Afternoon in the Mountains

Yesterday I took the afternoon and went up to the mountains with one of my best friends that I have been close with for a long time. We don’t get to see each other often, so having a whole day together was really wonderful.

We drove up into the mountains in search of a river that was fairly accessible, and didn’t require too much work to find a good area to climb on river rocks and wade around a bit. After some initial exploration to find somewhere without any people around, we found a lovely little spot to spend the afternoon.

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This was one of the highlights of the afternoon – we found a hellbender salamander! These are the biggest Salamanders that live down here – over a foot long! This guy just crawled up right next to us while we were hanging out on a rock. I picked him up and he was the squirmiest, gooshiest thing I have ever felt. That is the face of pure joy.

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I swear mandolins sound better in the mountains.

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Nobody ever wants to head back east

And neither do I. I know this trip is about movement, about change and new experiences. But I really have loved the first half of this trip, which included this time on the west coast. Leaving San Francisco tomorrow feels like a bit of a turning point in the trip, San Fran has been incredible, but sadly today was my last full day here. Luckily I managed to pack a bunch of good things into it.

This morning, I met up with Ryant and Eli, the two friends I made earlier in the trip. Sadly, we met up for lunch/some exploration as a way to say goodbye. Although I met them barely a week and a half ago, I never would have guessed how much we would all bond. Wandering San Francisco, hours spent watching the sun set over the ocean at Big Sur, fighting the waves in San Diego, nude beaching and karaoke in Austin, a music festival in NOLA- alright, I’m making it a little cheesy, but really – I really was sad to say goodbye to them today. They are both incredible people, and I feel like I learned so much and had so much fun with them during our travels together.  Saying goodbye to them is part of the reason that this feels like a bit of a turning point for the trip. It feels like we all reached sort of this end where normal people stop, and then I’m the one that’s pushing on.  I’m trying to focus on the ways in which that is exciting – the adventure is only half over.

anyway, walking around SF with them was a nice way to start the day. On their way out of town, they dropped me off in the Mission to do some cruising around that area. My Uncle picked me up from there, and we decided to go to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which was incredibly cool. It has just been redone and expanded in the past few years, and then it opened again last month. The building itself was very cool, and the art was phenomenal. Really an awesome collection of contemporary art.

This evening I went to an excellent sushi place for my last meal in the city. Sushi is one of my great loves in life, and I was not disappointed.  San Francisco has treated me well.

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Posing with an Alexander Calder sculpture at the SF MOMA

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Ugh these views could never get old

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Wandering the Castro

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Eli and I waiting for lunch. Really going to miss this dude and his squinty smile.

Coastin’

The past 5 days or so have been just magical. I have always loved California, but this has definitely cemented it for me. Being near the ocean just immediately puts me more at ease. Life seems to operate on a different schedule – a slower, more deliberate one. One that I really enjoy. I’m attracted to both ends of the spectrum: I love the bustle of New York City, the feeling of always moving, the energy that comes from the constant friction of bodies against the earth. But I also love the way beach communities move. There’s no rush. The ocean will be there at 11 am, at 2 pm, and so on. While there are a lot of outdoor activities and stuff, there doesn’t seem to be the same sense of always moving toward another place. people spend more time just being.

I spent three nights in San Diego. I visited Balboa Park, got sunburned at the beach, wandered around the beach community La Jolla, and did some hiking at Torrey Pines. The friends I met in NOLA and then hung out with in Austin (Eli and Ryant) ended up in San Diego as well, so we fought the waves and the freezing pacific and had a wonderfully exhausting beach day.

leaving San Diego, Eli and Ryant and I decided to caravan up the coast and do some camping in big sur. I had heard a great deal about big sur, but it managed to exceed my expectations none the less. We snuck around on some private property in the name of finding views and climbed out onto some cliffs to watch the sunset. I don’t know that I have ever felt so purely happy, so at peace as I did sitting out there on those cliffs, watching the sunset in silence with two people I’ve hardly known a week. It’s strange how travel does that. We ended up camping a couple miles off of highway 1, overlooking pine-covered mountains. I couldn’t have asked for is better experience.

Yesterday, I got into San Francisco. I’m a little bit obsessed with this city. I love it’s unique architecture, almost painfully hip neighborhoods, and perfect coffee shop/bakeries. I’m excited to spend the next few nights here.

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Balboa Park, San Diego

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Climbing for the ocean views at Torrey Pines.

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Eli looking majestic at the beginning of the sunset.

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Big Sur

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Big Sur.

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Making breakfast after waking up in Big Sur.

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Waking up to this view was incredible.

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SF architecture never ceases to amaze me.

 

 

Nude beach conversations

He was a black boy from Cleveland Ohio. But I met him in New Orleans. And I couldn’t decide whether not start this by calling him a black boy or a black man. the way he asked me questions about my sexuality made me want to call him a man, but the size of the shoulders and how we had to coax him into eating anything made me want to call him boy.

I asked what was special about him. He told me, “the only way i know my father is dead.” He said I wrote A poem about how my momma broke and the way my stepfather’s knuckles were dimpled with use. And I said no, I’ve heard that story before. He said I’m gay, and my momma asks me how many boys have you been with, and I reply, I pick a new one to accompany each meal Like a wine pairing. He says I’ve never worn A condom. And I say, yes, I have heard that one before, too.

he tells me about the first time he felt proud. He wrote a poem about learning his father’s cheekbones from the pile of brimmed hats left in the attic, his hands from the box of dish towels.

Winter Market

I’m a big fan of the Farmer’s Market in Knoxville, and I usually try to go as often as possible when I’m home. The market goes from May – November, but during the winter season they host the Winter Market in a church near downtown. I wasn’t sure what to expect since I had never visited the winter market before, but I was pleasantly surprised!

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