Memento Mori

I was walking down sunny Manhattan Avenue in Brooklyn last weekend. It had been so long since I had hanged out in my favorite city in the world. I am a Brooklyn babe (like Lana Del Rey haha), and it felt even better that I was in town just for an impromptu courtesy visit.

Outside one out of the million antique shops of the street, I saw a sign: ‘Badass Vintage for your Badass life’. I love the word ‘badass’, so I got in. The store felt different from all the ones trying to sell you dusty yet soulless old stuff. It was clean and bright and every object was exhibited like in a museum.

My eyes were browsing aimlessly, curious but not caught. A French ashtray from the Galeries Lafayette, earrings, old cameras… I turned around and I am sure I let out a strange cry for I got moved in an unusual way. I got very close to the object of my curiosity. I am not good at visually describing things. Here is what I saw.

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A label was hanging from the handmade old frame. ‘Memento Mori, circa 1900. $240.’ I contemplated the Dead Lady for a long time. The quaint charm of the photograph was truly captivating. Every detail of the arrangement had been thought about, like a silent movie scene. The profusion of flowers, the old piano, the portrait of the Lincoln looking guy above her coffin, her wedding gown, the position of her hands carefully crossed on her chest. Her pale face which looked about the same age as mine. I got overwhelmed by a stream of mixed feelings. I didn’t know which one was predominant. Empathy, for her prematured death which could have only been tragic and/or violent? Curiosity about the details of her life? What was her name? Identification, as she could be me? Inspiration, as everything about this scene was so loudly narrative? Morbidity, as I’ve never seen a dead body in real life?

I couldn’t put up with the flow of my bouncy feelings. I was tempted to purchase her immediately and leave with her under my arm, just to keep analyzing my virulent emotions. But I didn’t. I wanted to see if I would easily forget about her. I also didn’t want to spend $240 on an object, because I don’t own any. Only dresses and shoes. I am certainly not an antique collector. On the way out, I saw a 19th century obstetrician tool kit. One of the tools looked like a cork screw.

My Dead Lady was with me all afternoon and all night. I harrassed my friends telling what mysterious spell she had cast over me. I went back to the shop the following day. I stared at my romantically beautiful Dead Lady again. She was smaller than I remembered, but still magically seductive. The young burlesque looking shop owner recognised me. She said that the Dead Lady was waiting for the perfect person to buy her. I replied that it was me and that she was coming back with me to London. While the shop owner was putting green bubble wrap around the original wooden frame, I started asking her a million questions. She had bought the photograph from a lady in Vermont who stored it in her attic. She had inherited it from a grandmother or greatgrandmother, but she didn’t think the Dead Lady was a relative. She didn’t know who she was, no name nor the slightest clue about her existence apart from the approximate date of the picture, between 1890 and 1910. The question started spinning in my head. What was the nature of this woman’s existence? She was such an amazing starting point for a novel, an adventure, any kind of story hunting and story telling.

The burlesque looking shop owner started unfolding bits of her work as an antique dealer. She studied something like criminology (not quite, but similar, I am forgetting the exact subject) and wanted to be a US marshal. She then worked as a private hunter, looking for super specific objects throughout the country upon request from rich people. Her job now consisted in driving the East coast of the US in a van, stopping along the road in diners to talk to people and make connections in order to hear their life story, visit their home and buy unique objects.

The girl won me over for she had exactly the life style that I dream of. Hitting the road, meeting strangers and collecting life stories. This is what I do in my own way, but I haven’t found the trick to turn it into a career just yet. I want a human and itinerant job. Talking with that girl triggered something in my brain about all the possibilities out there to create the work you want if there is no job in the world that perfectly suits you. Just tailor your own. I told her that she should write down and exhibit in her shop the human story attached to each object she sells, so people would not only buy a frame or a piece of furniture, but they would buy a piece of a perfect stranger’s humanity.

On the train that was taking me back to Boston, I googled ‘Memento Mori’. I thought it meant The moment of your death’ but my latin is poor. It literally means ‘Remember to die’ or ‘Remember that you must die’. It is a Christian thing and a whole artistic genre in itself. Puritan America was very big on it between the 17th and the 19th century. I probably purchased one of the last ones as the tradition started fading away.

