Category Archives: north america

updates from the city of dreams in action

As the Year of the Dragon progresses, lots exciting changes have arose for me in this city of dreams. This semester, I will be teaching again–this time at the City University of New York. I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity to do so and even more grateful for the freedom in being able to teach a course without a textbook! It’s a Writing Across the Curriculum course that emphasizes rhetorical analysis (or the ability for students to understand a piece of writing for its craft—how it was put together). Initially, I thought that I would use theme of social inequality, as I did a year ago in St. Louis, but there were a few limiting factors: 1.) that course had three textbooks, which I didn’t bring with me, 2.) I only have two weeks to design the course this semester, 3.) the curriculum was somewhat repetitive and didn’t fully execute the potential of a solution- or action-based approach.

This semester, I’ve decided to explore the cultural relevancy of happiness within the fields of social sciences, media studies, literature, and philosophy. I’m incredibly excited to teach, learn, and interact with students again. As in the past, I’ll be using this space to write and process my thoughts and experiences regarding pedagogy and ideas that are relevant to our lives as humans.

As if this news isn’t exciting enough, I also had an opportunity to connect with a young, world-renowned, New York Times-bestseller novelist, who encouraged me to “write books that people will read,” (i.e., non-literary). I’m not sure the direction of my craft, yet—I haven’t seriously considered the commercial fiction route—but I’m grateful to have been able to witness this genius at work so far. Creativity at its peak, transcends genre–in all art forms.

Furthermore, I’m excited to be involved with global tolerance, which promotes communication with a conscience. I am amazed, every single day, to discover the amount of ground-level and high-impact work that is being done to promote global consciousness and humanitarian efforts. Please consider joining gtconnect to share with individuals doing incredible, powerful, work. We are all agents of change, even if we are currently not in a place of freedom to be able to do exactly what we want. As long as the intent is there and followed by action, we can progress toward our ideal sense of self and community, which impacts the world, little by little, and eventually changes our current “reality”—that is, a world in which not every creature is happy or free. When our internal values are in synch with our external actions, change continues to happen. Our dreams and ideals are nothing, if we don’t follow through with action.

In the four months I’ve lived in this city, I’ve met incredible people who are promoting GLBT rights (Q-Wave) and establishing literacy programs in the Congo (The Mama Project). There are also teachers and artists and writers and dreamers who are part of the solution. And prior to moving to this city, I’ve come to know countless spirits who are doing the same. I’m continually amazed and inspired. It seems clear that our current state of consciousness involves full awareness of the inequities in the world, and our young minds and souls are getting to work to eliminate them globally.

 

–O. Ayes

Full Disclosures on Freedom and the Storms that Brew in Offices

 

INTRODUCTION

Prior to arriving in New York City, I’d made decisions that once again limited my freedom—that is, maintaining a relationship for which I was the sole financial supporter during the five months abroad in Southeast Asia and the first month in New York City. This happens in life, occasionally. Perhaps your partner gets laid off. Perhaps your spouse becomes temporarily disabled. One breadwinner in a two-person relationship is an acceptable heterosexual model, although it is less frequent in society now, as the idealized American “middle class” gets replaced by “working poor.” (You know the story—occupy everything because the flow of money has been uni-directional towards the 1%–an integral component of capitalism, but I digress.)

In any case, it is clear that when we value something as individuals, we try to keep it by whatever means necessary. During most of my adolescent and adult life, my philosophy had been that money is merely material—that is, it’s replaceable. Love—true, unconditional, compassionate love—however, is not. Of course, this leaves me as a prime target for a plethora of debacles. How can you know what is true up front? I just believe so and let the rest unfold.

What unfolded in those final few months abroad and my first month in New York City was that my then-partner and I needed to part ways. I was depleted and could no longer continue to limit my freedom for the sake of a fragile relationship. But I would help her transition in the city—one that she detested before meeting me—until she found employment. I did so on the premise that our friendship was true and valuable, but subsequent unfolding indicated otherwise.

I didn’t realize then, that when you limit one kind of freedom, you consequently limit other freedoms, such as being able to choose a job that actually coincides with your own values. While I’m not exactly against medicine, I don’t entirely value its agendas. To me, the body is finite, but ideas, culture, literature, meaning—those actually resonate with my soul.

Of course, as a naturally curious person, I enjoyed science enough. I even finished a minor in biology, thinking that I would be a conservationist of some type. I knew I would enjoy the co-editor position at a medical journal, at least for the next year until I was able to get settled in New York City, a city I’d dreamed of living in since my first visit.

In fact, I was extremely happy and grateful. Not many people can find jobs now, especially not through Skype ten thousand miles away with Hurricane Irene in the Atlantic and Typhoon Mina in the Pacific.

Read the rest on scribd: here.

 

–O. Ayes

 

Prior to arriving in New York City, I’d made decisions that once again limited my freedom—that is, maintaining a relationship for which I was the sole financial supporter during the five months abroad in Southeast Asia and the first month in New York City. This happens in life, occasionally. Perhaps your partner gets laid off. Perhaps your spouse becomes temporarily disabled. One breadwinner in a two-person relationship is an acceptable heterosexual model, although it is less frequent in society now, as the idealized American “middle class” gets replaced by “working poor.” (You know the story—occupy everything because the flow of money has been uni-directional towards the 1%–an integral component of capitalism, but I digress.)

