Thursday, January 14, 2021

Another new place to live

 17/10 - Greetings from the desert. 

It's been a long while since I last added to this blog, around the time the Covid-19 pandemic started. Since then, I survived one of the craziest times in San Quentin State Prison's history. At one point there were more than 2,000 inmates infected with the coronavirus, and more than 25 prisoners died from it. I experienced the most toxic of workplaces and observed some eyebrow-raising unprofessionalism, incompetence and rudeness. Outside of Prisneyland, I notched some spurts of personal growth, met some great people and made the Bay Area my home, in particularly San Rafael and Marin County, and watched a spectacular thunderstorm which set California on fire until this day. 

I also left San Quentin. 

After 12 job interviews in 2020, I accepted a job with Caltrans as a Public Information Officer in Bishop. If you don't know where Bishop is, I was the same way two months ago. Bishop is a small, rural, desert town in Inyo County. Though there are more than 8,000 people who live in this area, the town is little more than a Highway 395 rest stop for travelers between Mammoth Lakes, Reno or Los Angeles. 

If you're still unsure about where it is, think of Death Valley National Park. Bishop is on the north end of the area. On my road trip to Death Valley a few years ago, I came within a few hours south of Bishop when I went as far north as Olancha on Highway 395. 

Anyway. 

It's very different here from Marin County and the Bay Area. 

Not only have I moved away from one of my favorite cities in the world in San Francisco, I'm starting over from zero. Again. 

I started over from zero in Porterville, Poole, Cherbourg and San Rafael. In all of those places, I didn't know anyone and I was brand new to the job (or country). In all of those cities, I started with zero knowledge of anything around me. In Poole, I was, frankly, terrified but exhilarated. In Cherbourg, I had the language barrier to battle and wasn't sure about my purpose for being there. 

In Bishop, I'm starting over yet again. I'm brand new to this part of California and I don't know a soul. I'm brand new to the job and am facing a steep learning curve while working from home. Since it's a small town, one can find political signs and flags in front of every other house. Every Friday evening, a convoy of conservatives cruise Main Street, honking their horns and making as much noise as possible in the hopes of getting a rise out of someone. And since I moved here, the Creek Fire has been steadily burning on the west side of the Sierra Nevada, producing a constant blanket of smoke over Owens Valley. 

It's not easy. 

This is yet another challenge. I've done it before, several times in fact, and I'll do it again. 

But, I've noticed that I'm not as excited to start over again. I'm getting tired of it. And last week I realized, for the first time in my life, I was homesick! 

I'm homesick for Marin County. I honestly loved living there; it was paradise. However, it was too expensive for me to live there. I was working too much to truly enjoy and appreciate it. And most of all, the job at San Quentin made me miserable. 

28/10 - The air has been clear of wildfire smoke in Owens Valley the past two days. Surprisingly, my mood is a lot better! When the air is clear, the Eastern Sierra towers over the valley with jagged and rough peaks. To the east, the White Mountains seem to glow orange and red during the day and especially in the evening. 

Sunday, May 10, 2020

An update

12/17/2019 - My journey at San Quentin State Prison began more than almost a year ago in the mental health department.

Since then, I have been inside several of the housing blocks, consumed several pieces of media about the institution and discussed them briefly with individual inmates, seen some sunrises that left me rooted to one spot in front of the castle-like gate and requested a move to the dental department on the first floor of the hospital.

Though the job isn't my favorite, I love so many other aspects of my life right now. I adore Marin County; this place is home. I love living so close to San Francisco, one of the best cities in the world and one which offers anything you can think of. I love my neighborhood and the situation with my roommates is the best I've experienced in my life. We don't often speak or see each other, but we all keep the common areas clean and drama is noticeably absent now. None of us are "friends", though, and we have yet to spend time with each other outside of the apartment; perhaps that is for the best.

I have put down roots in this area. San Rafael is my home. I have friends now. I have been volunteering at a local art organization. The weather in Marin is perfect. Sure, it's incredibly expensive and traffic is insufferable, but I believe it's all justified when one gets the opportunity to live in paradise.