The forests of New England were passing before my eyes as I was absorbing the events of the recent days on my Amtrak seat. Absorbing the eternal electricity of New York, all these new stories and encounters to integrate into my life. I realised there was a funny correlation in my obsession to find clues about the existence of my Dead Lady with the same passion as I put in trying to find clues about the true nature of my own existence. I think I got a couple clues more during my New York escape. I want my work to be human & itinerant.

I haven’t found a place for my Memento Mori yet. It deserves a very special spot. It is still trapped in its green bubble wrap. It intimidates me to look at it, to welcome it in my home. I am also somewhat afraid that it will haunt me or obsess me with its strong nostalgic presence. I am not going to take that photograph as a daily reminder that I must die. I am going to use it as a daily reminder that I must pursue the life I really want.

If by an extraordinary coincidence someone has any information about the lady on the picture, please contact me: mother_chaos@mail.com – Thanks!

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Everything Is As It Should Be

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October was about being thrown off centre from my original plans by the universe. And finding myself being grateful for it.

# La Fille coupée en trois (The Girl Split in Three)

Four days before I took off to America, my iconic friend H who was supposed to come with me on my New Orleans and New York adventures got offered a dream job in Japan. She had to cancel. We had planned to rail trip across the country and write the script of her short movie on the Amtrak. We were calling our train-to-be the “Mystery Train” in tribute to Jim Jarmusch. I got the news that it was all falling through on a Friday night as I was all dolled up, waiting for a girl I had met once for a sexy date.

Throughout the night, I was a girl split in three. Head against body against soul. As I was giving and receiving sex, and liking every aspect of it, my brain was running high speed to establish plans B. Cancel everything and go take care of my injured brother? Swap Louisiana for Canada? Get on a sleep cure to recover from the last thirteen years?

My body was fully present though. I had an awesome night. But in between the waves of fever, I was briefly struck by the ocean of my loneliness and the meaninglessness of my life. The truth is, my heart was sinking as I was realising that I had let myself love H more than I should have. We had grown mysteriously close over the last two months and I was sensing the presages of our becoming creation Siamese twins, intellectual lovers. My feverous gaze was intermittently focusing on the black void on the other side of the barely known body that was bringing me to trance. I was contemplating the redoubted limbo of love where I was surely heading, perceiving random shapes dancing in the dark. I was shortly carried back into action and sensations and my gaze was getting out of focus again to celebrate life just as it was coming along.

After multiple tergiversations, I finally maintained the trip as it was originally planned, on the verge of exhaustion and with a cloud of question marks in my head. New Orleans has been the wonder that it has been and changed my life in some ways. The day that I arrived in New York, H sent me a brief message from Japan which was turning her world upside down: “It feels like our lives are aligning right now.”

It was so right to be taken apart by the universe on the path to our respective adventures. We both found some missing clues about the true nature of our existence. And I thank-godly aborted falling in love with her.

# The Teacher Training Miracle

On the last day of August, I submitted my application for the next 5 Rhythms Teacher Training starting in Spring 2015. It would imply that I’d be on a marathon to complete all the missing pre-requisites workshops and raise a shit ton of money to pay for the tuition fees by the end of next year. Why not? I love challenges that seem out of reach. I needed a short-term goal to escape the ordinary.

In October, after a few days at the Cycles workshop in Philadelphia, it was getting obvious that I wasn’t ready to train as a teacher six months later. I was instinctively guessing that I needed to take my time, absorb and soak in the fun and ecstasy of being an achievement-free student. It is not in my nature to renounce, though. My application had been submitted, so I was going to go for it if it was successful, just to commit to myself as I always do.

The second to last day of the workshop, I was happily walking to the yoga warm up in the automnal sunshine of a beautiful morning. I was feeling light, bubbly, at the right place. The assistant of the teacher – a renowned 5 Rhythms lady that I sometimes dance with in New York – was coming in the opposite direction and stopped me. She kindly asked me if we could have a chat. She is on the 5 Rhythms teacher training board and she told me she had read my application the night before.

