Galleon on Salt Billows

You have been interested in your shadow. Look instead directly at the sun. —Rumi

In Media Res

My MBA program officially starts on tomorrow, but really it’s been going on for two weeks. Apparently, you can have an entire class take place in four days, 4.5 hours per day, and finish the final that weekend. Apparently, that’s a thing.

So it’s been crazy. But I’m having a lot of fun. I’m meeting new people, attending networking events (where I meet even more new people), eating copious amounts of finger foods, drinking school-provided alcohol (?!), and reading more than 100 pages of business-related material per day in my free time. Somehow, I still manage to squeeze in some Netflix in there.

The rest of my classes start tomorrow, and I’m probably just blogging in protest of the 8 chapters of finance and financial accounting I have to read within the next 15 hours. Seriously, thank goodness I can both read and do math; I never would have thought I’d have to read about so much math.

Anyway, all of this is tremendously new and exciting, but because of this, I have to take a step back and remind myself of what’s important. What do I love the most? I love writing. No matter how much else I have going on in my life, no matter where I am, no matter who I am surrounded with –

In the end, I have to listen to myself. My goal through these two years is to write consistently, daily, no matter what. (Unless I get one of those viral/bacterial colds/infections again. Then it’s okay.)

I’ve been saying that I want to write, I want to write, I want to write. That’s really stupid. If I want to write, I should just do it and stop talking about it. I’m going to decide on a time block to do this.

Ha. Look at me, adulting.

Down the Coast and Cannery Row, Again

I’m currently in Austin, the city I love the most in the world. I thought it would be difficult to say farewell to my journey, but stopping at Austin has provided me a comforting sense of closure. More on this later, but first, I’m going to attempt to catch up on some of this blogging backlog.

On the third day of my stay in Steinbeck Country, I headed to Carmel-by-the-Sea, mainly because it would have made no sense for me not to go. Since I didn’t have anything I wanted to see in Carmel, I just stopped at A. W. Shucks for lunch and walked down the street for some window shopping. I hadn’t meant to buy anything, but a store that advertised fine pens and stationery was too enticing for me to avoid. I went in, and came out a half hour later with a few letter writing sets and a pad of paper from the oldest paper mill in Europe. I did manage to resist the temptation of purchasing this ~$170 calligraphy pen that, now that I am reminded of its exquisite beauty, I almost regret not buying. After this ordeal, I hurried back to my car to protect my bank account from any more pillaging.

After Carmel, I took a trip down the 17-Mile Drive. This stretch of road lines the coast of Monterey, cutting its way through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove. One of my coworkers had told me that there is a few-years-long waiting list of really affluent people for the Pebble Beach Golf Course, and I thought it was ridiculous until I saw just how picturesque and amazing it was. I’m not into golf, but driving past that golf course made me wish that I was. On the other side of the golf course lies the Pacific Ocean, its waves lapping and kicking against the rocky shoreline. I saw sea lions, countless sea birds, and the proud Monterey Cypress trees (including the Lone Cypress). I even saw an artist who had set up her easel and colors and was painting a section of this shoreline. I only drove past, but what I saw from her canvas looked beautiful. I hope she thought the same!

I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening in Cannery Row. Before I visited the actual street, I walked a little bit up the hill to a bookstore I had seen the day before. The bookstore was in a tall, peach-colored building with “BOOKS” painted in bold, vertical letters down its side. I thought it was strange that the bookstore was called “Books”, but strangeness attracts me, so I went in. The moment I entered the building, I realized two things. First, I realized that I had accidentally entered through the back entrance and was therefore mistaken in my assumption that the bookstore was called “Books”; it is actually called BookBuyers Monterey. Second, I realized that this was the coolest secondhand bookstore I had ever seen in my life.

An aside: the coolest bookstore I have ever seen in my life is the BookPeople, in which I sit right now as I type this entry.

Anyway, what made this bookstore so special was that the walls were lined from end to end with books – literally. From the floor to the ceiling, books hugged each other in neat rows. Books were packed together so tightly that were was rarely any empty space in between. Every wall was filled with books. Shelves, so tall that I could not even reach the tops of them, wound through the bookstore like a labyrinth. The space between the shelves is only enough for one person to fit through at a time. I wanted to lose myself in the maze of books, to smell the aroma of old pages until I could memorize the scent. I meandered through these shelves until I reluctantly pulled myself away. I purchased two books to mark the occasion: one by Alfred Bester, the other by Fred Saberhagen.

