First Week of Classes

I’m at campus #2 (in order of “hire”) on MWF, starting at 8am for English Composition I. This class, surprisingly, is near cap at 24. I have a large block in between my first and second class, which starts at 1 pm. Obviously, I hold my office hours then. My two afternoon classes are smaller: 11 and 14 students. My first impression is that I’ll have some trouble keeping the interests of my 8 am students. They are mostly athletes, too, so that’s another layer of challenge.

At campus #1, I’m very much looking forward to my Feature Writing class on TR. I’ve gathered great materials and feel confident about pedagogy (ie, focusing on technique, deconstructing examples, and applying learned methods). It’s creative nonfiction, essentially, which appeals to me (and most people) much more than English Composition. There are only 7 students in that class, so discussions may be a little tough.

In the Honors Freshman Composition course (also TR), I have 18 students, which is one over cap. I did not expect so many. They seem like an inquisitive, bright bunch, so I’m looking forward to lively discussions with them.

Let’s hope I survive this semester without too many bruises.

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St. Louis to Mackinac Island, Michigan by Automobile


After I resigned from my job at the publisher, I was asked to do a contract gig to help exhibit at a conference (Minimally Invasive Neurological Society) in Mackinac Island, Michigan. What an opportunity!

I wanted to see Michigan because I hadn’t been there since 2007, when I got my Filipino tribal tattoo done by the famous Leo Zulueta who owns Spiral Tattoo in Ann Arbor. Prior to that, I was in Grand Rapids at Camp Miniwanca by the American Youth Foundation in high school. I love that place.

I decided to drive up there because flying would be too costly, and I would have to leave her in St. Louis. Since she would be returning to San Diego soon, leaving her would have been silly.


Also, due to the strict “no extra guests” rules at the Grand Hotel in Mackinac, I booked a room in St. Ignace instead, very close to the water and just as beautiful. I would take the ferry over to the island in the morning.


The first night, we eat at Mackinac Grille, where I have awesome fish boil. I finished that plate!


When we arrive at Mackinac Island, via the Star Line Ferry, we’re not immediately impressed. It smells like horse piss and shit.


We take a horse-drawn carriage (ie, taxi) over to the Grand Hotel, and I understand what all the fuss is about. That place is magnificent, albeit over the top.



I’m stuck in the exhibit for most of the morning and afternoon, but after, we explore the vicinity of the Grand Hotel, which has its own labyrinth, as well as the circumference of the island via a tandem bike.


The sights are indeed breathtaking. This is definitely a place to return to.



To try the famous fudge, I get ice cream on the way back to St. Ignace. We have dinner at Driftwood Restaurant and Sports Bar. I go for the seafood pasta, which was delicious.


The next day, after exhibiting, we find the sand dunes on Lake Michigan. We get lost initially, but we are told to keep driving until we see cars on the side of the road. There are no signs. There’s something so freeing about an unofficial beach. The tides were low, so we walked pretty far out into the water. We thoroughly enjoy the afternoon there.



That night, we go shopping for picnic food at a local grocery store. There are fireworks at St. Ignace tonight. At dusk, we take one of our hotel comforters and our food and drinks to the nearest open area by the water. We wait and laugh at our countless adventures.

 

Later, we head to Kewadin Casino since we get free coins for staying at our hotel. The place was only a few miles away, but one does not expect to see a casino along these dark roads. We don’t win, but it’s always interesting to see the culture in these places. 

We head back to St. Louis on Sunday afternoon, after the exhibit gets taken down. I consider a career in sales so I can travel like that. Many of the exhibitors bring their families along and prepare to vacation after work.

Alas, the semester begins in a week. I’m excited and nervous.

Returning to Chicago and Back to St. Louis



We arrive in Chicago by 6pm, about 3 hours behind schedule. From Union Station, we must take the blue line to O’Hare, where our hotel shuttle will take us to Sheration Four Points. Since we will only be in Chicago for one night, we might as well stay comfortably. Besides, it was a good deal. Nothing downtown was available for less than $300 that night because of Lollapalooza in Grant Park. This is our second time in Chicago together, and the festival was going on then, too. It’s an anniversary of sorts because we had just begun seeing each other last year at this time.

