Oct 12, 2014

Final Fantasy VI

I'm not sure what inspired me to do it, but a few days ago I hunted down the Final Fantasy VI original soundtrack buried deep within my music collection, dragged it onto my player, and gave it a listen while driving around for work. I must admit, the moment I heard the first few notes of the second track, "The Mines of Narshe," memories suddenly came bubbling to the surface, and I was embraced by a familiar warm tingle of nostalgia.

Final Fantasy VI (known as Final Fantasy III in the U.S.) is one of those rare games from my childhood that left an indelible impression on me as a child and stirred the deepest reaches of my soul. The overwhelming majority of such games to have such a powerful impact on me were RPG's/fantasy adventure games for the Super Nintendo, such as The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, Chrono Trigger, Illusion of Gaia, and Secret of Mana. But I think out of all those masterpieces, Final Fantasy VI drew me in and inspired me the most, affecting my emotions in ways no other game has been able to do. Not even its exalted successor, FFVII, went that far, in spite of its greatness.

Here we have what appears to be, at first glance, a typical RPG for its day: top-down perspective following little midget characters through towns, caves, and overworlds, a sophisticated leveling up system, a slew of dialogue boxes, and random enemy attacks (an element that I HATED when I first rented and played it, but later on adjusted to). What makes this one such a unique, unforgettable experience for me? The musical score, for starters, is not a single notch below superb. Beautifully orchestrated numbers grace the game from beginning to end. Some tracks from the game, such as "Mt. Kolts" and "The Phantom Forest," stuck with me almost constantly for years after hearing them just a few times, and I found they would simply start playing in my head whenever I was in a certain situations. My real life wanderings through an enchanting moonlit forest by the coast at night, for instance, easily brought "Phantom Forest" to the forefront of my mental jukebox, only enhancing the effect of my beautiful surroundings on me. 20 years later, the soundtrack still sounds just as grandiose.

Besides the gripping storyline and character depth alike, the lush environments in the game really pulled me in and deeply inspired my imagination. In spite of the graphical limitations imposed by the technology of its day, the richness of the background art in battle scenes and top-down mode is impressive, to say the least. It is part of the reason I became so immersed in the game I lost all track of time, back when school day afternoons and weekends were full of nothing but spare time. I shouldn't neglect to mention all the secrets in the game, from the wealth of hidden treasures and side quests to discover and accomplish later on, when the game really sets the player free to wander around at their leisure.

I will unabashedly acknowledge that my gushing over this game is largely fueled by nostalgia. As I stated, it made a major impression on me in my middle school days, a rough time in my life plagued by depression and self-doubt, naturally. When I broke my foot after the first day of school in 6th grade, we had to travel the two hours to Hilo to have a cast put on, and I was taken to the mall afterwards to pick out a video game in a local comic book shop. There I spotted the game box featuring the much beloved Mog. Having rented it at least six or seven different times prior, I decided on the spot that I had to finally own it, so I would never have to give it up again. So I used all my allowance money and my dad lovingly pitched in to cover the rest of the cool $59.99 asking price. The game, box, instruction manual, and maps are all still safely in my possession... and probably worth some dough. Though, in a tough spot, I'd sooner beg for change on the street than let it all go.

I became caught up in the game for months. Every afternoon following a particularly rough or average day at school, I headed into the den to lose myself in the majesty of the experience. I distinctly recall when I first secured the first airship, exclaiming out loud that, "this is the most amazing fucking thing ever!" It inspired many dreams of mine later on, as did so many other memorable moments from the game. I even experienced a couple terrifying nightmares taking place in the decaying city of Zozo, that I could still describe sequence by sequence even though they happened when I was a child.

I think it's simultaneously astonishing and fantastic that a game has the ability to permeate the core of my being the way Final Fantasy VI has. It's always been a fascinating thing to ponder, how certain attachments from one's childhood are nigh impossible to forget, or not be moved by later on in life. In any case, this game certainly deserves my personal tribute.

I have half a mind to turn off all the lights downstairs and start a brand new game tonight, if it wasn't for feeling so drained and unable to concentrate on much due to being sick. I'm surprised I even managed to finish this. Maybe tomorrow.

Sep 18, 2014

A Very Green Day.

For a good couple hours on Thursday, I felt pretty damn Irish.

Shortly after changing from my work shirt into my lime green Guinness tee, I parked again a little ways down the road, only to open my door and find a lucky penny waiting for me on the ground. It gets better, though. When I made my way down the hill to the shoreline, I walked along the railroad track a little ways and came across a nifty little staircase leading down to a small pebbly cove. There I found a couple unopened bottles of Sierra Nevada IPA, cool and glistening from the rain. I took one and popped it open, leaving the other for the next wanderer, or myself if it remains undiscovered until my next visit. As if finding free beer on a secluded beach wasn't enough, I could have also counted my lucky charms that it was a lovely, damp, cool, altogether grey, drizzly, Irish-feeling day.

You see, I find it really comfortable up here between fall and spring, for all the damp, grey, dreary weather that regularly persists throughout that duration delights me. It must run through my Irish blood, really. Not only is the dampness on my skin and the chilly Pacific breeze refreshing beyond compare, the atmosphere it creates could never become tiresome. Everything felt very peaceful; I could hear little but the call of nearby seagulls over rustling of rust-colored leaves as they shook off large water droplets, hitting their already fallen brethren scattered upon the ground. And of course, nobody else was anywhere remotely around to ruin the magic. Apparently, the blissful grey skies keep the vast majority of mundanes inside, which could be at least half the reason I favor such days.

I just think of summertime up here in the PNW as an obnoxious, overly extroverted older brother coming up to stay with you for a three month visit. Whether you want him around or not, he rarely goes away and leaves you alone. Most of the time, he's up in your face, taunting you, staring you down, challenging your patience and tolerance, and very little is able to stand in his way. He leaves me feeling easily frustrated, drained, and overheated, because it seems he's simply determined to beat up on me all day long. And he doesn't even go to bed until 9:00! As if all that wasn't bad enough, he is, for whatever inexplicable reason, also very popular, and attracts hordes of admirers... worshipers, even! They come from near and far, and are out and about in droves whenever he's around, taking over the outdoors, tying up traffic, dimishing whatever acceptable level of peace, quiet, and sense of solitude that should exist in a wooded park or sandy pocket of beach. Ugh. In case it isn't already obvious, this analogy is referring to the summer sun.

