Tag-Archive for » Travel «

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 | Author:

A quick story: I was out disk golfing (courtesy of my Jo’s 26 before 26 list I’m now a regular disk golfer). We came up to a pin and there was something in the pin.

“What is that?” I asked my friend Brian who was closer to it.

“It’s a crabapple.”

As I came closer I inspected it. “Ohh. That’s what a crabapple looks like. I’ve never seen one before.”

“You’ve never tasted one?” he asked seeming incredulous.

“No,” I said, surprised. “They’re edible? What do they taste like?”

“I don’t know… They’re pretty good.”

I retrieved my disk and we walked toward the next hole in silence for a minute until he looked at me with a smirk on his face. “They’re not edible, just so you know. Don’t go eat one.”

“What!? It’s good you told me!”

“I know. I realized, you’d bake a crabapple pie one day and I’d be like, “why on earth would you do that?” and you’d say, “I don’t know. I didn’t know what they tasted like so I put it on my Jo’s 26 before 26 list. I’m trying to get the most out of life.” “

“Yeah. I would do that,” I conceded, content.

I may be somewhat gullible. But at least I do try to get the most out of life. Hopefully I won’t die eating crabapple pie. But if I do, it’d be alright. There are worse ways to go.

And with that, I give you this years new goals:

Jo’s 27 before 27 List:

  1. Play a disk golf game w/ 4 holes at par
  2. Buy a house
  3. Walk a marathon distance
  4. Be able to do 3 pull ups
  5. Make 30 pitches for articles to be published
  6. Smoke a cigar
  7. Leave the country again (so far age 24 is the only age since I was 17 during which I haven’t left the country.)
  8. Go to a new state
  9. Go to a professional football game
  10. Learn to play tennis
  11. Run through or picnic in a field of sunflowers
  12. Do Lumosity for 30 days
  13. Take a pottery class
  14. Ride a camel or elephant
  15. Watch all of Seinfeld
  16. Finish watching Lost
  17. Watch the Matrix Trilogy
  18. Read another Steinbeck book
  19. Read Harry Potter Book 1
  20. Read 3 memoirs
  21. Read Catch 22
  22. Go on a backpacking trip
  23. Do “morning minutes” every day for 21 days (where you write for 10 minutes straight first thing upon waking)
  24. Try fruitcake
  25. Complete level 1 of Rosetta Stone for Italian
  26. Try Gin
  27. Learn to play poker

If you’d like to support the Story Project (to cover travel expenses, costs of Stories for those who can’t afford it, etc.) you can do so below or contact me at storyofjoblog@gmail.com if you’d like to send a check. Thank you for your support! 

 To Donate to Stories By Jo: The Story Project click below


Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon        storyofjoblog@gmail.com

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015 | Author:

Note: These are just in the order I wrote them. I’m including all 12 for posterity, but 1, 4, 5, 10, and 12 are my favorites.

#1 10.26.14 Fear of Fragile

All of us are dying,

that’s the crux of life

Life weights you down

like a child on your knee

ticking off the beat of time.

The living are the breathing

and with our breaths

we cry “too few.”

 

Too few are the breaths and the minutes

and the life that’s spent with you.

For when your breaths are done —

done permanent and final —

we are left with the real

test of grief’s bereft confinement.

Too small will be our breaths

our lungs suddenly too shallow

to take in air to fill our chests

because death hurts our vitals.

 

Fragile is the life of men

where bones break

and flesh is scraped

and hearts stop

in one quick moment.

 

I fear the life that breaks us

the news that knocks on doors,

“Ma’am, your son is dead,”

“Sir, the cancer’s spread,” or the

“I just don’t love you anymore.”

 

I fear the things that shatters worlds

in one swift-kick moment.

It’s hard to live not knowing

how to handle it.

 

The grief that comes and straps you down

like a straight jacket in an asylum.

It holds you, molds you,

then leaves you stripped and done.

 

This fragility is an assault on our senses.

To watch the life leave a body

is to see the flower wither in the sun

to see the short transition

from life to death is so heavy

like watching your own eulogy.

 

Where does the life go? It just fades?

Does it wither or run away?

Does it just cease? How can we know?

How can we ease ourselves

away from this fear of being mortal?

 

Does it ever hurt less, to have

worlds shatter in an instant?

 

#2 12.11.14 Dear Death

(Written after reading an update on my old college chaplain’s wife’s cancer. She passed away soon after.)

Death, go away.

You’ve got the wrong doors.

Death, pack your bags.

You take what isn’t yours.

Death, leave us be.

What are you looking for?

 

Death, you bastard.

You rape us, leave us bleeding.

You take us, no retreating.

You beat us despite our pleading.

What are you looking for?

 

Death, you merciless villain.

You invade common places like the kitchen.

You flip the switch in the prison.

You take the shooter to classrooms with children.

What are you looking for?

 

Death, leave us be.

You strip our joy and bend our knee.

You knock us down, make us scream.

You leave a hole where wholeness should be.

What are you looking for?

 

Death, please, go away.

 

#3 May 4, 2015 Again Alone Written in flight to start a month of travel for the story project

Another airport

another city

another day of traveling alone.

Wandering, wading deeper into the unknown

where I am unknown, without a home.

My heart is a vagabond, a knapsack

to hold its pain, tied to a stick of hope

slung over my shoulder as I trail along.

I am adrift, tossed in the waves,

propelled by the wind, weathered by

the raging sun. And I am searching

for the shores of a home,

but the best I find are islands.

And it’s just not enough.

So I set sail again,

I wash away again,

and I tell myself maybe this will be the time

I’ll find what I’m searching for.

Maybe this time I’ll run aground.

Maybe this will be the time I am found.

Maybe this time I’ll find myself,

and find myself being known.

Maybe my feet will find fertile ground

and roots will shoot down

from the soles of my feet

planting me firmly in a new

somewhere.

 

But until then, it’s another airport.

Another road.

Another city where I will get

to hear the stories of the people.

And I’ll move on,

again alone.

 

#4 JessicaWritten for my sweet, unassuming friend who asked me to make one of my 12 poems about her and who would never normally ask for such a thing, but thought that I would appreciate the bold request. She was right. 

She is the silliness of a four year old

housed in an aging soul.

Her beauty is pure, not boastful

her blue eyes shine like gold.

 

Her heart — oh her heart! —

Her heart is where she lives.

She’s made a home in that

space in her chest.

She invites you to come in.

Her life says, “Come sit,

feel for a while,

Your pain can come in with you.

I’ll yell with your anger

I’ll shout with your joy

your sadness is welcome here, too.

Tell me, is the temperature ok in this room?”

 

Her friendship is lunar,

always present, even in distance.

Always beautiful, even in darkness.

She participates in life like an event.

Everything is to be remembered,

even this very moment.

 

Her words are soft,

her squeals are loud.

Her life is loving.

Her parents are proud.

 

She is a well of life

smiling at the world from behind sweet freckles.

