Say hello

Would you like to say hello? Comment on my blog, message me here, or send me an email at wishmaymight (at) gmail (dot) com.

 


Planet Earth
The Universe

Wish I May Wish I Might is a blog created by writer, creative director, and citizen of the world, Julie Gordon, to help make the world a safer place to be human.

photo 4.JPG

Thoughts

 

 

Daring to dare greatly.

Julie Gordon

Good lord, I’m back!! In every sense of the word. I’m here in LA, the jet lag is over, my brain has unfogged, and I’m writing (FINALLY!) because my mind was triggered into reflection after re-reading George Saunders’ convocation speech that popped up in my Facebook feed again recently, almost one year to the date from when it was delivered to the eager baby birds at Syracuse University. (If you don’t know George Saunders, Google the shit out of that man and devour all of his words. Now, please.)

This is George Saunders. Doesn't he look super smart and literary? Or like your uncle?

This is George Saunders. Doesn't he look super smart and literary? Or like your uncle?

What struck me, again, about his beautiful speech was not the advice he gave, although not swimming in rivers filled with monkey feces is now committed to memory, but more about the very simple observation he made about life. As he unpacked the idea of regret, the main building block for advice in the form of “don’t do what I did, do this instead,” he landed upon something so sweet and so simple that its truth was just hanging there ripe on the tree. “What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness,” he said. Why did this strike me this morning of all mornings? (Oh, the Passover phrasing embedded into the soul.) Because when I was traveling, I was kinder.

Okay, so I consider myself to be a pretty kind person overall. I notice haircuts, I keep in touch, I’m there for you in a crisis (like really there for you, unafraid and unphased by the gross, inappropriate, and profane), but there is always, always room for improvement. When traveling, after all of the stress and pain had melted away and my shoulders had exhaled their grip on my gut, I was calm. (Are you stoned? Nope. This is what happiness looks like.) I could feel the difference, but more importantly, people could see it. And it manifested itself in all kinds of wonderful ways. I watched while people cut in line and rushed around and I knew that I used to be that way, or at least smashed into the fist of constant hurrying up, and I just let it happen around me, this time as an observer. I let them cut. I didn’t care—like, truly didn’t care. Because I wasn’t in a hurry. I didn’t need to be first, or even second or third, I just had to get there and I knew I would reach there eventually. I grabbed the bull by the horns, except this bull was Ferdinand and we were going to enjoy the flowers in the shade under the tree for a while.

This is Ferdinand. This image is in a beautiful book by Munro Leaf. This picture is dedicated to my friend Jay, who reminds me of Ferdinand in the most wonderful way. 

This is Ferdinand. This image is in a beautiful book by Munro Leaf. This picture is dedicated to my friend Jay, who reminds me of Ferdinand in the most wonderful way. 

I’m sitting here in my house in the sinkhole of my old couch in my living room in my pajamas, writing. The stresses of real life are slowly creeping back, but I’m trying my damndest not to let them in. Last Thursday night, I drove downtown to meet up with my friend Chris and his coworker Dan for dinner. It’s only 14 miles away, but this is Los Angeles, so it takes a while to get there. I left 45 minutes before I was supposed to meet them, and was only 5 minutes late, which in LA is basically like being early. There wasn’t even that much traffic for a Thursday night, but there were pockets of it, and I could feel myself tense up when things would slow down, particularly when someone in front of me was doing something stupid. Therein lies the difference between me before and me now: I could feel myself tense up now. It was such a foreign feeling, that stress, and I noticed it creep in like fog across the bay.

I remember one moment in particular. Someone in front of me decided to turn right, without signaling of course, and this caused a back up because someone was crossing the street so they had to wait to turn. The car in front of me could have gone around the person turning, but they didn’t. In the past, I would have found this irksome. Why wait there for no reason and back up an entire lane of traffic? Almost like an out of body experience, I observed this process happening in my body and in my mind, and then I made a choice: I was going to be okay with waiting at that moment. Just be okay with it, not happy, not sad, not mad, not anything more than neutral towards it, as one should be with things that are not impactful and not in one’s control. I sat there in the car, waiting, processing, actively being okay. And in that moment I knew that I would have to continue to do this forever, or at least until I’ve retrained my brain not to think this way. So now I’m working on being okay with that too.