I think I've effectively made my point on this subject in so many entries (enough to beat [off] a dead horse, but the venting has helped). I hope to not have to do it again until next June. I'd feel even luckier than I already do.

O ye fellow Children of the Shade, rejoice, for Autumn is mercifully nearly upon us.

Sep 1, 2014

At least I know where I belong.

This Saturday, I put in a few hours at work, then we took off south to Seattle for a concert, hoping to make it to the venue by around 7 in the evening. We didn't even come close, as it turns out. We ended up sitting on the freeway for over an hour waiting for emergency responders to clear up an accident about a mile ahead of us, and we still had a ways to go after that. Our destination was on the outskirts of an Indian reservation, seemingly so, so far away. The time was approaching 8:30 by the time we got the chance to park, hike all the way to the front gate, then wait in line again to submit our tickets and be frisked. We did manage to arrive within view of the stage to catch the last three or four songs of Soundgarden, at least, and all of the closing act, Nine Inch Nails. Granted, we saw NIN live in Seattle just a few months prior, but if you adore an artist enough, there's no such thing as too many times. And they put on an excellent show, again. I was just slightly disappointed I didn't hear anything from my favorite album, The Fragile. I was blown away when they had played "Even Deeper" at their previous Seattle show... that song is me.

That said, I found the experience as a whole to be... strangely unfulfilling. I didn't feel very moved, but rather beside myself. Perhaps I was simply too drained from all the hours of driving stress before I even arrived. I tried to forget about it all and lose myself in the music and the moment, but my attempts were ineffective for the most part. I also happened to take notice of how lethargic the entire crowd was, from start to finish... hardly any movement even in the front rows. This wasn't James Taylor featuring Prince Valium, this was fucking Nine Inch Nails.

I wouldn't go so far as to say it felt like a waste of money or time, even though it certainly consumed plenty of both, between the tickets, gas, $35 concert shirts, and sitting in traffic for what felt like several hundred miles each way. I just didn't enjoy myself nearly as much as I feel like I should have, and if I had known that beforehand, I most likely would have opted to save that money for something else. I got to thinking, mid-song, that while concerts and such can be fun, these sorts of entertainment options just don't bring me the sorts of thrills that they would have maybe 10 years ago. It's similar to the whole bar hopping thing, getting smashed and being an idiot in front of perfect strangers may have been fun and exciting in one's college years (I never cared for it at all), but when they're older, not so much. Likewise, I hardly give a damn anymore about seeing a movie in the theater when I can just download it and watch it at home for free. While in my 20's, I would go and see movies at least once or twice per month, as well as spend plenty of time cruising around shopping malls, not so much because I was shopping for anything in particular, but I actually found it fun. Nowadays, I can barely stand to set foot in a mall.

I'm guessing this is a part of getting older and greyer (haha, how can I get much greyer?). Things like once seemed so exciting and novel and rebellious in high school or college, like staying up all night, getting totally pissed, looking fashionably dark and brooding in front of Hot Topic, and sneaking weed into shows now seem pretty mundane, things I've come to feel pretty damn blasé towards. Then again, having grown up on in the country on a remote Hawaiian island, I never really had access to concerts or many other urban activities anyway. I grew up filling my time with nature rather than musical or theatrical performances, and I think that also factors into it strongly. This Saturday night, I would have felt more moved by a stroll along a moonlit beach beside the crashing waves. I would have gladly taken that over being stranded on the interstate, coughing on second hand smoke, and being stuck amongst mobs of human beings for hours.

Another interesting thing to note is that one of the reasons I chose to move from Hawaii to the Pacific Northwest is the much greater availability of such entertainment options: performances, festivals, museums, cultural events, etc. I will say that since we've moved here, we've attended a ton of fun events, but I've been increasingly left with this odd feeling that there is much left to be desired. At this point, I feel like it's a matter of wanting to fill the void with entertainment options available to us, but there shouldn't be such a void to begin with. Not even Nine Inch Nails was enough to fill it this time, which is a bit saddening to say.

It would be easiest to attribute this sense of lassitude and detachment with homesickness, for that would be a most obvious cause. I need no further evidence than my daily dreams that I already sorely miss my homeland, in some ways that defy description. It's often at the forefront of my conscious thoughts as well, for hardly an hour goes by that I don't at least briefly daydream of being back on the island somewhere, back in my element. I'm not convinced I will ever feel as wholesome and complete away from the only land that fills me with such spiritual energy and strength of character. Highly doubtful. I feel like a bit of a shell of myself, partially asleep, soul dormant, waiting to be roused by something truly beautiful and inspiring. Well, we know there's hardly shit in the depressing, banal state of popular culture these days to do the job, so... back to nature has to be the answer.

The next thing I'm really looking forward to is Rainfurrest at the end of September. I hope that a furry con will be enough to rekindle that wolven spirit that should be burning much brighter than it is, even if lasts only for the few days of its duration. It would be quite a lousy feeling if I found myself experiencing similar disinterest in such a setting... but it's hard to picture that happening. The warmth and positivity and like-mindedness in that setting permeates the atmosphere so much, I can't imagine it's possible to stay gloomy. I would dare say that of all the things I would be likely to miss about living here after we move, I would miss the fur cons and fur meets the most. I really doubt I'd miss much else.

That's not to say it's impossible we could have furry meets on a much, much smaller scale on the Big Island. It's already happened before...

Aug 27, 2014

Silence rings true

Went to a "nature preserve" a few miles out of town late last night, seeking a quiet, unpopulated place to just roam around with my thoughts again. Well, I certainly found solitude, near silence, and lots of big trees. I imagined the place would be just as appealing on a rainy day, or perhaps more so, since more of the beauty would be visible to me during the light of day.

Other than the occasional hoot of an owl, and a more frequent guttural droning of a frog ensconsed in some nearby marsh, all was silent. Too quiet, even. It made me start to wonder how many humans still get to hear absolute silence, or how often they even give themselves the opportunity to experience such a thing. The most complete, perfect silence I've ever heard was when I would journey deep into caves or lava tubes, turn off the light, and hold my breath for awhile. Save for the faint calls of woodland wildlife puncturing the silence every few moments, this wasn't far off. As I laid back against the wooden planks of a narrow footbridge and looked up at the starry sky through the narrow opening of the fir tree canopy, I found the silence more unsettling than ever.