“How do you feel about the training?”, she asked me. What a relief! I told her the truth, that I was full of doubts and had overestimated my readiness to teach. I just wanted to dance and be naive about it for a couple more years. We agreed that I’d postpone my application to 2017. Who cares? I have all the time in the world. I have to learn how to enjoy the path to my goals rather than beating myself up to get it over with. She hugged me and thanked me for my honesty. I entered the yoga class feeling much lighter, as if this tiny lady who is my height had freed me from a massive burden.

I went to get a coffee after yoga. A girl from the workshop was coming in the opposite direction, and again she stopped me with a huge spontaneous hug. “So nice to dance with you!” she said. “What’s your name?” We started talking. She wanted to do the 5 Rhythms teacher training but she felt under pressure to start in 2015 so she was going to apply for 2017. She said word for word the speech that I had given an hour before to that kind lady. I laughed. The timing was just so clear and so funny. I wanted to high five the sky and tell the universe: “I received the message. Thanks for checking on me!” This super cool girl with a Maori name is going to do the Mirrors workshop in Bilbao next year. So am I. Ten days of intensive 5 Rhythms dancing. She told me: “Mirrors is life-changing. I’ve done it once and I divorced after it.”  (For the best).

I am guessing this person will be an important relationship for me. I felt connected with her and I am grateful we are meant to have crossing paths.

# Vivienne Was Waiting

Right before my US trip, I bought a Vivienne Westwood dress for £80 instead of £445. I wish every woman to at least once slip her curves in a Viv dress, just to experience the feeling of being embraced by a designer with such expertise of the female body. I wore it for a drunken karaoke night at the office so it got immortalised in a few embarrassing videos. The day after, I heartbrokenly returned it to pay for my New York-Chicago flight. When I returned from America a month later, I went back to the shop, moved by hope but free from illusions. The darling was well hidden, but still there. I couldn’t believe a Vivienne dress had been waiting for me on a hanger for a whole month. I touched her soft fabric, admired her patterns again and whispered to her: “I couldn’t get you out of my head”. The belt had gone missing in the meantime, so I was given a further 20% discount. £64 for a Vivienne Westwood dress. You got it.

Vivienne was the cherry on the cake which reinforced my certitudes.

Everything is as it should be.

I’ve Never Seen New York In The Fall

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My last night in New Orleans was sleepless. I did a bar crawl on Frenchmen street with κ² and α6. We drank profusely and ate crayfish hotdogs in a messy yet vibrant diner at 3am. I’m forgetting bits of the debauchery but I remember it was hot, noisy and joyful.

κ² was going to drive me to the station at 6am – in the objective to make me miss my train – but he fell asleep right before, and he’s too big and tall to be awaken by a lil girl like me. So I did my farewell to Sin city on board of a taxi whose driver’s grandfather had migrated from Sicily in 1903.

I took seat on board of the Amtrak to New York City at 7am. The sun was rising above New Orleans cemetery and I remember flying above the Mississippi River as if the train rails were literally lying on the water. I didn’t know if it was the reality or a trick from my drunken and sleepless imagination. I passed out on that image with the fear of drowning and woke up in Alabama.

I traveled for a day and a half through the landscapes of Georgia, Virginia, Washington DC, Delaware, for what I can recall. I spent most of the time with my nose stuck on the window, trying to absorb the depth of America.

I arrived in Brooklyn on a sunny Sunday afternoon and picked up the keys of my temporary home in “my” neighbourhood of BedStuy. I’m living a few blocks away from where I was living in the spring. Back home! Nothing has changed much. Only the autumn leaves replaced the snow of March.

I walk the same patterns I used to. The street art that I got familiar with is still there. It threw me back in time, reminded me of how I was feeling back then. That was several lives ago. Brooklyn is so similar to my memories that I can measure my own evolution even more clearly, like comparing two pictures of my inner self now and then. I’m way more on the highway of my life than I was at the time. There is still a considerable way to go, but there is hope as to the direction at least.

I went back to my writer’s café, The Civil Service – I have one in every city apart from the one where I officially live. This is where I started this blog seven months ago so I feel particular about this place. The first face I saw was familiar. That was a guy I interviewed to take over my bedroom after I would leave the country. We had a little chat. His haircut was different. Good to feel that New York knew I was in town.

