On 26th November morning I took a long walk in Central Park. My apartment that I rented via Airbnb for the whole trip located in Central Park North West (110th & Cathedral Parkway), and the entrance was so perfect (just right in front of the flat) that I could take that walk from north-west to south-east.
It was a cold day, a bit cloudy and I could feel the moist from the air that I knew sooner or later it was going to rain. I took my time wandering along the park, taking the scenery all in with my eyes. The leaves had fallen, the trees were bald, and the driveway was silence. But that did not interfere with little squirrels’ pursuit of nuts; duck mothers leading ducklings for their swimming lesson; joggers’ daily jogging routine along the Reservoir; and my mood of embracing the moment with myself.
As I walked along, I noticed the dead silence around me. Nothing was heard except the sound of nature. And when people say Central Park is lovely and beautiful in summer time, I found a way to embrace its scenery in winter. Surely, it is different feelings to compare all the greens to all the yellows (even all the whites when it is snowing), summer to winter, and life to death. But the difference of what you could feel is subtle. And I reckon that I could walk along the park all day every day without getting tired of it. It is all about perspectives, and what I could savour from it.
Occasionally, I would stop by some ‘famous’ places/ spots and take a few photo shots of them. Although I never spent the time to have myself fully acknowledged with the history behind, I was willing to take a quick look on the descriptions so as to know what they were all about. Truth to be told, my sole reasons of taking a walk in Central Park were to fulfill my promise that I made last time I was in New York, and to visit the almost magical Bethesda Fountain personally like a pilgrim.
Along the way to the south, more people appeared. There were couples, families, and mostly tourists. Then there was a moment that I smiled, realising I was one of the tourists as well. The only difference was I did not have a camera hanging on my neck, and I did not dress like a tourist (winked).
Then, it started to rain. I had once thought that it could have started snowing, but it was only a shower of rain. Nevertheless, people did not seem to care about it, and I certainly did not seem to care about it at all. I kept walking, looking around as I was pondering everything about myself – Should I have come to this trip with a companion? Would it not be nicer if I had a partner here with me to embrace the moment together? Could I have been more pathetic right now that I am alone? When do dreams come true?
As a result, all the aforementioned never matter to me anymore when I realised I was just being plain silly. I just wanted to cherish the moment, and I was happy that I was alone. It came to an epiphany that I was never as pathetic as I had always thought, even though I do not have love. But I am loved, by my friends and my families; and that could do the trick just fine.
It was such a beautiful day to have a walk in Central Park.
This poem is dedicated to my beloved friends Anthony James Morgan & Seth Eaker for their wedding today in Seal Beach, California, the United States of America.
Holding our hands with joy and smile O’ my dearie,
a new journey has now begun O’ so merrily.
Pursuit our love together O’ most ardently,
protect all else we have O’ by any means necessary.
I stand here and make a vow to thee:
Life full of wonders is not the only thing we seek,
years of exciting future together shall I share with thee.
Every particular moment that you have with me,
values time to be ours for all eternity.
Every precious second we have that slips away from me,
reinforces love to be ours that lasts with immortality.
A life time of happiness is not just a theory of being together;
finding new mysteries of life in front of us with all kinds of wonders.
Take my hand now and I thee wed forever,
eternal love is enchanted and shall never be over,
regarding to the truth to live our fabulous live __________________.
02nd December, 2013.
P.S. I am only a man who happens to put words together. YOU are the voice.
Do not go on a trip by the book. It is useless and it won’t save your life in case of an emergency. Go on a trip when you’re ready, prepared, and being adventurous. That way, you learn lessons, and gain experiences from it. Who knows if you might end up telling a story of how to sneak into Musée du Louvre without buying the tickets just because you don’t want to spend 10€ for entrance rather than a delicious croissant.
Life IS a journey (and I’m not going to speak metaphorically). It has many paths, detours, roadblocks, and destinations. We don’t know where all these are going to lead us, or where we are going to end up. What we DO know is if we could just go and open ourselves and enjoy the voyage every single time we have it, as much as we can, we gain so much more that maybe one day we will be thankful for having gone on the trip than feeling sorry or regretting about it.
So, step out of your comfort zone. That’s what I do. In a place where you’re constantly having cultural shocks waves after waves, it is better to be more open-minded for acceptance than looking at things in an eerie angle that maybe called as “conservative” or “old-fashioned”.
And no, do it on your own. You don’t need to have a travel companion to be there for you just for safety’s sake. You can totally do it all by yourself and enjoy every single amazing moment even it’s merely walking down the street from block to block. What you see differs from what other people see. The perception is different. And by doing this you learn a lot more about yourself than anyone else. Is it not the whole pointy of traveling anyway? To see more, to know more, especially to have touched your inner self? At the very least, you give yourself time to think, to realise what you really want than what you feel you want.