What does all of this have to do with regretting failures of kindness? Everything, actually. I look back at the mountain of moments exactly like that, mundane, everyday, stressful moments that occupied my mind and took me away from what’s much more important, and I wish that I’d made kinder choices for all involved, especially myself. While that may sound self-involved, I’ve realized that kindness starts from within and emanates outwards, so starting with myself benefits everyone, not just me. I thought that traveling would be like pressing the do over button, but it’s really like pressing eject and then restart, which is essentially do over’s expensive but worthwhile cousin. I bought myself a window of time during which I get to see things differently and attempt to repattern my life to be closer to what I want it to be. Effectively, I bought myself a massive and valuable dose of perspective.

As with any tool, you can choose to use it for good or for evil. The cynic in me wants to make a joke here, but sincerity is winning at the moment. At first I thought about extending my first doses of excess kindness to the people who had trespassed upon my happiness the most, forgiving them first to make the most room for happy things, like my brain is some kind of hard drive where you can delete the biggest files and leave space for photos of beautiful quilts and smiling friends and hamsters wearing tiny sweaters and other joy in the world. But forgiveness doesn’t work that way (more on that another time). Plus, that is the quintessence of biting off more than you can chew. So I’m starting with traffic, since that’s an oldie but a goodie in Los Angeles, and I need a serious dose of kindness there. In addition to that, I called a person and stood up for someone I love the other day because that’s what I want people to do for me, so I’m leading by example. I’m also going to try to tell the truth more. Like when someone asks me to do something but I don’t want to do it, instead of agreeing to do that thing and then being secretly unhappy that I’m doing it, I’m just going to say no thank you right from the beginning and save us both unneeded fakery. I figure that’s as good a place to start as any, and it can only get better from there. Right?

AMIRITE??!?! This is like joy, miniaturized. 

AMIRITE??!?! This is like joy, miniaturized. 

Now, I’m sure at least some of you are calling bullshit on my new Zen outlook thinking it’s silly, or it won’t last, or worst of all, it’s not worth even trying because ultimately I’m going to fail. To that I say, you’re mostly right. I will certainly fail sometimes and it may not last, but it’s not silly or foolish to at least try. Because I know in this very moment that I don’t want to regret any more failures of kindness than I have to, so I’m gonna really really cross-my-heart try to be kinder.

Someone asked me recently if I was excited to come home at the end of my travels. The honest answer is sort of. I was really looking forward to seeing my friends again, and to being in a place where I don’t have to figure anything out before I go somewhere, I just have to leave enough time to get where I’m going. I was excited for a comfortable bed and a consistent shower. (I was shocked by the abundance of water pressure here, for what that’s worth.) After London, I was looking forward to warmth and sunshine. But if you told me that I could head out next week to somewhere new and exotic and fun, my heart would leap and it would thrill me to my bones. And yes, I would be tickled pink to be going alone. But right now that would be cheating. Because that’s simply a shortcut to my kinder self. It doesn’t matter that it’s just so damn interesting to be out in the world, because it’s pretty interesting to be right here at the moment with all of this wacky newfound perspective. So I’m okay with doing a little more work to shorten the distance between my home and away selves. And maybe one day they won’t be that different. 

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
— Theodore Roosevelt

Alive and kicking.

Julie Gordon

I have so many words I want to put on this page, but I'm writing from the Apple Store because I can't use my computer right now. And this keyboard is utter crap, damn Brits, so there will be typos. 

So here's the deal: In a massive brain fart of epic proportions, I managed to delete my entire photo library. (I won't explain now. That will come later.) Thanks to my friend Max, I'm trying to sort it all out, but I can't use my computer until I return home, which is one reason why I haven't been posting. If you have choice words for me about how utterly fucking stupid that was and how I should have backed everything up properly between trips, trust me, my brain has already done all the berating and torturing necessary. And also, my god I fucking know. Words of support are welcome, but also unnecessary. I'm working out a story about it in my head. J. Ryan if you're reading this, please put me on the docket for the next Hot Dish. I will have a cracking story to tell by then. 

So here's the Cliff Notes for the last 2+ weeks. I LOVE SPAIN. Love it to bits. Barcelona in particular. I can't wait to go back someday, hopefully sooner than later. And to Portugal, which we never made it to. But I'm just fine with that. Spain was plenty. 