Once I left the bookstore, I walked down to Cannery Row and found the Pacific Biological Laboratories, which was Ed Ricketts’ old science lab back in the day. He and Steinbeck had spent a great many hours here discussing science, literature, and philosophy. Ed Ricketts was Steinbeck’s best friend, and Steinbeck had based many of his fictional characters on Ed. I think it’s lovely when lifelong friendships like this can exist.

After some more time wandering the street, I squeezed between two buildings and found myself in the beach. I took off my shoes and buried my feet in the sand. The pale sand was coarse and flecked with shells and darker pebbles. I stood there for a long while, just gazing toward the coast and the rest of the bay. I wanted to capture the entire moment, but the best I could do was take out a bottle from my bag and fill it with Monterey sand.

I ate dinner at the Cannery Row Brewing Company. I sat in the corner of the outdoor patio next to the fire pit, which gave me a gorgeous view of the sunset over Cannery Row. As I sipped on my coke and ate my fish and chips, I felt content. I had a perfect seat with a perfect view, basking in the perfect sunset with the most perfectly chilled breeze dancing around me. I reread some lines from the prologue from Cannery Row, which I’ll reproduce below:

“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream… How can the poem and the stink and the grating noise– the quality of light, the tone, the habit and the dream– be set down alive? When you collect marine animals there are certain flat worms so delicate that they are almost impossible to capture whole, for they break and tatter under the touch. You must let them ooze and crawl of their own will on to a knife blade and then lift them gently into your bottle of sea water. And perhaps that might be the way to write this book– to open the page and to let the stories crawl in by themselves.”

Well, he did it. He captured the essence of Cannery Row in the best vessel he knew – his words. I strive to do the same. One day, I’ll be able to capture the things I love best with words of my own. Until I find the right ones, I’ll keep right on dreaming, loving, and living.

Cannery Row and Fremont’s Peak

Even though I told myself that I’d update every day, I haven’t been doing that. On the bright side, it seems that I’ve managed to survive my road trip so far…

So, Cannery Row.

I visited Cannery Row on the second day of my stay in Salinas. The street was once called Ocean Ave., but its name has since then been changed to Cannery Row after it was immortalized through Steinbeck’s novel of the same name. I actually visited this street twice, but for now I’ll only document what went on during the first day.

First, I paid a visit to the aquarium. The Monterey Bay Aquarium, once the location of a cannery, is situated at the right end of Cannery Row. What makes this aquarium stand apart from the others (mainly the one in Houston) is that fact that it is connected to Monterey Bay. The cafeteria area leads outside to a small outdoor stage that overlooks an entire slice of the bay! If you can imagine, this salted the air with just a touch of sea fragrance. Ahhh. I sat on the bleacher seats for a performance of a brief history of Monterey’s canning business. In a nutshell, Monterey was once a vastly significant source for canned sardines. Cannery Row in particular held some canning businesses that exported canned sardines to the rest of America, most significantly for our troops in the World Wars. However, all this fervent business quickly led to overfishing. When the sardine population diminished drastically, the canneries went out of business, and Cannery Row became almost a ghost town. Steinbeck’s novel took place after the boom, and before the bust.

After the aquarium, I walked around the rest of Cannery Row. Now, the canneries are gone, and Cannery Row functions mainly as a tourist attraction. A lot of the old landmarks have been preserved, some painted over, some converted into gift shops or restaurants. There’s a kind of bustling, old-town feel to the place. The spirit’s been preserved, but without the stink of sardines and the clamor of sardine ships coming in with their silvery nets.

After Cannery Row, I decided to head north to climb Fremont’s Peak. This peak is now part of Fremont’s Peak National Park. It belongs to the Gabilan Mountains, which Steinbeck describes in the opening pages to of East of Eden. He also recounts climbing Fremont’s Peak in his later novel, Travels with Charley.

The drive up the mountain was a trial in itself. The path was narrow and twisting, snaking up the mountain in the evening sunlight. The sun was setting by the time I got there, which placed it at eye level to me as I drove up. What eased the pain of this trip up was the absolute beauty of the landscape: the rolling green farmlands, the mountains emblazoned in glowing hues in the background. Even the path, despite its vicious undulations, flaunted a rare beauty; trees peppered the roadsides, and as the evening light pierced through their leaves, the path appeared sun-dappled, almost painted. Once I reached the parking lot, I looked for a way to climb up the last half-mile or so to the very top of the mountain, but I couldn’t find one. All the trails I discovered went down. When the sun was about to set, I gave up. I already had a grand view from where I parked.