I have never seen New York in the fall. This season suits the city. It covers it with an unusual softness, slows down its hectic pace. Carved pumpkins decorate the doorsteps, everything is orangey and Halloweeny. I feel like nesting and drinking spice latte on the deck of my temporary home, surrounded by colourful trees and clumsy squirrels.

I think about how I would feel if this flat was my permanent life, if I was going back to it every evening, if I didn’t have to pack my bags and move again, and again, and again. Feels like I’m always going somewhere next. Do I crave to live here just because I know I’ll be deported at the date stamped on my passport and that makes it the object of my burning desire? How much of my joy is due to the temporary factor? Gypsy trouble. So hard.

I am different from who I was in the spring and however my main interrogations are almost still the same.

Who is going to kiss me because they are drawn to my world and not because I am available lips? Where am I going to create a home that I won’t feel like blowing up after an undetermined amount of time?

Adventure shows up to me like that, I never turn it down. But settling down and opening up to intimacy is still the most unattainable thing on this side of my planet.

New Orleans, Episode #1 – Sleeping in some Strangers’ Kitchen

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I can barely recall how events have chained up in the last 24 hours up to that point. There is a surreal dimension to it.

I got off the Amtrak in the City of Jazz yesterday at 5.30pm after 21 hours on the train. How glamorous I was feeling!

In the first seconds, New Orleans (aka NoLA) hit me like a sauna. I walked out of the station and saw the first palm trees. No one bothered to warn me that Louisiana was THAT tropical and I was feeling kinda stupid with my rainbow fur coat. I will have to use something else to make connections with strangers while I’m down here. I’m totally unequipped for that climate.

On the train, I had exchanged a bunch of text messages with 3 different people I didn’t know (friends of friends of friends) and I started losing track and mixing them up. The only tangible element I had was an address where a party was apparently happening later on, so I asked if I could just come over with my huge bag of irrelevant clothes. Someone texted ‘yes’ so I followed that track and got on a cab. I had a starting point at least.

I was excited to chat the taxi driver up, but he politely asked me to shut it cause his wife was on the phone. Welcome to town.

Then, magic kicked in. I got dropped off on Burgundy Street in front of this little Gone with the wind looking house plus palm trees. NoLa is movies. A tall and pretty ginger girl who looked like Madison Young (queer sex positive porn actress) came out of the house and asked me if I was me. I said yes. When I got inside the Gone with the wind looking house and found myself face to face with a giant papier mâché rib cage, I knew that I had been set up with the right people.

Pretty ginger porn star doppelgänger is μ3, her boyfriend working on the gigantic papier mâché skeleton is β4, and there was also their housemate α6, who is a mix of Salvador Dali and Alice in Wonderland crazy hatter. The three of them got on a car four months ago and moved to New Orleans from their native Ohio to make puppets, papier-mâché skulls, films and arty stuff. They all rock the world and welcomed me like a member of their family.

Their house is to die for, there are crazy details to watch in every corner. The house is “gunshot” shaped, which means that it is like a long corridor of rooms (back at the time with no air conditioning it was apparently the best way to get a draft). The legend says that it is called ‘gunshot’ because from the entrance door you can shoot your wife cheating on you in the last bedroom at the end of the corridor. Here, the first room is the crafty workshop.

We talked for a very long time drinking French wine and they gave me security tips cause the city is dangerous. α6 got mugged with a gun last week cause he walked home alone at 2am. So I will have to compromise on my night hawk and loner tendencies and rethink my travel habits. They all seem a bit concerned for my safety and made a map of areas not to go to. I’ve never really dealt with crime risks in all my US trips so it’s new to me.

Shortly after, κ² arrived at the house. He is the one responsible for all this. He worked with my super good friend H on a horror movie few years ago. His job title on movie sets is “grip” — which from what I understood means that he pushes the trolley with cameras when filming traveling shots. My description of it is probably heretic but it’s just to give a rough picture.

We all went around the corner to eat tapas. I’m French so I know my stuff regarding food, and these really were in the Top 2 best tapas I’ve ever had. NoLA is food! On top of it, I quenched my thirst with a house cocktail called “Hawaiian Erection”. I couldn’t have invented this.

