girl.investigates

because everything has a story

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Hit the ground napping

I can’t tell you how weird it was to get off that plane and be home again. I said goodbye to Memphis and then settled in for the most restless flight of my life. I was so impatient to get home. I wanted to keep traveling. It’s a confusing state of mind to want two opposite things at the same time. I am glad to be home, to sleep in a real bed every night. To know when my next shower will be. But now I have to start thinking about all those questions I left here. What do I do next? When do I look for a job? Can I justify continuing to live off my savings?

Because I don’t want to go back to real life, to the 9-5. I’ve been floating around in this creativity hot-air balloon. Alone and untethered. Sitting down to write every morning with a cup of coffee (and another and another) and a happy lab snoozing on my feet. The thing is, I did the backpacking trip I wanted. I did the traveling thing. Shouldn’t I be done now that I did all the things?

But wait! It’s November! You know what that means. I have to finally complete National Novel Writing Month (what were you thinking? I am definitely continuing to shave. I just got back to my shower remember?) now that I have the time. I’ve tried a couple of times but I always ended up petering out (is that how you spell that?) part way through the month. I had too many commitments and not enough time. I even have a story that I want to write. I have no excuses.

And so I get to continue being a shiftless layabout who writes every day despite making absolutely no money doing it. Although I did add a donate page on here so. Hypothetically I could make money if any kind souls who actually have jobs currently care to send coffee money.

You know what’s funny? Look at that picture of me by the cocktail sign in Beale Street. I look happy. That’s because I am happy and I honestly can’t tell you the last time I was able to say that, fingers uncrossed. A while back a friend of mine was practicing painting portraits and asked for selfies. I took a photo and then never sent it to her. I looked at it and I saw so much unhappiness in me. If you want to know what five years at the public defenders will do to an emotionally sensitive young woman, look at this picture:unsent selfie

There have been so many things in my life that have made me unhappy and it wasn’t until this year that I began to realize that I can change those things. For a long time I lived passively, following whatever path appeared. I didn’t choose a college, I just went to the one that was close. I didn’t pick a profession, I just fell into one. Quitting my job was the first time I made a choice and then changed my life to fit. I said I don’t want this to be my life anymore and then I made it so. Suddenly the world opened up before me, endless in it’s possibility. I understood in a way I never had before that you can be the director of your life. You can go out and make shit happen. How did I never see that before?

Here’s to possibility,

Carol

Memphis sunrise

I took an overnight train from Chicago to Memphis. I didn’t sleep much because the guy next to me wouldn’t stop moving. He was constantly twitching or talking or fiddling. It wasn’t hard to see the monkey on his back. I almost asked him about it, but it sounded like he was trying to shake it, heading to his mom’s in Memphis for a bit. If he didn’t want to talk about it I didn’t want to make him. He was nice too and I was glad I hadn’t just shut him out after first glance. He tried to help when my phone froze. He offered me his blanket. Part of me wishes he had told me his story but mostly I just wanted to get what little sleep I could. It was the first full train I’d been on and that made it a lot harder. So I slept fitfully and woke to a sunrise coming into Memphis. I got off the train and walked over the edge of the parking lot to take a picture of the sun rising over the rougher side of Memphis. Turned out Memphis had a lot of rough sides. After I took a photo of the sunrise I started walking out of the train station, but a guy who was unloading baggage on the train ran over and stopped me.

“Don’t leave in that direction, you’ll get robbed as soon as you leave the station.” He points me to the staircase out to the north that lets you out in the nice part of downtown on Main where there are coffee shops and people dressed for work. I thanked him and headed the way he’d pointed.

“This is Memphis after all,” were his parting remarks.

Yes, this is Memphis. Where Blues and poverty are side by side in no coincidence. Memphis has a rough history. In 1870 it was the second biggest city in the south and yet it still had no water system or a way to remove sewage. It was growing a reputation for being poor and dirty, and then yellow fever hit. Anyone who could left the city, leaving only those too poor to move. The population went from 40,000 to 19,000 in just a few months and most of those remaining got yellow fever.

The crisis had skimmed the middle and upper class people out of the city, leaving poverty in it’s wake. Since then the city has struggled with poverty and crime, often in the top ten most dangerous cities. In an FBI report based on crimes statistics from 2013 Memphis passed St. Louis to be labeled the third most dangerous city in the country. I don’t know the details of these statistics and how things might have changed since 2013, but I certainly got a lot of warnings while I was there. Don’t go south of that intersection. Stay in these parts of town. Working for the public defenders for so long I know how people’s fear can grow out of proportion, but there was no way for me to tell if that was the case here. I was curious though, about what lay on the other side of those lines in the sand.