It's likely that my discomfort with the silence, and perhaps even the pitch darkness to a lesser degree, merely reflects the inner turmoil that has been weighing upon my soul. Yet, I'm certain that if I went out and tried to enjoy myself in a crowded park in the middle of the day with the blinding sun sneering at me, my blood would begin to boil, and I would find that situation infinitely more uncomfortable, likely intolerable. When I'm feeling alone and in the dark, it feels much more apropos to be alone in the dark.

It's much too different. I'm accustomed to hearing the wind constantly whisper through the trees, becoming more of a low roar whenever a stronger gust stirs the branches. Feeling the wind swirl about, animating the grass and foliage all around me, displacing harsh, cold silence with the sweet, pleasing ambience of atmospheric motion. I'm used to crickets in the brush and their pleasant symphony of background noise. And the ocean that roars, tumbles, and crashes against the shore; again, a body in constant motion, ensuring against any possible sense of stagnation until the end of time. Then I think of the coqui frogs, widely loathed for their high-pitched, continuous nocturnal chirping by those who lack the ability or willingness to live in harmony with nature, but cherished and adored by myself. Their call is simply the sound of returning home to my ears.

It's no wonder then that my spirit continues to feel as displaced as it does, and no one is ever going to fully understand that as well as myself. It feels like there is simply too much missing, too much necessary nourishment for my soul is absent from the landscape. My rational side still finds that difficult to justify, but what I feel deep inside rings true. I need the island to really be at home and at peace.

I suppose this begs the question, "what are we going to do about it?" Well, I don't want to spend the rest of my time here being a frowny, grumpy wolf. As much as I have a natural affinity for the dark side, when it comes to music, art, and the macabre, I don't particularly relish feeling sour most of the time. I'm not ready to jump in a jet and fly straight back to Hawaii, either. There is still much left for us to experience and accomplish here in the great northwest, and jumping the gun like that isn't even a consideration.

When September finally gives summer the boot, and things start mercifully going back to the way they should be after Labor Day, I have reason to believe my overall mood will respond accordingly. I definitely hope so. I would also take great pleasure in getting the hell out of this apartment and into a proper house, allowing us more room, more personal space and privacy, and a more substantial feeling of "homie-ness." Hopefully that will be allowed to happen sometime within the next month. I ordered a good set of weights, as I'm all too eager to get back into the lifting routine. The regular workouts truly help on a physical and mental level, especially in contrast to just laying about most of the day hiding from the disgusting summer weather. I suspect all that idleness and inactivity, which I know has led to a great deal of restlessness, has been a significant cause of depression over the past many weeks.

While I do anticipate progress, setbacks are inevitable, even if most of them are emotional ones. I just happened upon an article today, during the process of writing this, stating that Washington State officials just approved aerial shooting of wolves to protect sheep herds. I almost didn't even want to know that. Leadership is so corrupt and priorities are so fucking backwards in this country for this to even be allowed to happen. Fuck you.

In any case, Shadow's got his surrounding wilderness to escape into, Rjayan has his endless supply of dark music for tormented souls, and I've got my mate and family, and my handy human disguise to help keep from getting shot and killed. We'll make it, even through a reality as fucked up as yours.

Aug 25, 2014

We're here, we're queer, even we belong somewhere

On Saturday, we made the drive down to Kenmore Lanes, a bowling alley in suburban Seattle. While the venue is nothing special in its own right, it happens to be the location of choice for the quarterly Seattle Furlife group bowling meetup... and that makes it entirely worth the commute. It draws enough furries from around Seattle and surrounding areas to feel like a miniature convention; usually 150-200 of us show up. The attendance seemed a little down this time around, but I believe that was due to BronyCan being held in Vancouver the same day, as well as all the other late summer events happening around the city. Still, we had a good turn-out, and got to welcome quite a few new fuzzy faces to the group. This was our third Furlife bowling meet (we missed the last one), and it seems I only have more fun every time we go. It's good to see a few more familiar faces each time, both in and out of suit.

Admittedly, my depressive funk worsened severely on Friday, to the extent that I was essentially bedridden. I didn't know that I could actually sleep that much and still feel so exhausted. While in such a vulnerable state, the idea of subjecting myself to crowds and commotion and forcing myself to even appear social seemed utterly unappealing, so I strongly considered sitting out the next day's meetup. But with my mate expressing her eagerness to go, I didn't want to be a disappointing drag, so I thought better of canceling our RSVP. Besides, I reasoned, just spending another day moping around and hiding wasn't going to make me feel much better... especially with how much we had been looking forward to this event for weeks prior.

I've also got to admit that as soon as we showed up at the bowling alley, donned our furry gear, and got in line for registration, my mood began swinging in a much more positive direction. By the time we started our first game, the trials of the day before came a distant memory. Bowling may well be therapeutic, but not nearly so much as being surrounded by dozens of fellow furries. I've hardly been able to subject myself to the general public lately without feeling the need to raise my hackles, but the level of comfort and comradery I feel amongst my own kind always seems to take me by surprise when I haven't experienced it in so many months. It's really a heartwarming sense of belonging and acceptance that I doubt I could find in any other sort of group. Even as the general public typically greets us with bewildered stares, we really get each other, and I feel no reservations about lowering the shield and just being myself. The furry fandom is much more than just a hobby or pastime; it's a state of mind and being, a lifestyle, the highly specific social niche I feel most comfortable in by far. I can't imagine ever finding a reason to divorce myself from the fandom, for it has introduced so many kindred souls into my life, truly wonderful, genuine people that I otherwise never would have had the chance to meet. It also has much to offer otherwise, including the fantastically rich diversity of its artistic, musical, and theatrical talent.

The Furlife group in particular is in no way exclusive, but rather very welcoming, and I have yet to come across a single bad vibe or unsavory attitude from anyone. Everyone seems genuine, warm, friendly, primarily interested in just having a great time and making sure everyone around them does too. Furlife has proven to be one of my favorite things about living here. In spite of our living nearly a couple hours away from Seattle, I really would like to be able to attend a few of the other meetups they have going on throughout the year.