 

#5 Let me hurt. (written after hearing Abandon Kansas’ Jeremy Spring describe their new album saying “I’m just gonna let it hurt for a while”)

Just let me hurt for a while.

Don’t choke me out

trying to tie a bow around it.

It’s a wound,

not a present.

I’m broken,

not wrapped.

I’m bleeding out and you

used a ribbon as a tourniquet.

Don’t do it.

Please, let me hurt for a while —

it’s all that I have left.

 

F*cks, hells, and shits

punctuate my language.

Pain leaks

into my sentences.

Because when I’m honest, sometimes

my brokenness still feels fresh.

I didn’t know grief could be

so violent without death.

Don’t demand a positive spin.

A silver lining won’t fix it.

So please, let me hurt for a while —

it’s all that I have left.

 

I wonder how long it will be

before I can breathe through the memory.

Because right now, to remember

still feels like drowning.

Because right now, in my hometown

I still feel like an enemy.

Someday there will be more, but

for now this is my story.

So just let me hurt for a while — I’m sorry.

It’s all that I have left.

 

I’ve barely started

to trust again.

But I’m afraid of myself

in the end.

I don’t totally know

how to get around this bend.

I don’t totally know

if I’m good at being a friend.

When I tell the truth,

I’m afraid I will offend.

I want vulnerability.

I want to mend.

But just let me hurt for a while —

it’s all that I have left.

 

#6 Close

Don’t get too close.

Don’t hold me tight.

My fear will lead me

straight to flight.

 

I’ll stay right here,

you stay right there,

or you’ll look for me and

I’ll disappear into thin air.

 

If you approach, do it slow.

Don’t try to take control.

If you do,

I’ll up and go.

 

But if you find your way,

If you become near, you see,

know that you’re dear to me.

 

If you ebb and flow

slowly gaining ground

don’t say it too loud.

 

It scares me when people know

that they are in my heart

it’s a power that could tear me apart.

 

#7 I Lie To Me

“I can’t do this”

I’ve breathed too many times.

I am quick to admit defeat to me,

But outwardly I claw and gnaw

at the challenge threatening to stop me.

I lie to myself

but it feels like the truth.

My words battle my will —

with each failure admission

I take a breath and try again.

“I can’t do this” is the mantra

on the way to my success.

Somehow my stubborn will

ignores my cries and tries and tries

until it is finished.

I am always surprised at

myself in the end.

Why do I still believe

I cannot do this?

Maybe some day I’ll believe in myself

the way my spirit does again.

 

#8 As It Happens (written upon moving to Wichita, June, 2015)

By happenstance I met a band,

their name: Abandon Kansas.

Once upon a time

they stopped through where I lived.

 

By happenstance I saw a band photo,

after many years had passed.

Facebook let us

become friends fast.

 

By happenstance I went on a road trip

and I stopped where the band lives.

I wandered downtown,

saw where the river splits.

 

By happenstance I fell in love

with the town on the plains and

I thought — “This feels like

what a hometown is.”

 

Two years later, on purpose,

I actually live in Kansas.

 

#9 — Our Father Who Art In Heaven

Our Father

Our. The peoples of the earth,

of all shapes and sizes

Our. The people from the dirt,

our colors pre-decided.

Our. Those around the town

neighbors to one another.

Our. Those spread apart who

don’t care about each other.

Our. The slave and the owner.

Our. The president and the lawn mower.

Our. The world that God so loved.

 

Who is

Is. Is there in our brokenness and weakness.

Is. Is Immanuel — God with us.

Is. Is familiar with our pain.

Is. Is the love that will not stain.

Is. Is the heart that won’t grow cold.

 

In heaven

Heaven. Where there’s no more pain.

Heaven. Where the racist is forced to change.

Heaven. Where the lightness reigns.

Heaven. Where death is illegal.

Heaven. Where we’re all equal people.

Heaven. Where brokenness is made whole.

Heaven. Where we are all loved and known.

Heaven. Here now when we bring love home.

 

#10 Break and Fall (written because it was the last day and I needed more poems)

Day break

When my heart breaks when I wake

I know thats a day break.

The day I break,

A day that acts

Just like you.

 

And heart break,

What does that mean?

My heart burns

But this isn’t heart burn

It’s heart break,

Like an earth quake,

It makes my chest shake,

But I’m from California,

I’ve done this before.

 

These walls are too thick

To let your pain score,

They won’t crack,

I’ll just be sore.

I know the drill,

Even if I don’t live there anymore.

 

Night fall.

When I fall into bed at

The end of the day

I know that I’ve failed again,

Fallen again into that trap

of routine where my days start

with breaking, end with falling

and its just you in between.

Grief, you dirty bastard,

you won’t ruin me.

 

#11 Just a day

Early morning dew rises and gives way

to the heat of the day.

The grass dries,

my eyelids rise,

my heart is full.

 

Coffee cup is emptied with the dawn long gone,

the day draws on.

My hunger paces,

my mind races,

my fingers type away.

 

Afternoon slinks in without warning

of the exit of the morning.

My thoughts slow,

heart rate low,

creativity’s around the corner.

 

Three o’clock comes and I don’t mind the sitting

now that it’s productivity city.

Here we go.

Here we go.

My brain chants silently.

 

Happy hour is just an hour

when happiness is a regular prowler.

The dusk dawns,

fireflies turn on,

I walk down by the river.

 

Evening brings the close of a day

normal in most ways.

I worked away,

played in spades,

and my heart is still full.

 

#12 “26.” (written on the back porch in the eve of my last day of being 25)

Tomorrow marks the anniversary

of 26 years spent here.

26 years since that August morning

that I came home gift baring,

as my eyes held newborn tears.

A slip and slide was my peace offering

to the boy and the girl — my siblings.

That’s the story I’ve been told.

 

26 years is long enough to hold enough pain,

and not nearly enough life.

My appetite for life is voracious,

so hand me my fork and my knife.

When I get to the end of it all,

I want to still hunger,

content, but not satisfied.

For as long as I live,

there’s always more that I want out of life.


If you’d like to support the Story Project (to cover travel expenses, costs of Stories for those who can’t afford it, etc.) you can do so below or contact me at storyofjoblog@gmail.com if you’d like to send a check. Thank you for your support! 

 To Donate to Stories By Jo: The Story Project click below


Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon        storyofjoblog@gmail.com

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015 | Author:

storyofjo san diego friends

I convinced her to do the hike with me.

It’s called the Devil’s Punch Bowl.  Some of the reviews and bloggers were surprisingly dramatic about how hard of a hike it is and how much water you need to bring with you. (One blogger suggested something like 5 gallons per person. Which I still stand by the fact that that’s ridiculous.)

Reading a bit further on the matter, though, I found plenty of people who had said the hike itself is easy-moderate, it’s just hot and unshaded. Perfect, I thought. Work on my San Diego tan while we hike. Win win.

I asked Lizz if she was down for it, and she expressed concerns about having heard similarly scary reports of how hard it was. But I told her what I’ve just told you and she agreed to try it.