These are the kinds of places that gave us the blues. Out of poverty and misery came something beautiful. I like to think that blues music can sort out who’s had real struggle in their life. I never liked the blues until I worked at the PD. Things had to get rough for me to understand it. Now I see it as a sort of litmus test. If someone likes the blues then odds are we’ll understand each other.

Memphis had an odd mix of people. Walking downtown I saw a lot of white people in business suits, fancy cafes, and tall glass buildings. Then I’d go into a restaurant and all the servers were black. It made me uncomfortable. Class seemed to be split down painfully clear racial lines. This was something that I knew, academically, but I’d never seen it. I’d never sat in a cafe and watch racism eddy around me like muddy water. I don’t mean that the people around me were racist—I don’t know if they were or not. It is the whole system of wealth, and who has it, that’s broken. And not just in Memphis, it just felt clearer there for some reason. More apparent.

It is one of my core values not to turn away just because something is hard to look at. Poverty isn’t pretty, but we can’t ever improve it if we don’t acknowledge it. In our world, you have to stare darkness in the face before you’ll ever see a sunrise.

I’ll get off my soapbox now. Thank you for sticking with me for this.

-Carol

Gated temples and eating your tail

It was a strange feeling, walking around Temple Square in Salt Lake City. There were so many ways for me to feel unwelcome. I was not from there, I was not mormon, I was not male. Those things that I was not seemed louder there, like the echoes of a bible dropped in a Cathedral, the sound amplified by the space around it.

I know what it is to feel like an outsider. I’ve been a lot of places where I didn’t quite fit in. At my previous job there was a deep divide between the attorneys and everyone else. The majority of the people in my office were attorneys and most of them kept me at arms length, or at the worst, treated me like some sort of lesser being because I hadn’t studied law. It was strange to be surrounded by people every day and yet unable to connect with most of them. I’ve never been so lonely as I was there.

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Natural Laws and Indifferent Universe Bartender

I don’t get this sign. I saw it in a coffee shop in Omaha. I got off the train at 6:30am after a restless overnight ride. I took an extended nap on the couch, then I wandered off into Omaha. I ended up in a coffee shop full of hipsters. Omaha hipsters were a little behind, hipster-wise. They still carried a hint of goth and hadn’t really gotten their ironic scarves sorted out, but they had the hanging-out-in-coffee-shops-all-day thing down. So I drank some strong coffee and watched the locals out of the corner of my eye. And saw this a sign on the door with tiny print at the bottom:

weird sign

“Use of tables, chairs, bathrooms and internet service is for customers only. We will enforce this natural law”

What natural law were they enforcing? I had no idea that using someone’s wifi without buying a two dollar cup of coffee was a fundamental human transgression.

Anyway. I think that the point of all this is that Omaha is kind of a weird place. However, my host on couch surfing went on something of a crusade to convince me that Omaha is a happening place. In a lot of ways he was right. Me, my host, and Kati (who was also visiting at the time) went to a bar in Old Market and I was impressed. The bar and the neighborhood both had a lot of character. We sat at the bar and drank craft beer and ended up in an argument about whether bad luck exists.

“I think bad luck only exists if you believe in it.” Kati is one of those impressively positive people that I don’t understand. She’s going to be a sunshine care-bear for Halloween and I personally don’t think she even needs a costume for this. She is the embodiment of sunshine.

Our bartender chimes in that white lighters are supposedly bad luck. “But then if that’s true then all those graphic lighters are bad luck because if you peel em back? All white,” he grins at us as he pours bourbon.

“I just don’t think bad luck makes any sense.” Kati is relentlessly positive.

I chime in just to try and inject a little uncertainty. Uncertainty is kind of my deal. “You never know, the universe is a strange and interconnected thing.”

“I just don’t think the universe would be that much of an asshole.”

Our bartender turns his head to address us as he walked past with an order of drinks. “Eh, I think it’s indifferent.”

Indifferent Universe Bartender is the absolute highlight of my time in Omaha. He is my favorite. Such philosophical heights were totally unexpected and that made it all the more delightful. Although, I must say I was surprised and impressed at the beer, the charm, and the cocktails I had there. Beercade was particularly great with an impressive tap list and old school arcade games. Anyplace that had Ms. Pacman gets an A+ in my book. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re ever in town.

So Omaha was not exactly what I expected. Then again, when does anything ever turn out how I expect? That’s the beauty of this universe. In addition to being (probably) indifferent, it is endlessly beautiful in it’s ability to surprise me and so I will, at least, never be bored. I’m grateful for that.

