Day 617 OUT OF Beijing: Precis and the very early days of my blog.

 

Issue 6, Edition 1 of Precis.

Issue 6, Edition 1 of Precis.

 

Jill and I woke up, checked our email, and had a very nice surprise this morning: Some of my first few blog posts were in my friend, Chris Stecher’s, online magazine, Precis.

Chris is a rather amazing fellow: He’s traveled pretty much everywhere, is an incredible photographer, lives outside the box in more ways than I can ever imagine, just got married to the woman of his dreams (shout out to Kat Tosi!) and lives in Beijing.

We met both he and his wife, Kat, in Beijing about a year ago. They are two wild and crazy people, which Beijing seems to bring out in expatriates, and really are fun to hang out with and discuss life since we have a lot of the same views and the conversations are always lively and go on very strange tangents.

When Jill and I were about to leave China, Chris told me about Precis and I told him about my blog. Somehow I had forgotten to tell him, early on, and he said, “Dude, I need to have that in my magazine!”  I was honored and humbled  that he would want my stories and I immediately accepted.

Precis is now on its 6th issue and it is getting more and more press.

There are stories from people all over the world, including another friend of mine who runs an eco-resort in the Dominican Republic, and so much more.

I suggest you have a look at it, and my blogs, and you can see where my trip to Beijing started and how much I’ve changed, learned, traveled and realized about the world, myself, and how I was before Jill and I truly became a couple since we had only met about 2 weeks before these first few blog posts were written and I was still trying to get my bearings as I started a 1.5 year journey in a new country, at a new job, and with very little expectations or ideas of what was going to happen.

 

 

Day 615 OUT OF Beijing: North Beach and San Francisco City Guides.

 

View from the parking lot.

View from the parking lot.

 

Jill and I headed off to San Francisco to check out another San Francisco City Guide walk as we continued to update San Francisco Tourism Tips.

We took the bus in and then walked from the drop off point up Columbus Avenue to North Beach.

We were pressed for time, since we had a tour at Anchor Steam Brewery at 1 pm so we knew we’d only be able to stay for about half the 90 minute tour.

Our guide did a great job and introduced us to a lot of the old San Francisco and how North Beach started up with lots of Italian families moved in and started to incorporate their favorite parts of Italy into the USA.

We started at Saints Peter and Paul Church which is located at 666 Filbert.  Jill mentioned this to me and I thought it was rather humorous and a bit of classic San Francisco craziness.

One of the facts that we were told was that Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe were actually married at City Hall, since the church wouldn’t let them marry there because she had been married before, and then they took pictures at the Peter and Paul Church because they wanted their families to think that they were married in a church.

There has also been a lot of movies filmed here and it has become quite famous.  It was almost empty and we took our time walking around and enjoying the gorgeous interior.

After we left Saints Peter and Paul church, we walked into Washington Square.  There were a lot of Chinese people dancing and exercising here, at 11 am, because they have started coming here to enjoy the day since Chinatown is so crowded and many of the older apartments have very little room.  So, it was fun to watch a bit of Chinese culture that had been transported here and remind us of something that we truly loved living in Beijing.

We saw one man, in particular, doing his exercises alone and then he hugged a tree for about a minute.  It was so comforting and he seemed so happy as he was enjoying his day.  As we walked by, he smiled and waved at our group.

We then moved over to Liguria Bakery, which is famous for its focaccia.  They are also infamous for their family being rude, abrasive and pushy.  It is all part of their way of being and I hope they never change it because San Francisco would lose some real characters.  And amazing focaccia!

We then walked by Joe DiMaggio’s family’s old house and passed a woman who ran a day care company and her little “bus” of kids that were so cute.  Just in case you wonder, we asked permission to take their picture and she agreed.

Last but not least, we went to the parking lot above a police department for some of the best views of San Francisco.  It is also located above the parking lot for one of the mortuaries in San Francisco and I just loved the perspective that this view gave to the shot.  Sadly, we had to leave so we could get to our Anchor Steam tour but we want to go back and do the whole thing as soon as possible!