It's ok that I don't enjoy the job because it allows me to live in Marin County, close to San Francisco. It allows me to pay the bills and save some money. It allows me to buy the things I need and a few others that I simply want. It allows me to travel. It gave me a role inside of California's first prison, one which practices restorative justice and one in which inmates have ample opportunities for self improvement.

I dislike my job, but I love being at San Quentin. I want to be there. My gut tells me to stay there because there has to be a role at the institution that I'll enjoy.

3/6/2020 - However, my time there is soon coming to a close.

I have an opportunity to visit Australia, Fiji, Samoa, New Zealand and Hawaii for more than a month.

4/15/2020 - Or not!

I was due to be in Sydney right about now during that trip to Australia. I had actually submitted my resignation letter to my San Quentin supervisor about a week after writing that previous entry.

But then the Covid-19 pandemic formed a day or two later and brought the world as we know it to a grinding halt. Fortunately, I was able to rescind the resignation letter because, apparently, my coworkers like me.

So at the moment, the journey down under is tentatively scheduled for late September. It is impossible to visit sooner because the Australian government closed the country's borders for six months due to the pandemic. The cruise ship line I was supposed to use docked all of its ships for two months due to the virus and a general lockdown has gripped most of the world for the foreseeable future.

Instead of writing about the pandemic and how daily life has changed, I'll explain the origins of the opportunity to visit Australia, a place that's been on my radar for several years now. (Did you know that the Australian continent is bigger than the United States of America?)

This trip was originally planned by my godfather and his partner, Warren. Unfortunately, Warren suffered a heart attack in December 2019 and passed away in January. After some intense grief, my godfather turned to me and delivered the shocking offer of taking Warren's place, in return for nothing more than emotional support.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Life at San Quentin State Prison

1/14 - Greetings from "Prisneyland."

There are certain places that you grow up only seeing on television, books or in other mediums, such as the Eiffel Tower, the Grand Canyon and Stonehenge. (I've been to all of those places! Isn't that cool?)

Add to that list the inner plaza of San Quentin State Prison. 

After successfully navigating the foreboding, castle-like facade of the front entrance (on my first attempt, the guard turned me away because I had brought my phone with me so I had to walk all the way back to the visitor parking lot) and proceeding through two heavy, iron-barred doors while flashing my identification card, I had one of those moments which is typically reserved for landmarks seen on my travels. 

"Wow."

I had only seen the inner plaza in TV documentaries. On the right was the Captain's Porch and various religious halls, directly across the plaza was the prison hospital (where I work) and to the left was the Adjustment Center (the prison inside the prison). In the middle of the plaza was a memorial to those who died on the grounds of the institution, going all the way back to its birth in 1852. This whole scene was dotted with the shades of green of Correctional Officers and shades of blue, yellow, orange and white of the inmates. 

On my first day, it was sensory overload. 

I felt discomfort by being in this kind of environment, one which is filled with some of society's criminals. I kept expecting someone to yell at me, for an inmate hurl some poisonous words my way. But it did not happen (and still hasn't). These men are wired in a slightly different way to the rest of us. So, I was immediately on my guard. 

I felt fear in that plaza. 

Quickly, however, I learned that because this is a place with a dangerous environment, I must adapt to it. I must check my fear at the door and walk around with a sense of confidence. Put on the poker face. If there's anyone who's able to sniff out fear, it's a prison inmate. 

1/30  - There are preconceived notions, and then there's reality. 

My words from a few weeks ago were of my first impressions and preconceived notions. In reality?

San Quentin is the Club Med of California state prisons. It's part art museum, part preserved historical landmark. I've learned that if an inmate had a choice of any prison he could stay at in California, it would be San Quentin because of the amount of opportunity the inmate has for self-improvement. The sports teams play civilian clubs; the San Quentin Warriors had a basketball game with representatives of the Golden State Warriors last year. There's a San Quentin newspaper. There's a San Quentin Museum, curated by a former guard. 

In fact, there's a podcast recorded by inmates within San Quentin called "Ear Hustle," which is about prison life and the stories from within. 

San Quentin is a fascinating place. 

2/14 As I sit at my desk listening to the distant thuds of a foot slamming into a cell door on the floor below mine, most likely driven by a state of frayed mental health, I decided to do more writing. 

