The Wizarding World of… Southeast Asia?

38th Trial: I wonder so much as to Joseph Conrad’s undeniable skill at detail. I have read ‘Heart of Darkness’, but have began ‘Lord Jim’ as I ironically began a 4-day boat trip through Indonesia, and am even more fascinated with his abilities. And now when I write, how can I describe better the brown of her hair? The sound of the wind and the emotions it stirs? Conrad has become a model of description for me overnight, and can be apart of my blog- as he did learn English while in England!

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: 4 hours

Weekly Choice of Tea: Luwak Coffee, Bali

Biggest Success: Began typing up Chapter Six, sailing the islands of Indonesia, climbing Mount Merapi Volcano in Java, and not getting eaten by wild Komodo Dragons as I walked within their reserve. Amidst all my travel, I am lucky to have found time to write and work on my novel!

Do I have a blog focused on British influence and literature, and not yet have a post dedicated primarily to Harry Potter? I cannot imagine that to be true, and those who know the far reach of my love for those novels wouldn’t either. So I hope that I am repeating sentiments that have been illustrated before, and swim once more in the imagination of the world of Harry Potter. I am sure I can sit down and analyze the many ties that link that imaginary world to ours, and the powerful political, psychological, and ethical morals inlaid in its own illustration of life and humanity. But instead I wish to save my breath and my effort, because these books speak for themselves. You read Harry Potter, and you know Rowling’s imagination is a reality to her, and the world around us is a magical place. Many people may see my love for these books as juvenile, but it is my love for imagination and its ability for truth, love, courage, and to link endless possibilities to our own potential.

I know this, more now in Indonesia than I felt it back in America. Many Europeans have traveled in Southeast Asia, and I imagine Rowling did the same. I see so many things here, settings and people, that remind me of the wizarding world. Southeast Asia can be a playground for the imagination, and I sense the reality of that mystical and magical touch within the reach of my eyesight daily. I marvel at the acute sense an artist has, to look upon the ordinary lifestyle and the monotony of the daily lives of some, and wonder, what if? What if that motorbike can fly? What if I walked through that archway, and disappeared? I have no idea if Rowling did ever come over here, but I appreciate her novels even better now. I have said it before—look around you, there the stories and the inspiration are derived from for any piece of art. But not just in its reality, but in its potential and possibilities. For those who are interested in reading further, here is a small list of the things I have witness and thought Rowling’s eyes must have witnessed too.

The Knight Bus:  I rode in a night bus from Koh Rong to Siem Reap. It’s “beds” were flat to the floor of the bus, with a bunk-bed above me. While they did not move and swing above in Harry’s experience with the Knight bus, one could imagine it–especially because the roads and drivers here are truly insane. You move to and fro, and I have found out that it makes not difference if you are in a seat or not. “It’s going to be a bumpy ride!”

The Weasley house:  its shape is slanted so much to a point that magic must hold it erect.  I see houses here stacked impossibly on one another, and the angle of lean makes you wonder at how the splinter and broken walls still have a vertical element.

Harry and Dumbledore’s boat trip into the cave in search for a horcrux: In peninsular Thailand we visited many caves, and one cannot help but imagine the stone walls opening to a secret passage with the offer of blood. It was in Phang Nga Bay that we canoed through a cave where darkness was disrupted by just one ray of light from our headlamp. We saw the flowing rock formations and stalactites loom in the background, and no sound came from the black water as the paddle passed through it. A part of me was scared to disturb the water, should a zombie-skeleton hand reach up and grab me.

Hagrid’s Motorbike: There are many types of interesting transportation methods in Southeast Asia, and the motorbike is the most common. When in Phuket we were sitting in the back of an open taxi, watching the traffic build up behind us. One man pulled up behind us, sitting on the motorbike with one of his legs hidden by the attached cart. Inside the cart was a family clustered together, and it was apparent that it was used for businesses as well. I thought instantly of Hagrid’s motorbike J

The Veiled Archway:  While in Siem Reap, the many Angkor temples give a ghostly lure. More specifically, while at the royal palace of Angkor Thom there was an open doorway that say near the top of the staircase. No stone walls or sandstone sculptures rose beside it, and it looked as eerie and empty as the veiled archway in the Ministry of Magic. As I stared into it, the same whisper seemed to pass with the wind that I hear with most of the temples here—an old wisdom telling of its age and infirmary.

