what I see here.

I’ll share my google photos album of the train trip to San Antonio. Here to there. Moments to traverse. No more people to want to see in California.

You’re looking good today down by the Port of San Francisco. Have not wandered here in awhile. All good.

Now its Japan in the morning after a day of flying on very comfortable airlines. Because of the eruption of Mount Taal south of Manila, I changed my flights away and booked tickets instead that cost me more $$ to Hong Kong and then to Narita yesterday. I had some doubt about the connecting flight on Cathay Pacific but Vietnam Airlines in Saigon helped me get priority seating and someone to meet and greet me at Hong Kong International Airport. She saw me to my new gate and made sure I was okay. I also had Cathay Pacific check my baggage because I checked it through to Narita. They let me know that the baggage was located and was being treated and taken to the new flight. Yay for Vietnam Airlines and Cathay Pacific. Very nice and efficient people that went out of their way to get me accommodated.

This evening at 5pm I board my flight from Narita to the US so I have time to do nothing. I have to check out of the hotel by 11am so will probably go catch the shuttle after that at noon or so. I am on a ANA flight which means food will be decent and it will be on time. Then back to California first for a week.

I am so glad to have changed my flight! I don’t like big things like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that send ash into the air and put people at risk. It’s hard enough to do things without all that and I feel sorry for the folks there. They just had a typhoon too.

Now I sit in my room at 730am and its rainy in Narita Japan. I can look out at the airport. That’s how close the hotel is. Last night I got in around 9pm here and got settled and was a bit hungry and thirsty so found the hotel coffee shop and partook of French fries and a few draft beers. A little more expensive but who is really counting. I had two delightful flights and the food was really good on both airlines. Vietnam Airlines does really nice for people on longer flights and Cathay Pacific treats everyone with respect.

On to California!

The edge will fall away from my sight Wednesday. I’ll be reaching back to a place I have not been for two years. Not a house. Not a home. A place with states that are perhaps united. A month to see, ride the Amtrak, fly just a bit. Crossing the country by rail almost both ways. A dream surfaced. Vietnam left behind.

The edge fades to a holographic memory of living easily with nothing in place. No big things like debt, property. Perhaps no friends left in those states but for a few. It’s ok. I hoboed farther and they went backwards. No beer or food or visits bring them back.

I’ve seen too much. Small streets in Kaohsiung. Cold beers in Phnom Penh by the mighty Tonle Sap and Mekong River. Side streets with nothing of note let my feet touch their mysterious presence. I saw more in the less but those that remained behind ebbed away into some past. Now they are gradually fading to other parts unknown. Will I see them? I don’t know. Maybe.

Does it matter? Not really. Life is not there. It’s in suspended animation here on the edge. I’ll reawaken it and find no purpose and no things waiting. Hanoi will greet me like a forlorn lover. It will touch my old weathered cheeks. Make love to my spirit and heart.

Then I’ll know that I’ve come all around. Will I go again to those states? I am not sure. There is truly nothing for me to grasp there. My spirit and soul slips through and will ignite passion and wonder down so many side streets and alleys. Nothing to miss when there is nothing there. The edge holds all the cards.

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