You hike three miles downhill in desert areas outside of San Diego, get to the Devil’s Punchbowl, hangout in the shade and/or water, then you go three miles back uphill in the sun. In the summer it averages around 115 degrees. But in March, when we were going, it was only 85 or 90. Totally doable.

We laughed and made jokes about the huge signs at the trailhead that say in big, capital block letters: “CAUTION. HEAT STROKE KILLS!”

“Hey Lizz, I don’t know if you’re heard, but you should really be cautious. There’s this thing called heat stroke, and it’ll kill ya dead.” We have a very dry, sarcastic humor with one another. For some reason we find it hilarious to just repeat obvious things in dumb voices. At least we entertain each other.

We hiked down with ease, though Lizz was starting to get really hot. Which probably should’ve been a tip-off. We were trying to conserve our water, though, so she drank little on the way down. When we got to the water, we stayed for a good 30 or 40 minutes, just trying to get her back to feeling OK. We still made jokes about how she was dying from heat stroke. But of course, she didn’t have heat stroke, she was just hot from hiking in the hot sun. She was fine. It did take her a long time to feel like she got her temp back down though.

When she finally did, we began the hike back up. About 2/3 of the way she was really struggling and started to talk about feeling light headed, nauseas and having a throbbing headache. Having worked at summer camps for many years, I know that means dehydrated, so we made steady slow effort up the trail and I kept having her drink more. More. More.

Here, drink my second water bottle. Here drink the rest of my last water bottle. With no cell service I was starting to get concerned, but near the end she said she was feeling a little better, so I went on ahead to get to the trail head and get myself some water, and bring some back for her if she had to stop.

But I didn’t have to go back for her, she was close enough behind me. She got to the trailhead, drank an entire liter of water, and then went and laid in the shade until she cooled off.

Sorry I almost killed you with heat stroke I apologized, still snarky.

She cooled down, we got in the car and headed for our next item for the day. On the drive I got cell service back and received a text message my mom had sent earlier that morning: “Hi Jo. Give me a call when you have a chance.”

As I was driving and Lizz was all heat-strokey, I decided I would call her once we arrived somewhere. I had a feeling in my gut that she was going to tell me my childhood cat had died. He was old, I knew he’d been potentially nearing the end for a while now, but if it was that, I didn’t want to know just yet.

We got into the next town and were almost to our destination when Lizz said, Pull over. Pull over right now I’m gonna throw up.

I pulled into a parking lot and she couldn’t get the door quite all the way open before she puked in the most projectile way of “projectile vomit” I’ve ever seen. Some of it hit part of the door, splashing back on her, and the rest drenched the hot asphalt.

All of the water I’d made her drink shot out like a water cannon. It was really quite impressive if it weren’t so sad.

After she seemed to have finished, she sat up, I handed her a napkin, she wiped her mouth and the door, and said I think I just need to sit here for a bit.

I decided I might as well call my mom and face the sad news if thats what it was while I waited.

Hi Jo, she started. It’s about your cat. 

My tear ducts got ready.

Is he dead? I asked.

He went missing yesterday, and Dad went out to look for him today because we hadn’t seen him, and I’m sorry Jo but he found him in the pool. He drowned.

Tears. Falling. Throat. Catching.

He drowned??? I balked.

I’m so sorry Jo…

I cut her off. I felt the grief assaulting me. Ok, I’m sorry. I have to go. Bye.

I hit the “end call” button with a messy punch of my thumb before my hand just dropped the phone and I cried ugly, loud sobs while strangling the steering wheel. And then I wailed. The sounds guttural. Moans of distraught youth. Cries of old, old life officially gone.

Because he hadn’t died of old age he had drowned.

Because he’s the only pet* that’s ever been mine.

Because we only got him because me and my now dead older sister begged for him on our knees on the sidewalk outside of the froze yogurt place when we saw the lady with the box of free kittens. And while Julie would typically be far too proud to do anything like that, she’d done it with me.

Because he was just like me — he was independent and feisty and wanted to be loved, but only on his terms. He didn’t want you to hold him all night, he just wanted to touch base and come and go as he pleased. Unless you didn’t want him near you, then he’d work his way into your lap and your heart.

Because he had been a constant when everything else in life seemed to change. Not just once, but twice.

Because it was still with a child’s heart that I loved him.

After my loud cries and then silent sobs subsided, Lizz projected more vomit out the door while I blew my nose and wiped my eyes. She wiped her mouth again and we looked at each other.

Well, we’re a sad pair, she said.

And we laughed.

I’m really sorry about your cat, she said.

I’m really sorry I made you hike and throw up, I said.

And we laughed again.

That’s officially the ugliest crying session of mine that anyone has ever witnessed. And again I reiterate that I’ve never seen such quintessential “projectile vomit” ever before in real life.

But we didn’t judge each other. We laughed at ourselves. And we were there. In the ugliest parts of life, that’s the most I could ever ask for in a friend, I think. No judgement, some laughter, and just being there. That’s the majority of what true friendship is. Not grand gestures and bff bracelets, but being someone who can sit in the ugliness of life and call it what it is.
Also, be cautious, heat stroke kills.

storyofjo san diego friends *I had a desert tortoise when I was young that my dad had found as a kid, and his mom had kept after he was grown, and she had given the tortoise to me when I was a kid, but then Pickles ran away one day. So one, Pickles was not just mine. And two, she ran away. And three, she was a tortoise, and it’s hard to connect with a tortoise. Just saying.

 


If you’d like to support the Story Project (to cover travel expenses, costs of Stories for those who can’t afford it, etc.) you can do so below or contact me at storyofjoblog@gmail.com if you’d like to send a check. Thank you for your support! 

 To Donate to Stories By Jo: The Story Project click below


Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon        storyofjoblog@gmail.com

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015 | Author:

_MG_7723

My brother sent me a post on facebook recently that I loved. It didn’t have any information on it, so it’s hard to verify if it’s true or not, but it said, “There are libraries around the world where you can check out a person as a living book and listen to their stories.”

If you’ve read almost anything I’ve written recently, you can guess how much I love this idea. But I noticed many comments on the post echoing a thought in the same key: Why go to a library to hear some stranger’s stories when we don’t even bother to talk to our neighbors or the people around us in restaurants?

While I understand the argument and the sentiment, I think the thing is, when we want to talk, we’re afraid that maybe other people don’t. Where we’d like to hear people’s stories, we’re not sure if the people around us are willing to tell their stories. Or maybe we want to tell our stories, but we’re not sure if the people around us would want to listen.

I have become more introverted as my years have increased in number, so while I am talkative many times, many other times I really do enjoy the solitude and aloneness that can come from traveling alone or dining alone in the company of only strangers. I think we’ve all probably been trapped on a plane next to someone who wanted to talk the whole way when we really just wanted to sleep, read, think, or whatever else it is you do on an airplane.