After just a few hours of being your true self with your own kind, it doesn't feel like such a shock when you have to say goodbye to everyone and suddenly force yourself back into the mundane real world. ...It still feels a little weird, unsettling, and altogether unnatural, but isn't too much of an adjustment to revert to your "publicly acceptable" side. After four straight days at a con, however, it's altogether disorienting. When the time finally comes for all the fun-loving fuzzies to disperse, the locale that had been transformed into a magnfiicent furry wonderland for so many days reverts to being just another hotel, and mundane reality is everywhere, encroaching. There is no gradual reintroduction to it; it just slaps you across the muzzle and rubs your nose in it the second you leave. And no longer being attached to my tail feels so wrong.

That unavoidable sense of PCD will never be nearly enough to dissuade me from looking forward to the next con, however... only one month to go until Rainfurrest! This year, we've got a room in the main hotel, so we shouldn't have to deal with nearly as many parking/transportation hassles as last time. It's the perfect way to celebrate summer's end.

Aug 21, 2014

Play ball... or don't.

Apparently, the Cubs had intended to resume a suspended game against the Giants this afternoon, finishing the remaining four and a half innings before playing another separate complete game, but now the first game that had been rained out two ago is in another rain delay due to strong thunderstorms in the area.

Jesus, Chicago, stop hoarding all the storms and send some my way. You guys could use some playing time and I could use some rain.

A Year in Review: Bellingham Edition

A year and most of a summer have passed since we made the great journey to Bellingham. A year of hard work, frugal living, and major life adjustments, as well as exciting new experiences, enchanting discoveries, and memorable fun.

Hard work is necessary to convert such a life change from a mere daydream to reality. Intensely motivated by our clearly conceived dream of the end result, and our primary goal of greatly improving the quality of our lives together, we were thoroughly dedicated toward putting in all the hard work involved in moving and integrating into a brand new community thousands of miles away. We arranged for a little place in town to move into before arriving here, but we certainly didn't attempt to find jobs beforehand, much to the chagrin of our parents, who seem to view that as a terribly unwise transgression. Well, we have effectively proven to a few naysayers and critics of ours that it can be done without sacrificing a tremendous amount of comfort. Two days after arriving here myself, I was hired into a decent job that I'm still doing to this date, and my mate had very little trouble finding something appropriate as well. Neither of us consider them to be ideal careers and know there is much room for improvement, but for the most part, our jobs have been working out for us.

Indeed, as a young couple just starting out together, we have had to live rather frugally, at some times more than others. Still, when it comes to our financial status, I wouldn't use the term "poor" to describe us (my dad did recently). People that are poor would not be able to afford such luxuries as being able to attend concerts, take weekend excursions around the big city, or finance summer trips to Hawaii. We would be more comfortable if we had more in the bank, sure, and more than one working old car between us, and a more charming house in which to live, but what matters most to us is finally being together as a family, in a setting we can truly appreciate and enjoy. Financial wealth, while not something I'm averse to attaining sometime in the future, is not a priority - certainly not as important to me as this shamelessly materialistic society tries to convince everyone it should be. We work a decent amount without overworking so much we destroy our health and gradually kill ourselves. We live well enough, can afford what we really need, and even have some left over for fun on the side.

In terms of adjustments, a whole family living together for the first time in an apartment unit is certainly a major one. Two adults, two children, and three cats in a very limited space could be a recipe for disaster -- or at least, a great deal of hackle raising and fur bristling. But it hasn't been. In spite of the sparse accommodations, we've managed to get along with each other -- except for when one of the cats happens to brush by a little too close for another feline's liking. We've had more problems with neighbors being rude and inconsiderate with their noisemaking (young, immature college kid types are abundant here) and the apartment itself than we've had with each other. We dealt with a flea infestation that made our cats miserable last summer, then a leaking ceiling during the rainy seasons, and annoying shit like plugs falling out of worn-out electrical outlets. Truth is, the rental outfit we deal with are slumlords that apparently own most of the crappy, dilapidated dwellings in town and rent them out to unsuspecting young adults who don't have any push or power to get them to change their ways. Their advice to resolving the issue of a leaky roof is to put a bucket underneath the drip until it stops raining, so they obviously don't care much about maintaining their units.

We are hoping to get out of this apartment and into a house soon, by the end of the year if possible. Not only do we tire of paying a shitty property manager for such a mediocre accommodation, we would be significantly more comfortable if we had more space, and were considerably more distanced from neighbors. At the very least, it would be quite a bonus to no longer have to hear them through our own floorboards, and even *gasp* have a bit of grassy space to call our own. Unfortunately, finding a house rental that meets our necessary criteria in a good location for the price range we're seeking has proven to be a difficult task. Apartments, rooms, and small townhouses are easy to come by for less than $1000 per month, but in this college town, those are primarily meant for students and singles. From there, prices tend to jump up to around $1400 to $2000 for a larger, family-sized home in a decent neighborhood, with seemingly very little available in the $1000-$1200 range we're seeking. We're not even that picky. We just don't wish to live in a seedy area or be surrounded by fratboys, and we have three cats. The little monsters, it's amazing how few renters seem to be willing to even consider allowing cats.

...Perhaps Bellingham is one of those towns in which the middle class is vanishing at a much faster clip than average. We already know it's been happening all across this once great nation (i.e., before the white plague invaded it). The cost of living in Bellingham is, in fact, much higher than in any of the immediate surrounding towns. This town is full of wealthy residents with lavish lakefront homes and private docks, seaside palaces with exclusive coves, and mountainside retreats. On the opposite side of the spectrum, it's a university town, so thousands of students live in the abundant student accommodations near campus with little more in savings than a bag of Cheetos. But for those of us who are middle class families, or at least making the passive attempt to maintain a vestige of such, there simply isn't as much room in between. Many such families have been squeezed out to neighboring communities like Ferndale, home to the county's two major oil refineries and all sorts of other heavy industry, and Deming, which seems to be all about logging and chainsaw-wielding rednecks. It's just so much more affordable to live outside of Bellingham city limits, it seems. But even out there in the vast open acres of farm and dairy land, I haven't seen much reasonably close to town that looks like a good fit for us. And nothing I've seen quite compares to this town's unique setting against the densely forested mountains, surrounded by picturesque lakes and overlooking the bay. The livability factor is very high, so I guess we're spoiled.

