Portland: Day 4 – Rainy day and Birdlady

And now the Pacific Northwest’s banner exhibit: Rain and Cold.

It’s scheduled to be rainy over the next few days until we leave. I couldn’t imagine Seattle and the rain that they experience rather constantly. Temps are ranging from the low 50s to the low 70s. There is a head start on Fall here compared to Indiana.

Portland has a homeless problem. Tents are a common sight, along with people pushing their shopping carts around. Mixed in with these sights are Audis, Volvos, and a Ferrari/Lotus or two. Class seems to be less segregated here, people in fancy BMWs pull up to doughnut shops with hopeless people sleeping outside.

We started our day out with some breakfast, then headed to Target to get a pillow for the airplane trip home Friday. When walking into the Target restroom, I was greeted with a mix of cheap perfume the store uses to try and odorize the restroom, mixed with human piss and putrid rotting of a homeless person in the larger stall next to mine.

The smell was nauseating, yet familiar. The scent of my bodily functions was quite preferable in that moment, I spent my time with my face buried in my shirt. Emotionally I was torn between empathy, as that person in the stall next to mine could be me, yet angry that my senses were being assaulted.

There are no easy answers to be had. Homelessness and capitalism don’t intertwine and the system leaves many behind; compounded by a lack of social services and mental health care (even for those who are privileged). I ask myself what I can do, and come up empty with answers.

And yet, I remind myself that a vulnerable group to homelessness are war veterans; unable to readjust to society with little to no resources available to them upon returning from risking their lives, and livelihoods to protect the very thing that shits all over them when their bodies or minds give out and they are no longer useful.

I find myself immensely appreciative of what I do have and the opportunities afforded to me; while also becoming more mindful of my privilege. One could say that we are a little homesick, but there are always opportunities to grow from any experience.

Later that evening

After we napped and I got some alone time in, we headed out for Pizza. Do I need to continue mentioning that it was Vegan?

Then Comedy for Open Mic Night. Some lady showed up rocking her bird on her shoulder (she takes it everywhere).

Everything, everywhere, constantly.

As we were leaving the Comedy Club late at night, I stood in the common area and waited for Amanda to finish using the bathroom. I was fumbling around with my wallet and a bit disoriented. A young person walked by and then walked back and asked if I was okay; as I looked anxious.

The empathy hit me like a pile of bricks. However brief that encounter, there was a genuine vulnerable human connection there; kind of like everytime someone does something completely out of their way in Portland to give you a hand on the road while driving.

I hope that I can bring some of this kindness and acceptance back to Indiana with me.

Portland: Day 3 – Pacific Coast

We started out the day by going to a Coffee Shop for breakfast. It was the first time I’ve had the trendy coffee that is all the rage on Instagram.

This is large and it’s loaded with caffeine. The foam was 1/3 inch and rich soy.

The venue had a relaxed vibe, plenty of succulents and they only served Vegan fare and drinks (a common theme in Portland).

The roads were somewhat technical, downshifting, corner planning, and attention were required. Spouts of fog rolling over the plains, spotty bouts of rain, wet roads. Logging operations were abound and there is a distinct wilderness feel of pine.

Elevation was also apparent on our two-hour cruise to the coastline with some ear popping.

Gorgeous, and an awesome travel partner.

Once we arrived at the shoreline the ocean spray was pungent in the air, the smell of salt carried in the wind. Wind, rain, and chill greeted us along the rocky coastline with cold water. Rolling pains and plenty of green punctuated the view, along with shorefront homes, and vacation rentals.

Amanda never had seen, nor felt the ocean before. She braved the cold and walked barefoot with the sand in between her toes.

Amanda’s first time seeing the ocean.

We walked along the coastline a mile or so, then we headed to a coffee shop along the coast to warm up. I enjoyed the best cup of Earl Grey tea I’ve yet to have.

We stopped along another viewpoint before heading back. The sun was out and we sat for some time in the sand in quiet reflection.