But aside from that, I think the majority of why we don’t talk, why we don’t share, why we don’t interact with those around us is fear. And that fear that is heavily supported by social conventions. Social conventions that say “Stay quiet.” That say it’s weird to say hello to a stranger standing in the same vicinity. That it’s inappropriate to reach out and interact with someone who has not invited you to do so.

There are of course times, and signs that those social conventions should be abided by (in my opinion). For example, you never need to talk to someone in the next stall over in the bathroom unless you need to embarrassingly ask them to pass you some TP. Or, when you’re at a cafe and you see someone with both of their headphones in, working away at something, it better be for a specific reason that you’re approaching them and asking them to disengage what they’re doing (like, “hey, I’m having a heart attack and my phone is dead, could you call 911 please?”). Not just for general chit chat.

But what I’ve found is that when I get over my fear, my social anxiety that our culture affirms that tells me to just stare at my phone instead of engaging the people around me, and when I finally venture out of myself into the world of others, I have found some beautiful interactions. I have found some beautiful people that are in my life now in large ways because I engaged them or visa versa who I otherwise would’ve just passed by.

The comments on the facebook post are right: we are surrounded by people with incredible stories that we don’t know on a regular basis, and we’ll continue to never know them unless we begin to interact.

I do it the cheating way: I ask people to tell me their stories so I can write it for them, which is an incredible blessing to get to sit in those spaces and hear those tales.

But before I was ever a writer, I was a toddler that would ask you who you were, where you lived, what did you believe.

Then I was the little girl who reached out to the middle aged woman struggling on the ice skating rink and asked if I could help her, and continued to skate with her for the next hour.

When I was very young it came naturally. But then adolescence hit and it was more uncomfortable to reach out. So it became a discipline instead of a natural disposition.

With this discipline, I was the middle school student who went to summer camp and met every single counselor there, and then continued to be friends with many of them for years later — up to and including one who opened a crossfit gym in my hometown when I was an adult and became my trainer.

And on and on.

Some of the dearest people I have in my life today are there because I thought, “What do I have to lose?” and I talked with them, reached out, interacting in non-extraordinary ways that sparks extraordinary friendships, adventures, and tales.

So, as I challenge myself regularly, I challenge you: Reach out. Interact. See what happens.

If you want to reach out by encouraging someone you know to have their story written (so you and others can read it and know it), contact me directly (info below), or have them look over the story project website and contact me for next steps.


If you’d like to support the Story Project (to cover travel expenses, costs of Stories for those who can’t afford it, etc.) you can do so below or contact me at storyofjoblog@gmail.com if you’d like to send a check. Thank you for your support! 

 To Donate to Stories By Jo: The Story Project click below


Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon        storyofjoblog@gmail.com

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015 | Author:

Dear Denver,

I came to you 8 months ago with my life packed into my Toyota Camry.

It was a long drive. 18 hours of leaving my past behind. My own tears surprised me as I drove away from my family standing on the porch of my parent’s house, waving as they watched me go. That’s become our tradition. And I’m always the one on the leaving end.

I was ready for you, for this new, temporary chapter of life. I was excited to leave the past.

But while it was a new town, I wasn’t a new me. I quickly realized that by changing states I was not changing stories. My past was mine to own. My story was mine to tell. My life was mine to live.

So I came to you, and I told you who I am and where I have been. I told it to church members in diners. I told it to distant family members in the mountains. I told it to dates in bars. I told it to neighbors in hot tubs and living rooms. I told my story to you, and you didn’t grimace. You didn’t run away. You listened and you welcomed me.

You let me play on your trails, exploring your mountain peaks and your forests and your waters. You let me make friends in fun restaurants and pubs and venues. You let me sit in peace, overlooking a lake with the mountains beyond, and the setting sun beyond that.

You have given me the space and time to become more myself. And while I’ve always known you would be a temporary dwelling place, you’ve been a good one. Most importantly, you’ve given me an atmosphere to learn how to be at home within myself.

Aside from your horrible drivers, you’ve been nothing but lovely to me. Thank you for being such a big playground for life. Thank you for housing me while I felt at home here. I’ll come back to visit.

-Jo

(I’ll be on the go for the Story Project for all of May and then moving to Wichita, KS Beginning of June)

Favorite Denver/CO things:

– Hiking

  • Mt. Bierstadt
  • Mt. Quandary
  • Colorado Trail
  • Hanging Lake Trail
  • All of the trails during fall
  • Paddle boarding on our lake and slack lining in our “yard”
  • Food/Drink
  • The fries and cocktails at Williams & Graham
  • The atmosphere at Linger
  • The atmosphere at Crema cafe
  • The chocolate at Dietrichs
  • The eggs benedict and the beignets at Lucilles Creole cafe
  • Blackeye coffee
  • Pie and cocktails at the Green Russell
  • Cheap movies at the Century Aurora 16 Theater
  • Eggs benedict and sweet potato pancakes at Snooze Eatery
  • Burgers & Brews deals during MNF at Stoney’s bar & grill
  • Atmosphere & coffee at Roostercat
  • The view from outside the dome on the Capitol building
  • Being at Redrocks/ the view from Redrocks
  • The river in golden
  • Stranahan’s whiskey (both the product and the free tour & tasting)
  • The Denver German Christmas Market on 16th St. mall
  • Even though it’s not just a Denver thing, I discovered & fell in love with it here: Waffle House

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If you’d like to support the Story Project (to cover travel expenses, costs of Stories for those who can’t afford it, etc.) you can do so below or contact me at storyofjoblog@gmail.com if you’d like to send a check. Thank you for your support! 

 To Donate to Stories By Jo: The Story Project click below


Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon        storyofjoblog@gmail.com

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015 | Author:

We’re taking a detour from the normal posts for a week, because sometimes, I love to play tour guide and help people find good stuff!

Sometimes I travel for fun, and sometimes because of how my life has gone, I get to travel for school, business, etc as well.

I went to San Diego a few weeks ago to write a few stories down there (see the first one up now!).

But, while I was there, I tried to also hit as many of my old favorite things (foods, places, people, etc.) and to try a couple new ones. SO… If you are going to San Diego any time soon, these are officially my suggestions:

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Where to EAT:

  1. The chips and queso dip at Miguel’s Cocina

IMG_7193Go to Miguel’s for the best white queso dip in the world. And if you want to argue with me about somewhere that you think has better Queso, then I’m gonna need you to fly me out there so I can try that place for myself. Until then, All Hail Miguel’s amazingness white cheese sauce and fresh fresh chips.

  • What to eat there: The Flautas, the Tacos, or the Enchiladas. These are all great, but not out of this world. Really, the queso is why.
  • Where: There are 4 locations, all great, the one I’ve been to is at: 2912 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106
  • Price Range: $$
  • Nearby: go for a quiet walk along the Bay (See #8 in places to go/things to do below). Get coffee and hang out at the living room

2. California Burritos or Carne Asada Fries at Santana’s AKA Fresh MXN Food AKA  Eat MXN Food

Ok, so the current and most recently passed names make it seem like perhaps you should gloss over this place. Do not. Sanatana’s is the original name, and while they have added locations, (I like this location best), and changed names, their menu has stayed largely the same. Santanas is rumored to have invented the california burrito.