Besides, we didn't move here because we fell in love with Old McDonald's Ferndale Farm. No other town north of Seattle would have stopped us in our tracks and made us say, "well, this seems like a great town... perfect size for us, plenty happening, the people generally seem cool..." The more we have gotten to take a good look at what other towns are up here, the more special Bellingham seems. We were seduced by Bellingham's stunningly beautiful natural surroundings, its cool downtown and charming neighborhoods, and its hip, liberal, environmentally conscious culture. I think it's one of the country's best kept secrets, and that has prevented it from being completely overdeveloped and ruined, a fate that has unfortunately befallen too many other seaside locales. Even Seattle has become a complete mess, with the amount of overdevelopment that has taken place within the city and its suburbs, leading to some of the worst traffic in the nation, as well as increasing crime rates. The damage done there is irreversible.

I hope Bellingham is spared a similar fate for at least a long time to come, and its "progress" will continue to be defined in the environmentally conscious sense. Beneficial progress, in my view, is the active cleanup of old industrial contamination sites, repurposing that land for green spaces, and creating more "green" economic opportunities. Bellingham's history is chock full of greedy entrepreneurs and shrewd businessmen coming in from afar in the 19th and early 20th centuries and stripping the region of its natural resources (most notably, massive fir trees) for tremendous financial benefit. We're still cleaning up their messes. Sadly, history continues to repeat itself, as a few rich millionaires are pushing to construct a huge coal export terminal near town, which would lead to a major influx of noisy trains carrying huge dirty loads of coal through the region on a daily basis. The community is fighting against it hard, and rightfully so.

Bellingham already has its "Anytown, USA" zone, a certain area of uptown dominated by a huge mall, national hotel chains, big box stores, and chain restaurants. The same sort of bullshit you see in any other freeway town, and in fact have to see all the way south down the I-5 clear past Olympia. I am loath to ever have to go through there, whether for work or a shopping trip, because it's a terrible eyesore and a blight on an otherwise lovely settlement. Oh yes, and the traffic's ridiculous.

The good news is, since the majority of that is concentrated in one corner of town, we can usually happily pretend it doesn't even exist. From where we live in town, we can walk to downtown in 10-15 minutes, and find all sorts of cool, completely northwest-local eating, drinking, and shopping establishments. Last week, while strolling through a residential neighborhood in one of the historic districts, we happened to come across an old grocery store that had operated there over the span of two centuries. About half of it had been converted into a dining area and kitchen of sorts, with some decent food available to order. That's the sort of thing I love to happen upon... completely local businesses like these are still allowed to thrive in the Pacific Northwest, whereas in many other places they have been almost entirely decimated by giant, faceless corporations. When you can go have breakfast in a cozy, authentic, homey, locally-owned-for-generations little neighborhood cafe, fuck Denny's.

Bellingham is full of my kind of people, too. Musicians and artists, thinkers and dreamers, and altogether open-minded and easy-going souls. I definitely notice a difference whenever we're back in a bigger city, or out in hick country. It just doesn't feel as comfortable in either extreme.

I'm just waiting for the dog days of summer to go dig their own hole and lie in it so I can dance on their grave. Summer is perhaps the one... downfall of this place, if there had to be one. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to be able to embrace it like just about everyone else, but I have tried, and I have failed. Until the reliable cloud cover and autumn coolness returns, and the flocks of tourists head home for the winter, and the "dreary" gloom drives most of the norms back indoors, I'm going to continue spending inordinate amounts of time in my bat cave, anticipating. If I had initially visited here this time of year, having seen it for the first time in this light (or being blinded by it), I never would have fallen in love with it. Thank you, inevitable changing of the seasons. (As an addendum, I will say it's been very pleasant after the sun goes down.)

Overall, I know we made the right decision to live here. Getting to experience life in the northwest had been a long-time dream of mine since I first visited Seattle so many years ago, and we've been having many great and memorable experiences here since. Even though I've since concluded that this can't ultimately be my true home, I'm glad we have been allowed the opportunity to call it home for at least a few years.

Aug 18, 2014

Rain... drops

Hey, you know, I haven't drunk-posted/post-hot bath posted here in years, literally! It seems I'm sorely overdue. Beyond even that point, to be honest. It's 2:15 in the morning, I'm wide a-fucking-wake, the night is delightfully young, let's get this shit started.

What's new this week... it's still fucking August. I really look forward to it no longer being August. Though, much to my amazement, on Thursday of last week, I was treated to a very unexpected surprise. The godawful constant summer sunshine was finally erased - put in its place by a day full of cloud cover. But that's not all - when I was done with work around 7:00 in the evening, rain was coming down steadily. Wow. I just had to sit in the car for awhile, absorbing the moment, convincing myself it wasn't a dream. This sort of thing wasn't supposed to happen until later in September, but what do you know, someone or something took mercy on my dark soul. I drove out to a wooded park in the fading light of day, window all the way down for once to let in the heavy drops, and started down a refreshingly dampened trail. I felt so wonderfully invigorated and rejuvenated by the constant rainfall, I just wanted to run through the forest, and so I did. I got thoroughly wet hopping from rock to rock across a stream, collecting fallen leaves that indicating the impending arrival of autumn, finally regaining some sense of belonging in this space and time. I got a much needed taste of the northwest I know and love, a long overdue reminder. Make the crowds go away, bring on the clouds and the return of that familiar "dreary" weather, make me feel at home once again.

I am fascinated by the extent of which the weather tends to affect my mood. Long, sunny days just drain the hell out of me and sometimes even lead me into a state of depression, while dark, stormy days revitalize my spirit in ways I can hardly describe. Yesterday, around mid-afternoon, I felt so goddamn low all I wanted to do was hibernate in my dark den until dusk took over. The thought of going out and dealing with the remaining harsh light of day made me want to pull the blankets even more over my head.

To some, this symptom might be indicative of a deeper psychological issue. That could very well be true. We all have issues, different kinds of issues. Summer affective disorder is probably quite real; an unusual ailment I never had to face in a tropical climate where seasonal variation is always very slight. In Hawaii, there is no such thing as weeks at a time of perfectly clear days. Clouds and rain are an inevitability on a daily basis at all times of the year. I've always found that very easy to live with. In the islands, the sun is out often, but it could just as often be covered by clouds, and spontaneous cloudbursts are likely to occur at any given time, especially in the early morning, late afternoon, or evening.

