Love

Swimming in the ocean with my little niece. The storm has passed causing unusually cool waters in the hot Texas Gulf. As we float in the water waves crash about us and the sun shines brightly, pouring glitter onto our glistening faces and sea. Me: "Don't you just love the ocean?" Niece: "Yes. I LOVE it. I love it so much I wish I could kiss the ocean."

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Beverly Hills

Stories from the road. *Names have been changed.

Stella, a passionate painter, and Ethan, a smart designer, have been traveling on the open road for three months. They’ve made their way down the West Coast all the way to beautiful southern California. After being stuck in infamous LA traffic, they finally arrive in Beverly Hills.

Stella and Ethan park and walk across the street to their friends’ place where they’ll be staying for the week. It’s very LA, with white walls, periwinkle accents, and beautiful landscaping. They knock on the door and are happily greeted by their friends and hosts - Helen, a soprano singer, and Ryan, a data scientist. The house is divided into three apartments. Helen and Ryan live in the downstairs apartment adjacent to their landlord, Sean.

“You guys will be staying upstairs in Sean’s extra apartment. It’s fully furnished and ready for guests,” Helen tells Stella and Ethan. “Sean is out of town in France so he won’t be here and he won’t know. Besides, he owns another mansion on the hill which he rents out for $20,000 a month, so I really don’t think he'll mind.”

Helen takes the couple upstairs to show them their apartment for the week. It’s quite spacious, with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a full kitchen and living area. The decor consists of Asian furniture, sculpture, painted portraits, a cocaine poster, and quite a large collection of books. It’s very nice, but eerie.

“Oh I wonder what kind of books he reads” Stella says to herself. She walks over to the bookshelf. “Hmmm...Interesting. Oh my lol.  Hmmm...”  Every. Single. Book. Is about sex. Every single book. Hundreds.

“He’s a sexologist.” Helen tells them and laughs.

“Oh my gosh, are you serious?!” says Stella.

“Yes, he has a PhD in Sexology!” Helen and Ryan chuckle. “Oh and since he doesn’t know you guys are staying here please pick up your bags in the morning and bring them to our place in case his assistant stops by to check on the apartment.”

“For real? OMG. This is going to be interesting.“ Stella smiles.

After a long day of travel ending with a delicious vegan meal, Stella and Ethan retire to their bedroom. As they slip under the covers, Stella spots a book on the nightstand next to her. She picks it up and reads the title How to have the best sex ever.

“Wow look at what Sean left for his guests, isn’t he such a good host?” she asks with a huge dose of sarcasm. OMG. This is just creepy. SO CREEPY.”  Stella can’t stop laughing. “He put this illustrated book here for his guests. Who is this guy?”

The next morning the couple gathers their bags and brings them to their friends apartment. They enjoy exploring the city, visiting beautiful museums, cafes, beaches, and the famous Beverly Hills Hotel.

A couple of days pass by. The friends are chatting downstairs when suddenly there's a loud noise. “Is someone upstairs?” Helen asks. They slowly walk up the narrow staircase and knock on the door to discover that there’s a couple in the guest apartment and they’re certainly not from California. The young man opens the door in his whitey tighties. (Is that even a thing anymore?) The friends awkwardly introduces themselves to the new couple and discover that they've just arrived from Germany and will be staying in the guest apartment.

“Oh no," says Helen. “Sean didn’t tell us anyone was staying here.” She makes a deal with the Germans to let Stella and Ethan split the apartment with them for a few nights. They agree, as everyone is traveling and about the same age. Once the young German is fully clothed, they all munch on donuts and beer in the kitchen as they exchange stories and get to know each other.

 “We’re Reality TV stars in Berlin," says the husband as he shows the Americans their German YouTube channel. His wife continues to share that she’s a singer, has multiple degrees and is currently working on her PhD in Pick Up Artists. Stella flashbacks to the neatly placed book on the nightstand she now knows was intended for them. All the while, their little tiny dog is prancing around in an overly frilly pink dress. “He doesn’t really like wearing dresses, but I love it,” says the wife. “Yeah, because he’s a boy,” says her husband with a smirk. The Americans and Germans talk about living and traveling in Berlin, being an artist, and pursing one's dream.

Stella’s mind turns. Hmmm...Sexologist, Reality TV stars, PhD in Pickup Artists, cocaine poster. This all makes a lot of sense now. This has to be one of the weirdest sleeping situations OF MY LIFE, she laughs to herself.

WELCOME TO LA

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Happiness

Location: A nice neighborhood on the Oregon Coast

A small bar that's intimate and cozy, with sturdy wood tables & soft lighting.

Its' quite busy inside with a hip staff and array of customers. A young couple from Austin Texas stop in for a drink. The man chooses a mean old fashioned and the woman, a fizzy ginger cocktail. They sit cozily in the back of the bar.

Suddenly a middle-aged man walks in and approaches the couple.

"Mind if I sit here?" He asks them, pointing to a nearby chair.

"Sure, please do!"

He's comfortable, like he's been there before. The woman helps him connect his phone to WiFi. "I'm not good at this sort of thing, technology..." he tells her. "Where are you guys from?"

"Austin," says the young man. "And you?"

"Oh yeah, Austin's great," a phrase the couple has heard many times on their long road trip. The stranger's eyes turn bright and he begins to tell them his story.

"Well, I'm from the East Coast originally. Was a professional snow border in the 1980s. Moved down here 25 years ago. You know, you can ski down Mt. Hood right now. It's got snow."

He takes a sip of his stiff cocktail, very possibly his fourth due to his slurred speech. He waves his arm wildly and points South.

"My home is just down the road, walked here in fact. It's HUGE, got four bedrooms." He continues without a pause. "Got an amazing wife, a career woman, she makes a lot of money but she travels a lot, a kid, and a dog." He points to a picture on his phone. "That's our kid." He smiles.  There's a tinge of sadness mixed in with his smile as he mentions his family. It feels honest and true.

"These days I work as a carpenter. You know, after my injury my sports career was over. And so it's nice to have an active job, working with my hands outside in the sun."

He shares stories of his high-profile customers and of all the places he's traveled to over time, especially while competing. He's been EVERYWHERE. He's seen a lot, and they have a feeling he's been through a lot too.

The man is quite funny and has everyone laughing hysterically. By the end of the night the couple has an offer to stay at his place, although they graciously decline.

The woman wonders what this man is all about. He seems to have it all but is he happy? He sure doesn't seem happy. There's something missing alright and he's searching for it.

As the couple gathers their belongings, ready to say their goodbyes, a mother and daughter sitting next to them smile warmly. The mother tells the couple she too had traveled for a year when she was in her twenties. Her face lights up as she remembers her past adventures. Her daughter is just as friendly. "I love Austin. I hope to live there one day," she tells the couple.

"Yes, it's a GREAT town."

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A walk through the imaginative mind of Frank Loyd Wright via Talisen West

It's difficult to believe this is a reality, not a fictional land but a concrete place providing a solid way of life. To take it all in in such short time is quite a challenge. So many intricate details and unexpected lines made of broken rules. Every inch of space cared for, not ignored but instead cared for, attentively nourished with loving thought and purpose so that it may stand alone with dignity and individuality. This place is candy for the eyes. It ignites my inner child, connecting her with my Grandpa through remembrance of stories of his apprenticeship with Mr. Wright. Connecting us all through each step. It took me a while to get to Talisen West but I realize Grandpa's here with me now and it's a lovely feeling.

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