As I stood atop Fremont’s Peak – not the very top, but close enough – I could see the sun sinking into an ocean of clouds soaked in pinks and reds and darker yellows. I could see the valley below: Steinbeck’s Salinas Valley, with its neat plots of land and its small, quaint houses. Though this was not my home, I viewed it with a nostalgia that Steinbeck might have felt as he looked down at the valley with his dear friend Charley. The words from his book resonate within me.

A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike.

You can’t go home again because home has ceased to exist except in the mothballs of memory.

I have my own childhood home, and all the memories buried within it. I’ve tried going back many times, but each time found that I could not. I didn’t fit anymore. The old neighborhood and winding streets that I had once declared my own had shrunk without me in it.

So I, also, could not take the same journey twice. No one can truly ever return home.

It’s a bittersweet feeling.


Today, I spent the day in Salinas. I visited two major places: the Steinbeck House and the National Steinbeck Center.

The Steinbeck House, once John Steinbeck’s childhood home, now functions as a restaurant and gift shop. I had to get lunch from the Steinbeck House! It is run entirely by volunteers – the most precious elderly ladies (and gentleman!) that I’ve ever met in my life. The gentleman told this joke, which I found hilarious: “Everyone who works here is a volunteer, except for the cook because we can’t do that, and the dishwasher because we don’t want to! And the bookkeeper upstairs… we can’t do that either.” The ones who served the food wore Victorian era skirts that matched the window curtains, and I thought to myself that I would love to do something like this after I retire – just volunteer at the Steinbeck House. I had a Steinbeck Tea (which is a straight iced tea mixed with pink lemonade), confetti soup, a ham and leek quiche, and a creme brulee. Everything was wonderful, and I promptly bought those recipe cards from the gift shop downstairs. I also bought the Steinbeck House recipe book, which I plan to refer to often once I move into my new apartment. I want to return on Sunday for a tour, so I’ll leave the description of the house till then. I did poke my head into several of the rooms. They all still have such an antiquated beauty, and certain windows were left open to let in the most refreshing breeze. Downstairs in the cellar, which has been converted into a gift shop, I met an old lady who was also taking a road trip by herself! She had come up from Hollywood, and was celebrating her retirement. I told her that I can’t wait to retire, and she told me that the price of retirement was to be 70 years old. She was happy, and I was happy, and in that moment our shared joy of freedom made us kindred spirits.

After I had my lunch and threw an embarrassing amount of money at the gift shop, I left to visit the National Steinbeck Center. It’s a museum full of interactive exhibits featuring Steinbeck’s life and body of work. I was really excited that I could use my newly acquired student ID to receive a discount, and I proceeded to touch everything I could think to touch in the museum. I’ll post some pictures later, when I have a more passable internet connection. When I left, the lady at the entrance told me that I had spent a long time in the museum – which was a good thing, because she often saw many people who come in and leave very soon after. I cannot even fathom how anyone can leave this place so quickly. The suggested introductory videos alone were 40 minutes combined! The entire museum is so immersive; you feel like you’re inside the book, that you’re surrounded by a living form of literature. WHY COME IN THE FIRST PLACE IF YOU DON’T LOVE BEING SURROUNDED BY LITERATURE? When I left after about three hours, the parking garage charged me $1.50. Houston parking garages are robbing their patrons.

To end this post, I will describe the weather. The weather here in Salinas is perfect. The sun is shining, but it’s 75 degrees with a slight, crisp wind. I wish that I could capture this weather in a bottle and send a sample to every one of you readers. It’s elation, the thrill of flight, the sharp sense of a new beginning. I could bask in it forever.

So long, friends. Until next time.

On the Road

After driving for two and a half days, I’ve arrived in Salinas, CA. I haven’t had time to explore yet, so I’ll leave that for later. For now, I’ll share some scattered thoughts about being on the road.

On the first day, I drove the stretch of road from Houston, TX to Las Cruces, NM. The most remarkable thing about this stretch of road were the clouds. The clouds were amazing. Their heavy, fluffy layers allowed for the most extraordinary display of crepuscular rays. I’ll try to attach some pictures later; I haven’t been having the best luck with signal/wifi on this trip. Also, at some point on this day, T-Mobile informed me that I had entered Mexico. Sorry, T-Mobile, but you were mistaken.

