A Halfhearted Apology and Solemn Promise, Kinda.

Hi there! It’s been a while. I hope that you’ve been swell. Weather’s sure been nice, hasn’t it? How about those Phillies? You look tan. And taller. And have you lost weight? Anyway, it was great running into you. We should do this more often.

If a real person, the conversation with my blog would go just like that. A run through of that forced awkward script. The one written to keep things moving when encountering a long lost friend from a few chapters back in LIFE: THE HISTORY OF YOU, YOUR THINGS AND THE THINGS THAT YOU’VE DONE. Like that friend my blog is trapped under the heavy pages of things more important that seem to endlessly flip by.

March? That was my last post. That was four months ago. That’s a long time. Hell, that’s longer than my longest relationship. Which is ironic because if I saw my blog on the street I’d probably treat it like it was someone from my last relationship too. I’d busy myself on my iPhone and hope they’d pass by, afraid to show my own shame of neglection. If I were confronted, I’d probably say I’d try harder to stay in touch, but that promise would be as empty as my Grindr inbox.

I tell myself I don’t write as much anymore because I’m bored. My life is stagnant. I’m content. People wouldn’t want to read about that anyway. Blah blah blah. But that’s a lie. Not the bit about people not wanting to read about it. That’s true. Who really cares about the philosophical thoughts of a single 24-year-old gay guy who’s ideal Friday night has turned into a binge session of Bob’s Burgers on Netflix? But the part that I am lying about is the life being stagnant bit. Things have been chugging along. I’m just too lazy and ungrateful to acknowledge it.

 

But oh no, there it is. I hope it doesn’t see me. Maybe if I just cross the street in time. Oh, it saw me. Here it comes. I can still run if I try…

Me: “Hey! I didn’t even see you over there.”

Blog: “Hey, Zach! It’s been a while. How ya doing?”

Me: “Good. Yea, you know. Good.”

Blog: “That’s good. I’m good, too.”

Me: “Good.”

Blog: “Yea.”

Me: “So… you look tan.”

Blog: “Yea? Hmm.”

Me: “Enjoying the weather? It’s been beautiful.

Blog: “Yea, a little hot though.”

Me: “Yea, a little too hot.”

Blog: “Well.”

Me: “Yea, so what’s up?”

Blog: “Me? Nothing. What’s new with you?”

Me: “New? Uh, nothing really. Been working and stuff.”

Blog: “Yea. Working.”

Me: “Mhm.”

Blog: ” I think I saw on Facebook though that you were just somewhere?”

Me: “Oh yea. I went to Florida back in March to see my dad. He’s living in St. Augustine. First time I’ve seen him in 10 years.”

Blog: “No, not that. I feel like it was somewhere else. California?”

Me: “Oh, right! Yea I booked a flight to San Francisco for my birthday in April.”

Blog: “By yourself? You should have told me. I’d have loved to come with.”

Me: “Yea, it was really just more of a me kind of thing. An escape as a gift to myself.”

Blog: “But didn’t you just go to Peru in January?”

Me: “Wow, you really have been keeping up with me on Facebook, huh. But yea, hiked to Machu Picchu. Great trip.”

Blog: “Seems like your pretty generous with gifts to yourself.”

Me: “Hah, yea.”

Blog: “Well, anyway, I have to run. But we should do this more often. I miss our talks.”

Me: “Yea, totally. I’ll give you a text.”

Blog: “Alright, Zach. Well it was nice running into you.”

Me: “Bye….. Felicia.”

THE END.

 

In that awkward conversation alone I was able to recap four months of my life. It seems pretty sparse, but that’s only because time has already started taking its toll in dulling down the edges of the small details that made each trip unforgettable. Like the llama in Peru that stuck its tongue in my mouth. Or the old man in San Francisco that complimented me on how long my arms were. Or even the fried gator nuggets I had in Florida. When I don’t save my travels by storing their written data in the clouds of the interwebs, I might as well just throw them in the trash been. My point in that forced dialogue is that life has been moving. I’m just too stubborn to admit it.

