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Hello nurse! I am traveling around the US and writing about it, and there seems to be no end in sight unless I die or go to prison or something.

I am looking for nice, fun people who can put me up for a few nights. This would involve me staying at your house for a few days, showing me a good time (since I like good times), and whatever general mischief we can get into. If you think it might be fun to host me for a day or two or three, email me at justingrace AT mac DOT com. Please make sure to include your address and phone number in your email to me so I can be in touch!

I am especially looking for places to stay in the southeast USA and the East Coast. I will be traveling all over the USA, though, so email me no matter what! Here are the places I will be in the next few weeks that I am still looking for a place to stay at:

• San Francisco
• Louisiana
• Mississippi
• Alabama
• Florida
• Tennessee
• North/South Carolina
• Georgia

Please contact me ASAP if you want to hang out!

US Tour Day 67: The Clarity of Aloneness

I went to see the Placebo concert last night. It wasn't so good. The band was dull and the sound was just sort of average. If you're playing a concert, it's OK if your sound is "average". You don't want your sound to be "just sort of average", though. There is a difference between "average" and "just sort of average". One is OK and the other is not.

There was a stalemate in terms of lack of energy in the relationship between the performers and the audience. The band acted like they were performing for a empty club. The audience acted like they were watching an empty stage. Neither fueled the other's fire. The result was a cold concert.

The band played all my favorite songs, though, and even surprised everyony by closing with a cover of "Where Is My Mind" by The Pixies. It wasn't the best concert I went to, but I was glad I went. The last few times I wanted to see them the show had sold out and I was starting to think I would never get to see them live.

After the show let out I walked down the two flights of stairs to the street and looked around at the Portland downtown all around me. It was only midnight and I could go anywhere I wanted and do anything I wanted. I was free and totally unencumbered. I'd gone to the show alone.

Afterwards I went out to some bars (alone)—where I managed to sell enough buttons to get myself three drinks (which I drank alone) and dinner (which I ate alone)! I have been doing lots of things alone these days. I've been eating alone quite a lot, going out downtown alone, sitting and getting a drink in a pub alone. It's not uncomfortable like I thought it would be. I'm actually finding it very satisfying and fulfilling to have this time with myself. I mean, sure it's a little strange—as I've always had lots of friends and acquaintances hanging out with me all the time throughout my life. But the increased solitude is helping me to distill certain ideas about my world and myself. I've found that this time alone is helping me to learn things I would not have otherwise been able to even see.

I got an email recently that really helped me to focus my thoughts on this subject. Here are the pertinent excerpts from that letter:
From: J
Subject: hello
Date: November 18, 2003 12:58:20 AM PST
To: Justin Winokur

Dear Justin,

I've been reading your diary for nearly a year, and felt it was maybe time to say hi.

When I first became a frequent flier at jwinokur.d– I too was feeling utterly homeless, disposessed, alone, scared by my uncertainties about EVERYTHING, and perhaps more than anything, angry at myself for having those uncertainties. Fortunately I was also, through a great act of self–will, realizing the possibilities of long–term optimism (which had never ocurred to me before. And I also know all sorts of crazy–cool things simply haven't ocurred to me yet, but will). It's when life sucked the most that I had to decide it rocked, in order to save myself. Hearing about your radiant benevolence and the fun you created for yourself and your lovelies within your grand life helped me a lot as well. Never had the word 'beauty' seemed appropriate for day–to–day, otherwise commonplace situations until I began reading your words, and experienced your rampant beauty–usage. Now there is beauty everywhere, of course.

I don't have anything to give back to you, but maybe talking about my relationship with aloneness will help in some small way. Home/personal space might be better, but that would take pages.

I'm an only child and had imaginary friends galore as a kid, etc. I was a brat and then was suddenly thrust into school and learned about life with people. People were great. My 'reward' moments became those spent WITH people. And I now subconciously? continue to arrange my life such that I'm alone a lot, meaning that this age–old concept remains in place (or I think that's it...). When I am feeling tenous/shaky/lonely I seek out even further solitude to try to fix myself before receiving the rewards of people again. Otherwise I wouldn't feel comfortable receiving the trophy of friendship (also meaning...the few times i've requested help i've felt awful...but this is being worked on).

