So then, since I've been here, I've been to a tiger sanctuary, got to rub elbows with the elite of the Moore County Hounds at a fox hunt, watched a ton of $1.50 movies, been to a legit bluegrass hoedown, got to experience a weekly Christian youth group get together and I finally got to try the hallowed Chik-fil-A, the fast food place my old girlfriend Morgan (from the South) said was the best thing ever (it was only OK). I got to ride a horse English saddle for the first time, made far more enjoyable by watching how much Leslie hated it. She and I were approached by some GQ photographer at The Admiral in Asheville (a restaurant by day, bar by night) who wanted to snap our photos for an article he was putting together and was thoroughly confused when we explained we were not, in fact, a couple. Later that night in the same locale, we randomly bumped into Jordan, Cassie's boyfriend, on the dance floor and proceeded to enjoy many a fantastic microbrew. Leslie, Cassie, Jordan and I had earlier in the week gone to see what turned out to be a truly epic roller derby game between the Carolina Rollergirls and their DC rivals in which the Carolina home team pulled it out with ten seconds left in the match. We all rushed the court and got high-fives from the lot of them. Well played ladies! Now if only Leslie hadn't taken it upon herself to sign me up for the men's team (which really shouldn't exist when it comes to roller derby, it's all about the chicas in this sport). I just got a rather entertaining recruitment email... And finally, I discovered my new favorite song, something I've had hiding in my music collection for months but have never actually listened to. A muchas gracias to Ms. Mathilde for turning me on to Pretty Lights. Loving it.
All said and done, this has been a great trip, and needed after England, which, while wonderful, was far more intense. This has been easy - anpil laughter and just relaxing and having fun with it all. A big thank you to Leslie, Cassie and their families for hosting me, and for showing me how y'all do it 'round these here country parts. Ha! Leslie is about as far from country as you can get, but she did just get accepted into Columbia so she'll be in the city soon enough. Manhattan, you're a special one you know that?
But now I head off to another city on the opposite side of this ridiculous country. That's right Los Angeles, time for the two of us to get reacquainted. It isn't my favorite city, but I do have to admit I enjoy LA, because not only is it where my family is, but some of my closest friends are there. Brandon, Mike, Christina (from Haiti!), Amanda, Ariel, Ginny, the list goes on. Plus Blaine, one of my very best friends, is just down the road in San Diego (definitely anything but my favorite city). As it stands right now the plan is pretty simple - get to LA tonight, and link up w/ Christina. Spend the night at her spot, then link up w/ Mike tomorrow, whom I'll be staying with for a few weeks, but not before picking up my pooch from the kennel. Once Cort (my brother) lands a one bedroom, we'll both move into it. I'll crash out in the living room. Mac (the pooch) comes with. The three of us redefine what it means to rock a bachelor pad. I'll split the rent with him for three or four months max, while working any crap job I can get that will bring in the dinero (thinking bar tending or waiting tables, joy!) and planning my biosand project. After Cort gets established and is good to go financially, I'll take off, he'll take Mac, and all of us will be better off in the long run. I can't wait to spend time with him. Cort has been my one true constant for most of my life. While everything else changed (primary parents, homes, schools, friends, etc.) he and I stuck together. Needless to say, he's my best friend, and I haven't seen much of him these last three years. Having time with him will be good.
However, it isn't going to be all fun and games for me in Los Angeles. Given the short nature of the stay there, I want to run an experiment on myself during my time in the City of Angels. I've never really held myself accountable to some of the things I've told myself forever I need to do, and as such, they haven't been done. This pocket of time in LA seems like the perfect environment to give it a real shot, particularly given I'm going to be leaving LA to try and pursue something that is undoubtedly going to be the most challenging, and potentially rewarding thing I've ever done, at least on a professional level. So, I want to run the Los Angeles Experiment in preparation, and I'm sharing it here, publicly, as a way to keep myself accountable. What does the experiment entail exactly? I haven't flushed it all out in my head yet, but here are some of the key components:
- Bare minimum of thirty minutes of exercise a day, every day. I have never exercised in my life. Now's the time to do it. Haiti helped me shed about thirty pounds, ten of which I've put back on (thanks Southern cooking!). I don't intend to put back on the other twenty. Between yoga, maybe some muay thai (if I can find a cheap gym near where I'll be living) and swimming (if I can find a pool) I should be good to go. It'd be nice to, after three of four months, look in the mirror and see something that makes me smile.
