We throatily sing in Bulgarian and Vietnamese to the old French tune of Frere Jacques as a group of people walk by our bench in the pitch-black darkness. One of the group approaches and gives us a free joint of tobacco and weed. She feels sorry that we have chosen to drink anise alcohol with sparkling water. She can smell how bitter it tastes from a mile away and she feels sorry that our souls are going to die from it. It's good that we strolled the Berlin cemetery the prior night, because now we know our future housing situation. But you finished it, my friend, the whole bottle minus my tiny contribution; props to you. Your determination to not waste food or drink is admirable; it tests the limits of human willpower.
Okay, I drink three sips of the stuff before the fire burns through my stomach and kills me. We float back in time to the cemetery where we discussed family while meandering along dark paths under darker trees. Grass grows over tombstones; angels fly back and forth. Jesus has somehow teleported to a different region of the cemetery. From beyond our shadowed forest glows a red and white cinema sign, bordered by a rectangle of golden lights. It is the only reminder I can see of the outside world. Will we ever drift back to the Heart of Gold hostel? Will I ever leave this cracked old Hollywood memory behind?
I walk with you and feel peaceful. American cemeteries are not as forested, lush, and secluded as this. Here I can incorporate Bulgarian inefficiency, talking about anything and everything until the sun rises, walking a block in the wrong direction before turning around. This being inefficient is horrible for the deadlines and timed appointments of the living, but perfect for the wandering ways of the dead. Hey, maybe this way I will stumble upon sticky Turkish ice cream again. I wander deep into my thoughts.
Some time later, I glance upon my surroundings again. Well, my friend, it seems that in wandering, I have ended up somewhere far away. This new place is tropical and humid, filled with the dust of motorbikes and hot, panting chickens sleeping in the shade of flat, green-leaved trees. I feel sad when I think of the uncertainty that I will ever see you again. But lucky for me, Royal Chef and Advisor of European Affairs, you still like to shit on my favorite things and debunk feminist atrocities through the digital world, and I'm sure you have even more to say about my writing, so it's not possible to get too sappy. It's what I want, even though it makes me fluff up in indignation sometimes, because then I can improve upon my craft. But thanks for the occasional compliment. I have a fragile egg-o. Bokkok! Ahem. A hen.
Thanks for cooking moussaka and tarator for this stray cat of a human being. Right now, I'm sad for no reason so I'm rewatching "Girl, Interrupted", which is a movie about a girl in a mental hospital. I've forgotten the plot. One year ago I was in a mental hospital too. My mind keeps rewinding to that moment. Every time I have fun with a new human being, I feel a little bit of fear. People tell me it won't happen anymore, that I'm different now. But even though that Me died, I still feel haunted by my past. Maybe it's like being a former prisoner. Sometimes you think back to how it felt to be behind bars, not knowing when you'll be released. But I think the dominant feeling I have is one of hope, actually.
Will I ever be happy? I don't want to be happy all the time anyway. I wonder why I keep asking myself that. Maybe it's a socially-trained question. Remember when we were drinking "scalding" turmeric tea and you told me I was normal? The guy nurse at the hospital said I looked normal too. I felt you were concerned and trying to reassure me. Yes, you're right, I am normal in the ways I have developed in reaction to my environment. It's just that I have a tendency to be sad sometimes that brings me to the brink of danger. Melancholy. I don't mind, because emotion fuels writing. The psychiatrist at St. Helena said I was normal. He said I was just off the path of following my self's dreams. And since I hadn't actually tried to kill myself, he let me leave after only two nights there. I'll try my best to take care of myself, and live long and happy. Maybe I can be like a mix of the Dalai Lama and Edgar Allan Poe.
Like my previous post, this post is long and meandering. Looks like I've incorporated Bulgarian inefficiency into my writing as well. I had fun all seven nights in Berlin of having you bash on my favorite books and movies. I already liked the taste of blood, so thanks for turning me into a full-fledged vampire chicken who sleeps at 7 AM when the sun has come out and people are beginning to go to work. The girl in "Girl, Interrupted" is saying she wants to write, and has just been diagnosed with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). That's what they diagnosed me with too, but I think it's a gift to be able to adapt my personality to different situations. I'm an actress, and the world is my stage. I'm glad I didn't take drugs for my depression even though it was hard. I knew unhappiness was telling me to change my life. If I had taken drugs and become functional through them, I think I would have forgotten my pain. Then I don't think I would have changed the root cause of my unhappiness, which was that I wasn't writing. I wasn't loving myself, traveling, feeling the exhilarating freedom of writing. Did I say writing?
Where does the future lead? I don't know, but I wasn't lying to you when I said I love myself. I have loved myself for over a year now. It feels pretty strange. Thanks for calling me pretty.
Vampire Princess Chicken the First who is also a Stray Cat
P.S. The woman below is not me but I like her, so here she stays.