 

Day 614 OUT OF Beijing: Why We Walk, Part 8.

Take a book/Leave a book.  A wonderful little free library.

Take a book/Leave a book. A wonderful little free library.

 

Jill and I took a side road, after passing the off-leash dog and human park, and noticed this interesting bookshelf near an intersection.

As we walked closer we noticed the sign on top, “Free Library”.

We kept getting closer and then saw the “Take a book/Leave a book” sign underneath it.

We love walking around, seeing little surprises like this, that would bring together a community, and how people are always thinking up something new and surprising.

It is part of what we want our new website, to be unveiled soon, to help others do.

We want people to be inspire, and then inspire others, to be more, do more, and live more.

We’ve seen how wonderful it is to travel, experience new cultures and people, and hope to help others do the same.

This may not mean giving up your job and becoming minimalists like we have, but it may allow you to change something that you’ve always wanted to change, or visit somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit, or think about yourself in a new way that allows you more peace and contentment.

I’ve been working on an ebook to help people change their attitude, and life, at this very moment and it is almost ready.

My mom, who is an excellent writer and editor, has been helping me figure out exactly what I want to have come across in the most clear, simple and most useful format possible.

It is a combination of all my years of being a cognitive behavioral therapist, my dabbling in Buddhism and use of acceptance and gratitude, and my sense of humor and joy of living a life that is truly wonderful.

It is exciting to think that I’ll be putting this out into the world and what the reactions might be from the people that read it.

It is also a little bit scary.

I’m hoping that most people will like my book, and give me good reviews while also suggesting other points that they would like clarity or more support on. If so, I can then write more sequels or even do personal online training with them to help them achieve their goals more quickly.  It is an exciting new part of our lives!

However, I’m sure there will be people that will give me negative reviews and it will be hurtful.  However, if this happens, I will be able to use the tools that I’ve taught so many others to help me figure out how to adapt, learn and not let that become a set back to a new adventure and way of life that Jill and I want to achieve.

When we actually arrived at the little free library, we noticed the basket for free hollyhock seeds nailed to the side of it.  The little bit of randomness made us smile and laugh.

Maybe someday, if enough people buy my book, it will end up on a little free library like this and reach many more people than I can even imagine.

That is why we walk.

Not just books but hollyhock seeds are available.

Not just books but hollyhock seeds are available.

Day 613 OUT OF Beijing: Why We Walk, Part 7.

 

We didn't see any on-leash humans when we walked by the park.

We didn’t see any on-leash humans when we walked by the park.

 

After Jill and I passed by “The House of Bliss” we started downhill and back to our home.

There is a gorgeous little park, right after the peak of the hill where “The House of Bliss” is located and we noticed a woman sitting there, relaxing and reading a book, who smiled at us as we sauntered by.

There was a fence set up around a part of the fence, and the quotation on it made me laugh.

I’m pretty sure that the off-leash humans would be welcome and I’m wondering if there had been some issues with on-leash humans walking around.

This is, after all, the San Francisco Bay Area and we are known for being different and fun.

I’m guessing what the author of this sign meant was actually, “Off-Leash Pets, And Humans, Welcome” compared to what was printed.

I’m a big fan of using commas, and probably over use them, and this made me smile because it might have been the intention of the author to make it comedic and humorous.

I’m guessing that he or she did intend it and I appreciate subtle punctuation and grammar humor wherever I can find it.

That is why we walk.

Day 611 OUT OF Beijing: Why We Walk, Part 5.

 

Notice the "Merica" scrawled into the mud on the windshield.

Notice the “Merica” scrawled into the mud on the windshield.

 

Jill’s and my walk continued back into more of the city part of Petaluma.

Petaluma, in case you aren’t from Sonoma County, was not the upscale town it looks like now just about 10-15 years ago.

The rush to move north of San Francisco, whether to Healdsburg (my hometown), Cloverdale or Petaluma, has brought in a brand new group of people.

It used to be mostly farmers, and people like my family that didn’t want to live in the big city but still wanted to drive down to see family, but not a lot of commuters and extremely wealthy people.

