I am in search of a travel accountability buddy.

Not to travel with, necessarily.

I started the year with the honest intention of taking short weekend trips across the US since I didn’t have a long overseas trip planned. And now it’s July. And I’ve only been to Austin and Seattle: two cities I adore but have been to before.

I crave new sights and smells and tastes. I want to hear stories from local characters about local lore at every dive joint and general store I can find, told in every thick accent of every region of the U.S.

But I lack discipline. And unlimited funds.

So, I’m looking for a pal who shares the same goal. Someone who might check-in on whether I followed through with diverting my Hulu funds to the travel piggy-bank. Who can help me to rank cities with great public transportation, requiring less budgeting for car rental and cabs. Who will remind me that not spending money is not the same thing as saving money. Who will point out that I can satisfy my voracious, almost physical need for reading on the plane. Who will come up with more for this accountability list.

Someone who will remind me to not talk myself out of my goals.

I’ll do the same for you, kind friend. I’m great at this sort of structure for project management at work and for OPG (other people’s goals).

Not so much for myself.

You can come with me, if you like. But I tend to wander around aimlessly and in silence. I won’t follow your itinerary or eat at chain restaurants. I won’t go to a pool or lay on a beach. Or enter a gift shop. But we can share space and/or catch up on all we saw and did, over coffee in the morning. Early though, because I get up at 5am, even on vacation.

I’m thinking about southern U.S. Civil War cities for my first trip. Charleston, maybe. Or Wilmington. In August? That sounds hot. And muggy. I hate muggy. See? This is why I need you, pal. Remind me to check the humidity, and to look north instead.

Raise your hand if this is you. Or your friend. Or my friend. I’ll be over here, checking out flights.

 

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I recently read a story about Li Ching- Yun who supposedly lived to be 256 years old. He attributed his longevity to one thing: inner quiet.

I have never enjoyed inner quiet.

I was an anxious child, plagued with worry about anything I couldn’t possibly affect, much less control. Sister Mary something or other always told my mother that I was 5 going on 40.

When I was 8, we moved to a small town where my brother and I were the sole Asians in a literal handful of minority kids and I was often the subject of ridicule.

Once, I walked into the girls’ locker room where a conversation was in play.

“And I heard that her father was a GI in the war, and her mother was a prostitute…and that’s why she lives with her dad…”

Nonplussed, because it couldn’t possibly be about me, I strode in to hear more of this salacious gossip. The silence was instant and deafening as the beautiful storyteller froze, and pretended to investigate an offensive thread on her sleeve. The realization that the prostitute’s daughter had just entered the room spread across the rapt audience of tween cheerleaders with perfect hair and local lineage, who each leaned back and, as if on cue, fell into benign conversations of boyfriends and football games and anything but this, anywhere but here.

I wish I could say that I laughed it off, and confidently said, “I’d be happy to tell you the truth of my upbringing and my birth in Vietnam to a happily married civilian contractor and a respected embassy translator. Gather ‘round friends!”

But I was neither confident nor mature.

I am ashamed to say that I folded into myself, or tried to, in order to be as invisible as I desperately wanted to be.  But I never forgot. I remember utterly, everything about that room and every person sitting in that circle because it was brutal and humiliating and cruel.

And then there was the time that my 6th grade crush, annoyed by my not-so-well-disguised love glances proclaimed aloud in front of many, “Why don’t you go back to your own country?”

Now, these recollections are of cruel children who had no idea what they were saying, I’m convinced. They were simply repeating to some degree what adults in their lives had been speculating ever since we arrived in their town. Their town. Not mine.

But ignorance doesn’t end in small towns or with age.

About 5 years ago, I was at the Ravenswood Pub in Andersonville (Andersonville!) when a patron sat next to my friend and me, and asked, “Where are you from? Your English is excellent.”

“Alabama,” I snapped.

I can still taste the bile.

Because I can’t forget it. Or won’t?

I had friends over the other day, and we were discussing something about minority lending, and my dear, dear friend gleefully exclaimed, “Oh God, remember the time…”

Less than a year before, we had attended a happy hour gathering of friends and acquaintances.

Apparently, one well-intentioned acquaintance said to me, “You should apply for minority lending,” and then proceeded to lift her hands to her face and pull apart the outer corners of her eyes in a mock-demonstration of traditionally Asian features.

Apparently, I turned to my dear, dear friend and discreetly whispered, “Did she just do the ‘Chinky Eyes’ at me?” Apparently, this sent my friend over the edge into peals of laughter.

I wrote “apparently” thrice (deliberately, mind you, if you are editing as you read) because I do not remember this at all.

I remember the cheerleaders. I remember the bar patron. I remember the bile.