This leaves a lot of room for getting sad, though, in between the times I get to see my favorite people (who are mostly far away). Or fiercely introspective. Or numbed following a couple days of fierce introspection. But just as you're so good at finding, the world is always trying to cheer us up.

All in all, though, I'm glad that I love being alone. There are more things that I can only do alone (in terms of thoughts, art, etc) than I can only do with company. And although this might be because I just need to run around with the kids more often, I can't seem to make good mental use of my shared experiences (like runnin around with the kids) until I have again retreated into solitude. Actually, I just gradually shut down. If I spend more than, say, 3 days in constant contact with friends, I quietly forget who I am (although I also feel I do okay at knowing who I am. Maybe this is why I am so attuned to the forgetting). This happens because too much input has piled up without the time needed to relate this to myself...add it to my database...and then arrive at a new summary–of–self. Stepping backwards into me kicks the fuse again. And this all in respect of the fact that I'm changing drastically all the time. And changing the world. Like everyone.

I don't really know where to go from here, and don't know how to turn this into a useful anecdote because I'm different enough from you on this aloneness thing to have the idea to write a useful anecdote...

I wish you the best, though. I remember the first and only time i've eaten alone in a restaurant. It was 2 months ago. And I probably sound like someone who'd be good at that too. I'm not. As it is I'm still sketchy on having a place (such as a city) to belong to in particular, but my coping method has been looking forward to whatever I can find to anticipate (every few hours today, I anticipated a road trip I will take in 5 months). Going outside. Going inside. Writing a stranger an email. The next good yet unthought–of thought. The dreams I will have when I sleep. Books I might read.
To this I replied:
From: Justin Winokur
Subject: Re: hello
Date: November 23, 2003 2:12:06 PM PST
To: J




I don't really know what to say to this. I haven't really known what to say to this. That's what took me so long.

Ok, here goes:

You wrote that you felt you didn't have anything to give back to me. You were wrong.

Your letter to me was one of the most beautiful things anyone has ever written to me. It came from your heart, and you provided insights which I think will really help me. I didn't answer sooner because I wanted to savor the feeling of your letter and the words therein. The first time I read it I only read the first paragraph. Then I closed it and let myself sit with that for a few days. Then, slowly, I continued. Finally, today, I finished reading the whole thing.

Do you know what it is like to savor someone's words in this way? Like a hot drink on the coldest day, your words filled me with the warmth I needed yet hadn't even realized I needed until I tasted and felt it fill me. I sipped slowly, savoring.

There was love and concern and appreciation and a sense of relating in the words you wrote. (I hope you will continue to be you—to be that person who naturally emanates this sort of light. The world needs this light!)

The best part is that I learned something from your words. I feel like I've been so busy my whole life with information and moments and loved ones and beauty that I've never taken the appropriate time to process these experiences with myself. And, I may have lost some parts of myself during all this. Or, to be more accurate, I never knew those parts of myself to begin with! I was always so busy that I never had the spare processor cycles available to view these hidden packets.

But now, on this long journey, I find there is plenty of time. I am often alone. The clouds part, and the glaring sun of my issues and iniquities fills my eyes. (Of course, my strengths and blessings also come into clear view in a way I had never experienced. But, I don't notice as much since seeing these feels good and doesn't shake my world in the same way. Seeing the other not so positive things is quite a bit more challenging and generally feels not so fun—even though I know that knowledge brings with it growth. It still hurts, so I tend to sit up more and take notice.)

Basically, in your words, I need to take the time to relate to myself. How simple. Why didn't anyone tell me sooner?

Once again, thank you.

I hope to meet you in person someday. I bet we would have a lot to talk about.


Here's to concerned people sharing their hearts. Here's to more learning. Here's to finding joy in new things which should have been old things. And here's to being compassionate and refraining from being hard on myself for not figuring it out sooner.