We have a “full-circle” conversation on the blue line, assessing where we are now, emotionally, compared to then, when we were both freshly broken from long-term relationships. It’s been a whirlwind of a year that included healing old wounds, denying love, damaging our livers, touring Southeast Asia, maintaining communication internationally, surviving car wrecks, transitioning into new careers, moving across the country. It feels like a script of a movie I need to write one day.

~~~

At around 10p, we take the blue line back to the Loop for food and drinks. We are not surprised by the man in a plastic bag, asleep. And back of the train, a gay male couple are comfortably in each other’s arms. I love Chicago for its culture and 24-hour trains.

We go to Cactus Bar and Grill on South Wells. Their beer of the month is Purple Haze by Abita, which I’d first tried in Syracuse last year. We get some drinks at Bennigan’s. After, we walk a while to the lakefront. Because of mosquitoes, we decide to head back to the hotel.

~~~

We ask for a late checkout the next morning. We both wear dresses: green (mine) and plaid (hers). The shuttle driver seems extra nice.

Once we get to Union Station, I’m on a hunt for Italian Beef to take to my stepfather in St. Louis. Luke’s is about half a mile away, so I run, dress and flats and all. I grab cheese pizzas and pink lemonades for us since we haven’t eaten.

~~~

The ride to St. Louis was quick. We played Plants vs Zombies, which is incredibly addicting. As soon as we arrive around 11pm, my parents ask: “You guys wanna go to a party?”

“Sure.”

“We have to pick up 3 other people.”

There are already 6 people in my mother’s 5-seater SUV. We head downtown to pick up their “friends” who are Filipino immigrants in their 20s. Soon, we are cramped in a small SUV, heading to North County, where food, people, and karaoke await us. Welcome home.

Seattle to Chicago: Empire Builder


We are prepared for this last big leg of the trip. Despite having to take two city buses to arrive at Amtrak and having a food bag tear open, we are early. We check our bags and take only our food bags and laptop. The Empire Builder train to Chicago will take 3 days, so says the attendant. It’s 2.5, really.

There are many things to laugh about during this leg. There is an annoyingly vocal, older transsexual across from us. Her travel partner–younger–sounds like Jennifer Tilly. In front of us, there is a group of Japanese girls with one Japanese man. The girls pull out tall cans of beer and bottles of wine within the first hour. We theorize that the Japanese man is their pimp. One girl gets in trouble, and we do not see her again until after the trip is over.

Through Washington, there are endless trees. Every so often, the train curves into the mountain before being swallowed in its darkness. I’m in awe of how these tracks were built.

We imagine ourselves in small towns, such as Skykomish, WA, and wonder if we’d survive being an interracial lesbian couple.

~~~

On the second day of the trip, I am vexed and slightly antagonistic. An old republican lady and the transsexual from Arkansas loudly discuss Obama, who they think is a Muslim, and illegal immigrants.

“They’re illegal for a reason. Why don’t they stay in their own countries and stop taking our jobs?”

Fifteen minutes later, I’ve had it. It is still morning.

“Excuse me, can you go to the lounge to finish your conversation? People are still trying to sleep.”

“You go to the lounge and stop eavesdropping. This is a private conversation,” says the old lady.

“The whole car can hear your conversation.”

“It’s a free country.”

“Yes, it is, but you’re disturbing people who don’t care to hear about your beliefs. I can hear you through my ear plugs.”