Petaluma, and Healdsburg, is now loaded with wealthy people and this has changed the demographic considerably.

Not saying this is better or worse, just different.

I know I like some of the new in Healdsburg, and Petaluma, but I also like some of the old.

There is a balance, just like what is happening in San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley, that can be unsettling and upsetting to long time residents who are now being priced out, pushed out, and excluded from the cities and towns they were raised in and belonged to just a few short years ago.

Progress is just that, progress.

As Jill and I walked, I saw a bit of of “Old Petaluma.”

It was a 4×4 truck, definitely meant for “4 Wheelin'” in the mud and streams, and it had been used accordingly.

When I grew up, there was a definite faction of people that used to go 4 wheelin’ a lot.  They were mostly good folk and seemed to enjoy themselvecs and not bother anyone else.

There were also some of them that were racist and would harass me for being Jewish.  I can’t imagine that happening in Petaluma or Healdsburg of today.

Progress is just that, progress.

This truck brought me back to my high school days and what it was like growing up in a “hick” town, as Healdsburg used to be called.  There is, in no way, any chance it could be called that now.  My personal nickname for it is “Hamptons West” because of the money and skin tone of most of the people that live there.

Stopping to photograph the truck, I noticed the mud and how, “Merica” was scrawled into it on the windshield.  There is a definite statement being made by the person who wrote this in the mud of this truck.  You can figure out what they were stating.

I then walked around the back and notice the folded up American flag, 12 pack of Budweiser and other assorted junk thrown around the bed of the truck.

I also checked out the bumper stickers.

Bumper stickers are an intriguing way to show your beliefs and inform others of who you are without actually having any type of conversation or discourse.

This person, obviously, is not an Obama fan since one of his says, “Does your Obama bumper sticker make you feel stupid yet?” and “4×4” filled in with the Stars and Bars, which, no matter what anyone states, is a definitive statement for slavery, and lastly, “The 2nd Amendment: America’s original homeland security.”

My mom once gave me a t-shirt that has 4 Native American men, holding rifles, with the statement, “Homeland Security: Protecting America’s borders since 1492.”  I would tend to think they’d have had a whole different opinion on the 2nd Amendment.  Just a thought.

Anyway, I just thought this truck, and the owner, were fairly hilarious since he/she had a very nice house, a few other nice cars, and probably lived a very nice life.  And yet, he/she was still angry at Obama and the mostly liberal elected government around this area.

It made me think, again, of the privilege that most people living in the USA have and how little they travel, see other cultures, or truly live outside of their own little bubble.  Beliefs become simplistic and black and white, which, in reality, nothing is black and white.

I reflected on Bill and Rosemary from the UK, who we had just met a day or two ago.  They had done two different 2 year trips in their truck, and in opposition to this truck, their bumper stickers showed their willingness to see the world, see what else is out there, and learn about so many foreign cultures and people.  We tend to know so many more people like Bill and Rosemary, and unlike this truck owner, because of our choices.

This dichotomy reminds me that I  choose not to be stuck in black and white world, to stay stuck in one location, to speak only one language, or to live in a world where everything is explained in a single bumper sticker proclaiming other people’s stupidity.

That is why we walk.

 

He, or she, made her opinions very well known.

He, or she, made her opinions very well known. Which is their right.

 

Day 610 OUT OF Beijing: Why We Walk, Part 4.

 

The Wild Turkeys of Petaluma.

The Wild Turkeys of Petaluma.

 

Jill and I are trying to lose some weight, get in better shape, and not be stuck in front of the computer doing work for San Francisco Tourism Tips all day long.

In that vein, we are making sure to do walks each day that we aren’t out in San Francisco getting more information for the site.

Petaluma is such a wonderful little town and it is so easy to get out in to the countryside and away from traffic, cars and noise, especially compared to places like Beijing, where it is almost impossible to find silence and solitude, even in parks and nature since it is so polluted, packed with people, and dirty.

For that reason, alone, we need to be out and taking advantage of what we have been given here and we are doing that.

On the days where we don’t walk, I’m trying to run or do something else to continue getting in shape.  I’m definitely not where I want to be at this point and so I’m doing something about it.