The second day hid the clouds and replaced them with a glaring, unobscured sun. It was hotter than the first day; the high was 111 F, and that temperature stuck around for hours. Then, in the afternoon, the temperature dropped. The clear, blue sky became tinged with rust. New Mexico and Arizona are parched, dry states. For the first time in my life, I saw signs that warned of “Dust Storms” and “Strong Gusts”. I noticed patches of sand that blew across the roads and drove through some winds that threatened to rock my little car off its path. However, I managed (mostly) to stay on course. At night, around midnight, I stayed at Castaic, CA, just north of Los Angeles.

For the final leg of my way up, I drove along Highway 101 up the coast of California. The path I chose took me through mountains that layered into themselves, sometimes posing as the backdrop to the acres of farmland that held rows of crops and ripe Napa oranges. The land was so fruitful that I couldn’t help but imagine how must it would have been during the Dust Bowl, the era depicted in Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. There’s a lot more I could say here, but I will touch on them later. For now, there is one more thing I that I will share. On the way up the coast, I stopped by a little bakery in Los Alamos. There was a man working there. At some point when I was ordering, I smiled a little. He smiled back. It was a slight smile, like mine, but for some reason it got to me. It was the most heartwarming, genuine smile that I had seen in a long time. Very innocent, but striking, and soft. I think I am writing about this here so that I will remember.

The drive was long, but not tiring. Not really. Once the driving starts, it kind of gets into you. The road gets into you. Time breaks down into chunks. Between cities, time seems to stretch on and the drive is just one long, continuous string. But then you hit the next place, the next chunk, and then it’s as if time hadn’t passed at all. You’ve jumped from one point to the other, finished a chunk of the journey. It goes on like this, chunk by chunk, each one infinite in itself, but gone when you pass it. And soon you find yourself at the end. You’re not sure how you did it, but you did. Well, I did it. And just knowing that I could travel this far on my own brings me a certain sense of satisfaction.

That’s all, for now. I’ll hopefully return tomorrow with an update.

Pilgrimage for Steinbeck

There are some books that I never finish, and some shows that I cannot watch to the end.

However, this is not because they are bad. In fact, quite the opposite: they are too good to finish. I do not want them to ever end, because then the adventure is over, and that in itself is a heartbreak. If I leave before the ending, before the conflict resolves itself, the party is still together and the journey continues indefinitely. It is a little selfish, I admit, to ignore the author’s wish for the conclusion to take place at the end of the tale, but I allow myself these small indulgences. I have never claimed to be utterly selfless.

And then, in this same vein of logic, there are some books I do not read – not because they are bad, but because I am saving them for a special time in my life, a time during which their words would make the most impact. Now is one of those times.

Steinbeck, it is your turn to change my life.

If I were to be honest with myself, I would chalk it all up to restlessness. I just gave my notice at my job, and I start my MBA program in less than a month. I have two weeks to spend as I please before the overwhelming wave of the future sweeps me away. It is not the fear of drowning that gnaws at me, but rather the fear of getting lost. I don’t know if I will match up to my classmates. I don’t know if I will find a job I love. I don’t know if I will lose myself while I reconfigure my mindset to be that of a sharpened, young businesswoman.

I cannot help but think that this, truly, is my last free summer. In years to come, I can take vacations – but I will never again be this young and untethered.

Therefore, in the spirit of wanderlust, I shall embark upon a journey with my oldest and dearest friend. This volatile me of right now will travel with the me I’ve known all my life – a girl who’s always questioning, always searching, always chasing after some unknown ideal. We are currently one and the same, but I have a feeling that soon we will split. Probably, it is time to change.

But before this happens, we will make a pilgrimage to Steinbeck’s beautiful home in the Salinas. We will sit before the sunset on Monterey Bay with the wind in our hair and the smell of salt spray washing over our skin. We will listen for the voice of Steinbeck, and try to understand.

Maybe we will learn something new.

Cold Feet

It’s one of those nights again in which three layers of blankets over my feet have absolutely no effect. My feet can freeze water.

I believe and trust in science wholeheartedly, but seriously, thermodynamics sure isn’t working right now. When two bodies of matter are touching, heat should flow from the warmer object to the cooler one. Well, to be totally fair, thermodynamics is based on statistical probability and I guess in that case I’m experiencing the lim(x->0):x% chance that heat is reversing flow for an absurdly long period of time. Or maybe it’s just Maxwell’s Demon.

Maxwell’s Demon is laughing in my face from an alternate dimension and I’m just here composing the most pointless blog ever.

