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Day 25: Vancouver, with San Francisco reflections.
And it feels like I have E X H A L E D.
I have loved every moment of this trip, and been inspired and had my senses heightened by all that I’ve felt, seen, experienced, smelled, lived.
But I have to confess, coming from the grittiness + contrast of San Francisco, from the wide expanse of sea along The Embarcadero, the buzz and rush of the city, and the stark reminders of human suffering and homelessness, I found myself on edge a little more. Just a little more alert.
My compassion rises up and I know that I must do the best I can to meet in the middle. Sometimes, I go quietly about my explorations, I do not stare or judge; other days I found the courage to buy a small contribution of food for someone in need. The most courageous? Looking these people of hardship in the eye and truly SEEING them. If I had fallen upon hard times, would someone have the courage to do this for me?
I am lucky beyond belief. Again, the tears well up fast and unbidden.
When I landed in Vancouver yesterday, it was like coming home. Half-way home, literally, and figuratively. I felt the weight lift off my shoulders, and the edge come away from me. I realised how much of a forward-motion, street-wise stare I had accumulated whilst exploring some parts of San Francisco and Washington.
With no disrespect to any of the places I have explored, I feel more at ease.
And I’m ready to go home.
Day 24: San Francisco to Vancouver
I’ve had 2 moments of “sassing” recently that I’m low-key proud of.
1. The Monks at Golden Gate Bridge.
While crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, there were a whole heap of monks milling about the foot of the walkway. One serenely approached me, offered me a blessing and then gently tied a string of prayer beads around my wrist. With a beatific smile on his face, he told me his brothers were building a temple, would I please make a donation? Then I NOTICED; the sneakers, the overly-crumpled yellow monk’s cloak, the glimpse of jeans under the cloak.
Old me would have paid the $5.00 donation and then been pissed off for the rest of the day.
Current me smiled a matching beatific smile right back, took the prayer beads off my wrist, said “Thank you SO much, I wish you all the best for the temple, but I’m really sorry, I’m not into prayer beads!”, and strolled off with a grin.
While on my success strut, I noticed another couple getting a similar treatment. I walked up, said hello to everyone and told them, “Hey guys, you’re getting fleeced. There’s a whole heap of them!”
“Oh, wow! Thanks so much!”
And to the “monk”, “Sorry dude, nice try. We’re done here!”
2. The Drama Queen at Bloomingdales
An AMAZING colourful striped dress caught my eye in Bloomingdales, and I went to go have a look. From behind me, in the most overly-dramatic, drama-queenly exasperated exclamation rang out, “WHY do people ALWAYS have to go for the things on the RACK?!”
I think he thought I had no English and wouldn’t understand, but it put the fire in my belly!
I used that teacher voice which is the deadly combination of “overly-sweet-but-don’t-you-DARE-eff-with-me” and just kept taking AT this rude man: “Well, it’s SUCH a totally GORGEOUS DRESS, and I LOVE colours. I’m travelling from Australia, and this is my last week abroad, and I was really looking to splurge on something beautiful to take home. I’m SO SORRY that I inconvenienced you by looking at something on the rack, but it just absolutely caught my eye, and it’s even the right size as well! But I’d better not inconvenience you by asking to try it on, so thank you SO MUCH for making me feel so WELCOME!”
Dazed, he pulled himself together and stammered, “Are you sure you don’t want to try it on?”
Me: “OH. NO. THANK. YOU!”
Strutting that strut OUT!
Day 23: San Francisco
“I hold my heart by the hand, together we’ll wander, endlessly.”
I love you, Mum + Dad.
My Dad gave me the sea. The salt and sting of Henley Square, the freshness, the soothing, the unrelenting storms all flecked with sand, the heavy dullness of dawn in summer. My Dad gave me this. He gave me the very edge of the sea that I may travel. He has a nomadic daughter with strong wings, but with a heart that overflows, overwhelmingly so, for home.
My Mum gave me the earth. The place that is my home. All that is wok-smelling, incense-filled, real, small details, family life at its most poignant and rushingly beautiful. All the tiny moments matter to my Mum, magnified over in joy, ache, sadness, worry, anxiety, and happiness. The small moments are her world. The big picture is wondrous to her, but she cannot live there. Her spirit is most happy with an anchor point; her family.
My beautiful parents, who are so fragile and strong, I love you so much.
Here, on the other side of the world, I think of you, and I love you with all my heart.
I am so sorry that I couldn’t give you a grandchild, or grandchildren. I have cried so much over this and every day, my heart cries. I wanted to give you grandchildren more than I wanted to have children of my own, and I dearly, dearly want children. A family. A husband. An anchor point.
But it is not written in the stars for me.
And I cry, raw tears.
But I cannot live a life in apology.
So I travel. I take flight. Glorious, uninhibited flight.
Not because I am running away, but because I am embracing. I will LIVE my life, all of it, and show you the all that I see. I will show you Montreal and San Francisco, Toronto where your son + daughter-in-law are, and the beauty of Prince Edward Island. I will show you Vancouver and Washington, and the uncut gritty beauty of New York. I will show you everything that I see, and share with you my world.
Hear me please, I will LIVE my life.
I love you both so much.
Day 22: Washington to San Francisco…eventually!