As we walked over a rather large hill in the outskirts of Petaluma, Jill said, “Hey, look at that!” and pointed out a few turkeys that had just finished crossing the road in front of us.  No, I didn’t ask them if a chicken had crossed the road before them or why if it had.

We stopped, watched them walk around and realized, once again, that we are in an area where there is lots of life and nature and that we almost never saw birds in Beijing.  We both mentioned this fact to each other, a few times, when we lived in Beijing, but it really comes to life when you see so much flora and fauna in its natural environment.

The only place we really saw that was at the Beijing Zoo and that was a truly horrendous event of which I will only say that that there were people feeding cheese to the monkeys, gazelles and zebras. I’m sure that is exactly what those animals diets are supposed to be, right?

A friend of mine said he saw people hit the pandas with apples in the head so the pandas would look at them and be more active.  Suffice to say, NEVER go to the Beijing Zoo if you care about animals at all.

We, on the other hand, were able to see these amazing animals, treat them with respect and let them live their lives, and then see a few tiny quail walk out of the blackberry bushes as an added gift.

If we had just sat at our computers, working all day, we’d have missed this wonderful gift.

That is why we walk.

Day 609 OUT OF Beijing: Why We Walk, Part 3.

 

Bill and Rosemary with their Land Rover.

Bill and Rosemary with their Land Rover.

 

Jill and I were hanging out, working on SF Tourism Tips, and decided we’d go to lunch in Petaluma.

We were going to walk to Lagunitas Brewing Company, have a beer and some food, and then walk back to Randy and Alethea’s home since it was a gorgeous day, we wanted a break from work, and we like getting out and about.

As we know, the best laid plans of mice and men…

We started walking down the main streets and saw Lombardi’s Gourmet Deli and BBQ and decided to take a detour.

We bought a sandwich, some macaroni salad and a bottle of red wine since they had a huge deck and we wanted to enjoy the view.

As we ate our food, we noticed a rather impressive Land Rover in the parking lot.

It was covered with stickers from countries all over the world and we had fun trying to guess which sticker was for each country and where the owners had traveled.

After about 15 minutes, a man walked out and started towards the car.  I told Jill, “I want to go ask him what they are doing and where they are going.”  She said, “Go for it!”

I walked over, flag the man down and asked him about their travels.

Bill told me that they had bought this Land Rover in the UK and then driven it all over Africa for a few years.

In opposition to the news we hear of Africa, they loved the Sudan and said that the people are very friendly and that there is very little crime.  It was interesting because I’ve found that the media very often lies about conditions, here and abroad, to keep people in fear and from experiencing new places and meeting people.

They were in Petaluma on their way down to Joshua Tree, after being in Canada for a few months, and were looking for a good campground.

That is why Jill and I travel and talk to people.  We think almost everyone has something to offer and we can learn from them.

Bill’s wife, Rosemary, came up to us and I invited them to sit down with Jill and me and share a bit of time and share each other’s stories.

Bill and Rosemary had traveled all over the world, starting long ago, by using their professions to get them where they wanted to be.  Or, in one case, not where they wanted but then decided to stay for 10 years.    But that is their story and I’ll let them tell it on their blog if they decide to.  By the way, they probably have only half of the stickers from countries they’ve visited because they weren’t for sale or available while they were there.  I would guess they’ve been to somewhere between 75-100 countries.  I’ve been to 16.  It gives me incentive and inspiration!

Jill and I were intrigued by their choice to sell their house and hit the road.  Their idea of minimalism is very close to our’s, except they have a car, and they live inside their Land Rover almost all the time.  They do use other services, like TrustedHousesitters, to find homes to house sit, but they are also very frugal and financially smart so they can travel for as long as they want to.

This trip started about 2 years ago after they had returned back to the the UK to see their daughter and her family.  They shipped their Land Rover to Uruguay and then started driving all over Southern and Central America from there.

After moving into North America, they went through Mexico, the southwest of the USA, and up to Canada.  They stayed in Canada for a few months and are now heading across the USA to the East Coast where they will ship their car, and themselves, back to the UK.