Of course when I’m comparing it to life a year ago when I was living in South America, days now seem a bit more watered down. But that’s not a fair comparison. The days I had then shouldn’t make my days now feel self-conscious about how they look in the reflective glass of the computer screen. Life is moving. I just have to make sure I stop falling on the excuse of boredom and recognize my lack of personal writing for what it is: laziness. And for that, I am sorry.

Not to you, the readers, because I’m sure with the exception of my mom I was doing you all a favor by removing one less pollutant from your newsfeed by neglecting my blogging. But I’m sorry to my blog. How I’ve treated it over the passed few months has been unfair. It deserves better. And I will treat it better. I’ve let my professional writing relationship in my career snuff out that desire that I once had in my recreational writing relationship. Advertising headline, tag lines and all-important call-to-actions have been my only lovers lately. And that’s one monogamous relationship that I’m ready to put to an end.

Once a week. That’s all. One post. To catch up on life, the universe and everything. Embarrassing failures and victorious feats. Sarcastic evaluations and nostalgic longing. That’s my goal. And that’s my promise to my blog.

And here’s that promises first entry: I just booked a flight to Chicago.

It’s been great catching up. We should do this more often.

See you around.

See you around.

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A Trip Home

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The last time I saw my dad was 10 years ago.

To put that in perspective,  President Bush was finishing up his first term, MySpace wasn’t a thing yet, and I was still sporting around my yellow walkman with a CD case full of Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park and… Ricky Martin. What? I was still trying to find myself.

I had just become part of the 8th grade graduating class of 2004 and, for summer, my sister and I were going home to West Palm Beach, Florida. Now, to everyone that has ever heard “jawn” come out of my mouth, it might be hard to believe that I was born and raised in the South for the first five years of my life. But, before I was eating cheesesteaks and soft pretzels, my dad was bringing home venison and gator. Sometimes still alive. I only wish I was kidding.

It was my first time visiting home since the first migration in 1995 when my mom, sister and I left the Floridian perma-summer for Philadelphia. For me, this trip down South was a chance to see the home, family and father I never grew up with. Also to reunite with my dog Poochie. You never really can forget your first childhood best friend.

There were beach visits, cousin dinners, swamp walks and Walmart nights. But there were also times of friction. It’s to be expected when trying to uproot a Northern implant after 14 years of growing in urban soil. I was a “city-slicker” as my dad would call me at this point. Something already becoming a little more foreign to him. Still, the visit went fine. And when it was time to come back to Philadelphia, of course there were tears.

That was 10 years ago. Since then, I’ve remained in touch with my dad via holiday and birthday phone calls. He’s always excited to hear about my upcoming trip, and always quick to warn me of the dangers waiting on foreign soils for Americans. I’m always excited to hear about his hunting stories with his new dog Tank, and always quick to warn him of the dangers waiting right here on home soil. We both still do what we love.

The last time we saw each other was through a photo swap via snail mail a few years back. He was flaunting his trophy of a ten-point buck from his last hunting trip and I was raising a pint from my semester abroad in London. Even since these photos, a lot has changed if not just in physical appearance alone. A few less pounds and a few tattoos more, I’ve since graduated college, lived abroad a second time and started what I can somewhat call a life here in Philly. It’s bizarre talking to someone on the phone and not knowing what they look like. It’s even more bizarre when you know that the feeling is mutual.

It was on Thanksgiving this year that my sister changed it all,  “I want to go visit dad.”

My answer: “Okay. Let’s go.”

Suddenly, after 10 years of only phone calls and emails, it was time go home again.

Just as sudden now is the realization of what this means. This week, I’ll be face to face with the man whose voice I’ve kept in touch with over the past decade. I’ll see him after 10 years worth of time has had its chance to play out . How can I really prepare for that?

I can’t.

So instead, I’ll just pop Ricky Martin into my walkman and get ready for the trip.

I’m coming for you, Florida.

Pre-Peru Post Pandering (alliteration gives me tingles)

Pisaq, Peru

Pisaq, Peru

Pacific surf, Incan ruins and enough Pisco Sours to incapacitate a llama; after two weeks trekking through Peru, I’m trading it all for February in Philly. The funny thing is, I’m happy.

