Sunday, April 23, 2017

4/23/17: The Hidden Value of Genericism

Tonight, something different: a word on genericism,  and an odd, hidden benefit it possesses.

I've been traveling again, but, again, I've been nowhere new, or especially special, however much I've yoga'd there (and none of my destinations have been spared my yoga'ing, to be sure). Though, it's through this mundane, routine quality to my excursions that I've discovered something both unexpected and wonderful: the value of the United States' increasingly generic landscape.

In a nut, there are things to be learned from repeated exposure to outwardly identical places (and, similarly, people, and about anything else, I suppose). In particular, my adventures in such "genericized" environments have revealed to me what I do (or don't) like about any space.

Bear with me.

It's a matter of contrasts, as it were. Why is it that I liked that one Starbucks back in Charleston, while that one up in Charlotte was a total turn-off, despite being nearly identical in every respect? Well, there are the obvious variables -- the people present, the time of day, my mood and perceptions at the time, plus a million other chance factors. But, what about the times when, all things being more or less equal, I just ... liked that first one, for no reason I could readily put my finger on. Both were Starbuckses, with a standardized menu and decoration and general experience ... yet, they were different, and in a subtle-yet-significant way -- significant enough to sour me to one and endear me to the other.

And that's when we come to the heart of the matter: the highlighting of contrasts, an unintended side-effect of such standardized, Strip-Mall-America genericism. In the case cited above, of two almost-identical coffee shops in different geographical locations, I was allowed to see what I didn't like, due to experiencing a similar setting in a totally different physical environment -- visiting a Starbucks that wasn't a Starbucks, you could say. Here, the contrast was provided by the franchise's attempt to inject the good-and-appealing into multiple, separate locations, which, in retrospect, worked to isolate what was so enjoyable at the one Starbucks -- and, conversely, so repellent at the other. (And just what was that elusive contrast? Well, that's a whole other blog post, about psychology and architecture and the subtle, energetic qualities of space; but, as far as this post is concerned, the factor of the matter is, just, that the contrast was there.)

The point? That by traveling to such same-but-different places, the revealed contrasts can teach much to the traveler (and, in a broader sense, that there's value to any experience, however hidden or indirect).

Now, as for why you should care about this phenomenon? Well, I never said you should care about it, for the record. But, since you've read this far, I suppose you're entitled to some kind of takeaway, which would be this: that my "going to the same, uninspired places" brand of travel can be fulfilling, and in novel and surprising ways. And, for what it's worth, it bears mentioning that incidents of the particular sort cited above, involving the proliferation of cardboard-cutout franchises and their corporate parents, have been beneficial for me personally, helping me to find some good in these ubiquitous (and, sometimes, troublesome) non-entities. In my case, it's not a fully redeeming quality, exactly, but such benefit has gone a long way towards healing my somewhat rocky relationship with the corporate world and its controversial offspring.

Cool, eh?

Saturday, March 25, 2017

3/25/17: Of Death and Departure

Departure is something of a death-trip, in my experience.

Preparations to be made. Loose ends to tie. Lists to write. Packing, packing, packing -- what'd I forget?!? And that's just for a single, untethered young yogi. Also, that knot of pre-trip considerations is just the start, not even touching on the finer points: inconveniences, deprivations; the breaking of the hallowed Routine; the loss of the creature comforts that have made sedentary life the norm in many parts of the modern world.

Logistical mayhem, this.

To leave one's home, however temporal that home might be, and however temporal the leaving -- it's no small thing, for mind as much as body. For the un-traveled, this reaction might come as something of a surprise (if not a shock). These attachments run deep, and strong, so much that, for many, there's ultimately no preparing oneself for The Departure, same as there's no preparing to leave the womb.

And so that's why a death is necessary.

For me, the process has become quite pronounced, as to be predictable. Before the departure commences, a stoppage must occur, an end to the primal continuity which constitutes the infrastructure of the average man's linear, time-lined, earthbound existence. The mind must shift from an orientation of survival and posterity and movement, to one of in-the-moment stillness -- a mentality of planning and tomorrows and progress, to that of Here and Now, and these things only.