San Quentin is a Level II, non-designated prison, meaning it is a lower security institution overall, and gang affiliations and behaviors are not tolerated here. The institution is commonly referred to as "soft" and "not real life," especially for a correctional officer, because there are more violent prisons throughout the state. Inmates on long sentences can enter a waiting list for a spot at San Quentin, but they need 10 straight years of good behavior to be considered. 

Correctional officers are trained in a way which reminds them that this isn't a real prison environment. Though many of the inmates have freedom of movement between their groups and appointments, the exercise yard and their cells, officers are trained to treat everyone as if they're a Level IV inmate; the highest threat. It's easy to get complacent here, to let your guard down. 

Everyone is reminded to not become the next Peter Felix, to become so manipulated by a sociopathic inmate that you become their drug mule, stuffing burritos with dope and trafficking it into the institution. 

Though there are more violent prisons in the state, one still has to be aware of their surroundings, especially when around inmates. Don't let them walk behind you. Don't give them any personal information. Call them out on attempts to manipulate. 

So when I took a walk with my supervisor last week, a tiny tornado of a woman whose head barely reaches my chest, I had to put on a poker face. We were headed into "Blood Alley," the path which leads from H Unit (Level I security dormitories) to the exercise yard. It's a six-foot wide gravel path with a tall, barbed-wire fence on one side and an imposing, yellow, asbestos-laden wall on the other. Since there are parts with bad visibility to the guard towers, this path is known for violence between rival gangs. When navigating these areas, the key is to walk with purpose and sport an unreadable face.

The same can be said when entering housing units. I've stepped inside West Block and North Block, and both times I noticed that the inmates seemed to immediately know strangers were in their midst. Men on the fourth and fifth tiers of the blocks peered down curiously at us. Inmates walking along their individual tiers glared at us. The energy was different; it was a hive of activity, with men doing their laundry, talking on phones or the barber waiting for his next client to sit in his chair and ask for a fade. 

30/3 - It's now almost three months since I started at San Quentin and am enjoying myself. I'll include some photos I've taken since moving here.







Saturday, January 12, 2019

A new job

13/12 - I got the call when I was in the Sherwin-Williams store in Natomas. While they took care of the product transfer, I stepped into their cavernous warehouse and answered the call from an unfamiliar number.

"We'd like to offer you the job," said the woman on the other line. 

"I accept," I said with no hesitation. 

I got the job as an office technician in the mental health office of San Quentin State Prison in Marin County. That was the end of a job search that lasted damn near two years, back to when I was laid off from Bleacher Report while waiting for a train in a crowded train station in Paris, in January 2017. 

Relief is the only thing I felt. Weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I wanted to sit down on top of a five-gallon bucket of paint in the warehouse because my knees had gone a little weak. I was, and still am, simply ecstatic that I no longer have to write a cover letter and fill out my education and work history for job applications. 

It's been a year and a half since I returned to California from France. I have no concrete number, but I estimate that I sent out between 150 and 200 applications. Since September, when I connected with a job developer through the California Department of Rehabilitation (it turns out that my heart condition makes me disabled), I have turned in more than 70 applications. 


Sin City, Zion and a large canyon

1/5 - Sullen, green eyes peaked over the top of a cardboard sign the homeless young man held in front of his face on Fremont Street in Las Vegas. The sign read, “Go fuck yourself.” 

This was my lasting impression of my third visit to Sin City this past weekend. I was in the city for two nights because there was cold and snowy weather in both of my ultimate destinations in southern Utah and northern Arizona. Nevada’s desert oasis has plenty to offer a traveler, if they’re willing to fork out a hefty amount of cash. 

If not...then you have to look elsewhere outside of the gleaming lights, glitzy skyscrapers and casinos of The Strip. 

Or, you can take a portrait with one of the many Elvis impersonators throughout the city. But make sure to tip them; I gave $1.25 in quarters and he was happy. This photo was good for a cheap laugh and it did indeed lift my spirits.