Not dancing-in-the-street-clapping-my-hands-to-Pharrell happy(although I did that just the other day in full bear suit for a video shoot). But happy nonetheless.

Why? Because even though I’ve been hit with two snow storms with a third on its way after being home for less than a week, my slate has been wiped clean. Travel is my reboot button. And even though this journey was just two weeks due to Paid Time Off allotments, it was enough to unplug, wait 10 seconds, and try again.

When I feel anxious, I run. When I feel depressed, I write. When I feel lost, I travel. I don’t care where I go. Give me the cheapest flight of the month and I’ll be on it. It’s my form of therapy. And honestly, it’s cheaper than therapy. Even liquid therapy. I’d rather spend my last paycheck on a plane ticket than a doctor or bar tab.

But I digress; I’m happy. I’m happy because after two weeks of no familiar faces, no stressful “hot” projects, and no norms, I’ve come back home to a city where every face looks new, every project is an opportunity and my normal routine has been recalibrated. But I think  the main reason that I’m happy is because I’m in love. I’m in love with my home.

Peru, like many trips before it, has sent me back to Philadelphia with a full heart gushing and oozing with feelings of home. Even with a coat of snow and ice over it, the city has a bit of a Jonathan Groff charm to it. The Schuylkill trail feels energized under my running shoes. That cheesesteak from Steve’s has just the perfect amount of wiz on it. The SEPTA bus running me out of the bike lane does so with just a pinch more courtesy. Like I said, I’m a fool. I’m a fool in love.

And what better time to rediscover my love with Philadelphia than on Valentine’s Day week. Maybe if I’m lucky this year, Philly will take me out to a night at Fogo de Chao. A boy can dream, can’t he?

My trip was incredible. So stay tuned for word on my journey. There will be cool things like llamas, mountains and drag shows. And even cooler things like giant flying roaches, power outages and rockslides. Peru was definitely a trip worthy of a story. So a story it shall become.

Until then, nos vemos.

To see more photos from my trip, follow me on Instagram @Mrthornbury or on Twitter @zachthornbury!

Off to Peru. But first…

Two years ago today over a basket of tatter tots in a South Philly dive bar I said for the first time to a friend a then terrifying statement: “Hey, I’m gay.” Surprisingly, the world did not end, my friend didn’t walk out and I was able to finish my tots. The next few months were filled with similar situations much like the first. I’d confront another friend with the same truth that would bubble up in the back of my throat and croak out in a sudden statement that would sometimes even surprise me. This continued until my birthday, where as a gift to my 22-year-old-self, I told my family. My sister’s reaction: “I’ve always wanted a gay brother!”

The reason for this story is this; two years ago I was a fraction of who I am today. I felt like I was floating. I never denied who I was, but I did deny the fact that I could openly be who I was. The most traumatizing truth in my life then is now the most motivating one now. I’ve accomplished a lot, I’ve seen a lot, I’ve lived a lot. I’ve shed 100 lbs because I no longer have to feed a lie. I’ve seen 25 countries because I’m no longer stuck in a closet. I’ve made countless friends because I’m no longer a stranger to myself. It’s not because I’m gay, straight, bi, questioning, or even because I’m a 6’4″ giant that has an obsession with cat shirts that I could do these things. It’s because after two years ago today, I was able to start being myself.

When people hit an anniversary they celebrate themselves. I want to celebrate the people in my life that have supported me along every step of the way. Coworkers that became friends. Friends that became family. And family that became a part of me inseparable from myself. I thank you not because I needed acceptance of who I was, but because you made sure that I knew I didn’t need acceptance of who I was. That who I was was fabulous. And that who I was did not change after three words said over a basket of tatter tots.

So to all of you, although this post can never convey my gratitude, thank you. This is me celebrating you. But I can’t give all of the credit to you. I want to own some too. So for me, as my congrats to myself, there’s Peru. And with that, I’m off to go ride a llama.

Adiós.