Coming back from the trip. You feel refreshed, and different. This is what I feel every time I have had my trip. It is not that I have become better, it is that I have developed the ability to see things differently than before. At a certain point, it is a test about reviewing humanity when you are traveling, i.e. human connections and contacts with strangers whom you never know, and the inner connection that you have with yourself. Then little by little you obtain the ability to see, to peer through one’s naked skeleton and violà, that’s all there is. Then gradually, things that once amazed you won’t do the trick anymore because you’ve already seen them, and thus you need more new excitements to stimulate your brain and broaden your horizon even more. And by that time, you’re already planning your next exotic trip which can satisfy that very craving of excitement and knowledge you get only by traveling. So it is literally a journey from the very beginning of your life towards the end.
Well at least, this is how I see it, that a journey is a quest of an acquisition to knowledge about everything, and anything.
The song “Eleanor Rigby” is one of the most famous songs by the Beatles. According to the lyrics of the song, we can tell that the song is talking about the sense of loneliness, the sense of isolation and, the sense of death. Thus, it is a sad song in a way that makes the listeners to have pity on the characters in the song. However, the use of musical instruments such as cellos, violas, violins serves as a counter argument about how we should really feel about the song. As a matter of fact, the melody of the song is very bouncy and powerful without using any musical instruments like the guitars or drums, whereas the lyrics of the song give the listeners a melancholic feeling that is on the contrary of what the backing music should feel like. Therefore, it makes me think that the powerful and bouncy backing music is actually a scaffold to support and reinforce the theme of the song, and tells the audience how great the impact of loneliness is to everyone of us, and what we can do about it.
In the first stanza, the line “Ah, look at all the lonely people!” is repeated twice. In my opinion, the message which this line sends out is very straight forward - it is telling us to look at all the lonely people in the world. However, the reason why we need to look at those lonely people is still unknown. But like all Beatles’ songs, this line serves as an invitation at the beginning of the song to all listeners, as if the speaker wants them to pay attention to “all the lonely people”. Moreover, I have this particular feeling that the line is actually an attention getter, and that the speaker is actually trying to say something that is really important and huge to us in the rest of the song.
In the second stanza, the first line is “Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been,” To me, I feel like this woman, Eleanor Rigby, is a very lonely person. In a traditional wedding in the Western world, people cast the rice to allure the pigeons to come to the church for having a sign of luck and happiness. But in the first line, it seems to us that Eleanor Rigby is a very poor woman as if she is the only one who picks up (cleans up) the rice in the church where a wedding has just been finished, without having anybody to help her with the work. And in the second line “lives in a dream.” suggests the fact that there is a dream that Eleanor Rigby is living in. But ‘what kind of dream’ is the speaker talking about? In my interpretation, it is a dream about having a perfect wedding and not being alone. As a result, it makes sense to the listeners that maybe Eleanor Rigby has been living in a dream which she pictures herself in a perfect wedding with the love of her life. And perhaps the reason why she has this dream is because she has been doing the same job (picking up rice in the church) for a very long time, and then she gradually gets envious to those people who have happy weddings. nonetheless, in the third and four line “Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door (3), who is it for (4)?” suggest the fact that she pretends to be someone she is not. In my opinion, she is wearing this big fake smile every day as if she is trying to tell the people in town that she is having a happy life. However, the truth is that she is not having a happy life. She is lonely, and she has no one to care for her. And as the speaker asks in the fourth line “who is it for”, it suggests the idea about she does not even need to fake her smile and to pretend to be someone who she really is not, because either way, no one really cares.
The third stanza seems to be the chorus part of the song because it appears in the whole song three times. To me, this stanza is very sad because it asks about where do all the lonely people come from, and where do all the lonely people belong. to be honest, these two questions give me a sense of depression. The feeling is like the speaker is disorientated, and confused about his own identity. It seems like he is devoured by this world of depression and loneliness, as well as having an identity-crisis that he cannot find a way to get out.