Since I had one full day in the city, I chose to get tickets to the Mob Museum and the Neon Museum. The two locations are normally packaged together for $48. After several hours, I got a pleasant walk through some of the history of Las Vegas. The Neon Museum was essentially an outdoor boneyard of old, faded, tired neon signs from some of the city's most famous buildings. This was like a retirement home for neon. Most of the signs had lost their original luster, but still others still lit up the night, memories of a luxurious past. 


I made the road trip to Vegas from Sacramento via Reno as a celebration; I quit my job last Friday and will begin my new job on Monday. That was 450 miles through the desert on Highway 95 in Nevada, braving dust storms and driving rain in the darkness on a two-lane highway. I find the desert interesting because you can see forever. It's a desolate, barren, dull environment that feels as if it won't end, but I still find it fascinating because things pop out of nowhere, such as Walker Lake. I prefer it much more to driving the 275 miles from Bakersfield to Sacramento on Highway 99 because the Central Valley in California offers no landmarks whatsoever. It's flat, featureless and straight, and it's the most boring road trip I can think of.



1/7 - As I sat in my silver Toyota Camry while facing the entrance to Zion National Park and its many jagged red and orange peaks, the tops of which were shrouded in mist, I chatted on the phone with a Human Resources representative from San Quentin State Prison (it was surprising that I had cell reception in the valley).  

“Am I to report to the prison on Monday?” I asked. 

“Yes,” she replied. 



After I hung up the phone, I started laughing hysterically. I was ecstatic. I was high on life. Moods do not get better than in moments like that. Not only was my job search officially over, but I found myself in the world famous Zion National Park where the sharp and imposing sandstone peaks look so massive that they feel fake, like a stage backdrop. It is similar to Yosemite National Park, but a different color altogether. The combination of good news and good vibes created a rapturous concoction of endorphins. I felt elated as I drove along the valley, blissfully taking in that awe-inducing natural setting.



Typically, the entrance fee to the park is $35, which is good for one week. However, since the United States government has been shutdown due to negotiation based on a selfish need to win against the other party, few of the park’s services were available, including the collection of entrance fees; The State of Utah provided some funds to keep services such as the visitor center operating, but for just a short time. And since I visited in the winter, the park was quiet and relaxed. Absent were the massive crowds that show up during warmer weather. 



Before arriving in Zion, I had booked a spot on a tour with Enlightenment Photography Excursions for $235. Sean, a man my age who grew up in Utah, was leading the group and gave technical advice to us when shooting a scene. Along with me, David and Addie joined us as well. 

David was 80 years old, but he had little issues keeping up when we decided to park off to the side of Highway 9 and trek through untouched snow on top of slick sandstone. And though he has been in the states since 1966, his British accent is still going strong so his sense of humor was as dry as can be. At one point we were talking about animals and asked if he had any pets. He responded with, "yes, my wife. I feed her and give her flowers. That's all there is to it, really." His wife, Addie was a pleasant woman whose enthusiasm was infectious. She would see something in the hills, point it out and be the first one to hop out of Sean’s truck with her camera, in hot pursuit of her subject. 

While we shot the sunrise the morning after my arrival, I giggled out loud again. There was plenty of pink in the sky to complement the epic, intimidating peaks of Zion, and I found myself awestruck at the opportunity that I was given. To be in the park at that moment and photographing the sunrise, I was content (though the wind was chilly and bitingly cold).




1/8 - After 5.5 hours of driving through silent and lonely desert bordered by the red walls of Vermillion Cliffs National Monument and home to the Navajo Indian Reservation, I gasped. 

"Wow!"

The Grand Canyon makes Zion look like a warmup. I braved the packed-down snow and ice at Moran Point on the South Rim at sunset and ignored the camera for a few moments. I drank that setting in like a shipwreck survivor dying of thirst. My jaw fell open. I giggled. I felt a deep chill quite unrelated to the near-freezing temperature. I had goosebumps. 




After seeing the chasm with my own eyes, I quickly accepted that a hike into the Grand Canyon was out of the question. At an average of one mile deep, 277 miles long and 18 miles wide at nearly 7,000 feet in elevation, the trails into this canyon are not ones that can be taken lightly. Planning and preparation are essential. The Colorado River has carved the canyon so deeply that it cannot go much further. The bedrock through which the river flows is billions of years old, and one can see history through the layers of rock along the canyon walls. The higher one goes, the younger the rock

I have finally seen one of the wonders of the world with my own eyes. Check another box off the list. 

