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Summer of the Traveling Panda


A few weeks ago, I found myself homeless and eating breakfast in a bowling alley in the middle of the afternoon. These are circumstances that imply my life took a wrong turn somewhere. Leaving San Francisco, maybe? Neglecting to renew my driver's license in 2007, making both airport security and the CHP really ornery? Forgetting to floss? Believe it or not, all of this is on purpose. The homeless part, not the ornery CHP part. That was a grave tactical error on my part. But that bowling alley breakfast was pure genius. Bowling alleys in West LA make perfectly crisp hash browns.

Why a Person With a Death Grip on Stability and Routine Might Willingly Go Homeless

When I was younger, I did a lot of traveling. Dropping sunglasses in the Blue Grotto, chasing peacocks in Wales, losing beach towels over the side of a boat in the Antigua harbor, having staring contests with sheep in New Zealand. (Yeah, the sheep won. I don't want to talk about it.) But according to my passport,  I haven't been out of the country in a brutally long time. So I decided to abandon the idea that a permanent address is important and start going places.

When you stop paying rent, you kinda give yourself no choice but to go places. If you need a kick in the ass, you are obligated by life to give yourself one.

Ass summarily kicked, I wandered thirteen whole blocks to Drea's apartment where her robots and dinosaurs convinced me to never leave. But we had plans for Vegas and her couch had plans to not have me on it forever, so a hotel room at the Flamingo became my temporary home. After a weekend of mindless yet responsible debauchery, we drove home to California. I drove back to Nevada twelve hours later. 'Cause that makes sense.

But it meant my office looked at this for a week:

photo (47)
photo (47)

Then this, because Lake Tahoe doesn't understand May:

photo (48)
photo (48)

I've always enjoyed the word nomad. It calls up images of camels and tents and oases shimmering in the distance.

Camels continue to elude me, which is sad, but I've managed an oasis. I'm leaving for Costa Rica on Saturday, where I'll set up camp for the month of June, working and wandering and doing whatever people do in Costa Rica. Surf?* Eat fish? Get lost a lot? I guess I'll find out.

* I picture myself in a Blue Crush-like montage** where I skim effortlessly through rolling blue waves and stride up the beach carrying a board under my arm. This is unlikely for any number of reasons, starting with the distinct possibility that I couldn't even lift a surfboard, much less sling it under one arm. More likely, I'd give myself a concussion and be forced to add "shark hors d'oeuvre" to my Twitter bio.

** Why give more than a passing nod to reality when you can daydream instead? Daydreams have gotten me Olympic gold medals and Justin Timberlake asking me to perform Thriller with him. (What? Justin Timberlake asks you to do other things in your daydreams?)

Anyway. Summer of the Traveling Panda. A Summer That Probably Doesn't Include Justin Timberlake.

Now I'm in the Bay Area, because my mom is in Paris and I'm watching her cat until I leave for Costa Rica. That sentence makes us sound a lot more glamorous than we really are. We are not glamorous. My mom's attempts to use an iPad make her emails resemble spam, if the spammer was a drunk elephant in Zimbabwe whose first language was Portuguese. The majority of my wardrobe looks like it was chewed on by that same drunk elephant. But we've got passports and we're using them, damn it.

It feels good to be moving again. It even feels good to have no home - like life is stuffed with possibility and adventure and I just have to decide what that adventure is going to be. In the last few weeks, I've seen the desert, the snow, and soon the South American jungle. Because when adventure calls, a panda must answer.

Even if the panda soon wonders why taking a red-eye and then driving six hours through an unfamiliar country with no GPS and no measurable sense of direction constitutes a preferable adventure to, say, a nice apartment in Amsterdam.