In the fourth stanza, the first two lines are “Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear (1), no one comes near (2).” To me, these two lines suggest the fact that even though Father McKenzie is a religious figure from the church, it seems like he is being neglected by the believers. As we all know, a minister (a priest) in a church is an authority figure, meaning people will listen to whatever he says and preaches. However, in the case of Father McKenzie, it seems like no one comes to hear his sermon, which indicates the fact that his voice is not being heard. Thus, it gives us a feeling of isolation that a person is alone, and he cannot speak or say a word because nobody hears him. And in the third and fourth lines “Look at him working, darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there (3), why does he care (4)?” also suggest the same idea as the previous lines have suggested. The phrase “darning his socks in the night” means Father McKenzie sews his socks in the middle of the night, all by himself. It seems like he does not want to let anyone know he does not even have a helper or tailor to do such thing for him. He is doing it all by himself, all alone. However, the line “why does he care” also infers to the fact that perhaps Father McKenzie does not even care about whether or not he is alone/ being alone. He is minister/ priest, which represents he has been making peace with his celibacy for all his life. In addition, this also means that he is actually comfortable being lonely at all times without having anyone to bother him. Thus, the question about the “sense of belonging” in this stanza is contradictory: on one hand, it seems like Father McKenzie does not belong to anywhere but the church only (the first two verses); on the other hand, it seems like he only belongs to the little world he is living in (the last two verses).
The fifth stanza of the questions about where do all these people come from, and where do all they belong appear again. In my view, the reason why this stanza appears once again is because the speaker is still wondering about the question of the sense of belonging. He wants to figure out what makes people ‘feeling lonely’. In addition, I think he wants to figure out what makes people ‘lonely’. Then, it comes to the sixth stanza as an exclamation to reinforce the sense of empathy towards all those lonely people. The situation is like there is an old man (the speaker), sighing about “look at them, see how sad and lonely they are”. To me, this serves as an excellent empathetic feeling of a sense of sympathy to pity all those lonely people.
Then, it comes to the seventh stanza. According to the lyrics, I think this stanza is the bitterest stanza among all the others. The reason being is because it gives the listeners a very strong feeling of misery and grief. The first two lines “Eleanor Rigby, died in the church and was buried along with her name (1). Nobody came (2).” give me a very melancholic feeling about this woman Eleanor Rigby. As we can see from previous stanzas, this woman is very lonely because nobody cares about her. And even though she had a dream of having a perfect wedding before she died, it seems to us that she could not even find a way to fulfill that dream in anyway. Moreover, the phrase “was buried along with her name” from the first line of this stanza also suggests the fact that not only her physical presence is to to the grave, but also the presence of her own existence (her name). To me, this is a very sad thing because it seems like nobody seems to really care about her, and no one would even want to remember her after she died. In plain, no one gives a damn about whether or not she is alive. They just do not seem to care, nor would they think Eleanor Rigby is significant to them. Hence, this also suggests the fact that these people in town are very cruel and emotionless, and they are incapable of being humane. Then, this leads me to think about the sense of “isolation” in other Beatles songs. In my opinion, the town people are creating this “invisible wall” to try to shut down any connection with this poor woman, Eleanor Rigby, and that they only care for no one but themselves. As a result, if the reality could be this cruel and inhumane, then I think we human kind are going to face a very tremendous problem in both morality and ethics, in terms of the value of “how much” an individual is worth.
Then, the last two lines of this stanza are “Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave (3), no one was saved (4).” To me, these two lines are very ironic because the job of a minister/ priest is supposed to try his best to give comfort to the believers, as well as giving comfort to appease the deaths. However, the phrase “wiping the dirt from his hands” is actually a metaphor about Father McKenzie is also trying to forget any memory about Eleanor Rigby. Perhaps, he feels guilty about not being about to save her from letting her to commit suicide. And the reason why I think Eleanor Rigby committed suicide is because she felt desperate and despair of not being able to fulfill the dream she was having. She was frustrated and thus decided to end her life, as a way to end her misery. And the last line “no one was saved” can be a proof of how Father McKenzie not being able to save her. In fact, I think this line is also stating the fact in the Book that, God/ Jesus is going go save all the deaths to give them another chance in the Judgment Day. However, Eleanor Rigby cannot be saved because she ended her own life, which is considered as a sin in the church. And since she cannot be saved, it makes the whole story even more miserable and depressing.
In the final stanza, the questions appear once again. But this time, the questions appear to be the questions of not getting a closure, in which making them more appealing to the listeners to use their imagination to figure out the answers on their own. In my eyes, these questions are like mysteries that no one can solve, because we can never know where all these lonely people come from, nor can we know where all these lonely people belong.
In conclusion, we are all lonely in some ways, but that does not mean we need to be lonely forever. And sometimes, it ts good to be lonely, because you can clear your head with the things that bother you. But sometimes, you just need to come out of the shadow of loneliness, because if you stay there too long, it will only lead you to despair, desperation, frustration, and etc. As a result, you will never be able to come out of the shadow of loneliness as easily as you could, just like Eleanor Rigby. And if we can stay happy, and care for other people a little bit more, then the world can become a much better place for you, for me, and for us.
Throughout my trip in the United States of America, the very first thing I was surprised by the country was the suburban area apart from the cities. It was, in a sense, very relaxing and leisure on so many levels that I found it hard to adjust when I first got there, having to consider I have lived all my life in different cities in the first place.