1/9 - With two cups of coffee in me at 5:30 a.m. I felt ready to chase a sunrise over the Grand Canyon. I even shadow-boxed in front of the bathroom mirror for a moment to let off some of that nervous energy. 

My target was either Navajo Point or Desert View Watchtower. As I gingerly drove along the icy surface of  Highway 64 before dawn, I nervously kept my eyes on the sky above the Kaibab National Forest. I saw clouds. Soon I saw color. Magenta! 

After 30 minutes of driving and one moment of frustration while driving through a spot of fog, thinking I wouldn’t be able to see the sky, I arrived at Navajo Point. Here I was able to capture photos of the Canyon with tinges of pink on the skyline. 




I snapped photos while my fingers burned with cold and my breath rose before my face in the below freezing temperature. There was just one other person there, a man with a large red beard who had never been to the Grand Canyon before either. 

With the sun up and slowly casting its light, I watched as the rock formations in the canyons seemed to change color. In fact throughout the day as I trekked that five-mile round trip along the Rim Trail, I noted how light and shadow always seem to create different scenes. Early in the day, patches of sunlight found the ground inside the canyon, creating individual spots of vibrant color. In the afternoon with the help of a sunny sky, the shadows of individual mesas and temples intertwined with the orange, red and brown of the canyon system, like they are engaged in an eternal dance. 

In the evening, I noticed how the remaining sunlight poured into the canyon at increasingly shallower levels, creating vast sunrays which eventually only illuminated the tallest parts of the cliffs. It was as if Mother Nature was pouring shadow into the canyon until it was full for the evening. There also seemed to be a blue tinge to the light. Some of the photos I got simply made me giggle out loud. A small group of Chinese travelers stopped where I had set up shop and watched me work; they chatted with me for a few minutes and I pointed out what was happening to the colors during the sunset progression.




Though I was mesmerized, these details are nothing new to the people who have been visiting the canyon for thousands of years. It’s one of the World Heritage Site for a reason. I had never seen anything like it before and might never seen anything like it elsewhere. 

I spent 24 hours inside the Grand Canyon National Park and throughout that time I kept the word “gratitude” in mind. I was fortunate enough simply to be visiting, but it was special that I attempted to chase sunsets and sunrises. I was grateful just for the opportunity even though I arrived late for the first sunset and sunrise and felt the inevitable stab of disappointment in myself for not starting a few minutes earlier. 

These two parks were places I had wanted to visit for a while. I did what I wanted to do and though my trip was a bit hurried, I still have the memories of how both places made me feel. I laughed hysterically more in 3 days than I had in a long time, and adventures such as these do well to rejuvenate my soul. 

1/11 -  I made the journey home yesterday and not much of note happened besides a pleasurable sunrise over the Mojave Desert. It was the most golden of light and there were sunrays washing over each of the numerous mountains in the desert. Unfortunately, there were no safe areas to pull off the highway to take a photo. 

Plus, my memory card was completely full. 

In conclusion, I drove more than 2,000 miles, and I drove 630 miles on Thursday alone, spending about 12 hours on the road. It was the longest road trip I have done in my life in a 24-hour period. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Getting some traction with a motorcycle and enjoying the sunrise

23/4 - Finally. Some traction.

24/5 - I wrote the two sentences above more than a month ago.

Since those two sentences came into being, I have not had the desire to write; the fire just isn't there.

It's smoldering, as if a bucket of water were thrown over a campfire.

There have been reasons to write, sure.
  • I have a part time job now that I don't hate.
  • I found myself in the newsroom of the Sacramento Bee, in a one-on-one meeting with a frizzy-haired and foul-mouthed editor of the newspaper. The collar of his shirt wasn't buttoned, and neither was mine (though the rest of my suit was flawless). 
  • I had a job interview at a local credit union, and I showed up 15 minutes early prepared with two copies of my resume, dressed in a suit and shook the manager's hand firmly.
  • I skipped rocks in the American River with good friends. 
  • I completed a road trip to San Luis Obispo to visit a former coworker and be the designated driver. 
But, I don't want to write. 

