Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Friday, July 30, 2004

When driving, travel takes on a different dimension, for many of us, in these modern times, it is the closest we will ever get to experiencing a journey. There's a mindfulness, movement towards a goal. The world unfolds before your eyes and it's hard not to feel alive, and connected with the world around you as you witness the rhythms and patterns of the earth.

As I drove, I drove through the passage of time from morning to dusk, through farmlands, past the local bank, mall and post office of small town America, past lush green hills and trees. Braving the elements- a sunny morning was left behind and I arrived at an overcast afternoon, thunder roared in the distance, lightening flashed before my eyes, rain grew in force, enveloping the car. Everything blurred, like looking through frosted glass- hazard lights flashed, drivers slowed. Proceed with caution or wait it out?

A glorious rediscovery

In the hour just before sunset, the sun casts a final spell. Everything on earth shines, warm like a halo and I see the world through gold tinted glasses. Hallejulah! the world seems to sing and I feel it in my heart. All things, even the old, rusted remains of a car abandoned on the side of the road take on an ethereal quality.
Back for the summer again- this time, when I decided to drive myself down from Ottawa, Canada to New York (Boston, Baltimore, back up to Toronto, then Ottawa), I was committing myself to more than just 8 hours of driving each way.

It's amazing to think that the amount of time I spent driving those three weeks was more that the amount of time it takes for me to fly one-way from Taiwan to Canada.

I found the entire experience extremely empowering and liberating though it's not the first time that I've driven a long distance alone.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

After a jam packed week in New York, frantically catching up with friends and handling things with my apartment... I was out late and up early every day to take care of business, but I had run myself so ragged that I had to spend a day in bed- feeling like I had the flu the day before I was supposed to drive to Boston. I finally had things more or less in order, so I tore myself away and headed to Boston for the weekend. This time there were no snowstorms, broken sinks or obligations that were going to hold me back. Everything in my apartment was in working order, and I had I decided to let an agent handle the rental of my apartment and any other issues that might, would and did come up.

There's never enough time it seems when I'm in New York!

A Test of Patience: Driving from New York City (via New Jersey!) to Gloucester, Massachusetts

This trip was the ultimate test of patience- a 5 hour drive turned into 8 hours in part due to poor planning, and of course where things could go wrong they did. During my first week and a half in New York, I had wisely parked my car at a friend’s in New Jersey and had simply planned to take the train out there Thursday (July 22) morning (no later than noon) and to drive straight to Gloucester from New Jersey. I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of going into New Jersey Wednesday night- it was an hour and half train ride into my friend’s place. I’d have to drive the car into the city and park it in the city. Boy was that ever a bad decision. In hindsight, I should have gone into New Jersey and driven the car into the city on Wednesday night because I didn’t realize that it would take one hour longer to drive to Gloucester from New Jersey than New York City.

On Thursday morning, I followed up on some things with my New York apartment. Once I was ready to set out for Penn Station, I was extremely behind schedule- it was 12:00 noon. I still had to travel an hour a half train ride from New York into New Jersey- where I had left the car for the past few days. So things got pushed back. I estimated a departure time of 2:00pm from New Jersey.

Well, as luck would have it, the New Jersey Transit train was experiencing some wiring problems and the conductor announced that the train would be stopping in a few stops. 40 minutes into the ride, everyone was asked to disembark. After standing in the hot sun for five minutes, the conductors urged people to wait in the air conditioned train cars. About 10 minutes later, New Jersey Transit buses had arrived to take everyone to their final destinations. That entire process delayed me by 30 minutes or more. By the time I got on the road it was nearly 3:00pm and I had forgotten about the summer weekend traffic out of New York- so it took me nearly 3 hours just to go from New Jersey to the George Washington bridge. By the time I got to the Massachusetts turnpike it was 8:00pm and it was would take another nearly 3 more hours to reach Gloucester, Massachusetts.

