Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Then and Now 18 - An Empty Stop

Then and Now 18 - An Empty Stop
Time: Late 2007, single and at my apartment.

One day off from work, I decided to go out into town and see something that wasn't on my subway map. I don't remember where the stop was, but it's to be expected because I just picked a random place to go to, one that clearly had no touristy places labeled next to or around it. I knew something had to be there, and I was going to find out what... so after I got dressed and spiked my hair, I took a quick bus to the subway station to see what I could see that day.

When the subway car reached my destination, I got off and started to walk in a random direction. I chose to walk down an alleyway that was barely wide enough to accomodate a single car going in one direction, and checked to make sure that I wouldn't get hit by anybody going to or from the subway station.

The alley was lined on both sides with short apartment buildings. Laundry hung outside to dry here and there, some of the locals' doors were open to let the heat out and a breeze in, and I even saw a few people watching TV inside their cozy places. I passed by an older lady, and though she gave me a bit of a stare as I passed, I just half-grinned at her and kept on my way. I walked for a while down this alleyway and past several dozen more tiny apartment complexes, and when they were all behind me, my journey continued down a non-descript road filled with zooming cars. It was a peaceful walk, and though there wasn't much to see, I was still satisfied that I could cross this stop off my list, and turn around to go back to the subway station to see one of the last few things that was labeled on my map.

But at that moment, off in the distance, I saw a two-story temple erupting out from behind a gas station in front of me. I figured I might as well head over to see what was what before I headed back. It was beautifully decorated, and for a temple of its massive size, it was almost completely deserted. There were a few locals here and there praying, but for the most part, I was almost completely alone. I wandered around quietly so as not to disturb my spiritual neighbors, then went up a flight of stairs that led around the back part of the temple. From up there, I could see that I was pretty close to the ocean, and I saw a beautiful sight that some other buildings had obscured before: there was a biking and jogging trail that cut between the lapping waves of the ocean, and the thick grasses of a forested plain that waved in the breeze. Having seen the beauty of the temple, I decided it was time to go natural and see the trail.

But as I was leaving the temple, I heard a familiar music beat. It had been a while since I had heard this song, but once I had followed it to its source and it was loud enough, I placed it immediately: it was "The Man with the Machine Gun" from the soundtrack for Final Fantasy 8, my favorite video game of all time. I snickered and wondered why they'd be playing this song at a temple of all places. The song was coming from an arm of the temple, way off to the side, so I walked over to it and peeked in.

The arm was a long and tall, but quite narrow, hallway that led back into the internals of the temple. The song was being piped in through a PA system above me, and on both sides of this narrow arm were several centerpieces featuring elaborately designed scenes, where intricately carved dolls and puppets were positioned. From where I had come in to where the path led out, I saw that it showed the history of the country. Some of the pieces showed dolls fishing, others showed how the locals dealt with historic invaders and subsequent occupation, and the last one showed the country as it is today: a mix of old traditions and new culture and experiences. It was quite an amazing scene, something I never expected to accidentally stumble upon. When I had finished looking around, I left the temple and headed to the nature trail.

There were several locals going up and down on bikes and on foot. With the temple behind me, to my right was the boundless, rolling ocean and several boats sailing upon it. To my left was a huge, absolutely massive field of tall grass, and a forest that semi-circled its way far, far behind it. I could see where the buildings that I had walked by before were originally blocking my view of this place, just to the side of the forest. As I walked down this peaceful trail with locals all around me, the ocean sent gust after gust of relaxing wind past me and through the grass. It was serene.

The trail continued for about thirty minutes until I was skirting the forest itself. Eventually, I reached a T-intersection where the trail went straight towards some old houses, and left towards a massive canal. Amid the trees, I saw a couple of old, but cozy-looking, house-farms, and outside the one at the little intersection was a young local boy, who was drawing some pictures in the dirt. He looked up at me with mild surprise, then told me that I had to go left to get back to the subway station. I thanked him and moved on.

So at this point, the sun was starting to set, and I was feeling a bit beat. I followed the edge of the forest for a very brief time until I found myself at the canal that I saw earlier. I walked along the left side, casting occasional glances to the right and into the ditch, and to the left at some more house-farms.

The house-farms were amazingly beautiful. They were between me and the setting sun behind them, and the water where locals had planted submerged crops reflected the sun's rays as glittering cyclones of orange and red. I passed several farms, and every time I drew next to them, the sunlight found another way to cast lazy shadows over the buildings, or come off of the water to meet my eye. The canal was interesting, too. It was mostly dry and empty, but in some places there were tiny pools of water where trapped fish were desperately swimming around. Around those little pools were local fishermen, relishing the easy catches that these fish had made of themselves, and pulling them out to clean and sell at the market later. I admired their resourcefulness.

It wasn't long before I had walked all of the way back to the subway station. I was still pretty far from the stop that would take me home, so I decided to see just one more thing before I got there. On my map, there was very little left for me to see of the main city (that was labeled, at least). But one of those things was a sports stadium, and it was on the way home, so when the car pulled up to its stop, I got off and took a walk to go see it. I didn't know what I was expecting to see. I didn't know if there was anybody playing that day, what sport they would be playing, or even if I had the interest to go to a game. When I rounded several corners around brightly lit local shops with flasing signs advertising their varied wares, I finally found myself face to face with the stadium. And... it was closed.

I shook my head with a slight smile. Oh, no! I thought to myself. It's not going to end this way. So I just kept walking, looking for something amazing to end the trip with a bang. The roads around the stadium were huge, several lanes wide and covered in towering trees. It was night by then, and the streetlights seemed hardly enough to illuminate much more than a small circle of grass around them. It was eerie, and the perfect atmosphere for the final stop of my trip: an art museum.

The place had just closed up, and one by one, the lights were going out in the windows. I rushed over as fast as I could to go see what I could see, which turned out to not be much: the lobby was one of the last places to shut down, and I saw a marble statue of a woman and a beautiful landscape painting before it, too, went dark. When the entire building was swallowed up by the night, it was then that I noticed some spotlights at the corners pointing up at the top of the museum. I smiled and nodded my head in amazement; it looked like an unassailable fortress.

I checked my subway map and noticed that this museum was also on my list of things to see, but I didn't cross it or the stadium off the list. After all, I had barely seen either of them, so I couldn't very well say that I had the full stadium or museum experience. Shortly after, I was on the train heading home to a comfortable bed.

That was one of, if not the, last time I ever traveled as an unmarried man before my wife broke the news of her pregnancy. My old subway map is still in my memories box, and that stadium and museum still haven't been checked off. Maybe when my son is old enough, he and my wife are interested, my wife and I are both not working, the weather's not too bad and I have some money, I'll get to see them.

As for today...

I woke up at 10:30.
I played cars with my son.
I watched TV.
I went out for job training.
I came home.
I surfed the net.
I hung up wet laundry.
I went to work.
I taught students.
I ate dinner.
I came home.
I took my son to eat at McDonald's, then we went home.
I watched TV.
I hung up wet laundry again.
I cleaned up the floor and table.
I did the dishes.
I started a load of laundry.
I watched internet movies with my son.
He fell asleep.
I hung up wet laundry yet again.
I played video games.
I slept.

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