Leading to my favorite photo of the day

The Pacific Northwest is unlike any other coast I’ve visited so far. Rugged terrain, trees, rocky shores with wind and ocean spray. It’s the kind of coastline that makes you want to grow a beard, drink craft beer and buy an all wheel drive vehicle, along with a kayak, camper, or bicycle.

I’d love to camp here sometime or rent a shoreline hotel room overlooking the sea, enjoy clam chowder soup, and sit in quiet reflection.

Portland: Day 2 – Trails, Books, and Weird

We started the day out with an all Vegan Doughnut shop and coffee. Afterward, we headed to Starbucks to get some writing in. Today has somewhat been a blur, we got much in today.

Portland roads are windy, have elevation and the traffic laws somewhat differ. What I found most interesting is the inability to pump your own gas here. There was some talk about a new law for smaller towns in Oregon allowing self-serve and the response from the community was comical.

“It’s dangerous! I don’t want to smell like gasoline!”. I don’t know about you, but if you are setting shit ablaze like in Zoolander, or smelling like gasoline, you shouldn’t be driving a car.

I’ve yet to see a single car with rust here and Subarus, old Volvos are aplenty. They do have emissions testing, so thankfully no dumbass diesel trucks “rolling coal” and spreading around the lung cancer here.

We headed out to a park and went on a hike. The elevation was killer to walk back up of but was totally worth it.

Witch’s house, in a valley situated between two 30 story hills

We headed to brunch sometime after; I’ve yet to visit a non-all-vegan restaurant, and only one store (Trader Joe’s). Veganism is a big thing here, along with Liberalism and Feminism.

Next up was Powell’s Books, The World’s Largest Independent Bookstore. 6 or so stories of awesome with their own parking garage. Amanda, being a creative writing major, certainly enjoyed the experience.

You have died of Dysentery
Activism and empowerment is a Portland cornerstone.
Soon to be one of our favorite mugs when we return home

Outside, there was a man with a typewriter, “Poet for Hire”. Portland bleeds individualism and art.

Check out the typewriter. Sadly, we didn’t have the chance for a poem.

We checked out a Vegan strip mall & grocery. Sharing the block is the Portland Social Justice Center.

Roses are red, male egos are feeble. White Supremacy will be destroyed by the power of the people.

We bought some groceries and headed back home for a bit to rest before meeting Amanda’s friend Audrey; an Indiana transplant, currently living in Vancouver, WA.

We finished out the evening with Audrey at a hip as fuck bar, sat outside on a patio surrounded by bamboo, trans, queer and hipster peeps, then headed back home.

It’s currently 8:28PM here, which is 11:28PM EST. We are tired and I’ve already tripped up with the time change by contacting people back home.

Tomorrow we go to the Pacific ocean to chill on the beach for a rest day. There’s apparently a shipwreck on the coast that’s pretty popular. I’m personally hoping to see jagged rocks and a lighthouse.

So, how would I describe Portland so far? Liberal, weird, feminist, activist, tattoos, outdoors, terrain, trees, individualism, weed (everywhere), weird driving experiences, genuine, artsy, beards everywhere, friendly, eye contact, homeless people, hippies in vans.

Think of like street art and disorganization like an artist’s desk with paint smeared here and there, art murals and graffiti on postage labels on telephone poles. The love of the outdoors and adventure

It’s a city that has charm and is fun to visit, but I think a tad bit too busy for me to want to live here. I enjoy my wide open spaces just a bit too much; maybe it’s not being used to terrain, mountains and straight roads that go on for miles.

As for anxiety, I don’t have anything to say other than I got to feeling a bit raw this evening, but that’s expected. It’s been a great day, a long day.

Oh, and trans people freely using bathrooms. We need more of that in Indiana.