No more for tonight, at least.

16/7 - To celebrate being rejected for yet another job, I rented a motorcycle for 24 hours this past weekend in Sacramento and headed into the mountains with a fellow motorcycling friend.

The last time I rented a bike, of course, was during those five glorious days in England back in 2015. This time, I saddled up a 2014 Honda VFR800 sport touring machine. It was similar to the Suzuki SV650S I rode in England, but this bike had more power. It also came with two saddle bags, in which I stored my sleeping bag, water and a pair of shoes. It cost approximately $200 to rent the Honda for 24 hours, and that includes the insurance and rental of other equipment such as Snell-approved helmet and gloves.

The Honda VFR800 is the white bike. We parked our bikes off the road and behind a tree for the night. No one bothered the bikes or us.

Riding a motorcycle is an intense activity, one that requires constant concentration. It's mentally and physically taxing because there are so many factors that need your attention. All four of your limbs have to operate a different lever (shifting, front brake, back brake and throttle), you have to pay attention to imperfections in the road, and you have to ride defensively. After a time, though, you become more connected to the machine and every action takes less thought. Riding plants a permanent grin on my face and sometimes forces me to giggle and whoop inside my helmet which no one else but me can hear or experience.

Being in the saddle of these machines is the greatest high I can think of, one that is healthy for the soul. During my trip to Glasgow, Scotland a few years ago in a car with several other people and a dog, we found a quote on a shop window that was easy to miss, but it applies to this adventure:

"Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul."

For 24 hours this weekend, the two wheels of the Honda moved my soul. If only for a short time, my issues and troubles melted away, ditched in the valley where they had no chance to follow (or keep up).

There was no destination in mind for this adventure. My buddy and I met on Madison Avenue in Sacramento, so we headed east on I-80 into Auburn and turned down Highway 49. We went through Cool and turned onto Highway 193 and rolled into Georgetown, where there was a large group of old, grizzled bikers with wild, gray beards outside of a bar, dressed all in black.

We turned onto Wentworth Springs Road and left most of the traffic behind, though we were still blessed with smooth, curvy roads. After a period of impressive views through patches of burned-out forest, we then turned onto Ice House Rode and eventually found our place for the night: Loon Lake. We parked our bikes on a turnoff right after the dam and found a spot on top of a rocky outcrop directly above the road on which to lay our sleeping bags.

We set up camp after all light had faded the night before. Tentless camping was a positive experience.

There were thunderheads in the area the night we arrived. I heard raindrops during the night, but it was short.

This act marked a first for me: Before this weekend, I had never slept under the stars without a tent. Both of us laid our pads on the unforgiving rock below us and placed our sleeping bags on top.

Surprisingly, I did not have issues with mosquitoes considering how close we were to the lake. Sleep came easily around 10 p.m., but not before I admired the bright crescent moon and the countless stars in the black sky, surrounding the Milky Way. I woke up at Dawn, greeted by the silent landscape of the still lake and dark, surrounding peaks like a loving partner would do in bed.

We had the fortune of watching a sunrise over the lake, and we saw how much it developed, changing by the second. Sunrays exploded every direction in slow motion, placing a spotlight on clouds far out to the west. The orange-reddish color of the early morning sun mixed with the purple and blue of the surrounding water and sky, and it set fire to the clouds closest to it.

This was taken with my iPhone 5. Sadly, cameras can not do scenes like this justice.

All we had to do was sit back, sip some instant coffee and enjoy the show.

It was a weekend filled with joy, peppered with bouts of giggling and a pinch of wonder. Twice I enjoyed skinny dipping and once I dropped the bike onto its side. And once, I made it back to the century mark on the speedometer somewhere in the area of Pollock Pines on Highway 50; the world travels by quickly at that speed, and nothing else matters besides the loud whine of the hard-charging engine and the feeling of a wide smile refusing to vacate my face.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Train stations, San Francisco views and more photos

2/3 - One thing I deeply miss about exploring new places is pounding the cold and indifferent streets on foot with a heavy backpack loaded with dirty, smelly clothes, a bottle of water, food, my wrinkled passport and some sort of charging cable to a device with a cracked screen.