I've been in London since May 4th, with a jaunt to Brussels on the 6-7th. Brussels was wonderful. I spent my days wandering the streets, visiting two museums (I adore Flemish art), finding chocolate shops, getting lost and then found, and even missing my train home. But the woman at the station was amazing, booked me on the next train, and all was well. I've never missed a train/plane/bus in my life of my own accord. Missed connections don't count. So that was a weird shock. My travel brain is full. Overstimulated to the brink of overflowing, I've turned into a bit of a fool. Hence the cockup with my photos. Hence the missed train, in spite of setting an alarm. It's like having pregnancy brain, but instead of being with child, I'm with stupid. 

That's me up there. 

That's me up there. 

Anyhoo, in spite of that, I'm having a grand time in London. I've been hanging out with my dear friend Aleks, eating oh-so-well, seeing plays, taking walks, and just generally having fun. Today I met up with two old friends from Uni Sussex. We caught each other up on the 20 years that have passed since we did King Lear together. One of them has become a world-class Ultimate Frisbee player and had two children, the other has become a lawyer and published three novels, with more on the way. Amazing. So much fun to catch up with them. They looked exactly the same. (Puck, if you're reading this, you were mentioned very fondly.)

I'm absolutely gutted that I can't use my computer to write. I bought a notebook so I could start writing, but it's so weird and clunky to write on real paper with a real pen. I'll just have to go back in time and deal with it. To think there was a time that that was all we knew. 

I'm so grateful that I don't have to haul myself around seeing the normal tourist things here. I took care of those years ago. I mean, I'm still going to the Tate Modern, but that's something I'd do regardless. Plus, they have a huge Matisse cut out exhibit going now and that's so cool. London has crap weather and is expensive as all get out, but it's a huge, winding, wonderful city full of so many things to discover. A week here is barely enough. 

I really don't want to go home, yet I do. I'm caught in the sliding doors of wishing for two adventures to happen simultaneously. If I could split off another me and let her go exploring while the other me went home to make some money that would be fun. But what would happen with my memory? Could I partition it out and have both? There's a sci fi story for you. 

Okay. For real now. I'm heading out to meet Aleks at a pub. I need a pint of something good. 

Cheerio!

Mad Bacon

Julie Gordon

This is the first real moment I’ve gotten to write. Evie and I had a rather epic struggle trying to book train tickets to Barcelona last minute, and we’ve ended up on separate trains. No matter, as long as they end up in the same place.

I’m really glad that we’ve played this trip by ear overall, but it’s been a little bit of a challenge at times. The main challenges have been finding out that the trains we want are all full, or that the museum we want to see is closed, or that on Sunday nothing happens in a small town and that’s the only full day we planned to be there. Occasionally we’ve wanted to do different things or had different ideas of what would be a good time to wake up or go to bed, but they’re most small. Unlike before when I just made snap decisions on my own, now we talk things through, figure out what suits both of us, and then plan the trip. The only casualty of our lack of advanced planning has been not being able to go to Portugal. At first I was really disappointed because I’ve wanted to visit Portugal for a long time. But I now know that I will be traveling more, so I’m just going to add it to my list and go later.

Just like Australia and New Zealand are strange bedfellows, so are Spain and Portugal. Not only are the languages different, so, seemingly are the cultures. No matter that they share a landmass, it is very difficult to find a train across the border, at least not one that goes there easily or quickly. You can take a bus or a plane, but again, it’s not easy, especially if you’re planning things only a few days ahead of time. Overall, I think that has turned into an advantage, because now we’re getting a better adventure en España and have time to see more cities. Although if you ask Jan, our new Dutch friend who we met in Jerez de la Frontera, we’re traveling “just like Americans,” and speeding through the country barely experiencing anything. While I do agree with him, I also think there’s a balance to strike, and I’ve enjoyed seeing what we’ve seen.

The train we’re on right now is heading to Barcelona. It’s a high-speed train, and will have us there in 2 hours and 30 minutes. It’s funny, high-speed seems to mean anything from 140 km/h to 200 km/hr. It is near impossible to tell the difference when you’re on the train, the only way to know is from the display screen telling you the time, next stop, temperature, and sometimes speed. And that all depends on how nice the train is. Okay, wow. I just checked the display and it says we’re going 300 km/hr. I had no idea. There you go. The proof is in the pudding.

We left Cadiz at 12:30 pm today and headed to the train station. We’d booked our tickets very late last night through Rail Europe, but the site failed to process them, and we didn’t receive the email confirmation with the tickets to print out in time, so we were going to the station to buy our tickets again, hoping that we wouldn’t have to dispute anything with Rail Europe and incur double costs. Fortunately, those losers sent us an automated email way too late letting us know that their system had failed and therefore not charged us, but there were a few hours there where we discussed our options should we have to dispute things with them. In the end, it worked out. As it basically always does. Except if you have your sights set on Portugal. Then, it gets postponed. Which is it’s own form of working out.