And as always

Portland: Day 1 – Flight, Weed, and Vegan BBQ

Preflight

As it often has been, stress and anxiety cumulated leading up to the day we were to leave. I actually tried a Xanax two days before the flight; the first time in three years since I’ve been prescribed the drug that I actually took it.

Sidenote: If you are ever prescribed Xanax for anxiety, don’t be afraid to try it (easier said than done). The 0.25mg dose did nothing more than make me feel a little stoned, yet very relaxed. You may actually really like it, but still; be careful, the shit is rather habit forming and may hurt over the long run if used often.

I spent that evening on Cloud 9, watching flash mobs and street performers on YouTube. It’s good to know that I have a silver bullet now, but it would have been more useful back when I suffered more.

The flight

Actually rather tolerable, if not enjoyable. The experience was nothing like the previous ones to/from Flordia. There was some faff about seat assignments as Delta went and fucked that process up as of late, but thankfully, we were able to sit together.

Salt Lake City; terrain.
Blood red lake in Utah

Once I’m in the air, I’m fine, docile even. The sensations of takeoff are the challenging parts for me, the same reason why I don’t enjoy roller coasters in my adult life; the motion and feeling as if my stomach is a bowling ball suspended by a rope, being swung about.

Note to self: Go ziplining more. The sensation is able to be normalized with more exposure.

In headrest infotainment system on Delta

Delta’s flight experience is nice. The equipment is a newer feeling, less used. Each seat is a rich red pleather and there’s enough room to exist. Southwest feels like the most terrible airline I’ve experienced in terms of comfort and quality, while American Airlines is somewhere in the middle. We watched Black Panther on the way and I was surprised that they had Deadpool 2 available; all included.

Amanda is pretty awesome to travel with. She can be a tad higher stressed in the airport, but she’s kind and focused. She handles herself well, plenty of touch and kisses before, during, and after the flight.

On the ground

Portlannnnnddddd!

Picked up a car, was upgraded to a sweet loaded VW Passat (the heated seats came in use this morning, a chill 54F) and made a beeline to a Vegan BBQ place. BBQ Ribs, mac n cheese, triple decker cheeseburger; it was awesome and I’d eat it anyday.

Checked out a store called Therapy, got a feel for the liberal vibe here.

Oh, and Pot. There is Marijuana here everywhere. I could walk in, spend $5, go to Starbucks, stand outside and get high as a kite and no one would bat an eye. Being from Indiana, one of the more hardcore anti-pot states (along with the private prisons to keep lobbying for that); it feels very strange.

We checked into our AirBNB; a small RV trailer. It’s quirky and weird as fuck. I love it. There’s a three hour time difference here, which you’d think isn’t that strange, but we ended up going to sleep at 4PM (7PM EST) to awake at 2AM (5AM EST). We then like slept from 3AM to 6AM and I still feel like I could spend a day napping (they must pump it in the air here).

I’m sitting here in Starbucks, after having some Vegan doughnuts for breakfast writing. We will be checking out some parks (one of which you can see four mountians from), and meeting Amanda’s friend Audrey from Vancouver.

As for Anxiety? Nope. Pretty much mute. No meds, didn’t take Xanax since trying it out last week. A few short years ago I couldn’t drive down the block to the store alone; now I’m flying across the gosh damn country. I love it.

First weekend trip with Manda and RVLyfe update

We started out the weekend by replicating much of our first date in the RV. We baked Vegan Sweet Potatoes.

We loaded up and headed to Lafayette, IN to work on the old place. My friend Travis whom I met on Facebook Marketplace, of all places, offered for us to park the rig in his backyard. He owns a gorgeous property!

Campsite setup!
Luke going for a morning walk

I found that the replacement for the bus, a Ford F250 with a 6.2L V8 to be more than adequate for pulling the ~8,000Lbs trailer. We averaged 8MPG with mostly highway driving. Compared to the overtaxed 5.4L Triton on the aerodynamic brick of the E350 bus, it was a confidence inspiring experience.