Let me tell you about the time I became a national fugitive running away from the IRS for tax evasion. It started when I met a fellow skater Aliana in Amsterdam at the Marnixstraat skate bowl near Centraal train station. We chilled that day and she invited me to skate the next day with her friend.
The next day I rented a bike. Amsterdam is crazy about its bikes. The way there are bike lanes set up, and the way people ring their bells when biking past each other, it feels like I'm in a chill version of Vietnam's motorbike culture.
I met up with Aliana's other friend Marc around noon and together with Aliana we biked to Veldje 14 skatepark, about 25 minutes by bike south of Centraal. Marc talks about a variety of subjects that day, including a part about trouble paying taxes back in England. The day was blue and clear and warm save for a few clouds. There had been the forecast of a thunderstorm but that turned out to be a joke worth a few drops of rain that vanished in a minute. Besides the larger number of bikes and tall blond people, I could have sworn that I was back in California for a bit.
We skated and ate some Dorito ranch chips that instead of being labeled "Ranch" were labeled "Cool American Flavor". I got a kick out of that. We Americans are so cool in Europe (and Asia). The Cool Kidz. So we ate those, skated, and a Dutch dude came by who was clearly on something. He missed every trick he tried and would go around smashing the fences and gates until the wires gave way and hung loose. At one point he pulled a steel rail into the middle of the park and proceeded to then ignore it for the next ten minutes. it was like watching an avant-garde modern art film. As night fell I played pretend-DJ by connecting my phone music to a fancy amplifier at the park that looked like a DJ station. I played the "Flying Microtonal Banana" album by King Gizzard the Lizard Wizard, and later Marc and I talked about going to check out the Red Light District and the Blue Light "chicks with dicks".
As night fell Aliana went home; Marc and I biked to his place and chilled to some music, then he pulled out LSD and some "weird rocks" some stranger had randomly given to him. We decided against the rocks and took the LSD before biking over to the Red Light. I walked around for a bit before realizing that it was a very stupid idea for anyone, especially me, to have to pay for sex (50 euros for 15 minutes) when I could just get it for free. We went back to his place and watched Pokemon. Pokemon on LSD, though, is lit. The neon graphics, the music, the deep moments, everything. I fall asleep eventually and wake up when the sky is a pale blue, around 6 AM. Kaleidoscopic lights are still stretching across my visual field, and when I look in the mirror, the lines of my eyes grow like vines across my face. But overall my thought process seems clear and calm, at least to me.
One of Marc's many sentences from the past 24 hours roots itself in my psyche -- the sentence about "paying taxes back in England". My stomach drops. Did I pay my taxes back in the US? Is filing taxes a thing? I pull up the IRS website on his laptop and come to this understanding -- filing taxes is a necessity, and not doing it can lead to bank accounts being frozen, even jail time. I don't even remember how I came to the conclusion that I hadn't filed taxes anymore. It's been a few weeks since then. But I spent the next twenty-four hours deciding that I had unwillingly become a national criminal, and was going to have to be on the run across countries like James Bond. I sent money to different people in case my bank accounts were going to be frozen so I could have them send money to me while I was abroad, and called the IRS and set up an online account and sent myself snail mail so that I could get a verification code...
About a month after this I signed in to IRS online and held my breath to see that my poor, student-debt ridden self owed a balance of 0.00. What? 0.00 for years 2014, 2015, 2017. Wait. My mind settled on the term "tax return". If by now, Reader, you are already shaking your head, you may know unlike I did that filing a tax return form is the same as "filing taxes". I had done this all previous years that I worked since graduating college. And so a month of paranoia came to an end. Yes, yes, keep shaking your head in shame. I still do. It is interesting, though, that even though my mental capacities returned to normal about one day after taking LSD, a paranoiac thought that took root during the LSD experience itself remained in my mind for a month afterward. I just assumed during the entire month afterward that I had not indeed, filed taxes, even after the effects of LSD died down.
Trolled by acid,
I loved my experience with Helpx. One of the reasons I loved it was my hosts were away for 99% of my last two weeks here, leaving me free to dance along to my favorite songs in the kitchen while I cooked mushroom omelette. Then I played Assassin's Creed II on the Xbox, or went to hold the chicken while staring at her feathers, feeling the sun dance on my skin. There was no one to explain myself to, no one to force myself to smile at. My least favorite time was my first week here where I socialized with my hosts during every meal and in-between. Sometimes I got bored but wanted to be polite so I forced myself to listen and converse. After four days listening to people, including a child, tell me about things and how to do things, my mind was screaming for solitude the way waterlogged lungs scream for air.
Socializing in groups for more than two days nonstop is hard. A fact in the life of Đinh Hòai-Trâm. I love people (sometimes) and find them fascinating (occasionally), for certain amounts at a time. Then after my social battery is dead it doesn't matter if you are the Dalai Lama or want to give me a million dollars, I'm done. Well, you can give me the million dollars first.