  • What to eat there: California Burrito or Carne Asada Fries.
  • Where:1578 Rosecrans St San Diego, CA 92106
  • Price Range: $
  • Nearby: The Starbucks next door has many outlets if you need to re-charge. Otherwise take your burritos to go and eat them at #1, #2, or #3 under places below)
  • Similar places: Adalberto’s (same suggestions), Cotija’s (California Burrito and Bean and Rice Burrito), and Ortiz’s (for any burrito)

3. Sea Food at Point Loma SeaFood

If you want the freshest sea food perhaps in the continental U.S., come here. It’s right on the water, and it’s both a market where you can buy your fresh seafood to go cook it at home, or you can order from their menu to get something delicious right there. To order, just muscle your way up to the counter, and shout your order. You can eat inside (you have to go outside and around the building to enter the enclosed patio) or outside at the stone picnic tables or the tables right along the water. Be wary of seagulls who will try to steal your food.

  • What to eat there: You can’t go wrong. I like their fried shrimp, fried calamari, or traditional fish and chips. If you’re not a seafood person but you’re with seafood people, I believe they do have chicken strips as well.
  • Where:2805 Emerson St, San Diego, CA 92106
  • Price Range: $$
  • Nearby: It’s close to the airport so a perfect first or last stop on your way in or out of town. It’s also close to Pizza Nova, which is delicious. It’s close to Miguel’s, The Living Room, and Shelter Island as well.

4. Anything at Extraordinary Desserts

The name says it all. I’m a dessert person. I partake whenever possible in the dessert genre. Which is often. And this place is the best dessert place I’ve ever found (Sorry gelateria in Rome with the best-known ice cream to man). Eat anything there. Pieces are always very rich, so it might be best to share. OR do what I do and get a couple choices to share. P.S. If there are flowers on your dessert, they are edible, but you can choose not to eat them.

  • What to eat there: While I love ice cream, don’t settle for the usual here (though it’s an option). Get one of their delectable creations. Whether it’s cake, pie, tart, whatever.
  • Where: Two locations.     Little Italy has a larger, more open space indoors: 1430 Union Street, San Diego, CA 92101. But I like the ambiance better at the Balboa location (plus has outdoor seating). 2929 Fifth Avenue, San Diego, CA 92103
  • Price Range: $$
  • Nearby: Little Italy location is obviously in Little Italy which is a great place to wander around and explore. Also, if you’re there during business hours, stop by the art gallery of Grant Pecoff (See Little Italy Entry below for address). Amazing, colorful work plus wonderful children’s books for sale!

5. Acai Bowls in Ocean Beach —Quik Stop Liquor/Convenience Store 

  • IMG_7260What to Eat: Probably the small is enough, but if you’re a big eater or you’re sharing, go full-bore. Also, their coffee is not bad for it being equivalent/priced like gas station coffee.
  • Where: Newport Ave, on the left hand side as you head West. About 2-3 blocks up from the beach. 4921 Newport Ave San Diego, CA 92107
  • Price Range: $$
  • Nearby: Walk Newport Avenue for fun shopping. The Closet has cheap, cute clothes (and nose rings for $.99!). There are antique stores galore. The Little Chef for fast, cheap, great Chinese food. The Light House has the best ice cream. Hodad’s has great burgers (let the long line be the testament to it. It’s worth it, but bring cash). Plenty of new bars and breweries seem to be popping up in those blocks. And of course, go walk the beach.

6. Ice Cream in a Waffle Cone at Light House Ice Cream 

As you walk up you can smell the cones being made, because, yes, they’re made fresh and they’re amazing. The ice cream itself is from a company based out of San Francisco and it’s The. Freaking. Best. (Outside of Italy.)

  • What To Eat: I am personally a fan of the two scoops of varying flavors in the fresh waffle cones.
  • Where: 5059 Newport Ave Ste 102, San Diego, CA 92107
  • Price Range: $$
  • Nearby: All Ocean Beach spots.

 

Places to Go/Things to Do:

  1. Sunset Cliffs.

IMG_7271Great for walking along, sitting on the benches, or driving down. There are absolutely incredible houses on one side with varying architectural styles and then the beautiful ocean on the other. Go down the stairs to the tide pools for an extra fun excursion. You can find crabs, sea anemones, sea snails, and sometimes sea cucumbers and starfish!

 

2. Ocean Beach (OB)

Some of my favorite food and shopping suggestions are here, and it is, hands down, my favorite beach, and my favorite place in San Diego. It’s kind of a dirty area — lots of homeless people and hippies, sometimes one-in-the-same, but it’s also a local hangout. If you’re a surfer, it’s a great area, but the locals can be territorial so stay out of their way.  It’s a great beach for families with kids that want to play in the water and get some decent IMG_7167waves with boogie boarding or body surfing. Life guards on duty. I suggest the area around lifeguard Tower 2 or 3. Browse through the shops, eat at the restaurants, get some coffee and stroll down the beach or the pier. Watch people slack lining, playing frisbee, fishing, surfing, and more. If you want to go to the restaurant on the pier, I’d suggest going for breakfast and getting the mango or blueberry pancakes.

  • Where: Take Newport Ave. West until you hit the sand. If you hit the water you’ve gone too far. That’s just ocean. Not ocean beach.
  • Tips: If you can’t find parking along Newport Ave., there is a parking lot at the beach end of Newport Ave, and one right by the large Life Guard Tower with the cross on it. If it’s a holiday, or sunny weekend, parking may be a struggle, so take whatever you come across.

3. Shelter Island

Great place if you want to have a bonfire at night, or just have a picnic or a stroll in the daytime.

  • Where: Shoreline Park, 2204 Shelter Island Drive, San Diego, CA , San Diego

4. Little Italy

If you want to get the taste of downtown without going to a Mall, go stroll through Little Italy.

  • Where: It’s the general vacinity, but here’s the address for the Pecoff Art Studio 1825 India St., San Diego, CA 92101
  • Highlight: Grant Pecoff’s art studio
  • Nearby: Extraordinary Desserts
  • Balboa Park

5. Balboa Park

Wonderful for strolling, hiking, picnicking, or going to the museums. Balboa Park is one of the city’s greatest gems.

  • Where: Enter on El Prado Street and either park right in street parking there and enjoy the park area/walk in, or drive in and find parking inside to be closer to museums. El Prado begins at where Laurel St. and 6th Ave. make a T: 2500 6th Ave San Diego, CA 92103
  • Highlights: Museum of Man (costs). The Timken Art Museum (Free). The Botanical Gardens (free). The Zoo (costs).

6. Hike to The Devil’s Punch Bowl:

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Lizz and I did this hike together and while it is 3 miles down hill there, and 3 miles uphill on the way back, it’s not the strenuousness of the hike that’s hardest, but the heat. They say to bring plenty of water, and I’d reiterate that plus, make sure you start the hike hydrated already. The punchbowl itself was pretty incredible though.