Saturday night we headed to Logansport, IN to see family in celebration of my mother’s and brother’s birthday. A cookout and bonfire out in the country. We finished out the night stargazing.

Kevin swinging. Happy Birthday!
Hanging out in the “introvert trailer.” Family time is excellent, with some quiet time
Manda and I on the swingset.
There was no setup. We merely connected power and slid out the slides
Taking a ride with Silverbell to pick up birthday presents

RVLyfe, minimalism, anxiety, and agoraphobia

I find that while the novelty has worn off, I remain excited to experience independence and exploration. There is and always will be more minimalism and organization to achieve. After all, everything I own resides in this rig.

Something my daughter said still reverberates in my head, that I’m “running away from my problems.” She is nine years old. Let’s explore that a bit as it’s been bothering me. Maybe she will read this one day.

I could see that within a society which idealizes home ownership, consumerism, “settling down” and judging personal happiness on the quest of acquiring material goods – that my chosen path may seem unusual.

There could be other reasons, such as living in Lafayette for the better half of five years, most of that time spent while I was with Elaine. Lafayette may represent “home” for her.

Regardless of the reason, I have to say that, instead, I’m running head-on into my problems. Do you have any idea how terrifying this life I have chosen can be to someone who has agoraphobia and anxiety?

A few years ago I couldn’t drive a block away to the store by myself.  If I got stopped at a red light, I started panicking, turned around and drove home as quickly as I could. I felt trapped and in extreme danger.

A few years before that, I stopped eating solid food for fear of choking. I was so hyped up that I’d gag and end up choking. This went on for a few months until I became so miserable that I wanted to choke on food and die. DIY exposure therapy, I began eating again once the pain of remaining the same became more than the pain of change.

I remember going to the Chinese Buffet, preparing an enormous plate of food that I can muster, and screamed to myself, “You are going to choke and die on this.” It became more comfortable, and more natural until I had sufficient exposure to normalize eating again.

Last December, when my life fell apart, I was at a rather dark place. Up until that point in my life, I spent my life in the pursuit of being a people pleaser. I was co-dependent and changed myself to appease others. I stayed in relationships far past their sell-by date in fear of not being able to exist alone. I was a fraud.

I have no greater fear than vomiting and this catalyst for change is much like vomiting for me. One time I consumed a large bag of spoiled pistachios. I became ill, yet through some extreme meditation, I managed to hold it in for a few days. I was more than miserable, the contents of my stomach were poison.

But I’ll never forget the moment that I chose that enough was enough. I went to the bathroom in terror, yet with the sheer determination that if vomiting would kill me, I invited it. I then proceeded to projectile vomit everywhere, all over everything. The feeling of relief was so thick that it was spiritual. I felt like I was born again.

Through sheer determination, I began driving alone. I started traveling. I severed connections to the possessions that I found the illusion of comfort in, distractions. Escapes from my problems. I cut everything and everyone out of my life that tried forcing an identity upon me. I let go.

At that critical juncture of my life, where I could choose to keep holding it in like I did for so many years, meditations to distract me from my problems. Relationships, possessions, hobbies, time wasters. I chose instead to engage in the terrifying thing that I could imagine: An independent lifestyle of travel, as a minimalist.

#RVLyfe for me isn’t a hashtag Instagram curated life. It’s the willful exposure to discomfort, challenge for continued growth and achievement. I often go to bed emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted, but with a humbling feeling of accomplishment and growth.

As for Manda? I’ve accepted that for myself; life is more fulfilling spent with a partner. We have more than adequate communication, problem-solving skills. We share more intimacy and vulnerability than I’ve ever experienced before in a relationship. There will undoubtedly come times in which we will need to support each other when we are weak.

But I think that we both have had our fill of emotionally unavailable, co-dependent relationships to not slip into toxicity. It’s easy, yet challenging enough to continue inspiring growth for the both of us, just as it should be.