Back on the road again! This time headed to multiple destinations with one other traveler, who has a car and is willing to drive me! I was lucky enough to meet Elizabeth who also wanted to see Redwood National Park, Napa Valley and Yosemite. She was a blessing from above and even picked me up at my Aunt and Uncles house...an hour EARLY! I'm not sure if it was her kind smile, jovial demeanor, or her friendly dog, Willow, that she brought along, but my family and I were pretty confident right off the bat that this was going to work out well.
Elizabeth enjoyed talking just as much as I do, if not more, so we got along well, and had very little moments of silence. But when there was silence I would just turn around and pet Willow who was an extra special bonus traveler for me because, as we all know, I love dogs.
Our drive down to Redwood National Forrest went as well as I could have hoped for. Being the navigator, the fact that I didn't get us lost made it a success, but we made it down there without any unnecessary excitement, well, that was until we got close. We were just one turn away from the Youth Hostel we looking for when something unexpected happened. Being from New Jersey it's nothing special to see an animal run across the street right in front of your car, but it's usually a deer or a squirrel. But from the size of the paws on this cat that swiftly bolted across the street directly in front of our car, I was instantly cognizant that I was not in New Jersey anymore...and I liked it.
After discussing with some locals, what we saw was either a young mountain lion or bobcat, but we had an instant conversation starter for when we got to the hostel.
The frail, rail thin, dread locked, white, 20 something behind the hostel check in counter was exactly what I expected to see and worked with the slow pace you can only chalk up to a hippie in his absolute prime. While checking us in, after minutes of long silences that he didn't seem to notice, he mentioned that the hostel, with a whopping 8 people staying at it, was going to be performing a "concert" soon after we checked in. I chuckled at the idea of what might pass as a "concert" to a hippie living at a youth hostel, and completely disregarded his invitation right then and there. I was VERY HUNGRY though, and I had a Subway "5 dollar footlong" (great buy) that needed to be eaten quickly so I could get a short hike in before the sun went down. I hurried to put my bags down in my room that could fit 10 people, but I only shared it with one middle aged man who resembled a hippie Santa Clause.
I initially entered the kitchen to eat my sub, but was alone at a table that could have seated 30, so I decided to take it into the more cozy family room where some other people were sitting around. Little did I know, I had just unwittingly upped the attendance at tonights "concert" I had only minutes earlier swore off. Only 5 people were sitting around. I'm happy I took the open seat on the couch because it would have been really awkward if I sat in the open seat that was now obviously set for the performer. But once he did sit down I was almost trapped into staying and listening. Yet, I'm a fan of music, and who turns down live entertainment while eating unless you're alone at a Mexican restaurant with a large Mariachi band walking around? So I sat, and ate, and listened...
Wow! The performers name was Jim Page and I was hooked as soon as he started strumming his guitar. Honestly, it was like I was in a trance, hanging on every word, every chorus, listening for the rhymes, trying to predict the next word, but being pleasantly surprised when the lyrics were better than my own. This was a true American experience, sitting around in a small group listening to an old man sing about the problems of the government, the religious extremists, the struggles of day to day life, and the hidden beauty behind it all. He might as well have been singing around a campfire.
Living outside of America for a year really made this a much fuller experience for me. Instead of being a tourist who couldn't understand a word of what what monks, native, or local people were singing about while I was on my travels, this was something completely different. I was part of the experience, not watching from the outside, staring at something so alien to me it's entertaining, but actually connecting with the performers words, sounds, and spirit. There was something great about hearing his thoughts, dreams, fears, and desires. There was something uniquely American about it all.
After living in Korea, making friends there, being accepted into families there, and enjoying their culture I felt an unusual connection to the place. Like I've said before, I now, as oddly as it sounds, see Seoul as a second home. Much the way I looked at college while I was attending Penn State. It's a place where I've proved that I can live a great life. But while I was in Korea my admiration of and connection to America weakened. I was hoping, but not too confident that this trip might rekindle the strong connection I had once felt for my own country. This wonderful concert was a big step forward in doing that. I would have never expected it, but there are little, seemingly insignificant experiences that can have a great impact on our lives, and how we live them. This concert was something I could have easily walked away from without giving it a chance, but instead I sat, listened, and ate it all up...every last word.
Of course then the next few days I went out and hiked through amazing forests with enormous trees older than dirt. My new mindset just made it all that much more enjoyable.
Next stop, the wine regions of Sonoma and Napa Valley! Ready or not, here I come with a new CD in hand, haha, I had to support a musician who stays at hostels.