They aren’t sure if they will settle down when they get back home and are trying to figure out what to do next.

After listening to their story, and be totally amazed by their willingness to take chances, live a different life, and not be tied down to possessions and places, we told them more about our plans and beliefs.  They seemed to appreciate them and were impressed that we could do all this traveling without a car and just walk, bike, bus or take mass transportation to get around.

The next day they were planning on going to San Francisco so Jill gave them some ideas and told them she would email them a plan later that day so that they could have more specifics if they wanted to use them.

After a few hours of talking, they needed to get on their way to  their campsite and we needed to get home.  We gave them some directions and they decided to go food shopping.  After we parted, Jill and I decided to skip Lagunitas entirely, since it would be dark before we headed home, and we decided to go shopping also.

We walked about 1 mile to the grocery store and saw their truck in the parking lot.  We smiled as we knew we’d get to say hi one more time and walked in and saw them immediately.  We all started laughing and talked for a few more minutes before we parted and went our separate ways.

In case you want to see their travels, click the links below:

Africa Road Trip

Latin America Road Trip

That is why we walk.

Day 608 OUT OF Beijing: Why We Walk, Part 2.

 

The view of Petaluma on one of our walks.

The view of Petaluma on one of our walks.

 

Jill and I kept talking to Mitch and discussing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It seems, and this may just be confirmation bias but Jill and I both think that more and more people are trying to figure out how to do more with less.

I’ve been getting a lot of friends asking me how to minimize their possessions to maximize their life.

I’ve helped them figure out how to live on less, travel with less, take up less space in the world, and figure out how to own things instead of having things own them.

Last night, in fact, Jill and I spent an hour going through each of our check in bags and discarded about half of what we had in them.

We doubt we can get down to one check and two carry ons between us each check in will be very light since they are both only about half full.

Once we figure out where we are going to settle, in about a year, we will be able to unload more of it since I’ll know if I need my cycling gear.

Cycling gear?  Yep, I have my cycling spandex and cycling shoes (with clip-less pedals) that I’m dragging around everywhere.

This takes up about 1/4 of my bag and seems like a waste.

However, it will allow me to get around easily, when we settle down, and the cost of carrying it is much less than having to purchase it again.

This is a cost benefit analysis that I’ve done and the benefits far outweigh the costs.

My friend, Christopher Rubin, is also going to open a bike store in the next few months.

I want to help him and we plan to ride our bikes to work together and that means I’ll be needing these clothes sooner rather than later.  It is also a free way to get healthy and lose weight which I want to do also.

Mitch seems to want to have a simpler life and we all talked about how that could happen, for both him and us, and what we are doing to accomplish that goal.

This doesn’t just mean minimizing but doing what you want, when you want and knowing that you could die, at any moment, and how do you want to live until that happens.

For Jill and me, it is traveling, seeing friends and family, and exploring the world.

We’ve both simplified our lives enough that we can make this happen.

We can help you do the same if you want.

When we walk, we talk about how to accomplish this and share our knowledge.

That is why we walk.

 

 

 

 

Day 607 OUT OF Beijing: Why We Walk, Part 1.

 

The 1953 210 in all its glory!

The 1953 210 in all its glory!

 

Jill and I are enjoying our car-less travels all around the bay as we update SF Tourism Tips.

We walk about a mile to grab the first bus, in Petaluma, and then take it into San Francisco where we might walk, bus or take the street cars depending on our time and destination.

We also bus back to Petaluma and it has been mostly enjoyable.

I’d say about 9 out of 10 Golden Gate Bus drivers are incredibly friendly and love their jobs.

The ones that aren’t happy are probably just having a bad day and have to deal with a lot.

I’ve noticed, as I’ve talked to the bus drivers, most of them just say, “This job teaches you patience.”

It makes me think that most of the drivers probably practice a type of “moving meditation” when they drive and deal with people so that they can stay calm, mellow and happy most the time.

Otherwise the traffic, the people, and the on time pressure would wear them down.