But this? Nada.

A quote comes to mind that I’ve been trying to incorporate into my constitution, which is more inclined to catalog every personal slight, analyze, seethe, and plot revenge against. I’m a Scorpio on the cusp of banshee, after all.

“Remember every kindness forever, and forget every slight immediately.” Aristotle? Shakespeare? Jesus? No idea.

I want to be this quote.

I want to be light, and still, and capable of inner quiet. Perhaps, in my unending quest to become an adult, I have achieved it.

I have no recollection of this comment, or even of the conversation. Therefore, I am free of its effect.

Progress.

Or maybe I’m just getting senile.

RIP Java, My Teacher.

May 19, 2012

“Sorry to share sad news, but we unexpectedly had to put Java to sleep this morning…Thankfully, it was Saturday and we were all at home and the vet was open, so I rushed the kids over and we all got to say goodbye. 

Thank you for giving us such a wonderful gift.”

This is the text I received at 11:16 this morning.

There were more details, including the obvious part about how she would have called me if she could stop crying. A fact I completely understood.

Let me tell you a little bit about Java.

May 31, 2001. I was in love and living happily in Houston with my beau of one year, so naturally we decided to get a dog. If you have never been to an animal shelter, here’s a little nugget no one tells you:

They know why you’re there.

The dogs call to you and dance for you and do everything in their power to win your love in a glance. On this particular day, a litter of pups was brought in while we were there falling for every animal and wishing we had a farm to which we could bring them all.

Every dog in the building was singing a deafening, soulful tune.

Except one.

This white blond, 8 week old empress was oddly still, sitting amidst her manic brothers and sister, just looking about as if horrified by the spectacle. She was silent and positively regal. And then she looked at me.

And I was gone.

A year later I was married, and a year after that I was in Chicago. And a year after that, I was divorced.

Java remained with me and enjoyed Gold Coast living for a while. I can’t pass Oak Street Beach without remembering her sleek yellow lab/greyhound-looking* figure soar over the sand dunes in the early morning sun. She was excellent off leash. Except for the occasional lapse (“Squirrel!”), returning on command was one of many in her arsenal of tricks. Sit, down, heel, settle, dance, shake hands, and the ever popular playing of deadness to name a few. Strangers were often invited to point their gun-fingers at her and say “Bang!” to which she would immediately roll over and play dead in an overload of cuteness.

She was simply the best dog ever.

As my job started to require more travel, my neighbors Jen and Greg would dogsit for me, and since they were an active, athletic couple, Java got more exercise with them than she ever did with me. Apparently, dogs like Java want more than a spin around the park followed by four hours of diligent television-watching.

One day, Java came home to me and I distinctly heard her say, “Oh, you again. Where’s my real family? You know, the fun ones.”

I offhandedly asked Jen one day if she would ever consider adopting Java. “If we were to ever have a dog, we’d love one like Java but we’re seriously too busy these days to…”

Now, I wasn’t really thinking about giving Java away. I mean, she was my dog and a great one. When you’re a dog person like I am a dog person, you sometimes wonder if you love dogs more than people. And when you’re newly divorced in a relatively new city, coming home to unwavering enthusiasm for your face is good for the soul.

But I kept hearing that voice.

And then one day, it just made sense to all of us. Any objections they had disappeared and my sadness at losing her paled in comparison to her utter joy in her new home. Besides, I wasn’t losing her at all. And I wasn’t releasing her into the streets for selfish reasons.

I missed her but I could never be sad, knowing that she was so happy.


Jen and Greg have three children now, and Java was in their family longer than she was physically in mine. They lovingly referred to me as Java’s “birth mother” and I occasionally dog-sat for them too. Her reaction to me, they say, was reserved only for those that Java loved best. I like to believe that she knew me and was letting me know how grateful she was for the incredible family she had. I like to joke that, while happy to see me, she would warily ask, “But, I don’t have to go back home with her, right? RIGHT?”

I still catch shit from some friends who can’t believe I would give my beloved dog away.

But here’s the thing about love: if you’re doing it right, it has nothing to do with being loved. Dogs don’t love us in order to be loved back, or to get food, or treats, or attention. They bask in it when it’s given, yes. But they love us just because they love us. The hardest lesson to learn is how to love without requiring love back. Welcome it, value it, and bask in it. But don’t require it in order to give it. And don’t regret it just because it leaves. Love that is given is never, ever wasted. Love people like that and you’ll never be heartbroken again.

I learned that from Java. 

*Doggy-DNA testing proved that she was other breeds but whatever. She ran like the wind.

Conversations

June 6, 2011

Because some Twitter conversations are so entertaining and satisfying, I present the first in what I hope will be a series of my favorite conversations with my favorite Twitter pals.