So the last time I wrote we had just left Madrid and were on our way to Granada. Wow. So much has happened. We visited Granada in spring, which is the very best time to be there, and saw the Alhambra, the massive ancient palace and garden, in what can only be described as the most perfect weather possible. Then we made our way to Sevilla, a medium sized Spanish town with an ideal combination of tiny cobblestone streets lined with shops and restaurants, large plazas, and lots of people. Then we took the train south to Jerez de la Frontera, or simply Jerez, of sherry fame (jerez is the _____ word for sherry), where we unlocked what at first seemed like a mystery of a city and turned out to be one of my most favorite places to visit so far. Flamenco guitar! Sherry, queso, and chicharrones! Estupendo! And finally we popped down to Cadiz, the tiny city on the water, shaped like an arm making a fist, famous for its lonnnng beaches, amazing fried fish, and even tinier cobblestone streets. All different. All great. All worth returning to.

First, Granada and the Alhambra. When last we spoke, Evie and I were planning to awaken at the crack of dawn to acquire tickets. We succeeded. It was a cold and long wait in line, but we managed to acquire two tickets (well, three, but we sold one, long story) to see the sights. They sold out of the tickets to the see the Nazarid Palace, but by the end of our visit there, after walking around for hours upon hours, we couldn’t have imagined seeing anything else, so it turned out to be okay. The average visit to the Alhambra is three hours. We took four. We started standing in line at 7:30 am, we finally got tickets at 10am, we walked up the hill into the old town for lunch, walked all around the Alhambra, and then went to dinner afterwards returning to our hotel a 10 pm. By the end of the day our feet were killing us. But it was worth it. Check out the pictures. They’ll explain it all better than I could with words.

I’m starting to feel motion sickness from writing while hurtling across Spain. I’ll pick this up tomorrow. 

P.S. Mad Bacon is a reference to my train ticket from Madrid (MAD) to Barcelona (BCN).

Sketches of Spain

Julie Gordon

This is the first chance I’ve gotten to write. We’re on our second train to Granada today, after changing in Antequera-Santa Ana. We just spent a whirlwind few days in Madrid. To say that I am jet lagged would be the grandest of understatements. I’m mentally lost in time. I don’t remember basic words I need. I get tired in the middle of moments. My eyes feel gravity so acutely, so compellingly, that I have to wrestle with them to stay open sometimes just to get me home. But it’s hard to argue with the gentle lull of a train engine, even while exquisite cottony white clouds and terra cotta orange buildings float by the windows outside, and so I nap when I can, when appropriate.

I didn’t realize how used to traveling alone I was until suddenly Evie and I were here, together. It’s so nice having someone to bounce ideas off of, laugh with when ridiculous things happen, and eat with. It’s nice not feeling alone. I do miss coming and going exactly when I pleased and not having to consult someone when a whim drew me elsewhere. But these are minor negotiations and I’m more than grateful for the company.

For example, standing in front of a plaque outside of Jardines de Sabatini, I was reading different phrases in Spanish out loud. I’m desperately digging back into the dusty annals of my singular Spanish class at Oberlin, and the all too brief refresher course in Panama in December, so I’m reading everything out loud. Right after I read “Ayuntamiento de Madrid” on the manhole cover below our feet Evie said, “There will be squirrels!” I immediately burst out laughing, and couldn’t get a word out without busting up until finally I was able to calm myself down enough to explain the source of my laughing tears. Basically, it sounded like she was translating my Spanish, but ridiculously, instead of reading off of the sign in front of her. If you see either of us when we return, just say, “There will be squirrels!” and we’ll both crack up.

One of my favorite things about traveling almost anywhere outside of Los Angeles is the amount of walking I do. It’s just so civilized. And now that I have the perfect shoes for walking that many miles/kilometers in, it’s even better. I’m wearing Birkenstocks. I feel like a hippie. In case you think I’m not stylish (like I care), mark my words, Birks are back. Yet one more reason for me to visit Berlin in the near future.