Cheers,

Carol

The river why

I only spent one night in Iowa but it gave me a lot to think about. I found a host to stay with on Couchsurfing with a nice condo with a spare room in “downtown” Burlington. It’s very quaint. I think there are less than ten restaurants, total. Iowans don’t really have an accent, but they have a distinct way of speaking. It’s a quiet tone, with odd syllables lengthened here and there like they’re in no hurry to finish a sentence. It made me slow down a bit and that was a good thing in my book. My host told me a bit about his life, his son and his business, and then he asked me ten thousand questions about my life. It was immediately obvious why he liked to host travelers. He just loved to learn about people. He wanted to talk about ideas. He made me really think about things.

We ended up talking about money and how that’s not what I want to value in life. He asked me what I valued instead and, at the time, I didn’t have an answer for him. Well I’ve thought about it a lot since and now I think I do. I value stories. I find meaning and beauty in life through them. I don’t think its possible to communicate the deeper truths of our world directly—they’re too big to be defined easily. But through telling stories about who we are and what’s important to us I think we can begin to sense their shape. Like the shadow of a whale under water, you can’t see it directly but you know it’s there if you learn what to look for.

That’s why I’m out on this half-baked adventure. I’m here for the stories. I’m here to skim the surface of this world in the hopes of a glimpse of what’s underneath.

Safe travels,

Carol

Gratitude

I arrived in Park City last night. It was dark when I got here but this morning it’s all clear bright morning sunshine. I went for a run through the woods, stopping repeatedly to take pictures of all the fall splendor. fallsplendor

It’s one of those mornings where I’m just grateful to be alive. It’s funny how little it can take to make you happy sometimes.

Anyway, I’ll take it.

morning magpie

 

The girl who goes alone

Izzy is always late. I probably shouldn’t generalize from only two data points but somehow I’m sure this is the case. It’s funny though, she’s so charming that you love her for it. Her lateness, arriving trailing a scarf off one shoulder and declaring that she got lost again, it’s all part of her charm. Izzy is from Australia and she’s traveling around the US in what appears to be a completely haphazard fashion. From LA to Portland to Austin to New York, there’s neither rhyme nor reason as far as I can tell. But this too is just so Izzy. She marches around as she pleases with a smile that can’t help but spread.

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Trainhoppers and rose gardens

Well, here I am, alone in Portland. So much has happened already, even though I only left home this morning. A transient man snuck onto the train and then refused to get off. I was sitting, drinking coffee in the dining car, when an Amtrak employee walked up to him and told him he had to get off. They were standing not three feet from me. They had a protracted argument where the employee told him he had to get off, he couldn’t stay on, and threatened to call the police. Then he actually called for police, and still he wouldn’t budge. The train hopper kept telling them to call Amtrak and they would say he had a right to be there.
Finally they made an announcement apologizing for the delay because they were “having issues de-training a passenger.” I don’t know why, but at that point he sort of deflated. He said “tell you what, I’ll go back to the station and you guys can be on your way.” Maybe it was the official feel of an announcement, maybe it was having it announced to every person on the train that he was making us all wait. Who knows, but he walked off the train. I’m glad he did, not because I felt any animosity towards him, but because I really didn’t want to see him get arrested. I worked at the public defenders office too long not too feel for him. I have an inkling of how hard his life has been. I’m glad he left before the police came.

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Freedom, all the way down

My blisters have healed now and it’s time for another adventure. The idea has been in my head for a while now to do some solo travel. Every time I drive out to the mountains my hands start to itch on the steering wheel. When I get to the turn off, part of me wants to just keep on driving. I’m sure you know the feeling. I want to get the hell outta dodge. And it just keeps getting worse. I want to see some new things, meet some new people. Don’t get me wrong, I love Seattle and I’ll always come back here. But I need to get away for a bit and have some adventures.

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The National Park Service

I am sitting on a rock on the edge of a lake in Olympic National Park. Hiking always feels like an investment in motion that gives a return in perfect stillness. You walk and walk and walk, paying with the motion of your body to reach moments like this: moments of otherwise unachievable stillness. The rock is warm beneath me and the the air is cold and clean. Pretty little Heart Lake is rippling under shifting winds, and moments of sun warm me to my bones, down to the bottoms of my bare feet. The only noise is the wind and the occasional birdsong. There are pauses, moments of almost perfect silence. How often do we experience such profound quiet in this modern life? Rarely. It has taken much work and many miles to find this.

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