It all started with an unwelcome auto-DM.

There is plenty of information out there on why one should never employ an auto-DM but, of course, said bounty will only be read by those who will go to the trouble of researching such topics to learn and to understand.

Travesty.

So, of course, I had to share it on Twitter.

Because that’s the law.

Moral #1: Stop using auto-DM. Convenience has a price.

Moral #2: Inventing buzz words will make you a hero to some and a douchebag to others.

Others = me and everyone I know.

You just can’t win.

In the Blink of a Year

March 7, 2011

Remember when a year sounded like a lifetime?

Vaguely.

I recall being a child lamenting the eternity I had to endure until summer vacation. The teacher laughed and said, “Just wait until you’re grown and a whole year passes in a flash.”

Since I’ve understood her sentiment for a while now, I thought I had a better handle on the disappearance of time.

And then I saw this:

Hi Dorothy!

Ah #HaimUp.

For those of you not versed in the language of Twitter, the # is a hashtag and the “Up” is a play on the word TweetUp.

The Haim is for the one and only Corey Haim, whose death brought together a ragtag group of friends for a very unusual evening.

Corey Haim died on March 10, 2010.

On March 11th, this happened:

Justine and I had decided that tribute needed to be paid.

In the span of less than a day, we wrangled a venue, delicious eats from the one and only Ramon De Leon, and the bevy of everyone’s favorite Chicago Twitter personalities.

What we didn’t plan was the traveling Roshambo tournament, which sauntered into the pub and hypnotized us all.

Who knew there existed traveling roshambo tournaments?

Who knew that Rock/Paper/Scissors was called roshambo? Of course you did. Congratulations. Know-it-all.

I shall never forget the sight of Laser Fists, Danimal, and the Blazin Asian competing with fury or the sound of the roaring crowd chanting “One-Two-Three-THROW!”

Sami took this and should've been in it.

Laser Fists!

I think it tipped the event from fun and silly to legendary. To me, anyway.

And that’s what I was doing a year ago.

I had no idea that in the blink of a year, I would move away from my beloved Andersonville, commit to launching Push m3dia full-time, buy a house in the suburbs, gain a bunch of weight (pffft), and be ten weeks away from the most meaningful accomplishment of my life. So far.

I’m eager to see what the next year will bring.

I’ve made a lot of plans, but the unexpected is the stuff of legends.

I’m ready for it.

“One-Two-Three-THROW!”

Today = Black Coffee

February 16, 2011

Thank you Tom, for reminding me to add a little sugar.

More on the Ranking System

January 21, 2011

I had a conversation with Heidi a couple of days ago that has been on my mind since.

Among other things, I was thanking her for her recent comment on this here blog and was reminded of Alicia.

Alicia provided tremendous encouragement when I first started blogging. She requested and published my rumination on booze and what our choices might say about us.

That day, Alicia wrote this to me:

“Today you will find out who your real friends are in the Twitterverse. They will retweet you and/or publicly celebrate the fact that you have the gift of words.

The ones who remain conspicuously silent will disappoint. Take it as a backhanded compliment: Your success today highlights some real or imagined inadequacy that they have.

Either way, you win.”

At the time, I thought it was lovely and generous. A year later, it’s so much more.

It occurs to me that it’s a continuation of the ranking system I introduced as rationale for leaving Facebook. In it, I wrote,

“There are one hundred thousand reasons why some fall off the radar but only one reason why others don’t.

Because you don’t let them.”

We can spout what great friends we are all day long, but our actions define us. How do you evidence your friendship?

It’s wonderful to always take their call and be available and supportive. Invaluable even. But what do you proactively do? You call them, of course. You make the time to reach out, to feel around in some mounting darkness to grasp their hand and hold it tight. You make an effort.

In bloggerverse terms, I have a suggestion.

Comment.

Post a comment on blogs written by your friends.

They labor over theirs just like you labor over yours and feedback is incredibly gratifying and encouraging. A comment shows your friends that you support them and want them to succeed.  Granted we only have so many hours in the day and can’t feasibly read everyone’s every post. No one should blame you for not doing that, but everyone will value you for trying.

Also, subscribe. I am giddy when I receive an email that Dorothy has published a new post. I can’t wait to read it and offer even a simple acknowledgement of her work. I’m not so good at checking Google Reader every day. Admittedly, the email option makes it much easier for me to prioritize my time to ensure that I let her know how much her friendship means to me.

Ranking system.

I’m so grateful to my friends who take the time to share their wisdom on FeliciaCago Land. I plan to practice what I’m preaching here much more in 2011.

Because you’re worth it.

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