My 2014 Resolution

Waterloo Bridge, London - New Years 2012

Fireworks from Waterloo Bridge – London – New Years 2012

Now that Christmas has come and gone it’s time to look forward to the New Year. With this comes a tradition that many wishful-thinking people participate in each year: the New Year Resolution.

Like many rituals surrounding the holidays, resolutions have begun to straddle the line between timeless tradition and generic cliché. However, it is still an act that at its very core strives to make a better person, relationship or, if extremely ambitious, world. It’s an idea that January 1st represents a new start, and with this new start comes a new “me.” Whether it’s to drink less, workout more or hell, even if it’s to eat more pizza, the resolution is an act worthy of recognition.

2012 was the first year I committed to a resolution. I found myself on the roof of a random center city apartment party. The friends I had gone with had disappeared so I was left watching the final minutes of 2011 tick away alone. It was then that a girl approached me. “Are you gay?” Having hid in the closet comfy and cozy up to this point, the question almost knocked me off the roof. “No!” I said back a little too defensive. “Shame,” she said, “my friend needed a New Years kiss.” As she and her counterpart walked away and the clock struck midnight, it was clear what my resolution would be. By year’s end, I had to come out. To friends, family, to anyone that was a part of my life. I would no longer stand watching the fireworks alone on the roof.

I had brought out the big guns in 2012 and had succeeded. That was a year about sharing who I was with my loved ones. As I stood on Waterloo Bridge watching the fireworks explode over Big Ben and all of London, I realized that 2013 would be a year of reflection. Too often, I would plan things, look towards those things for days, weeks and sometimes months, and then they would pass. Was I growing? It was time to find out. My resolution then was to write at least once every day. It didn’t matter if it was in a notebook, piece of scrap paper or a discarded cup. I wanted to touch a physical pen to physical paper once every day calling attention to the day I had. I needed to acknowledge my days. I needed to stop letting them float by. I created an external space to analyze myself and my actions. Reflection was what I needed in my life. So that’s what I strived for.

However, for 2014, I have a different resolution.

I want to fail. Miserably.

I want to fail so hard it hurts. I want to put aside my sharing and reflecting I’ve picked up over the last two years, and I want to attempt to grab life by the horns only to be tossed into the air like a rag doll. I want to seek to achieve something I never thought I could, work day in and day out to achieve it, put every ounce of effort I have into something, and still come up short. I have big goals, but I give up too easy. Much of what I have accomplished this far has been through the support of others. I want to shoot off into space for the first time alone. I  I want to aim for the stars and miss by a mile. I want to come crashing back down to earth, reset my trajectory and launch right back off into space, this time a little higher. Failing at something this bad can only mean one thing: I tried. I want to try this year. I have goals that i’ve shared with others and reflected on with myself. This is the year I’ll go for it. When I fail, I’ll know what not to do next time to not fail.

I want to get my heart broken.

I want to suffer heartache. Maybe twice. I want to want to do nothing but cry in bed all day eating Chinese and watching whatever Bravo marathon is on. I want to feel actual physical pain from an intangible emotion. I want to put aside my reasoning and my independence and invest love into someone else only to be rejected. As someone who falls in love with every stranger that passes him by in the streets, I should have no trouble finding someone that I could temporarily put my heart on loan too. However, by date three I continually find myself hanging the “Closed” sign and pulling the shades down preventing anyone from looking in. I want to let go of this defense. I want to let go of all defenses and instead always leave my shop door unlocked. When someone does finally come in and rob me for everything I’ve got before running off, at least I’ll know I’ve finally stayed open long enough to make some sort of profit. With this, I’ll invest in something better for next time.

I want to get a real bone broken.

Whether it’s an arm, a leg or a collarbone, I want to break something good. I want to wake up in the ER with nothing but an aching body and sore ego. I don’t care if it’s doing something stupid I’ve done 100 times, or doing something stupid that I was doing for the first time, I want to end up with a cracked rib. Being scared and walking away from something never ends in a story. It ends in a “I should have.” I spend too much time playing it safe. If I’m already in the process of putting my mental and emotional self on the line, why not throw my physical self into the line of fire as well. I’ve always been one to let reason talk me out of action. I fall back on a night in front of the TV watching “real” people live out their lives. It’s time to give up the remote control and toss out the self control. I want to attempt everything, even if it’s just once. This way years from now when someone inquires about a scar I can smile and say, “I was an idiot.”