However, just when it was time to have such a perfect chance for me to escape from the bustling city live where there was no more noise from construction sites; no more cars, traffic, and air pollution; no more hustle and bustle on a daily basis, I found another perspective to enjoy life in such lovely places as State College (aka Happy Valley), PA & Seal Beach, CA. And even though it only lasted for a very short period of time, I was able to see the beauty of the world just a slightly little bit more.
As I was walking down the streets with my close friend Chrissy after the day of her graduation, I noticed what I was missing from a live in a city - serenity. When I was in State College, people were… well different. They are people, like you and me, or anybody that we walk pass every day. But it seems like, the people there are so peaceful. They are either families, or old folks, or college students, the whole atmosphere was very much relaxing that gave me a sense of being lackadaisical just by walking down the streets, yet it was in a different sense from being in a city that I no longer needed to rush everything just because time never seems to be enough.
The very next day right after Chrissy’s graduation, we walked across the campus of Penn State University. The weather was unbelievably great - sunny but with cooling comfortable breeze that I would not feel so hot even at noon. The surroundings are so green that I felt like I was literally in a country side just one step closer to nature. The trees, the different colours of plants and flowers, the birds, the wild animals were just not getting enough to be seen. The air was so clean that I felt so energised just by breathing, And combining all these scenes together, I can only use the word “amazing” to describe how I felt during my stay there.
So the remaining days in Happy Valley was very simple: we walked across almost the entire campus every day; I got to see the famous Nittany Lion Shrine just to show everybody I was there; we ate great food that was recommended by Chrissy because they were the best; we stopped by and relaxed at Starbucks or places that provide such comfortable and relaxing environment for chi-chatting and catching up. Even though it was a very small town, but it also has bars and karaokes as entertainments at night, not as rural as it seems it is.
And after all the resting and relaxing in a countryside, I bid my friends farewell and then headed to the Big Apple for my next adventure… but before heading to New York, I finally realised the reason why the place is called “Happy Valley”. In my own perspective, it is because the place is really suburban yet everybody does not seem to have anything to worry. They are leading what I call a happy life with almost nothing to complain, yet they are all very intellectual (considering it is a college town) that it seems like no matter how hard life could be, they all have the capacity and ways to solve any problem with ease and move on. So to me, this is what life is supposed to be and all about. Just live the moment, and be happy.
The Big Apple episode is coming soon. So stay toned!
Waking up in the morning at 6am, I knew something was wrong about my internal clock. Perhaps it was the excitement about the trip that got me up, perhaps it was something else, which I had no idea about what it was. But who cares? I was in a mood ready to relax and enjoy the trip as much as I could, and I felt so rested even though I only had 6 hours sleep in a real bed after all the traveling…
So I got up and my friends were up already. We got everything ready then headed out to Waffleshop (a local and very famous breakfast restaurant) for a fantastic morning feast. I ordered a breakfast set with sausages, scrambled eggs and pancakes, typical American breakfast. But I also ordered a strawberry waffle as a dessert (in the morning?), which my only aim was the fresh strawberries (not the waffle, unfortunately).
As we were enjoying our breakfast, it brought my attention to the waitresses in the shop. Unlike “Two Broke Girls” you see on TV about Max and Caroline, these waitresses are very nice (not that Max and Caroline are not) and always have a big smile on their faces. They have great customer service that makes me realise why we have to tip them at the end of checking the bill. For one thing, I think it’s a courtesy that we tip them, because who knows maybe they really need the money (e.g. in New York). For another thing, it’s like a custom here in the states that you just need to tip them no matter how well or how poor the service was. The only thing that varies is the amount of money you want to give/ tip, and that’s it.
After breakfast, we went back home and relaxed for a while. Seeing my friend had already dressed up for her graduation commencement, it was time for me to do the same. So before I went to the states, I had custom-made a grey suit for this big event. So I changed my clothes and gosh did I look amazing in it. And then you know the drill about a graduation commencement, with all the blah blah blah, and then more blah blah blah. Mostly boring stuff until Chrissy’s name was called and was officially graduated from Penn State University and received her Master degree of Teaching English as a Second Language. VOILÀ!!
It was quite a day. And after the commencement and tons of photos were taken, we went straight ahead to a karaoke for celebration. Man it was the most expensive karaoke I had ever paid: 6 hours of renting the room with tea and snacks but no alcohol, 47 USD per person, thank you very much! After that we headed to Denny’s again and I had another big meal as supper. Then we headed home and I called it a night by having an extremely exhausted body and mind, and I passed out rather quickly after a shower. That, was the 1st day I was in the states, not traveling but having fun with my dearest friend.