There is resistance to this letting-go, of course, that of the ties that bind us (so securely, yes, but oh so restrictively). But, slowly, surely ... release is attained, either climatically, with our fingernail marks on it, or quietly, whimper-style. Then, a timelessness ensues, a cessation -- sometimes uneasy, sometimes tranquil, but always inevitable.

The hands untense. The bag is hoisted. The slate is wiped. The horizon opens up, and with it, the road.


* * *

Such was the case for my latest journey, requiring this bittersweet ritual and its mental gymnastics. And, for all its ado (adieu?), this journey was a short one. Likewise, the journey was rather routine, just a few days of van-camping in some relatively staid suburban environs (without even crossing state lines, as it were). So routine and pedestrian, I once more will refrain from so much as my uninteresting pictures.

But I loved it, loved it, loved it. Loved the dying as much as the living that followed.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

2/14/17: Tension and Release (Or, How to Make Something Out of Nothing)

The yogi has been out of action, for nearly two months. But, no longer.

Where'd I go? Nowhere new (same northern-family-visit circuit as catalogued exhaustively in this blog). What'd I do? Nothing new (camped in my van at a couple comfortably familiar places, where I yoga'd and such). What happened? Ditto.

Nothing ... and everything.

The trip, however unremarkable and routine and yawn-inducing for an outside observer, was absolutely blissful. How? Why? It was all about tension and release. Namely, that of being a riotously footloose person (a wandering yogi, as it were) who's been kept grounded by a conspiracy of health and circumstances and just plain stagnation -- only to finally break out of it, at long last. So, even though this breakout trip was absolutely routine (and lasted barely three days), it was, for the traveler, nothing less than manna from Heaven. I might as well have gone to the moon and back.

That first night out, I thought: This is how a supernova must feel.


The Horny Manta Ray, parked at the gym that hosted this trip's single night of public van-camping (which, keeping with the "nothing new" theme, has been previously pictured on this blog).

And then, what's this?!? Some actual content? Well, it was just the minor spectacle of some urban geese with whom I shared that gym parking lot, approximately six or eight of them waddling about and honking conspicuously throughout my stay -- but hey, some lousy content is miles better than no content (for the content-centric, at least).

Thursday, December 29, 2016

12/29/16: Beloved Travels

I've been traveling again, but that's the gist of it.

That is: I've been nowhere "new," visiting (and yoga'ing) only the now-routine places previously catalogued on this blog. Hence, no pictures, or even a description beyond, "Been travelin'."

Though, routine or not, I must say this of my travels:

I Love

That is all.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

11/21/16: Another Holiday Norther

My latest trip: another Norther, to visit family, in the same Carolina-to-Carolina circuit I've been making for some time, with yoga at regular stops along the way.

As routine as they've become, I still love these trips, on multiple levels. However, this one proved not-so-routine.

First twist.

It started when, a day in, I received a phone call that sent me back south for a day, on some urgent and sudden business. More adventurous driving and yoga and more driving still, while parking-lot camping in my beloved van -- fun, fun. Next, once I'd done what needed doing and then headed back on my northerly ascent, I got lost -- three times, actually, having taken one wrong turn, then a second wrong turn upon trying to recover from the first, and then a third, in the same fashion, while recovering from my recovery. But that was okay, for it just meant more fun-fun driving, and I ended up in the quiet wilds of central NC, in a place I'd never been to but was glad to be in (where I did indeed van-camp and yoga).

Pictures from this leg of the trip (the only I remembered to take, as it were):

From there, it was a wonderful and uneventful Thanksgiving with my folks, up in the Applachians. And then, subsequently, an equally enjoyable and uneventful descent back to SC, again with van-camping and yoga and other assorted goodness.

It was then, on my seemingly mundane return trip, that the second twist came.

I had an epiphany of sorts, is what happened -- about this blog and its distinctly uninspired content, as it were. In a light-bulb moment, I realized just how much I delight in my seemingly dull, one-dimensional wanderings across the country. Taken at face value, my travels would be considered totally unnoteworthy to many people, especially your typical traveler -- after all, I don't visit museums or landmarks or anything traditionally considered worth traveling for (nor are my cell-phone pictures of anything but the everyday places where I perform my yoga). So, "dull" would be an understandable perception, sure; but only for the outside observer.