In short, for 2014, I want to live a year with no “What If I’s.” In 2012 I shared with people what I was too scared to do. In 2013 I reasoned with myself on what I should and shouldn’t do. In 2014, and hate me if you want because I hate myself for thinking it, YOLO. I want to live a life worth living. Worth talking about. Worth thinking about. I’ve learned how to learn from reasoning. Now I want to learn how to live from living. I could probably think of a million better ways to sum up my resolution for this year. But, I’ll just give one more so that my final word is not YOLO: For 2014 I want to live each day with no reservations — not like it’s my last, but like it’s another day and chance to fuck shit up just so that I can rebuild, better.

That, and to eat more pizza.

Tuesday Morning

It was sabotage, you and me.

I, too eager.

You, too hesitant.

What we should do.

What we shouldn’t.

Enforcing or preventing, the word was destructive.

Both too misleading of what could be.

A few drinks,

A few words.

I felt relieved.

I assume you did too.

But as they say when one does:

We’re both asses,

You and me.

It only took a day,

“Something is better than nothing,” I reasoned.

But what happened, happens in the past

With hope that what the future holds comes fast.

Still, you’re there. A friend forever.

Connected but distant is the new norm.

All I’ll get is another like.

Mid-November Getaway: NOLA & NYC

'ol Red.

‘ol Red is ready to hit the road again.

It’s been a while since I’ve last dusted off my blog. It’s been even longer since I’ve done the same to my backpack. Yet, here I am on a Sunday night packing them both with a few last minute things.

Life’s been feeling pretty stagnant lately. Coming from Chile where I was able to bus to a new city every weekend for about 2,500 pesos, realizing it’s not as easy back home in Philadelphia is a harsh awakening. What’s more is the thorn that’s been in my side for a few years now. It’s the fact that when it comes to travel, I’ve seen none of my home country.

I can count on one hand the amount of US cities (the big ones that is) that I’ve been to. This pales in comparison to the 20-something countries that I’ve had the honor of wandering around over the past few years.  I just haven’t felt the pressure to travel on a national level as much as I have on an international one. I’ve always figured it would be around to do. More embarrassingly, I’ve always been under the impression that what exists outside of our borders is more grand than what’s inside. I know that this isn’t true. America’s awesome. I’ve just been too thick to realize it.

Luckily, both the feeling of cabin fever and the neglected home travel will come to an end this week. Tomorrow I’m heading south to New Orleans. What started off as work  has transformed into an extended stay and vacation after the suggestion of a co-worker. I’ll be spending 4 days in the big easy by week’s end. 2 days of work. 2 days of play.

I know nothing about NOLA besides the typical: French Quarter, Bourbon Street, Jambalaya, and the fact that there is a coven of witches there. So, if you have some tips, please shout them out. I’m all ears.

I’ll be visiting my friend Jen who lived in Rio Bueno, a village 30 minutes from mine in Chile. It will be great to see her for a number of reasons. 1. I haven’t seen her since leaving South America. 2. She knows New Orleans and can be my own private tour guide. 3. She has my jacket from Patagonia that I had to leave behind in Argentina. and 4. Most importantly, I’ll have a free place to stay. Having friends in cities far and wide is useful beyond belief.

I’m hoping to get as much out of southern living before coming back up north and continuing my November escape to NYC. After working from home on Friday, I’ll be catching the first MegaBus to NYC where I’ll be spending the weekend in Brooklyn, again visiting some friends and finding another couch to call home. Friends sure are swell.

What I’m hoping for is that this forced work trip will finally slap me out of my avoidance of domestic travel. I have a list of cities that I want to start crossing off: Chicago, DC, Boston, San Francisco, Austin. I’m hoping that this trek down to New Orleans will bust open the door to US travel and persuade me to start exploring the country that I call home.

 

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