My reflection as I explore affordable methods of travel are that I enjoy my right to solitude. Hostels are good because I can still leave whenever I want to get my alone time at a secluded park or church. I'm not obligated to talk to anybody or stay within anyone's space. Whereas work-for-travel methods such as farmstays are okay but not ideal. I mean, I can do it, but I don't enjoy being at someone's constant beck-and-call. I might as well be back in California working for actual money. At least then I have my nights and weekends off from people.
I'm lucky I had an unconventional Helpx experience where I was basically just house sitting and left alone. I loved biking in the countryside while listening to my favorite music, eating choux puff pastries and all the French cheeses, and drinking red wine. I loved talking to myself and the dog and the chickens and the goat and horses about my experiences. I felt some loneliness, but ironically a few days after my hosts left the house I started enjoying my solitude more. This makes me wonder if loneliness is really a case of missing people being around. Or is loneliness a state of disconnect to one's surroundings? When my hosts were here, I felt lonelier. When I am browsing social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram aimlessly, I also feel lonelier. Maybe loneliness is less about who's around, and more about feeling disconnected. I've been off Facebook for a day now and it feels great. Two more days of my social media fast. This post will automatically share to Facebook, but it'll be nice not to check who views it or comments on it.
Maybe house sitting is something to explore. Hostels are confirmed good on my list, whereas work-to-stay situations like Helpx, WWOOF, and working at hostels are now last on my list. House sitting is a gray zone yet to be explored. I loved it this time.
I've been spending the past two weeks in the French countryside near Bordeaux. Through a website called Helpx.net, I contacted hosts on a farm and negotiated to trade work on the farm for room and board and food. I feed and scoop poop for two horses, a goat, and of course, chickens. One of the chickens lets me pet her. I felt cooped up this evening so I went for a bike ride. Right now, I'm writing this on my phone. This is my view.
There are too many mosquitoes and they should all die a fiery, torturous death. Anyway, I often get lonely during my travels. Right now is another of those phases. I had an amazing strawberry shortcake in the morning at the Saturday outdoors market in Mussidan, but this underlying loneliness remains. Yesternight I realized that I was far away from Mayfair Skatepark and if all went well I wouldn't be back there in a long time. And the skaters there I had come to know and love would move on too. I felt sad but webcammed with a friend who told me to get some rest, so I did.
Well, the loneliness is still here. Why am I here? Why do I keep feeling this urge to fly to new places and experiences, far away from everyone who loves me? The answer is I don't know. It feels lonely and beautiful at the same time. I just know that if I don't, I die. Sounds dramatic, but it's true. I've seen the Dali Museum in Figueres, and I've seen grand churches in Barcelona and Bordeaux and they're beautiful, but I'm looking for something beyond snapping pictures. I'm looking for a life where I am free, where I don't have to choose one career, one spouse, one house, one rat race life of school-career-die. Is freedom too much to ask for? Freedom in love and life? Am I Icarus who flew too close to the sun so that his wings of wax melted and he fell into the sea and drowned? Well, I don't mind trying. I hope this post reminds me that I'm brave, I'm strong, and I'm not afraid to face uncertainty. The story of Daedalus seems to say that we should stay humble and close to the ground. But what if he didn't use wax? What if there's something else, and if we find it, we can fly to the sun and beyond?
"For fun," I tell him before plugging my headphones back into my ears. It is nice to have a day where I don't force myself to be social. Yesterday I slept at 2 AM, and woke up at 4 AM. I couldn't go back to sleep, so I went to skate all around Barcelona. I skated at the MACBA (Museum of art something), On the way I stalked a pigeon and felt the urge to squeeze it but my hands were full with my skateboard. I feel like a voyeur, an observer. Invisible, I watch people and it's like watching little vignettes. In the bathroom, some girls argue about whether "retina" is a cream or a part of the eye. I laugh inside, but I say nothing and hum.
Isolation gives me time to reflect: the two female superpowers are empathy and giving life. How can I incorporate that into my story, which I plan to be a modern retelling of Kiều? After skating I sat down to rest at 12 noon, when the sun was hot, and the sky bright and blue. I took out my copy of Truyện Kiều and realized that all my falling from skating had smashed the banana in my backpack...right onto the top of all the book pages. I sat in the shadow of the museum for twenty minutes, ripping out all the banana-sauce-soaked edges so the book wouldn't decay. Now the Tale of Kieu is ripped and ragged. The form is ugly, but the content remains. A book about a girl with a ripped, torn life has ripped, torn pages. Is she beautiful?
I like little cocks, big cocks, angry cocks and happy cocks. I like the way they crow in the morning, and the way they flap their wings and bob their heads when they peck at seeds on the ground. My love started at 8 years old -- I did not connect with humans but I connected with Mamacita, Honey, and Buttons -- the three cocks whom I chased around, hugged, and loved for one and a half happy years. Can a female be a cock? I'm a cocky female. Yes, Mamacita was a cock too. On Wednesday I fly to Barcelona. Am I going to be the first cock to fly 6000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean? Maybe I will talk to you about something other than cocks in the next post. But for now, I would just like to say that I love cocks.