I was going to Gloucester to visit my “aunt”- who is one of my parents’ oldest, dearest of friends from their days in Alaska- before I was even born. In fact, she was one of the first people to hold me as a baby. Although I only knew her as a friend of my parents, “J” is special and I have always felt a unique connection with her. It has always been something beyond description- an anachronism, a primordial feeling. She’s like family to me. Over that past 3 years that I’ve been in Taiwan, I’ve returned to North America once or twice a year and each time I’ve promised to visit her but the timing never worked out and I realized that I had to find the time and make a promise to visit her this time. She has a beautiful house with an ocean view and stretch of rocky shoreline as her backyard. Her gorgeous, spacious home and my room with a view, made all the driving I went through all the more worthwhile…

A view from the balcony of my room

The rocky New England shoreline right in the backyard

Enjoying the view or eyeing a rabbit outside?

Monday, July 12, 2004

The drive from Canada down through Syracuse, and the Poconos was thoroughly enjoyable and I watched the changing landscape, unfold before my eyes. I witnessed the sky darken and in the distance, sudden flashes of lightning danced, like dramatic bold sparks punctuating the sky, foreshadowing the inevitable forces of nature. And then I had to brave the elements forging ahead cautiously and steadfastly through the fierce, pounding, blinding rain showers.

Perhaps I’ve been living in Taiwan too long where the highways are less than scenic, poorly planned, urban eyesores. To me the drive down seemed to be full of wonderful stretches of green, but I guess it’s all relative, because I’m not sure that commuters in the tri-state area would agree. I'm sure that many would say that these are not the most scenic drives in the U.S.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

July 12, 2004, Ottawa to New York City (and Boston and Baltimore and...)

Over the past few days, I was beginning to wonder if I could handle all of the driving that I was planning on doing in the weeks ahead (from Ottawa to New York, Boston, Baltimore and Toronto), but I had made the choice and there was no turning back.

It seemed like a good decision at the time. Sure I could have just flown to New York, and Fed Ex-ed things back to Canada then taken an airplane/bus/train to my various destinations, but I wanted to keep my schedule open to deal with any unforeseeable emergencies that might have come up with my New York apartment.

There were also things that I needed to move out of my New York apartment before it would be open for rent again in September, and having a car to move things out to a donation center or to drive them back to my parents place in Canada seemed to make sense. I wanted to be able to drive directly to my friends' places instead of flying or taking a train or bus. I knew that many of my friends would have to go out of their way to drive me to and from the airport/bus/train station, or didn't have a car to do so.

Oddly enough, though the hours I'd drive would be no small feat, I knew that by driving I'd have to make good on my promises to visit my friends- that was the whole point of driving down to New York! It's not always very convenient to keep a car in New York city and having a car meant being able to leave at a moment's notice and to manage my schedule with great flexibility. In the past I just flew into New York and there were always excuses and distractions that kept me in the city and away from visiting my friends in other parts of the east coast.

Driving down to the U.S. from Canada is my personal commitment to visiting my friends on the east coast- I would have no excuses for not visiting them short of some massive natural disaster.

Last summer I had had to delay my flight back to Canada from New York and before returning to Taiwan due to some issues that had come up with my New York apartment. During previous trips back to New York, I’ve had to renege on plans to visit friends in other parts of the east coast due to time limitations and weather conditions. And when I’m there- I often feel engulfed in the endless distractions- good and bad, sentimental, relentless and abiding- that New York offers.

A friend of mine recently told me that she believes that before entering this world, we choose our parents. She believes that each one of us makes this choice, which could be for any number of self-serving or altruistic reasons.

What if we are responsible for choosing our parents? Then we'd have to reexamine the commonly accepted "wisdom" that we can't choose who our are parents or family are, that we are stuck with them and that our parents are all to blame for why we are so screwed up.

Perhaps you saw something in your parents primordially- you had hoped to learn from their life experience or to inherit a special talent. Perhaps you admired something about their personal character. Perhaps, it is your role to enlighten them in their journey of life, to help them work through certain unresolved, challenging issues.

It's something to ponder and that could profoundly change one's view of his or her life... or change one's perspective of the power dynamic in parent-child relationships.