I hadn't been able to do that until this previous Sunday when I visited San Francisco for the day to visit an old friend. This was also the first time I had used CalTrain to enter the city; a day pass from Sunnyvale cost only $7, along with a small fee to park my car. The ride from Sunnyvale to the 4th Street CalTrain station in San Francisco took a little less than an hour.

As I stepped off the train and walked towards the station on the platform, between two large and imposing trains, I had a flashback of the train station in Cherbourg. I had been on that platform at all times of the day in all kinds of weather, always the launch or conclusion of some adventure to a new or familiar place. Train stations have a similar effect on me as airports, in that I get feelings of anxiety, nervousness, excitement and giddiness. They are the starting or ending points of developing memories and experiences.

My destination after exiting the train was the Asian Art Museum, about two miles away. So, sporting a broken-in pair of leather Converse and a Nikon D3300 camera in my backpack, I set off on foot. Since it was San Francisco, I kept seeing many opportunities for a photo but I chose to simply observe them; I wanted to just enjoy the walk.

I passed some interesting scenes that made an assault on my senses. On 6th Street, I smelled marijuana among a small crowd of beaten-down and weathered homeless people, with some hurried grafitti decorating the walls along the cracked sidewalk. On Folsom Street, home to one of the biggest fetish and kink festivals in the world once per year, I caught sight of a "Help Wanted" sign in the door of a seedy, dark-colored adult video store. I vaguely wondered about whether the gig is full time and the kind of clients the store serves.

Once I had crossed Market Street and was close to the museum, I had to dodge defeated-looking homeless people sitting on the ground. Some of them had laid there heads right there on cement steps. Some sat against hard, gray walls. It made me wish I could help in some way more long term compared to giving one person the solitary, red apple in my backpack.

The rest of the day was a bit happier, as I met my friend and he got me into the museum for free. Typical admission for an adult non-member is $15 and $25 for special exhibits. I spent a little bit more than two hours in the museum, even after only skimming the later parts of the building.

Every time I go to San Francisco these days, it seems I end up somewhere new. This time, my friend and I found our way to Corona Heights, which is a hill that has a great view of the entire City as well as the Bay. It's a hill that juts up from the urban jungle and once you navigate the many wooden stairs up a gravelly incline, one has rocky hilltop on which to stand or sit. It is a perfect spot to watch a sunrise or sunset.

A few rapid Lyft rides and a Greek gyro later, we found ourselves in The Castro, which has the largest gay population in any city in America, according to the New York Times in 2015. This neighborhood is definitely one of the most colorful places I've entered, as even the crosswalks are a rainbow of colors in contrast to the usual white lines of most everywhere else. I appreciated it because it was so out of the ordinary of everyday life.

That trip was refreshing because it brought back memories of European adventure. It was a small taste of what I have been missing. Though it really was only a day trip, I enjoyed myself nonetheless. It was small injection of travel, a passion of mine.

3/3 - Since my last post, times have been tough. The job hunt was demoralizing; I finally gave in and took a temp warehouse job and accepted a part time paint delivery job, both in Woodland. From not working for the past year and a half, I will go to working 60-70 hours a week.

Talk about culture shock.

I also participated in the local art walk in Woodland a month ago, and I enjoyed the process of setting up a show of my own photography. Some of the photos below were showcased.

Somewhere along I-80 on the way to Reno, NV.
Donner Lake - this was entered into an international photography contest.


Yolo Bypass Wildlife Refuge at sunset

This is a photo of Christmas lights on the outside of a house. I shot through the bottom of a wine glass and then in Photoshop, I inverted the colors and then posterized it to give it the effect of a painting.

I was lucky enough to catch headlights of a large truck with this shot in the country between Woodland and Davis.

Point Isabel is a dog park in the East Bay, facing San Francisco and Marin County. This was the very first shot I took after jumping out of my car in excitement.

This bit of Sacramento street photography was total luck, as I saw the two priests hesitate when they saw me taking a photo. I am thankful they kept walking. This has been entered into a photography contest.