The guys are going to set me up with a bunch of interesting people that I want to portrait for my blog. Their above neighbour is a drag queen and μ3‘s boss used to be a millionaire sent to jail for buying gifts to judges. Good encounters ahead.

More people came in later at arty house and I had great conversations about guns and death penalty with them. μ3 says she doesn’t like guns but prefers that citizens carry guns rather than having only representatives of the government carrying guns. Basically, she said that many Americans own guns to defend themselves against police and justice because they are not trustworthy. I had never thought of that under that light and that’s when soaking with locals is priceless. It is so easy to caricature Americans all the time with our European standards, just claiming they are violent for the sake of it and own guns to play it like western movies. Fuck clichés.

I was meant to sleep over at 겑s but arty house guys blew me a mattress and I slept in their kitchen. Of course.

I’m now writing this from a café in the French quarter. κ² is working on a movie set around the corner. I’m going to try to catch up with him in his lunch break. Maybe I’ll get a better understanding of what his job is actually about.

I can’t believe I didn’t know these guys 24 hours ago. Magic.

Back on (Am)Trak

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I’ve been feeling edgy for months. Constantly on the verge of collapsing over the last 2 years. Maybe more. Maybe since birth. I was born sitting on the edge of something that could go either way – marvellous or terribly wrong. I wonder why I picked that number in the lottery of life. I’ve grown to tame it and not want to trade it, cause my downs are as ugly as my highs are pure shots of bliss.

I can’t remember of a time when I wasn’t emotionally drained. Probably somewhere in 2011. And before that, it was in the early years of my life. I’m responsible for it as much as I’m not.

I like living dangerously. Or for my own standards, it is just “intensely”. But I am also assailed by waves of “me against the world”, and I’m really not hunting for that part. It seems to be my nature to stand against the current, and the more I try to conform, the more my nature grows thicker and my life becomes more challenging.

In 2009, my nerves broke. I couldn’t sleep despite exhaustion and before I knew it I was yelling in the middle of the night for too many reasons but none in particular. I remember the physical sensation of it, on a specific spot at the bottom of my skull, on both sides. I sometimes still touch it with my fingers. I literally heard my nerves tearing apart from the inside of my head. This episode impressed me very much, because it was the first time that my body was winning over my will.

Shortly after, I went on my first significant American tour for 9 weeks. Getting lost in America then became my reset button. I remember approaching life very differently throughout that trip. I wasn’t wearing any make up at all so people could see through me more. I became more humble from realising that I could lose control of my own body and introducing myself with a nude face contributed to quit playing games. “This is who I am without the doe eyes” style.

I got on my first Amtrak journey that summer. Toronto-Buffalo-Chicago-Kansas City. I crossed the US border on a rail bridge above the Niagara Falls. Two and a half days alone on the train, no phone no distraction no nothing. Just my bruised thoughts and the immensity of American landscape. It restored me.

I’m back at that exact same place. I was very close to cancel this whole American Autumn tour. I wasn’t sure I was going to wake up to get on that plane until 3 days before, just because it is scary to feel collapsy when boarding for an adventure full of unknown, full of minutely reinvention. I barely know where I’m going to sleep for half of the trip.

I got on the train 2 hours ago, departing from Chicago for a 19 hour journey to New Orleans. I am sitting next to a green-haired teenager reading “The Exorcist”. She’s also going all the way to New Orleans so the train steward told us: “You are each other’s best friend till tomorrow!” I smiled politely. I’ve never been to the South of the US and I’m excited to wake up in a different state and soak in novelty. My senses will be aroused every minute willing to absorb everything.

I was afraid at the thought of getting on the train when I woke up this morning, given the uncertainty of the outbound. I didn’t have a clear accommodation plan, just a friend of a friend. Lying in bed, I was making some strategic thinking. Maybe checking in a motel when getting off the train in Louisiana and sleep for 48 hours? Just to do something I never do and because my body is asking for mercy.