  • Where: All info including purchasing the required permit ($6 for up to 5 people) can be found HERE: devils-punchbowl.com

7. Coronado Island

It’s the fun, throw-back place in San Diego. It’s easy to feel like you’re a great Gatsby character on vacation here. Enjoy the soft sands of the beaches, rent a bike to jot around the island, and get ice cream at the famous Moo-Time Ice Cream Shop (same idea as Cold Stone, but better).

  • Coronado Beach: 838 Ocean Blvd Coronado, CA 92118

8. Walk along the Bay

There is a public path (Bessemer Path) along the bay in the back of some gorgeous houses. Find street parking nearby and start at the address below (on the curve where Talbot St. curves into Anchorage Lane). Start there and turn right, heading south along the Bay. Go as far as you like, but there is a precarious swing along the bay a bit farther down. Be careful though, apparently it has broken several times before.

  • Where: 1001 Anchorage Ln., San Diego, CA 92106

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If you’d like to support the Story Project (to cover travel expenses, costs of Stories for those who can’t afford it, etc.) you can do so below or contact me at storyofjoblog@gmail.com if you’d like to send a check. Thank you for your support! 

 To Donate to Stories By Jo: The Story Project click below


Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon

storyofjoblog@gmail.com
Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014 | Author:

If I’m honest — which I am — homesickness is the cause of my current wandering-life phase. I’ve been saying that I’m searching for a place that feels like home. I didn’t know of any that still existed for me until one night not too long ago.

I was staying with my parents in my hometown one night, but I was coming in from an appointment in the next town over. I had a lot on my mind and I was just driving on autopilot. When I had arrived and parked my car, I went to reach for the handle to get out when I realized where I was — I was at my old apartment.

An apartment I haven’t lived in now for a year and a half. I have lived 4 places in 4 cities since I left that apartment.

It was the apartment I moved into when I had graduated college and moved back to my hometown. It was the apartment where I first paid for my utilities, where I first learned where I got the best reception with my TV antennae, where I first furnished and decorated a home from top to bottom on my own.

It’s the apartment where I first lived alone. Where I first made all my meals for myself – no dining hall, no cafeteria, just me and my printed out recipes.

It’s an apartment down the street from the jail, with sketchy neighbors who are on parole, and some parolees whom I had gotten to know and become friends with. It’s an apartment with security screens on every door, with the cops coming by several times a week for some call or another.

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It’s an apartment with blue walls in one room because I painted them that way. With extra shelves in the closets because I built them myself. With a doorknob that I bought on the front door because I locked myself out and had to have the locksmith come and drill the lock through and replace it. With a small exposed nail on the front of the kitchen sink where the tiling had broken off before I moved in. I used that nail as peg to hang my pot holders from.

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It’s an apartment with a view of Table Mountain and the Oroville O, with a view of the trains that chug by in the distance. It’s both walking distance to the Oroville forebay where I learned to sail as I was moving in, and to the Feather River, where the stone picnic tables served as my desk as I journaled through some of the hardest thoughts of my life.

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It’s 1.3 miles from the Youth Center I helped open, and 4.4 miles from the church I used to work at and belong to. It takes 7 minutes to drive to my parents house from this apartment. Always. It is a 2 minute drive (including the time to walk down the stairs and to the car) to the nearest Red Box at 7/11, allowing me to watch a rented movie until 8:58 before I had to pull it out and leave to return it before I got charged again.

It’s the apartment where I first defined home as being anything aside from my parents house. The town was always my home, but in terms of within Oroville, it was the first place of my own that I meant when I said “I’m going home now.” The dorm rooms of college had just never felt that way to me, and I’d been intentional about my vocabulary — I don’t know if my college roommates ever noticed, but I never referred to those dorm rooms and college apartments as home. “I’m going back to the room,” I’d say, or “Are you at the apartment?” Never, never, “I’ll see you at home.” Because home was somewhere in a podunk town in Northern California. Period.

And this apartment, this afforded me the chance to both be an independent adult with a home of their own, and to still call my hometown home.

But then life changed. Old normal in that Oroville life feels like a long lost memory. I’ve sold most of my possessions that filled that old apartment.  I’ve had different jobs since then. I’ve moved to different cities. I go to other churches. I rent movies from different Red Boxes and I have different people sitting in my apartment during movies and game nights.

 

But in the midst of getting lost in my thoughts as I drove, my internal compass took over and led me here. It led me home. Only it wasn’t my home anymore.

And while I have felt homesick for a couple years as my life changed so drastically, this moment as I sit in the parking lot in my old usual spot looking up at really the only last remnant of my old life, I feel sad. I feel more homesick than before. Because there it is, my home, in the most literal sense of the word. The place where I lived and slept and cooked and bathed and let me body and mind and heart rest and take shelter from the world.

And I hadn’t realized that my heart, that my internal compass still believed that, still missed that. But here I am, and it’s not my home anymore. It’s someone else’s.

I take a few moments to just look up at the front door before I turn the car on, back out, and drive away, tears rolling down my cheeks, grieving another loss — this time of a place I didn’t even know I missed.

Because the reality is that the places where we do life — where we share moments and let our hearts settle in with our bodies to a place we embrace as home — those places mean something. They’re just a place, but they’re the setting where our lives unfold.  And when the rest of life may change or be gone, you can still accidentally “drive home” and end up in those old places. It’s like visiting the grave on a chapter of life once it’s passed. But sometimes it’s good to have those monuments.

Maybe that’s one of the most beautiful parts of the world — that the land itself keeps on existing — despite our times, despite our pains and gains — it continues on, one of the only constants available to us.

Grief for people is of course the most powerful, the most full of agony and meaning. But grief for places — places we lose, places we leave, places we see change — that is still grief in it’s own right. It’s taken me a lot of life to realize how true that is.

As I’ve been back in Oroville this month for the holidays, it has been hard, and feels foreign in a lot of ways, but it’s also been healing to drive the streets that I know well enough that I know every curve, every pot hole and patch where it floods. To be in the place where I know which post office to go to for what things. The place where I know someone everywhere I go. The place where I walk into a hamburger joint I’ve been going to since I was born and they ask “Where have you been? We haven’t seen you in a while!” and the Mexican restaurant where they know that I’m the one in the family that changes up my drink order every time while the rest stay the same.

It’s a place that I love. While the sense of home is gone, the memory of it in this place is not.

 

I’m beginning to understand that in the Christian tradition, the meaning of Christmas isn’t just about the fact that God so loved the people in the world that he sent his son, Jesus.

God so loved the world — the place too. He could love us from afar, but only in a physical place could he walk with us, cry with us, touch us, heal us. The fact that the birth of Jesus happened in a place – in a feeding trough, in a stable, at an inn, in Bethlehem. And that while time and the world have changed, the place remains. That is a holy thing. And it is a human thing. Because places are the stage where the intermingling of our hearts and bodies and lives and time all take place. And that means that places matter. To God and to us.