Evie and I walked positively everywhere that we went in Madrid. It was glorious. On our last full day there, we took in two amazing museums. Museo del Prado and Centro de Arte Reine Sofia. Prado is filled with classical art, mostly from the early 11th century through the 19th century. One of the most notable pieces in the collection is Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. I loved this piece when we studied it in the art class I audited in college. And it was spectacular in person, especially because you can peer behind the triptych and see the backs of the side panels, or really the front, when it’s closed. The detail of the Flemish painting is exquisite, matched perhaps only by Spanish artists Salvador Dali and Oscar something (I can’t remember his surname) also featured in the collection. Art is meant to be seen and experienced in person. It breaks my heart repeatedly that we don’t value the arts in the U.S. and our government routinely seeks to defund artistic endeavors and therefore strip it of any importance. If only we’d wake up to the fact that we’ve slipped permanently from first place in the world of superpowers in part because we don’t value art and education and therefore will probably never have that same power again. But I digress.

The Reine Sofia is a glorious home of modern art. The building is huge, with sloping red, granite, and metal edges. The elevators are glass and face a courtyard. The door is a gigantic metal gate that swings widely outward. Everything about the museum is new and grand, at least on the outside. Inside is a classic courtyard with an Alexander Calder installation in the center and a Richard Serra in the front. The first floor has a combination of sculpture and video art, and the second floor has the piece de resistance, so to speak, Picasso’s Guernica.

Guernica is a spectacle in every sense of the word. First of all, it’s huge. Massive. It covers one giant wall and has two dedicated guards on either side of it. There are trip cords in the front, keeping people back. But you want to view it from a distance to gather it all in with your eyes. You could spend hours standing in front of it just exploring the different characters, and I did. Well, I spent minutes. Many minutes longer than most. There is just so much to see in that huge, amazing achievement. It’s funny how non-representative art seems “easy” to people to create. There is no way in hell that I could paint like Picasso, no matter how many screwy faces and seemingly random lines he threw in. There is method to the madness, no matter how childish it seems.

We’ve arrived in Granada now, found a hotel, or rather a new hotel after I booked us in on the wrong day at the other one, and eaten the most delicious and fun dinner at a tapas bar. We sidled up to the counter, ordered some food and wine, and then were highly entertained by our charming, funny, silly waiter. He sang songs, told the other waiters that we were from California, sang Hotel California, and generally just enjoyed himself and his job. It was nice to see and made for an awesome evening.

Tomorrow morning we’re getting up at the crack of dawn to try to get tickets to Alhambra, the old castle in town. Or is it a palace? It has gardens and towers and buildings galore. You’re supposed to book your tickets months in advance. Oops. Guess we’ll get up at 7am to stand in line for tickets. Fingers crossed that we’ll get some.

One of the things I love most about Spain is the light. It seems extra special somehow, especially during magic hour before sunset, which is later at night, around 8:30pm. Because it stays light late, it’s particularly confusing for sleeping and eating patterns, but mine are so screwed up, it doesn’t much matter. All I know is that we’ve been getting very late starts, so it’s incredibly nice that things are open late here. 

Okay, it's nearly midnight and I can't keep my eyes open anymore, which is good, because we've got a castle to visit in the morning, and we want tickets. Cross your fingers that we get them!

Intermission.

Julie Gordon

I'm sitting here drinking whiskey and eating Australian candy. It's 3am and I know I should be sleeping, but I'm not really the least bit tired. It's 8pm Aussie time, and noon in Madrid. I'm not sure where in the world I should be, even though I know where I am. 

I'm watching TV. It's weird to watch TV after not watching for so long. Game of Thrones was good to watch. GIRLS was entertaining too. I want to see the end of True Detective, but I couldn't concentrate on watching it last night, so I didn't try tonight. There's really bad TV on at 3am. I'm grateful (?) for my DVR. I should probably read. 

I have so much stuff. When did I get this much stuff? Why did I ever think I needed this much stuff? I'm surprised by how much stuff I have accumulated over the years. I really don't need this much stuff. Aren't you glad I'm awake? Yeah, me too. 

I went back to my old office today to figure out why my health care paperwork hadn't been processed. It was so nice to see people. And weird. But mostly nice. I'm probably supposed to be annoyed that they didn't process the paperwork. It's nice that it didn't annoy me. I like being this relaxed. 

I'm glad to be home for a moment to do laundry and make sure everything is just how I left it, but it's so weird to be in this limbo. One foot in this world, one in the next. Or the last one. Maybe I only have one foot in this scenario. No, I'm not drunk. Just tired. 

Every single paragraph in this post has the same cadence. I may be crazy. I should stop writing. 

I know

You're welcome.