The transsexual asks if she wants to go to the lounge. They continue in an audible whisper, but they got the point. Later, we hear the transsexual talk to the lady about being experimented on when she was younger. After she asks for another seat assignment, we don’t see the lady again after that.

~~~

Montana surprises me. I’m expecting snowcapped mountains or more evergreens like in Washington. Instead, I see flatland and mesas, and I’m suddenly in the southwest again.


The rest of the trip is peaceful. We get absorbed in movies and computer games, mainly Zuma’s Revenge. The transsexual tries to make peace several times by asking about our activities and offering her splitter and extra set of headphones.

By the time we get to Minnesota, the train is 2.5 hours behind schedule. We’ll arrive in the afternoon, so this delay does not alter our plans much.

Portland to Seattle: Cascades

The trip to Seattle was short, a mere 3 hours, but we will be here for a total of 5 days. We wait a long time for my uncle (a long-time family friend) to pick us up from Union Station. We are starving, so we head over to King Street Cafe and are disappointed. (The Vietnamese spring rolls fell apart. The peanut sauce might have given my girlfriend hives. The chicken fried rice is the blandest I’ve ever tasted.)

My uncle lives in Bellevue, a more affluent suburb, across the bridge. We head to downtown Bellevue that night and go play pool and dance at a huge, heterosexual club. I see everything from 18-year-olds to 60-year-olds. We are befriended near the bathroom by two white women who hold us hostage with inquiries. One complains about her boyfriend. Another says it’s her first time out since having her baby daughter. We tell them about our around-the-country trip.

“So what do you do?”

“I teach.”

“Oh, what grade? 3rd? I teach, too.”

“No. College. Writing.”

She seemed perplexed. “How old are you?”

I tell her, and she’s still perplexed. I love surprising people. And countering stereotypes.

Eventually, we reveal that we’re a couple, and we excuse ourselves a few minutes later. My girlfriend and I talk about the two. We believe that they secretly desire each other, perhaps one more than the other. Just a vibe. Later that night, we see both of them, sitting on the curb outside. One has her head in her hands.

~~~

The next day, we begin exploring the city. We take the 550 bus to Chinatown and walk through Pioneer square where we discover a random flea market that encapsulates Seattle: music, hippies, dancers, air mattresses, psychics, a modified Big Bird costume.

 


We walk along the pier and eat amazing clam chowder, calamari with cheese aioli, and fish at Fisherman’s Restaurant in Miner’s Landing. We sit outside and enjoy the water and sun.




Next, we explore Pike Place Market. I find a Filipino restaurant there with a recipe for chicken adobo written out. Masarap, it says.


After, we lounge on a park bench with a view of Puget Sound and Mt. Rainier.


A seagull steals a sandwich from a picnicker. Everyone laughs has he struggles to get the bag open. Eventually, a man momentarily scares him off so that the sandwich can be taken out of the bag.


The day is winding down, so we walk over in the direction of the Space Needle. We discover that a parade, the Seafair Parade, is about to begin. We are very confused about the theme: Navy captains, pirates, ethnic youth groups, marching bands, firefighters, beauty queens, unicyclers, clowns, the whole Chinatown, the Seahawk Cheerleaders.


Seattle is interesting, indeed. After ice cream, we head up to the Space Needle. The sun is setting, and the sky is a deep purple. We tour the 360 degree view, and settle inside with some tea. Such a lovely nightscape.


We take the Monorail back to the Westlake Center, where our bus to Bellevue would depart.

 

~~~

On our third day, we explore Capitol Hill, the LGBT hub. I get lost in Elliot Bay Bookstore for hours. I spent two years working at a bookstore, and I’m nostalgic about its simplicity and lack of pressure.

We then try the famous Bill’s Off Broadway and fall in love with their 3-cheese spinach dip and deep dish pizza (Chicken, Roasted Peppers).

Later, for dessert, we go to Molly Moon’s. The line is wrapped around the outside of the building! I am craving something nutty, so I order the Maple Walnut and is not disappointed. Next time, I’ll give the Honey Lavender a try. We walk across the street at the park and watch a game of basketball between some locals and some Catalans who work at a nearby hotel for the year.


We stay in Capitol Hill for the night. We head to The Lobby for a couple of drinks. There is a pirate-themed birthday party going on. At the end of the night, we try The Honeyhole, because the name is interesting. The clientele (older, white) does not match the music (NWA, Fuck Da Police).

Heading back to the bus station, we miss the 550 by 5 mins. We have to wait another 40 minutes until the next one arrives. Public transportation is a hassle in Seattle.

 

~~~

 

Our fourth day in Seattle is relatively relaxing. We walk around Bellevue and watch Salt at a nearby theater. On our last day, we enjoy wine, watch Netflix, eat roasted chicken that my uncle cooked. We prepare for our departure the next morning: laundry, grocery store, packing. My uncle cooks chicken adobo that we can pack for our trip east through the mountains.