I dunno. I feel great comfort on those damp, cloudy days we are graced with, and pretty much the exact opposite when the sun beats down relentlessly. But hey, what's it fucking matter, every day spent alive and in good health is a day to treasure to its absolute fullest. We all have plenty of time ahead of us to be dead.

I've already decided that it would be best for me to return home within the next couple years, where I really feel most at harmony with the surrounding natural world, where my spirit thrives. And not purely out of selfishness... I want to be the best I can be, the warmest and most genuine person as possible for my mate, and the handful of companions I keep. The scant few that could begin to understand the words I write, or even care to try.

Aug 12, 2014

Summer surprises

I've discovered a new favorite nocturnal hideaway in Bellingham. Actually, it's just outside of town limits, and about a 15 minute drive from our current residence. It's close enough not to demand a significant time commitment to get to and from, but just far enough out of town to be safely out of earshot of the roar of the freeway, blaring train horns, and all sorts of other urban noises that I will never get used to. Perhaps just as importantly, it's also far removed from any bright city light, so I may truly escape into the embrace of darkness.

Following a quiet rural road that follows the northern and eastern edge of the county's largest lake takes me to a wooded trailhead at its end. From there, I have the option of either following a perfectly level path that hugs the edge of the lake for several miles, or climbing a very steep, overgrown, disused logging road as far up into the mountains as I care to venture.

A couple weeks ago, I chose to take the easy shoreline trail carved nicely between the sheer cliffs of the mountain and usually placid lakeside. Oddly, when I had left home, I felt hardly a hint of a breeze, but out here, the wind was coming in strong, lashing the lakeshore with miniature waves. And boy, it felt refreshing, especially in the thick of summer's typically warm, stagnant weather. No less delightful was the sound of the treetops swaying and whispering in the breeze, which is practically an everyday occurrence in Hawaii but something I always miss when I am removed from the island. The stars were visible in much greater numbers than I'm able to see close in town, as well. I came across a nice little waterfall sliding down a series of smooth rock faces, which I was able to scale up to reach the tallest tumble. With the many clusters of lights across the lake no longer in sight, I could have just as well been deep within the wilderness. It was a nice, relaxing stroll.

Last night, I returned to the area and chose the high road, with the hiker's intention of at least finding a good viewpoint, and with the wolf's desire to bask in the rejuvenating luminance of the full moon. Whether the trail was going to take me to anything memorable or noteworthy, some lupine time with the moon was of prime importance. So with a casual pace, I began the steep, steady ascent up the narrow rocky path, pausing to pick and nibble on a few blackberries along the way. The beginning of the trail was set in fairly dense woods, but in between the tall firs and denser underbrush I could still catch glimpses of the moon hovering shyly in the low southern sky. She was a dull rusty color tonight, blanketed with a haze of high cloud cover that up in the Pacific northwest usually signals a change in the weather toward the direction of rain.

The air certainly felt like rain, too. In fact, it was uncomfortably muggy and warmer than usual. It reminded me of wandering around certain parts of the desert southwest in the thick of a summer monsoon. That along with the physical effort of climbing really left me sweating, so off came my damp shirt. Interestingly, only minutes afterward, I was surprised by a brilliant flash of lightning followed by thunder. Whereas I'm certain summer thunderstorms are very common in many other areas, this was the first thunderstorm I've seen in our area all year. I've felt thunderstorm deprived.

If there is only one thing I miss about living in Arizona, it was the regular summer thunderstorms occurring mostly in July and August. Many of them were powerful enough to be humbling and awe-inspiring, and I would go out of my way to experience them and photographically capture their splendor when I could. While living in Flagstaff, I used to love answering the call of an impending storm's crashing thunder, heading out for a walk to somewhere with a decent view to admire it. I would ensure there was some type of shelter nearby, even if it was just a baseball field dugout or a park pavilion, but usually, I would just run around and enjoy most of the torrential rain the passing storm had to offer. And I would never tire of watching the lightning or listening to the thunder. Storms are truly a phenomenal spectacle of natural force and energy, and they really spark something inside of me that makes me feel intensely alive as I experience them. It's no wonder I miss them so. In the middle of the desert, they truly felt like a godsend, a cherished special occurrence, for most of the rest of the year everything was either wilting in the harsh desert sun or freezing in the dead of frigid mountain winter. Storms are what brought the arid landscape to life.

The one I experienced last night was over and done within a few minutes, however. Eventually the trail emerged at a large clearing for three rows of massive electricity pylons, their wires stretching into the distance for visible miles. I followed it for about a mile farther as it contoured up the steep mountain face, weaving between the clearing and the adjacent second-growth forest, until I came across the best viewpoint I was probably going to find. From that vantage point, I could see north clear to the refineries in Ferndale, south all the way to the town of Burlington, and all of the northern half of the lake. Though obscured somewhat by clouds, the view of the many lofty mountain peaks and valleys and illuminated city landmarks so far in the distance was quite mesmerizing. I've always had an affinity for scrambling up mountains and hillsides to get a better look at the lay of the land, especially in the deep of the night. There's no better sort of spot to quietly reflect on my place in the world as I gaze over my domain from high above. I'm glad I found yet another easily accessible place in which to do it.

After heading back down to the start of the trail, I took the short stroll down to the lakeshore, just to relax by the water for a little bit. When my paws touched the water, I was amazed by its unexpected warmth. Without much further thought, and being the water dog I've always been, I abandoned all my clothing on the rocky beach and sauntered into the nice, cool water for a refreshing dip. After sweating so damn much, it felt absolutely heavenly. There is also something spiritually nourishing, something that fills me with primal fulfillment, about swimming in the buff in the full moonlight. One of those experiences that is so entirely natural, not to mention instinctual.

Good night, beloved moon.

Aug 6, 2014

A long time coming

I've been a wanderer all my life. Yes, all my life. When I was four or five, I wasn't too interested in staying within the confines of the backyard, so much as venturing deep into the woods to play. I would embark on what seemed to my little self like long, long trips away from home, even though I was supposed to be staying close and within sight of the house. Of course, I was never unsupervised; my loyal black lab and golden retriever were always keen to tag along and serve as guardian and protector. In the summer, we would swim in the pond and catch newts, or in the winter, perhaps do some impromptu ice skating. The few hundred wild acres behind our house was a vast, unexplored world full of wonder and amazement, and I always longed to lose myself within its fascinating reaches. I was never afraid of becoming lost amongst the vast stretches of Oregon woods, or getting caught out in the dark, but I can imagine I made my parents nervous on more than one occasion. When they saw a big black blur with a long pink tongue emerge from the bushes at twilight, however, they knew I would always be right behind.