It finally turned out differently in the last few hours. I got an American phone number and magic operated. H put me in touch with her movie set friend κ², who lives in New Orleans. (H was meant to get on that train with me and we were going to brainstorm some clever creative ideas to put her movie script together in order to get her on the women directors workshop at the American Film Institute. We are amongst the wittiest, coolest and most badass blondes that I know (that’s presumptuous to say so but it’s kinda true so I don’t care) so when we team up artistically it is fireworks. But H was offered a last minute job in Japan shooting a documentary on some Japanese people singing Johnny Cash in cow boy hats, so she’s off to Osaka in 3 days and the clever brainstorming will happen via text messages.)

I’m anyway going to crash on her friend’s couch for the week and we will go on NoLA adventures when he’s not working on his movie set.

I’ve just received a text message from him. He’s setting me up with 2 other people. Looks like I’m going on a friendship blind date tomorrow with a girl working in a dress shop in the French quarter, before ringing a door bell somewhere of some artist guy I don’t know for coffee.

Adventure is finally kicking in!

Getting lost on Amtrak is always a winner.

This Suburban Life

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Tuesday was my last NYC day of work and my last night with the family ( α + α²). We had lots of laughter because I tried to explain them the very French concept of “motocrotte” which I translated “poop bike” and we all peed ourselves. We said it would be α‘s ideal job when we are all grown ups. α² will be an earth pulse scientist. 

I slept 4 hours and took the Amtrak train to Boston, Massachusetts where the HQ of my company is. Being on the Amtrak is by far one of my favorite things in life, across all the categories of cool stuff to do. It is my first time in New England. The office is super remote in the wooded suburb. I am meeting people I have been virtually working with for the last 2 years without even guessing a sense of what they look like beyond Skype. I have the same running gag when I meet each of them: “Oh my God! You have legs!”

The spirit of New England is very similar to Canada, for its proximity with nature, its general peacefulness and the colonial style wooden houses. It feels that nothing bad can happen here.

I stay at a posh hotel of the centre of Boston with ridiculous roof terrace, room balcony and 2 queen size beds. Fuck yeah!  I enjoy this occasional luxury like a kid, because I live it like a happy accident and I make the most of it while it passes by.

At the end of my first work day, I didn’t know how to find my way back to the town centre and I got pissed at this anti public transportation culture. I was told about a bus running from right outside the office but I could never find a bus stop (of course I couldn’t. I saw the “bus stop” the day after and it was a sign on an electric pillar). So I walked to the train station with my luggage along the main road, with lots of traffic and huge vehicles, and I kept reminding myself to stop getting stuck in the middle of nowhere. It is a usual thing along my trips and it challenges my travel creativity.

As I was walking, I really started getting a sense of this so typical American suburban life flair, the one that α tried to explain me years ago and that makes her love “Edward Scissorhands” that much.  What would my perspectives on life be if this was my regular journey to work? I get my life appetite and my violent ups and downs from the turmoil of the metropolis. The metropolis makes me truly happy, but this suburban life equally fascinates me. A Wisteria Lane taste. Who knows what extraordinary and/or dramatic life paths evolve behind the closed doors of the pastel colonial houses?

When I got at the station after my meditative walk, its bucolic style transported me into a different era where I was making home-made jams and wearing vintage-to-be dresses which would then be the latest design. An adorable trolley soon arrived. We went through forests, passed lakes. It pacified my soul from all the recent NYC bouncing and electric shocks.

I’m now sitting in the middle of the night in front of my bay window, facing Boston lit towers. I love too much the idea of writing chronicles alone in hotel rooms. That could become a life style. Even a life goal.

Tomorrow night I’m taking the train back to my New York for an ultimate weekend.

I am aiming to wake up in 5 hours to watch the sunrise from the roof terrace and do the mermaid in the pool. Will I make it?

‘SF’ May Refer to ‘San Francisco’ or ‘Science Fiction’

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An evening of October 2013, my dear friends α and H dropped me at Kansas City train station after legendary mac & cheese at McCoy’s. I hugged them long on the platform. I told H: “See you in a few weeks!” because we were meant to catch up in Iceland shortly after (but she never made it as Beau, her fiancé cat, was on the verge of death). I told α that I knew I was going to see her sooner than we thought, and that was long before our New York Spring adventure even blossomed in my mind.