Our latest driver said to Jill and me that, “I just put on a smile and keep it on.  If I get worn down, I smile and I come back to who I am and who I want to be.”  Imagine if we all did that, a little bit more each day, how different our lives would be?

As we walked towards the bus one day, we turned the corner and noticed this amazing car.

It is a 1953 Chevy 210 with some added flair (some parts from a Plymouth and taillights from a 1954 210 as Mitch liked those more and wanted more “personality”).

We immediately fell in love with it and Jill said, “My dad would love this!”

Jill’s dad, Bill, rebuilds old cars and is a blacksmith and also does leather work.

I suggested we go ask the owner if we could take some pictures and he agreed.

He stated that he hand painted it about 6 years ago and it took a long long long time because each layer is very difficult and time consuming.  He didn’t use any filler or bondo on the bodywork because he didn’t want the paint to crack or break as the car aged.  We couldn’t see any imperfections at all.

We didn’t have our camera, at this time, so we asked if we could come back and he happily agreed.

Two days later we were walking down the street and heard this rumble behind us.  It was Mitch and his 1953 210 cruising down the street.  There really is nothing like the sound of a classic car’s engine rumbling and cruising.

Mitch pulled into his shop and parked it in the sunshine so we could see it really glow.  He then he wiped it down with a cloth to get all the dust off of it.  He had just made some engine improvements and taken it for a test drive so it was a bit dusty and we appreciated his time and effort to make his baby shine!

Mitch, the owner, told us this is his “daily driver” and that he also built a Comet for his wife.  We talked about the joy of doing what you love for a living and how it can be difficult to live outside the expected way of life but that none of us could go back to what we used to do.

Mitch, by the way, was born in Sweden and came to the USA to play music.  It seems he did fairly well for himself and quite a bit of touring.  He lived in Los Angeles but got tired of it and moved up north.  He and his wife now live in Petaluma and he seems to be quite content and proud of his creations.

An artist working his craft.

We talked for about 45 minutes, as we weren’t in a hurry, and it was like meeting an old friend.

There is no question that if we had been in a car, we would have missed Mitch and his 1953 210.

That is why we walk.

 

Day 606 OUT OF Beijing: The Wave Organ of San Francisco.

 

Some of the pipes that allow for the sound to be created at the Wave Organ.

Some of the pipes that allow for the sound to be created at the Wave Organ.

 

The final destination for our SF Tourism Tips update journey today was The Wave Organ.

The wave organ is exactly as it sounds: an organ that produces sounds as waves go into its tubes.

It is a pretty strange experience but a lot of fun.

It is part of the Exploratorium and I would suggest people check it out.

How can it be part of the Exploratorium since it is about 2 miles away from the actual Exploratorium?

Let me answer that:  The Exploratorium used to be housed in part of the Palace of Fine Arts before it moved to the Embarcadero a few years ago.

This outdoor exhibits was made by Peter Richards and George Gonzales and it has continued to survive through the years.

The Exploratorium has a number of other outdoor exhibits also and you can find out more by checking out the SF Tourism Tips Exploratorium page.

We walked out to the Wave Organ, located on a jetty in the bay, and hung out for about 10 minutes.  We listened to the sounds and the music being made by this piece of art and the ocean and enjoyed it.  We had to catch our bus back to Petaluma or we would have stayed longer.  It is definitely a strange, but fun, way to hear music if you’ve never done it.  It is also very relaxing and it affords a magnificent view of the bay, Alcatraz and the Marina District.

We were lucky enough to visit it when the tide was almost at its highest, since that is when the most noises are made and it is the loudest.

As we walked away towards our bus stop, two elderly Caucasian women were walking up.  One of them, who looked to be in her 70s or 80s, said, “How is it today?  Can you hear anything?”

Jill and I both answered that the high tide was coming and the music was getting louder.

The lady then said, “Great!  My nephew designed this and I can’t wait to hear it!”

We would guess that it was Peter Richards that was her nephew and found it to be such a stroke of luck to be there at the time as a relative of one of the designers and artists.

This is why we love walking, exploring and talking to random people as we continue our journey around the world!