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And the story says that some day there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and if that comes to be, I hope to walk with God down my old street by the jail, and to say, “that, that right there, that’s where my home was,” and I imagine he’d take my arm, and let me rest my head on his shoulder as he sadly, nostalgically says, “I know, Jo. I was there with you. I know.” And then like the other night, we’ll turn away and keep walking toward the hope of a new home someday — except that someday will have arrived.

 

Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon

storyofjoblog@gmail.com
Tuesday, December 09th, 2014 | Author:

medium_142324601photo credit: [phil h] via photopin cc

“Don’t tell them that you’ll keep in touch,” she said to us. “Because you won’t.”

One of the school administration was talking to the group of 5 of us from the US who were brand new to the school and were there for the semester as study abroad students. We were at a small (read: 25 students) university on the border of Switzerland and Germany. The rest of the students were from Europe. This admin gal was giving us a new student orientation, and she herself was American. But I was taken back by this strong command.

“What?” I asked. Maybe I had misunderstood.

“Don’t tell them that you’re going to be friends forever or that you’ll stay in touch or that you’ll come back and visit. It happens every year, and the thing is that while you might think you mean it, you don’t. Not to their standards. Keeping in touch once a year is not keeping in touch. So don’t promise anything like that.”

This started me out on a sour note at the school. But soon, I forgot her words as I was swept away by how much I enjoyed my new friends at the school. The whole place was a dream — we did school together and played together, we cooked together and ate together, we lived together and did chores together. It was this tight-nit incredible community and I loved being there. I even decided to stay for another semester as one didn’t feel like it would be enough. I didn’t want this community, this season of my life with these people, to end yet. So I delayed the inevitable.

But too soon, the second semester at the Switzerland school flew by, and before I knew it, it was December. We had Christmas parties and talent shows and went to Christmas Markets (Wienachts markts) and then we had a week left. Then a few days. Then it was the night before I was to leave, and the swine flu was sweeping through our little community like wildfire. Most everyone caught it in that last week.

And the last night before I had to leave, I remember sitting on my friend Bekky’s bed as she laid there miserably. She’d caught it a couple days prior and was already in the deep throws of it. Luckily I had just caught it just that day so I was in the beginning stages and could still be up and around and go around to everyone’s rooms to say goodbye.

I was sitting on the edge of her bed, and she was telling me about how our friend, Gideon, had taken her for a walk and professed his love for her and she was freaking out about it. She’s married to the man now, but at the time this was brand new information and she didn’t know what she wanted.

I remember those moments of sharing one last piece of important life turns amid the regular-life things like being sick. I got up to leave, and hugged her and my friend Sara who was hanging out with us, and they asked the question: Will you come back to visit? I remembered the Admin’s words, and made a decision that I would mean what I said: “Yes. I’m not sure when. But I promise I’ll come back.” And then I left them in tears, returned to my room to finished packing and sleep. I cried my sick self to sleep that night.

In the following weeks, “normal life” didn’t feel normal anymore. It was the first time I’d ever permanently moved away from a place, and it was a feeling of loss I can only describe as grief.

But what happened was that grief pushed me to stay in touch with my close people there — something I’d never been great at prioritizing before. The upswing of facebook helped severely, but it was the first time when I learned how to truly maintain relationships across such great distances. Coming from such a steady small-town upbringing, I had been used to just leaving for a month or two at a time for college, and then coming back and catching up with everyone, then repeat. But I had begun to realize that that only really worked with those long-standing life-long friendships from home. And it only worked with semi-regular visits in place. I’d need to do something different this time.

I have a friend I grew up with who’s blog url is TheDistanceIsWhatYouMakeIt.com (“The distance is what you make it” for those of you that struggle reading things like hashtags and urls without spaces). I believe she started the blog when she, too, was leaving for a semester abroad.

This notion, the distance is what you make it, is dead on. I didn’t learn that fully until I came back from my year in Switzerland. And I shake my head at the admin’s advice at the beginning of my first semester: “Don’t tell them you’ll keep in touch. You won’t.”

I’m not saying I’m great at keeping in touch with everyone. Statistically you can only truly have a limited number of people you’re regularly connected with in life. But coming out of that amazing year of community life, I was driven to try to figure out how to do it with at least some people.

And it’s taught me how to continue to do that as I move around in life. As I move around to different places now, it’s a comfort that my relationships are not cemented by time and place.

Just this summer I got to fulfill my promise to visit those friends Bekky and Sara (and 8 others) again for the first time in 5 years, and it was amazing to be there with them and to feel how incredibly normal it felt to be friends in person still.

My friend Kate told me once, “I think everyone collects something: You collect stories and people.”

And as I’ve continued on in life, and continue to get to know people and want to continue friendships with them even when there’s distance, I think she’s right. As I’ve moved around, I have less friends in every day life as I’m breaking into these new places, but I continually have many close friends all over. And I’m content with that, because my friend’s blog url is right:

The distance is what you make it.

Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon

storyofjoblog@gmail.com
Tuesday, November 11th, 2014 | Author:

Last Sunday marked 25 years since the Berlin wall fell. But in reality, it didn’t just fall. That’s passive. It was torn down. With bare hands. It was pulled to the ground. And for the first time since before Hitlers rule, Germany was again a united nation. Nov. 9, 1989.

 

I remember hearing someone mentioning this when I was 14 and I wrote it down as being a good speech topic for graduation. (I had my eye on being one of the top students of my class even then so that I could give a speech. And I’m a nerd who writes ideas like that down 3 years before I need it.)

When I was 17 I was preparing to end the school year and I had to write the speech I had worked so hard to have the honor to give. I was wrestling with becoming aware of all the social injustices in the world — things like lack of clean water, lack of food and sanitation, AIDS, the ways the world had managed to take the African continent, the richest continent in resources, and keep it the poorest continent overall. I was struggling with these things, paired with the overwhelming joy and fear about traveling to Malawi, Africa a mere 9 hours after graduation to see these injustices for myself for the first time. And I remembered I had written something down about a speech idea years before. I found the paper, and it simply said  — “The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, same year we were born.”

And so at 17 I gave a graduation speech about that being symbolic about out potential to tear down falls. To have a world that is free. To be a generation that can be the ones who use our bare hands to tear down the boundaries that keep people at bay, that keep them afraid, that keep them in the dark or in poverty or in oppression.

 

But it wasn’t until this past summer that I actually got to visit the wall (SEE PHOTOS BELOW). I had just turned 25. The wall had been torn down for almost 25 years. And it was more emotional of an experience for me than I would have thought. It’s been a lot of years since that graduation speech. And I’ve learned much more about the history of the world, and the wall, since then. But I’ve also learned more about pain. About oppression. About being trapped in.

And it surprised me to see that there are still several significant chunks of the wall left standing. I thought all had been torn down except at checkpoint charlie, but they haven’t. And even where the wall does not remain, you can trace it’s course from bricks left in the pavement that go wherever it did. They serve as a marker, as a memory of both the pain, and the triumph of tearing it down.