I left these sad little faces and got on the Amtrak train to San Francisco for 2 days of trip across the Far West. Some Mormon couples were on my coach, I couldn’t stop staring at them. I wanted to ask for a picture with them but I was feeling self-conscious with my campy tasteless & over the top outfit (which is my regular style.) And I am sure they get comments from idiots all the time so I wasn’t going to be one of them. I was genuinely fascinated though. Mormons are so vintage.

I had never been to San Fran but I had been fantasising about it for ever, because of the queer culture, Harvey Milk, the Beat Generation, and “The Princess Diaries“. I was secretly hoping for the “you-belong-here” revelation during my San Fran initiation.

I had arranged to be hosted by a guy found on CouchSurfing called β³. But as I had no phone and was travelling for 2 days and 1 night, it was a bit of a gamble to know if I would have a place to stay when I was arriving in town. Before I boarded the train, he had given me the address of a Contact Improvisation dance jam happening in Oakland where I was supposed to meet him.

When I got at Oakland station, it was night and there was no cab, no bus, and generally nothing. I had no phone. I hanged out a moment outside the station praying for a miracle which finally happened. A taxi driver called by someone half an hour before had seen that I was hanging out and came back after dropping out the other person to make sure I had found my way. I gave him the address of the dance studio, but he couldn’t find it. He let me use his phone to call CouchSurfing guy I had never talked to before. The guy picked up immediately. At least, he existed.

I landed in the dance contact jam looking around for β³, trying to recognise him from his CouchSurfing profile picture. Every time I was engaging in a dance with a guy, I was like: “Are you β³?” They must have wondered if I was on some kind of off the beaten path blind date or something.

β³ finally showed up after the class and warmly held my hands. We drove to his place in the San Francisco Bay.

He pushed the door and a whole new world opened to me. I felt like in a Sci-Fi movie. β³ was living in a warehouse with a mezzanine. In the middle of his living room, was sitting a big outdoor heated swimming pool surrounded by little palm trees, like an indoor jungle. He explained me that he was an aqua therapist and that he was giving sessions in his home.

I wandered around the open ground floor to come across a huge bondage painting hanging above his bed. I started slightly panicking wondering what kind of stuff the guy was into. I played it super cool: “I love this painting! Who’s the artist?” My panic increased a couple of levels when I saw a few boxes of Winchester bullets near his night table. I thought that if there were bullets, the gun wasn’t far. Simultaneously, I wasn’t scared at all because I had a good feeling above everything else. I knew I was being crazy though.

β³ explained me that on the side of his aqua therapist activities, he was a sex worker and a dominatrix for gay guys. How interesting! He also told me that he was in an open relationship with a woman 10 years older than him, who wasn’t around at the moment. He proposed me to go with him to a “Play party” on the Saturday night, my last night in town. I didn’t even really know what a Play party was. I was experiencing the most overwhelming first few hours I had ever spent in any city. Everything was just so weird but presented as effortlessly natural. I supposed it was just the way it goes in San Francisco, and I tried to sync in with it and find the weird natural. “OK, I said. I will come with you. I am curious.” I told him that I am nothing close to straight though, just to get it out of the way. He didn’t give any importance to it.

I gave him the stinky French cheese bought from CostCo in Kansas City before I got on the train. He proposed to show me what aqua therapy is about. I agreed. “Do you mind if I am nude?” he asked. “Yes”, I thought. “No”, I said. Then, I forgot about it. I realised that I was a bit uptight for claiming to be the quintessence of open-mindness. The aqua therapy session was super relaxing, he just moved me around in the water and I had to surrender and abandon my weight.

Then, we watched a movie inside the pool. There was a plastic bench to sit in the water (which is a struggle because of gravity so you can’t really focus on the movie, but well.)  A video projector was playing an arty dance movie on the wall. The whole thing was so surreal that I kept making notes of everything in my head, thinking no one would possibly believe all this.

β³ and I slept in the same bed, just like that. Why not? He hugged me all night. It was strange in the absolute, but nothing can really be labeled strange in San Francisco.

CouchSurfing is the most amazing invention of the 21st century.