In any case, it is clear that when we value something as individuals, we try to keep it by whatever means necessary. During most of my adolescent and adult life, my philosophy had been that money is merely material—that is, it’s replaceable. Love—true, unconditional, compassionate love—however, is not. Of course, this leaves me as a prime target for a plethora of debacles. How can you know what is true up front? I just believe so and let the rest unfold.

What unfolded in those final few months abroad and my first month in New York City was that my then-partner and I needed to part ways. I was depleted and could no longer continue to limit my freedom for the sake of a fragile relationship. But I would help her transition in the city—one that she detested before meeting me—until she found employment. I did so on the premise that our friendship was true and valuable, but subsequent unfolding indicated otherwise.

I didn’t realize then, that when you limit one kind of freedom, you consequently limit other freedoms, such as not being able to choose a job that actually coincides with your own values. While I’m not exactly against medicine, I didn’t value its agendas. To me, the body is finite, but ideas, culture, literature, meaning—those actually resonate with my soul.

Of course, as a naturally curious person, I enjoyed science enough. I even finished a minor in biology, thinking that I would be a conservationist of some type. I knew I would enjoy the co-editor position at a medical journal, at least for the next year until I was able to get settled in New York City, a city I’d dreamed of living in.

In fact, I was extremely happy and grateful. Not many people can find jobs now, especially not through Skype ten thousand miles away with Hurricane Irene in the Atlantic and Typhoon Mina in the Pacific.

Two Weeks in a City That Never Sleeps

After a whirlwind 4-day visit to St. Louis from Southeast Asia, I arrived in New York City. I didn’t have time to absorb the shock my body and mind was experiencing after several months abroad, traveling. I would start my new position as co-editor at a peer-reviewed, scientific journal almost immediately.

My life in circles: I return to publishing, more appreciative of its purpose and thus my approach. Having had a hell of a time trying to survive as an adjunct, I’m more than glad to be doing something that fairly compensates my time and effort. As much as I enjoyed teaching, I also value my time off. I may teach a class, once my schedule settles a bit, but perhaps I’ll use that time to enjoy New York a little more.

Two years ago, during my first visit to NYC, I fell in love. I wrote in my notes:

I’m not moving to the city to say I’ve lived there as a writer, as so many writers do. I’m in love, really, only with her water, all of her streets. I want to study her and more than dream of her seasons. People say, I might never come back, never leave because they know me, how I sometimes disappear into everyone and cannot be reached. There, I would be free.

My second visit last summer, when I circumnavigated the country by train, I continued to fall.

This time, I’m definitely deep. It’s difficult, enlivening, everything I imagined. Some days after working too many hours, I don’t want to walk through crowded, grimy, urine-infused subway terminals. Most days, though, all I need as a reminder is a walk down the street where I can catch glimpses of humanity and our connected lives. Of course there is disconnectedness, too, but we coexist here in a way that’s unlike any other place I’ve been. I’ve heard many versions of this summary from other people. Everyone seems to be from everywhere else.

New York City is a place where people from all over the world come “at the pinnacle of their careers,” as an acoustic engineer said over drinks at The Frying Pan. It’s intense. Indeed, today, I attended a meeting in The Corinthians with a panoramic view of New York City and was chauffeured back to work in a 100K Benz sedan. Juxtapose that with a day volunteering with my co-workers at the Bowery Mission where we sorted through and lifted crates of donated food, cooked, and served meals for the less fortunate. The stories and conversations I had with community members were tremendously enlightening, heartbreaking, uplifting. Imagine this contrast in one day, one minute, one second. It’s a lot to sort through. See why I’m in love?

Returning to San Diego

I first visited San Diego back in 2005 when my brother graduated from the Marines. I remember freezing my ass off. It had been warm in St. Louis, so I expected it to be warmer in San Diego. Negative. I was much more prepared this time.

There are several points of interest that made the trip memorable and enjoyable:

*I forgot my camera, so this is from my old 2mp Blackberry Curve.

1.) Chicken Tacos from Roberto’s #10 (Second only to the chicken tacos from La Noche Buena in LA). The chihuahua cheese makes this superb.

2.) The 2010 San Diego Asian Film Festival. (International Departures–good; Colin Hearts Kay–cute; Manila Skies–disappointing; Keanu look alike–hot; food–I had puto and sushi on the same plate!).

3.) Bougainvillea, birds of paradise, and other flora. Reminds me of home.

4.) Khan’s Cave. Free birthday meal with dessert! Awesome wine, house salad, and crispy chicken.

5.) Nightlife. I was surprised by the crowds downtown. We went to Onyx/Thin, which was packed upstairs and downstairs.

6.) Marie’s Cafe on University. *Drools*

7.) Balboa Park. We saw everything from an Armenian wedding to murderball. Had queso tamales from a cart.




8.) Gossip Grill. Amazing chicken panini with avocado, smoked gouda, and honey mustard (with quinoa?). Yummm, smoked gouda. I happily consumed half of this sandwich, which was not mine to begin with, the next day.

9.) Embarcadero Marina Park. Sunset, inukshuks, statue man, ice cream, shops.



10.) View and fire pits at Holiday Inn.



I miss it already!

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.