As the owner of the memories depicted by these rambling posts and their empty pictures, the reality of those events is absolutely priceless, as well as astounding.

It's a matter of psychology, you see. Setting out on these featureless journeys, thoroughly unthrilling and unentertaining and un-jaw-dropping, I always find myself discovering the joy of sheer existence, as to revel in the simple act of being, rather than only the rare instance of excitement or gratification. In this way, ALL is gratifying, ALL is exciting, ALL is nothing less than a thrill ride into the very essence of life itself -- "pura vida," they call it down in South America. Out in the sea of Modern Urbania and its interstate-connected strip-mall nothingness, with its artificial environment of cheap, limitless, endlessly duplicated sprawl-stores and restaurants -- there, I find something magical happening: that sea takes me, and, in my state of pura-vida dazzlement, I watch the world transform, and myself with it. Then, there is only a wonderland of being and life, bringing with it a fierce passion that is not surpassed by sex or drugs or other such pursuits. Just like the sailors of old, I experience a sea-change amidst my descent into the concrete McJungle, as to see the undying, unconditional beauty resident within it and all else.

Every faceless street corner becomes a carnival. Every Starbucks, a prized, locals-only secret. Every logo-wearing, smart-phone-staring 9-5er, simply a person, unique as a snowflake and delightful beyond words. In my travel-clarified vision, the world becomes a church, with God as life at large, and travel my worship.

Thus, my worship-voyages become absolute indulgence in this priceless-but-free commodity, brilliant and ravenous and nourishing to my soul.


* * *

So, the point of this post? Simple: this is the context of my blog and its pictures, and why I bother to share something so seemingly pointless. And, after all: to one of like mind, who also travels to non-destinations for the sheer pleasure of it, perhaps this blog isn't so uninteresting ...

11/6-11/15: The Cross-country Trip that Wasn't

This one started as a full-out, Carolina-to-California roadtrip, but somehow ended up as a confusion of un-destined exploration that spanned much of the Southeast, which would resemble a pretzel if mapped.

Don't ask me how it happened, or even where I stopped along the way (not to mention why). I started West, with every intention of continuing on that course until reaching the Pacific in some capacity; but then, a few days in, I just suddenly ... changed direction, surprising myself along with any imaginary passengers I might've had. Sure, this caprice wasn't quite as random and mindless as I'm making it out to be, for I did have reasons; those reasons are just highly personal and obscure, and hard to understand by anyone but me. So I'll just leave it at that: I had reasons, and they saw me Southeast, eventually to Florida.

I can sum up this trip pretty easily, despite it being nearly two weeks of reasonably intensive travel: I drove, and I slept in The Horny Manta Ray (as well as ate there, and did many other things for which no minivan was designed for), and did lots of yoga. And, I enjoyed every darn minute of it. Because I went nowhere that would be considered notable by anyone but myself, I won't elaborate on where I went. Instead, I'll just do another lazy summation: I stopped at many Anytime Fitness locations, and many coffee shops, and many gas stations, with a couple cheap non-van lodgings thrown in the mix, all located within the somewhat gun-shaped SC-GA-AL-FL geographical cluster.

As for pictures, I was at the absolute bottom of my game, forgetting to snap shots of my yoga-spots even more often than previous jaunts. Here are the ones I remembered to take, in no particular order other than date and trajectory:

Underwhelming to the outside observer? Yes (and, admittedly, even for yours truly, from time to time). But, all the same, I cherished this weird, stunted trip, no less than if it had succeeded in its cross-country aspirations (or, for that matter, if it had been to the Moon and back). The travel was perfect, and I loved it, and am eternally grateful for the experience.


Monday, October 31, 2016

10/29/16: Florence -- South Carolina, Not Italy

Or, not Italy yet. I'd like to yoga it up in the Italian counterpart one day.

I had some business in Florence, SC, and so I spent the day there, my first time in the place -- a pleasant little escapade, as it were. I drove around. I bought some things. I saw the sights. I met some folks. It was a good day, and when it was through, I retired to a new (to me) Anytime Fitness location, for a workout and some yoga, and some van-camping in its parking lot.

A short trip, but a good one. I loved it (or, rather, love it). Thanks for some memories, Florence. Maybe I'll be back sometime.