I respect that about Berlin. I think most cities would like to just bury it. To give it no air time. But united Berlin, urban Berlin, busting metropolis Berlin still bears the scars of a torn Berlin, bears the scars of so many years. And I think that’s honest. Because sometimes, I feel like I wish I could bury my scars under pavements, but I want to make the intentional decision to let the brick path stand — not as an obstacle, just as a reminder that says:  “We bore life for a long time with the wall, but we have torn it down now. Both are parts of our story.”

I’m celebrating with Germany this week.

Below is an excerpt from an article on MSN.com yesterday:

With her customary decorum, Chancellor Angela Merkel led her country in celebrations flavored with the only-in–Germany mix of triumph and tragedy.

In a 20-minute speech at a new memorial to the tragedies wrought by the wall, Ms. Merkel noted the special meaning of Nov. 9 in German history. It was on that day, in 1918, that Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated, “after four terrible years” of World War I. In 1923, it was the date of Hitler’s failed march on the Munich Festhalle. In 1938, she said, it was when the Nazis set fire to synagogues, plundered Jewish homes and businesses and detained and killed thousands of Jews — “the start of the killing of millions” in the catastrophe of the Holocaust.

Only in 1989, after Europeans across the Soviet bloc were rising up against Communism, did Nov. 9 become a date of joy with the wall falling. Now, Ms. Merkel and many other speakers this weekend noted, it is up to Germans to nurture the memory, preserve democracy and intervene to prevent injustice.

 

*Disclaimer, I’m not well-trained nor well-skilled in poetry. I don’t know how to stick to rhyme or meter. So maybe these aren’t really poems, but I’m calling it one. I have it as one of my goals for my 26 before I turn 26 list to write 12 more poems, and I thought this was a fitting topic. 

 

 

The Wall by Joanna O’Hanlon

 

That wall so high, so thick so sick

it makes my wiley gut churn.

Our city is two, is blue is doom

but one side is red as our blood runs.

 

It’s been here far too long now,

runs round the SS HQ —

it’s 1989,

where’s the SS for you?

 

The east and west, forever at odds,

one side captive, another in awe.

 

Pull hard pull fast

let’s pull the wall down.

 

It’s time.

Time for a united town.

 

Our children will know a different world,

a united Berlin, non-blood stained ground.

 

They will feel the rough concrete,

see the barbed wire,

and they will feel no fear.

 

A relic to remember,

a symbol to our pain,

they won’t hear bullets as they draw near.

 

The wall will not be mended,

the long cold will be ended.

 

What was once our scorn

will be a tourist place, graffiti adorned.

 

And our hearts will slow,

our breathing will steady,

our Berlin is here,

we are ready.

 

Let

the

wall

fall.

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Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon

storyofjoblog@gmail.com
Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 | Author:

I was at the post office. It was 4:40 and I needed to mail a stack of about 7 envelopes all registered mail (meaning, apparently, that I have to fill out a form for each of the already-addressed envelopes with to-from info as well as estimated value included inside, and then they have to be specially sealed, then stamped all around that seal, then addressed again and sealed with an additional sticker of authenticity, and then weighed and posted). I’m tired just writing that.

So I filled out my portion of the form for each of my 7 envelopes hurriedly while I was in line, letting several people go in front of me. By the time I reached the counter it was about 4:50, 10 minutes until the closing. A tall, thin man in his 50s or 60s waived me up to his empty station at the far end of the counter. His name tag told me his name was Ike.

I came up and told him, apologetically, that I needed these 7 envelopes sent by registered mail and the rest sent regular post. He turned and walked away without saying anything. I wasn’t sure if he was getting something or heard me or just decided that enough was enough and it was close enough to closing.

I hung in the balance for a good 45 seconds, not knowing, until he turned around the corner with a roll of brown sealing paper in his hand. As he re-joined me at the counter, he set to work slowly, but not dawdling, just taking his precise time, still not saying anything. His face was kind, though, so I started: “How’s your day been today?”

“It was pretty good, then you showed up,” he said dryly, looking up at me with a glint of humor in his brown eyes. A beat. Then he smirked, softly.


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photo credit: TheeErin via photopin cc

We began chatting, slowly at first, with long pauses between conversation topics. But the process to complete my request was long and I was with him for literally 30 minutes, and we chatted about his work, his life, where he’s lived, that I just moved to Colorado…

“When did you move?” he asked, still looking down, busy with his work.

“Last week,” I said, a little too peppy.

He paused. Looked up. “Last week!?” he exclaimed drawing out the emphasis like Bill Cosby would when talking to his kids.

“Yessir,” I said, smiling, friendly.

“Man. Well, I think you’ll like it. It grew on me, but it’s home now. I think that you’ll find that people are kind here. And if you meet the few who have bad attitudes, just tell them to go smoke a bowl and chill out,” he sat flatly, then looking up at me with that same sly glimmer, he let his full grin slip and laughed.

“Just offer them some cheetos to compliment their necessary high?” I joked. He laughed and then coughed from laughing.

We parted ways and I told him my name and told him he may see more of me as I seem to mail things often these days. “I’ll run the other way next time,” he said, winking. And then he silently waived the next person in the still very long line up to his desk as I walked away, 20 minutes after closing time.

He’s been at his job with the USPS for 30 years now, and been in this particular post office for 20 years. Never had a mail route: “Heck no. I like to be indoors with the controlled temperatures. If I’d have had a mail route, I’d have made a liar out of their ‘through sleet hail and snow’ motto real fast.” And he was not just patient, but pleasant as I came in with my lengthy request at almost closing time.

“Sorry again that you had to do this,” I said. “I promise next time it’d just be a simple “Hey Ike, can ya ship this for me,” request.”

“Nah, nah, it’s alright Jo. It was mighty fine closing out the day getting to stand around and chat with you. Have a good one.”

I may have moved to a pretty big city, but so far, I feel like the connections I’m making are these small-town type connections. Getting to know my post office employees and the workers at my local Costco. I’ve become well acquainted with my maintenance guy now — he’s been to my apartment to fix and re-fix issues with the gas in my fireplace about 5 times now over the past week.

I went to church last night and was fortunate enough to have a friend let the pastor know I’d be coming, so I got to go to dinner afterward with the pastor, his wife, and several others from the church. And I found myself telling my story, and crying in a restaurant as I am so familiar with doing now in public places when I get real and share my past pain.

And I’ve been to two family dinners — one with a cousin of mine and one with my friend Kate’s Aunt and Uncle who live here.  And I spent part of an afternoon giving a ride to Kate’s little sister who goes to college here now and doesn’t have a car.

Like I said, I may have moved to a big city, but these connections don’t feel like it. In a week I have had more honest and real interactions with people than I had in probably the first several months of my time in my previous town. Which doesn’t say as much about Denver versus Rocklin as it does about me now versus me a year ago.

I am opening up again. I’m coming alive again and being vulnerable again and it’s opening up some beautiful doors of connection. Even at the post office at closing time.


Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon

storyofjoblog@gmail.com