When I turned six and was suddenly placed into first grade, I did not take kindly whatsoever to the structured, rigidly scheduled environment of school. My teacher eventually had to move me away from the window and have me sit facing toward the wall, for I spent far too much time staring through the glass at the trees outside, daydreaming. Unfortunately, the wall I ended up facing was home to a big, bad clock, with hands that moved slower than a snail over a glue trap. Little did I know that for years after I would see dozens of clocks just like it, and the hands would never move any faster. It seemed the final bell of the day, the freedom ring, never came soon enough. I always found myself fleeing down the schoolhouse hallway to board the bus home, eager to escape my tears of boredom. Nothing was more satisfying than being pounced by my dogs when I finally got home, then dashing back into the forest with them for the remaining hours of the day.

Even at that tender age, the woods represented freedom from the shackles of the excruciating daily routine, from expectations to behave, follow directions, and "get along" with my classmates. I didn't do well with any of those. I certainly never adjusted to the numbing routine and everyday procedures of the day, and I felt no inclination to play with any of my peers, either. In fact, I spent one recess down by the creek in the woods nearby, my innocent little mind not possibly imagining that I could be breaking any sort of rule. In fact, it was contemplated going for a dip. But a teacher found me, roped me back by the arm toward the schoolyard, and told me she was going to have a chat with my parents. I don't recall ever facing any severe punishment for such a transgression. Later on, I did it again. And made sure no one noticed.

So for the first few years of my life, even though my parents moved around among several different houses, I always lived out in the country and had vast amounts of surrounding beautiful acreage to run around and play in. I'm sure that significantly helped shape my character, and my appreciation and need for natural surroundings that persists as strongly as ever to this day. However, when I was all but 7, life changed dramatically, when my parents left the great state of Oregon and moved us far, far away. I was so used to having all the space in the world to roam and explore freely without encountering a single barrier. And then, all of a sudden, we ended up living in a sprawling apartment complex called Banyan Harbor. We all squeezed into a two bedroom unit to fit all four of us. We were in the middle of a city. And I barely knew what to do with myself.

Fortunately, we weren't stuck in some completely ordinary suburban sprawl, or dirty, seedy urban zone. We were, in fact, on the island of Kauai, steps from a beautiful white sand beach lapped by the perpetually warm, turquoise waters of the Pacific. It took me awhile to adjust to the sheer amount of commotion about the area, with the density of human population living there, number of beach visitors walking about, and all the busy affairs of the huge resort sitting just adjacent to the beach. Gone were the days of wandering off into the woods, for there was nothing immediately opposite the ocean but city, city, city. And left on the mainland in friends' care were my beloved canine companions.

But, y'know, I really took to the beach. Early on, I discovered the meaning of a true sunburn, before becoming tan as a local boy. I spent hours in the waves on a near daily basis. I had a sandbox back in Oregon, but it didn't compare to playing in the sand on a beach in Kauai. Eventually, we moved to a rental house in a smaller, quieter town on the island, but still just a few minutes' walk from the beach, one that sprawled uninterrupted for miles. It was there that I was really able to find my solitude again, if only on the vast reaches of unoccupied white sand.

My dad would frequently take us on trips all around the island, showing us wondrous places in paradise that seem dreamlike not only in memory, but no less impressive last time I visited them just a few years ago. When we moved to the Big Island just a couple years later, we lived in increasingly rural places, and we got to go on wondrous adventures all around that island as well.

It's quite evident my traveling gypsy parents heavily influenced by own wandering tendencies today. Since finishing university in 2006, I became a very nomadic soul, bouncing around from place to place across the western U.S., just exploring as an adult, perhaps passively searching for a home of true belonging. I slept in the hallway of a friend's house for months at a time, living out of suitcases. To me, that doesn't seem so inappropriate for someone in their 20s who is just out to see and experience the world. In 2009, I flew off to Germany and spent six weeks there with friends, and that ended up being an incredible experience I will never forget.

But I always ended up coming back to Hawaii in the end, and it always felt perfectly right to do so. It always felt so good to be home again. Yet, I always felt like something crucial was missing. I had my paradise and my freedom, beautiful natural surroundings in every direction to lose myself in whenever I needed to. But I still felt much too listless and alone, and eventually the ill feelings drove me to wander away from home time and time again.

In 2010, I ended up moving back to Arizona for the first time since attending community college there 10 years prior, and it sure wasn't for the sake of being in Arizona. It's because my true love was there, and I was willing to make sacrifices just to finally be with her ... and so was she. That's about the time when I finally began to sort out what I really wanted to get out of life, and I knew my mate would always be a key element in the equation.

Now here we are in 2014, no longer in Arizona, thank goodness, but in a much more agreeable mainland location. Squeezed into an apartment in the city, just like my parents did when they dropped everything and moved us to Hawaii, but at least in a fairly nice Pacific northwestern town. She left her family behind in Arizona, and I left mine in Hawaii, and we carved out our little niche here in the extreme tippy tip of northwestern Washington. We happen to really like it up here.

We're nothing close to being settled, however. In fact, my spirit is likely more unsettled than anything. For the first time in my life, though, I am really desiring to finally settle. By which I mean, find a house to call our own that we can turn into something more than just a transitional space, and even work myself into a comfortable career. I suppose we're about the right age to really feel ready for that.

Yet, a nagging suspicion that I've held for quite some time has recently been confirmed. Hawaii is far too much a part of me to stay away for long. I have a certain spiritual connection to the place, of an intensity that few could comprehend, and when I am removed from it, a certain, integral part of myself is missing. A two week vacation back to the island once or twice a year isn't nearly enough compensation. It was incredibly hard to drag myself back here after our two week vacation there in July, and it's become more difficult to envision much of a future anywhere else but there. Hawaii is where my heart resides, and somehow I'm just certain that's where we're going to end up sooner than we think.

Spoiled as I must sound, this place doesn't feel nearly as sacred or alive, and consequently, I don't feel as alive. The absence of that island spirit is almost painful, but I was never so acutely tuned into it as I became just the past few weeks.