It’s been a LOOOOOOOOOOOONNG day! Flying from Washington to San Francisco, and my flight got delayed by 3 hours due to the middle fuel tank not working properly. 😳
Plane was fine, just couldn’t access fuel from the centre tank of the plane. So we had to take the scenic route to San Francisco via Kansas City for a refuelling stop! 😂
But I’ve made it! And I am ETERNALLY grateful for the cooler weather, a temperate, walking-friendly 18 to 22 degrees, and LESS than 70% humidity.I had to put on a jumper! 😄
Necessary training for all of you wanting to travel…!
Day 20: New York to Washington.
The Day of Unexpected Okay-ness! 😃
Today I’m flying from New York to Washington. Not gonna lie, was expecting many moments of today to suck. So when things sucked less than I thought, or actually reached a level of okayness, I was super-excited.
1. The trip on the LIRR line from Penn Street Station to JFK. Hey, it all worked! They post the departure platforms like the post baseball scores, then everyone goes ABSOLUTELY BUNTER to get on the train, and then it’s literally half empty! I got a whole row to myself. 😆
2. The TSA + security line at JFK Terminal 2, which has a reputation for sucking THE MOST out of all the terminals at JFK. Wow. What an honour. And yet, I flew through in 15 minutes. AND got a smile from on of the security ladies who said, “You’re a long way from home and those damn-fine Tim Tams you got goin’ on there, Missy!” 😂
3. The ACTUAL terminal, which has the same reputation as above. On reading the reviews, I thought I was going to be walking into chaos + squalor. It just reminds me of Adelaide Airport, it’s not a comprehensive shopping mall and I didn’t need it to be, but it has everything you could possibly want before a flight just like in Adelaide, and it was TOTALLY FINE.
4. The toilets. Wow, the reviews were HARSH. But being well-hydrated comes with the need to go, so I took a breath that I intended to hold the whole way though the bathroom stop + ventured in. THEY WERE OKAY! DEAR GOD, THEY WERE OKAY! They’re not the Taj Mahal, and I wouldn’t stay there any longer than I needed, but they were clean, they worked, they had toilet paper, and soap. Free woman, oh what a feeling! 🤣
5. The coffee. Yes, I KNOW. What was I thinking?! But when I was tossing up between a kombucha + a flat white, the flat white won. AND IT DIDN’T SUCK! It was, in fact, low-key successful Cibos level. Mind. Blown. 😜
6. Places to chill. Reviewers cautioned over-optimistic travellers that they would struggle to find a seat, that they would be screamed at for loitering, and don’t even think about finding a place to do some work. I’m sitting in my quiet little nook, with my coffee that doesn’t suck, completely chill + ready to start my new novel.
Today, at “OKAY”, ended up being a “GREAT SUCCESS”.
Day 19: Exploring Brooklyn, NY.
It appears Brooklyn has a sense of humour!
“Miss? Miss? Pardon me, are you from New York?”
Me: “No, just visiting. I’m from Australia.”
“Really?! ‘Cos DAMN, you walk like a New Yorker!”
Erratically + on a mission?!
A chance catch-up with a very special Brighton old scholar who is making waves of the best sort here in New York. Hilarious that Australians can never get their act together to catch up when they live in the same city, but can do it on the other side of the world.
Such a joy to hear of all your successes + adventures, Anthony Zatorski!
Day 16: New York. The Butterfly Effect, where a smile begets another double its original size, and twice as heartfelt.
And THE magic moment of my day, amongst many, but THIS was the most poignant for me. It was such a reminder to me of how small a gesture can have such large repercussions of the best sort. That the tiny moments of kindness really do count.
p.s. Pictures today are courtesy of Olive et Gourmando’s Instagram + website. Look them up if you’re in Montreal!
The Email: 5th July 2018
Dear Olive et Gourmando,
I wanted to say a big THANK YOU for a wonderful + delicious breakfast yesterday morning, and especially to give thanks + appreciation to the wonderful front of house staff member who looked after yesterday morning’s shift, Wednesday 4th July.
It was ridiculously busy, and she was patient, professional and welcoming despite how much pressure she was under to get everyone seated and inside the cafe.
My apologies I did not get her name, but she was amazing.
I am travelling from Australia, Adelaide, and was recommended this place by friends who had recently travelled through Montreal. I am so glad I came and for me personally, it totally lived up to the recommendation and more, because of the care of your customers.
Keep up the fabulous work and food!
Cheers + thanks,
The Response: 11th July 2018
Thank you for writing us such a lovely email! I have to confess that I avoid the feedback inbox, but your message made my day.
It is so wonderful to receive kind and generous feedback such as yours. For the most part, when a client takes time to write, it is to share a complaint rather than give a compliment. Evie, our front of house that morning, was so touched. We’d have you back any day. Please come back and visit us!
While we welcome negative feedback and understand that it’s all part of the job, I won’t lie and say that for sure it’s way more fun to read an email such as yours. It just puts you in a good mood for the day and motivates you to work harder + better, rather than reading all about the negatives when you’re trying to do the right thing by everyone and not let your customers down.
We sill share this with the whole team!
Safe and happy continuing travels, and hope to see you back at O+G one day. We’ll save a table for you, no matter how busy it is! 😉
Co-owner of Olive et Gourmando, Montreal.
And THAT totally made MY day! 🙂