- A commitment to eating better (and cheaper!). Mainly, cooking my own food, and keeping it simple. I tend to eat really well anyway when I cook my own food. It's when I eat out that I can get into the less than ideal food groups (hello Carl's Junior!). Cort loves to cook as well, so this should be easy.
- No drinking. Actually, let me rephrase that. No drinking alcohol. No drinking period is probably a bad life choice. I have a rather serious love of beer. I can drink it for breakfast (which I in fact did yesterday, oatmeal porter - mmm mmm good!). And while I rarely get shitfaced drunk any more, I've never actually seen what it would be like to be totally sober for an extended period of time. Not since I was twelve or something ridiculous. So, why not give it a shot? This will undoubtedly be the hardest aspect of the Los Angeles Experiment, simply because so much of modern day socializing is based on drinking, but hey, fuck it. I can quit smoking cold turkey whenever I please (and did just that when I got back from the UK two weeks ago) so it's high time I give this a crack.
- No video games unless I'm playing with Cort. This one I don't think will be that hard, truth be told. I used to be far more addicted to video games then I am now. At this point, I'm more interested in learning about the field of work I want to get involved in, and reading, and learning languages, etc. That said, I still can slip into video game mode and waste too much time if I let myself. So, unless Cort and I want to kick each other's asses in Starcraft II or some such shenanigans, no playing solo. And, regardless of whether or not Cort is playing with me or not, no MMOs at all (that'd be "Massively Multiplayer Online", think World of Warcraft). Those games are just a massive time sink. Been there, done that, not doing it again.
- A serious commitment to learning French. I've never really had to "learn" a foreign language before (I suppose Haitian Creole kind of counts, but I never really tried to learn it, I just picked it up being there). Yes, I speak Spanish, but I learned it as a primary language, right alongside English. Such is the result of being born and raised in Mexico. I don't ever recall "learning" Spanish. I just know it. Learning French is undoubtedly going to be challenging, but it will be worth it. Along with Spanish and English, French is one of the international languages of diplomacy. A lot of development work is done in countries where French is the primary language. Even where it isn't, it can still be incredibly useful. Anyone who hit Haiti with a working knowledge of French was leaps and bounds ahead of me. Of course, cross the island to the Dominican side and we'll see who's handing business... Ah, but I digress. Anyway, yes, I have Rosetta Stone, I have Fluenz, I have Pimsleur and Tell Me More. The tools are there. I just need to make some time, every day, to put them to use.
- Work two jobs. This is a little misleading actually. Technically, I'll likely only be working one "job", unless I can only find part-time work, then I'll piece together two or more of them to get the hours and money I want. What I mean by two jobs is I'll have the crap job(s) that makes me money, then I'll have my "real" job - planning my project. Biosand Nicaragua isn't going to come to pass without substantial elbow grease going into it beforehand. I have resources. I have wonderful people like Caelin and my godfather who know their shit and can help me. I have people who have expressed interest in perhaps helping fund it. What needs to happen before all of it is for me (and Max and Dan) to really make this thing concrete. To take it from the realm of idea into the realm of reality. That is a job. A real job. A job worth working. I'll work it.
- Apply to King's College London and/or Oxford. I'm not intending to go to grad school this year, but rather in Fall 2012, but it still can't hurt to try my hand at getting in. Oxford is a long-shot, but I do have the advantage of having studied there as a fully integrated student for a year and earning top marks, so who knows? King's College will be a little more likely, but is also one of the top schools in the UK. I really don't know what to expect, but giving it a go can't hurt. I believe both accept applications until May. I have time.
- More to follow... This list is by no means done. It's a start. But even with just this list, I'm going to be busy, and it will reshape a lot of how I spend my time. I'm excited about it though. I'm ready to challenge myself. If I can pull this off, I can't see how I won't be in a much better spot to launch back out into the world and the work I want to do once the time comes. So, let's get after it shall we?
On that note, I need to get after showering myself at the moment, then Leslie and I are headed to grab "New York" bagels. Riiiight... North Carolina, I love you, but that shit just ain't happening here.