I'll always be a wanderer, but I now have a greater sense of where true home is, and will always be, than I ever have before. Not only back on my island, but with the one who is able to truly appreciate it as much as I do. We will settle for nothing less than paradise.

Aug 4, 2014

Summer Affective Disorder

...is a real thing. Before we made the move up to the northern reaches of Washington State, I mentioned it in jest a couple times. We kept hearing about how some people tend to get depressed during the wintertime due to the relative lack of daylight and consistent rain and cloud cover. Of course, I can't imagine ever tiring of such weather that others might consider "gloomy," but I suspected the summer months, renowned in the northwest for reliably abundant sunshine, might negatively affect me.

Well, that has certainly turned out to be the case. I'm afraid July and August have proven to be a fairly undesirable time to be up here in the Pacific Northwest. The 16 hours per day of uninterrupted sunshine and uncomfortable heat has really taken its toll on many levels. The constant sun for such an unreasonable length of time combined with the summer heat just ends up draining my life force, whether I'm working or trying to play. Of course, thousands of sun worshiping tourists from around the country would beg to differ. They love to flock up here during the hottest, sunniest time of the year, and flood the campgrounds and popular attractions with their RVs and various forms of expensive toys. I've discovered that this is the northwest's biggest flaw- the summertime is just too "nice," by most people's standards, so too many of them visit from afar this time of the year and think to themselves, "ah, this is just perfect, maybe we should move here." And at the very least, they just infest certain places to the extent that they are just no longer desirable places to visit at all, until the return of autumn.

But the one thing that saves most of the PNW from degenerating into another overpopulated, completely spoiled extension of California is the general climate. Most of the year, clouds are in great abundance, and showers are common. Winters tend to be particularly wet, with a barrage of storms smacking into the Washington coast from the west. Thus, Washington has a remarkably overblown reputation for being cold, wet, and dreary most of the year, which seems to be the perfect picture of misery if you're a typical sun loving norm. Since most people are so prone to thinking in terms of black and white, they think, "uhhh, duhhh, clouds = rain. No sun, rain all the time." So not only does the healthy amount of rainfall and frequent cloud cover keep western Washington green, lush, and beautiful, it also discourages people from moving here and developers from coming in and ruining everything to the extent that they would in "sunshine states."

When we visited western Washington during March and October of previous years, I really fell for its beauty, and very pleasant climate. Of course, that was in the spring and fall, where it rarely felt too cold and certainly never too hot. The variability of the weather from day to day, and even thoughout a single day, reminded me greatly of my upbringing in Hawaii, where the weather is always changing. That's what I'm used to, and that's what I love. While roaming about the Seattle area, I was always impressed by all the cloud formations we saw looming over the mountain ranges or out towards the islands at sea. I consider the presence of cloudscapes a definitive element of this place's character and an integral part of its beauty. When they are completely absent, allowing the relentless summer sun to beat down mercilessly all day long, the atmosphere of magic and mystery really fades from the picture, replaced by a headache from all the blinding light and nausea from the heat. If I had first visited this place in the middle of August, I probably never would have fallen in love in the first place. Perhaps it's best I hadn't.

Of course, when I try to explain any of that to average humans, it goes right over their simple little heads. Still, I'm sure I'm not alone in this feeling. I'm sure there are many other northwesterners nearby hiding in their dark dens as well, silently praying for summertime to come to an abrupt end so they may feel at home again. I'm waiting for all the noisome, boisterous crowds to disperse as the clouds make their triumphant return, so I may comfortably don my usual jeans and light jacket attire and enjoy the mostly secluded outdoors again, wholeheartedly welcoming the return of the Pacific Northwest I actually know and love. The dim, damp, dreary Kingdom of Twilight. Oh, fuck yes.

Make no mistake, I'm fully aware that August is far worse in most other parts of the country, in terms of heat, humidity, and generally miserable conditions. Just gives me even more reason to loathe it. Fuck August.

Half a decade's worth of dust later.

Over five years have passed since my last entry in here. It feels a bit peculiar that, in spite of all the drastic changes that have transpired in that amount of time, this little achival keepsake of my life has stood frozen in time. Patiently waiting to be rediscovered and dusted off like an old video game cartridge that sifted to the bottom of the stack, ready to be played again.

I'm glad it hasn't gone anywhere, even as I've been all over the place. After all these years of inactivity, it could have fallen victim to a mass pruning by the blogger gods, hackers or spammers, or some other cause of certain death. But it's comforting to finally revisit a familiar dark haven of my own creation, one that still contains such personal significance, and find that it's still very much intact and undisturbed.

I am especially grateful considering how disinterested in the online realm I have become, particularly in the social aspect. My favorite discussion forums I grew up with are either long gone or on the verge of dying. My writing was once very prolific on Livejournal, but only one person I know still uses it, so even contributing to that feels like an especially pointless endeavor. I've got me a tumblr, but it, too, is hard for me to take seriously. I've never had any desire to join in the social networking craze; in fact, it's only made me want to socially regress toward the halcyon days of yore when I and everyone around me was perfectly content to never be tethered to a cell phone.

Besides, so few can even be bothered to send an e-mail or a letter these days, or sometimes even respond to a note, or a text that says something along the lines of "hey, I'm still alive, are you?" The general lapse in communication even amongst old friends has been largely disappointing, even though I'm sure my greatly diminished internet presence may have something to do with it. But, my phone number and e-mail have been exactly the same for years, so I'm still trying to come to terms with the scarcity of others, how much is real and how much is imagined, and whether I should ever take any of it personally or if it's just happening to most of us.

Actually, I've been craving for a quiet, cozy space to write like I used to, expressing thoughts and ideas in proper English with greater than 140 characters per post. I would very much like to publish using my allegedly antiquated desktop computing device and similarly old-fashioned indifference toward likes, feeds, and followers. Yet, at this point, I'm beyond starting over from scratch with another new blog, and just writing paragraphs into word files and saving them isn't as satisfying, for some reason.

So in a way, this very blog of mine and my photo gallery feel like the last surviving online holdouts that bear any real meaning for me. I feel strongly compelled to cease neglecting either of them. Just as I end up with thousands of new photographs I've taken every year, I also have novels worth of material I could write about, mostly life experiences, observations, and musings. It's just a matter of setting aside the time and getting back into the habit of writing many of them down as I used to do.

Here's hoping. Toodles.