An Ideal Job

When I was young, I didn’t really know what I wanted to be when I grew up. But I knew one thing: I wanted a job that I would love doing day after day. I would never want to take vacations. I would never dream of leaving it for a better paying job. I would have the perfect life, and laugh at all those CEOs whose lives were for sure devoid of even the tiniest filament of joy.

Then, reality hit.

Actually, no. Not so harsh. Reality knocked on the door lightly. Reality swept into my life like a gentle breeze.

I realized that there was nothing I’d want to do every day like clockwork. A year of working has taught me that. I can love doing something at first, but eventually all the little things will weigh me down. I’ll love it until I’m forced to do it. I’ll enjoy eating candy until it’s being force-fed to me meal after meal.

I’ve always thought that I wanted my career to be something I love love love. Something I couldn’t imagine not doing.

Now, I think that it’s enough to have a job that I just like (a lot), and have time left over to do what I love on the side. That way, I don’t feel forced. That way, I have free time that I can devote to my hobbies rather than to my job.

Yes, I think this is more perfect.

The Rush of the Days

* Racing against dawn, my alarm blares its tireless tirade. I dig under my pillow and push snooze, registering somewhere in a back niche of my mind that it is probably a bad decision. I am too comfortable to care. When I finally persuade myself otherwise, the alarm has rang for the tenth, fifteenth, twentieth time in five minute intervals. It is the worst type of nagging – the self-inflicted kind, the kind that works only after the deadline has passed.

The morning routine never changes. Breakfast, if I feel like being healthy.

The day begins.

The commute to work is either too long or too short. The lights don’t turn green when I’m late or red when I need to check on something. Before I know it, I’m stuck behind a truck that’s going a tiny fraction of the speed limit, and I resign myself to the inevitable pattern of morning traffic.

Eventually, I find myself thrust into the bustle of work. The general excitement of accomplishing tasks that, together, amount to something permeates the air like a patchy cloud. The lingering holes are filled instead with ceaseless thoughts, none of which have ever done me any good: I’m hungry, why is it so hot in here, when will I get a chance to do this or that.

The hours fly by fast when they’ve been forgotten, but creep along when they know they’re being watched – a sardonic sort of observer effect. A break for lunch squeezes itself haphazardly in there somehow, surrounded by various assignments that stack up like a pile of legos.

Work ends. I drive home, and eat either on the way or after I arrive. The cat wants to play, but always longer than I intend to keep him company. I lay flat on my stomach and catch up on the goings-on of internet. More time passes. The nightly routine also never changes. I lay still in bed, and allow the rush of the day to die down. My thoughts still fly around at terminal velocity. I try valiantly to push the residual noise out of my head.

But there. A moment before sleep —

My mind stills. I think about what is important to me.

My dreams and passions. The simple moments. Those I care about. The progress of humanity on this swiftly spinning Earth.

Perfect clarity.

My consciousness slips away like the final rosy hues of sunset, and I let go.

* Repeat.

Simple Truth

I encountered one simple truth today.

All religion aside, here is something I read on facebook this morning:


Read it again.

And now, please allow me to highlight some things in here for you.

“I couldn’t help but wonder if any of the people who oppose same sex marriage or gay couples adopting would have adopted a black baby girl, born to a prostitute, drug-addicted mother and a father in prison for murder.”

I also could not help but wonder. And honestly, no – I don’t think the majority of these people who so ardently speak out against same sex marriage or gay couples would adopt a child like this. Of course I cannot speak for everyone. I am sure that some people who oppose ‘gay rights’ will adopt this kind of child out of love and mercy… but not most. I have lived and watched people long enough to know this to be a truth.

But here is another truth: this baby girl has done nothing to deserve her birthright. She was born blameless.

Let’s try another one:

“…these two men chose to make a change in the world and nurture a young person into a productive, lively young woman. And those men have such kind hearts, they actually consider themselves to be the lucky ones.”

They consider themselves the lucky ones. They love and want to care for this child so much that they consider themselves to be so lucky be have been given this opportunity.

A Jewish man and a Latin man fall in love and wished to be with each other for the rest of their lives. They adopt a black girl who was born on the underside of fortune’s wheel because they want so very much to raise her and to give her joy.

If this isn’t what the best of humanity looks like, I don’t know what is. I don’t know what we are fighting against. I don’t know if any human being can look at this family, truly understand everything that had to happen for them to reach where they stand today, and still be opposed to what they have together.

I am always grateful for people who see and speak the truth. Truth is easy to see. It’s obvious. It’s just that sometimes, humanity can be so blind.


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