And Now, California

 

Waiting for hours in the LA airport watching as chairs are filled with interesting faces and emptied and refilled with unknowing bottoms. Unaware of who was there before them. This place may be the plastic surgery capital of the world. People all rushing trying to be somebody. So many beautiful faces, going in different directions.

Since January it’s been mostly me saying wow. Whoa. What the f?  Coming into LA it was snow topped mountains and hilly landscapes, crinkled land of trees and rocks.  Then flat. And about 10 minutes of my mouth open going whoaaaa. House after row of houses. Crenshaw. Football fields. Smog hiding the sky scrapers. And more houses. Some with yards. Some identical spirals of suburbs.

So many tans and bad tattoos. People looking confused.  I sit and watch and feel the sensation when people step on the cracks in the carpet. I was id’d for my 20$ beer.

After we board the connecting flight I fall asleep and wake up hovering 20 feet from the ground about to land in San Diego.

On the way out of Rishikesh a rickshaw took me the 20 odd kilometres out of town to the Dehredun airport. I was at least three hours early for my flight. I just wanted to get out of India and sit in an air-conditioned lobby as early as possible. I bought a book called the God Delusion and sat and read it in front of 300 Muslims and Hindus.

I was assigned seat 1/D which was at the very front on the right aisle. The flight attendees seat was facing mine and when he sat down for take off and landing we were knee to knee. The propellers looked safe and the inside was retro. The flight was easy and fast. Then I waited in Delhi airport for six hours or so and was assigned an economy class premium just for asking at no extra cost. I had a huge seat with no one behind me, my own arm rest, it was like a little pod, just a little smaller than business class. Sitting apart from each other on planes is one of the most expensive ways to travel. When I asked to upgrade my third flight from Tokyo to Vancouver they said it would be 2000 extra dollars. The airport in Tokyo was completely empty of travelers.  It was just after six thirty a.m. and we were the first flight in. I found my gate anyway, even after being told I could leave to make the 12 hour delay a little more exciting. I opted for sleep. Gate 75 is at a dead end in the crescent shaped airport. I eventually fell asleep there for hours at a time. I would wake up, put my shoes back on and go to the washroom, fill up my water bottle and check out the one convince store that sold beer and candy and soups and t-shirts. I bought a t-shirt and chocolates and funny cakes and a tea over all.

Landing in Vancouver was the easiest airport I’ve been to so far. It’s a short walk, and I was ecstatic to be back. I could see the mountains, and feel my skin not burning. Canadians get a separate line to scan our passports and answer some multiple choice questions about where we’ve been and how long. Then you show your receipt to someone, then pick up your bags, tell someone where you’ve been and how long, then you’re free to get on the sky train and go straight downtown. In my case, to Broadway, then got on a waiting bus. It took me maybe four stops and I got off walked three blocks through a beautiful perfumy park and rang the buzzer.

For the first time in a long time I took a long hot shower. Washed my air, saw my body in a mirror with light. Totally relaxed under the hot water, scraped off some skin on my feet, massaged my swollen ankles,  cleaned out my nails and scalded my skin.

After a few days I’m back on schedule. Sitting in Mount Pleasant with my green smoothy and some coffee boiling. It’s a warm sunny holiday Monday and I’m listening to the Beach Boys.

Then I spent two days with Evan and Amanda in Maple Ridge. Their 3600 square foot house had a theatre, a music room an office, three or four bathrooms, two guest rooms, a hot tub, bbq, two big trucks, garage, boat, hunting rifles, just about anything you could ask for. Plus it’s between Golden Ears park and another park where you can hike to a waterfall and see glaciers. At night there are no sounds. No lights.

There, people push strollers.  There I met his friends for bbq, one was a welder one worked at the Bay. One was an arborist and former train conductor, with his baby boy who’s head was too big.  One works with computers one wants to be a cop.

They all had cars…I learned about fixed mortgages and flex rates and websites and office politics while we sat in the hot tub in our bathing suits. We heard stories of bear break-ins and how many deer you can shoot in a day.

I was able to see life through the eyes of one of my best friends. He took a different path and one I could only imagine till now. He’s got the girl, house, truck, property by the forest and an entrepreneur. Some of it I’d like, but mostly it was a view of stuff I now know I don’t want. I like traveling. It will end but for now I like seeing how other people live.

In Metchosin things are perfect.

I look up from my book and see my 93 year old grandfather laying the ground not moving. I put the book down and lean out and look a little further. He’s laying on his side talking to his cat, feeding him treats.

We sit and read at night and one day we had a big lunch so skipped dinner. I read his grandfathers letters home from India, 100’s of them. They started the same way mine did, “I can’t believe this place, I want to go home.” Letters of famine and poverty, monsoon rain, and converting Hindus to Methodists. It went on for hours until the year 1900 when he said they treated a starving little girl whose mother could only feed her pills of crushed flies when she complained of hunger. He reads me a passage from Jane Goodalls book and I read him some from mine, then we eat cereal together and go to bed early.

People here worship the ground he walks on and so they should. They ignore me completely until they ask how I know him, and when I say I am his grandson things really get going. That happened after his birthday party. I was ignored then suddenly the centre of attention. One of his oldest friends asked what I discovered I need to change about myself in order to be happy? She was excited when I said I had more than one answer. Then we looked at every photo of India I had posted online.

The mountains here look the same as Nepal, I’ve seen these all my life but didn’t know how special they are until now. The ocean water looks psychedelic, like just another form of atoms, could be air or land but it’s liquid and we could walk across it if the atoms were arranged differently.  The ripples flow in all directions on an otherwise calm surface. As I go out in the kayak, on surface level the water closer to Victoria is flat and reflecting the city and nearby boats. I’m not sure if it’s a wave or a mirage or a tsunami but I continue to paddle out anyway. Mount Baker is looming over it all in the background, a big volcano looking thing covered in snow.

I try to watch each wave as it comes in off the ocean. Watch it roll in and keep its shape until it breaks on the shore. As the tide shifts out the rocks on land dry.

Swimming alone in an unknown area so far from any other people was magical. It could have been my end, one person dies in there every year. It could have been me. I almost jumped in without planning an exit. I biked 25 km on a trail and stopped by a river. After a long time of sitting on the edge I found a place where I could walk in and out. It was a cork screw made by millions of years of water erosion, into a cave with water reflecting on the rocks. I walked into the cold water and swam directly to the nearest rock and got out. Got warm again and jumped back in. To the next big rock and then crossed the river and wandered on the other side.

Swimming in the clear cool water I felt complete. It was something I really wanted to do. One of those things that you could either say you did or almost did and the difference means the world only to you. You got to experience it. Our bodies are made to float not sink. We have adapted to water. Our fingers prune to grab the rocks and pull ourselves up. Our shins are to a  point so we can walk through the water with no drag. Our feet  are like flippers.

The river is so zig zagged I couldn’t even see the water fall up ahead. All I could see was lava rocks cut through by rushing water shaped over the years into perfect swimming pools. The sun tanning my skin, my clothes and bag perched on the rocks somewhere. The perfect summer adventure. After kayaking on my birthday this one takes the cake. BC has it all. And I feel like I’ve taken every opportunity possible to grow. And explore and have a story to tell that isn’t full of I wish I had, it’s going to be a list of amazing sensations that I made happen because that’s living. Living isn’t biking 25 km to not swim.

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