The Mirror of Erised:  The royal palace in Bangkok, Thailand is, as a friend of mine put it, a jewel box. But within it, we entered a stone building that showcased many ceremonial chairs and decor. Upon exiting, we passed an open room roped off, where nothing but a large mirror stood. It was very tall and wide, surrounded by a frame of engraved metal. It seemed oddly placed, as if there by chance or in changing its location. Maybe being moved deep into the heart of the palace, where nothing short of charming a dog, giving into nature, finding a key, grabbing a drink, passing a knocked out troll, and playing a game of chess would gain you access to see.

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Canoeing Phang Nga Bay

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Canoeing Phang Nga Bay

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Royal Palace, Angkor Thom

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Angkor Temples

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Rive homes in Bangkok, Thailand

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Gateway in Angkor

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Motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

The Air is Full of Spices…

37th Trial: Walking through Kuala Lumpur’s largest bookstore, and experiencing two trials:  what NOT to buy and the oppressive intimidation that my writing faces when I look onto these great writers.

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: 6 hours

Weekly Choice of Tea: Teh Tarik and Malaysian White Coffee

Biggest Success: Where to begin…FINISHING chapter SIX! Also, finishing the wonderful Alchemist while traveling through the beautiful countryside of Malaysia.

“The air is full of spices.”

One of my favorite lines in the movie Sense and Sensibility is by Colonel Brandon, the voice and beautiful performance by the beloved Alan Rickman. He is talking about his time in the East Indies to the little Margaret Dashwood. I love Rickman deeply in that role, and even more so, I hear his line as I travel through the same countries his character was likely referring to. If not, I will imagine otherwise. Especially in Malaysia, where the cuisine is greatly influenced by many cultures, Indian and Malay curries here can be smelt and tasted as you walk the streets lined with open shops and restaurants. My literary and movie enthusiasm seems to follow me through the country side, and that one line continues to sound in my head as if on replay. It is like the fly that keeps landing on my arm or shoulder blade, though without the nuisance.

Maybe Jane Austen heard of travel here, heard of the exotic cuisine and the boiling nature of the tropical sun. Her novel Sense and Sensibility has made its way to where her characters supposedly traveled, and where her admirers currently do. If only Austen could have traveled here, what wonderfully colorful stories would come from it! I look to my own novel, already having the plot within a much different country than I am currently in. I have wrote before about my struggles of not putting a looming volcano in the heart of North Carolina, or of an ancient Temple at a corner in Charlotte.  While Austen did not have such influence, I can say that I now do. What will I do with it all? What can I grab, transform, and steep in imagination?

Currently I am in Malaysia, and today I thought about all the places that I have sat down and wrote pieces of Chapter Six. Ristr8toLab in Chiang Mai. Atop the coarse sand of Koh Phangan, or the soft grainy beaches of Koh Phi Phi. From Thailand this chapter has extended into Malaysia, where it progressed surrounded by the tea plantations of BOH and Cameron Valley of Cameron Highlands. In the heart of Kuala Lumpur, I finally finished the chapter. I am getting to a point in the book where I need to do further brainstorming. I jumped into writing because waiting to write was, obviously, getting me nowhere. But introduction of what I hope to be my main road of the symbolism is about to begin, and I need to buckle down. Because writing is easy. Plot has always been my unformed and jeering companion.

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Two Cultures, Both Alike, in Dignity…

36th Trial: Taking a true inventory of my memories, as that is what my writing has become nowadays, a library of what I know in a land of completely new stimulation.

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: 3 hours, mainly while on the beach or at a quaint, adorable coffee shop.

Weekly Choice of “Tea”: Coffee! I will rue the day I drank coffee in Thailand

Biggest Success: Beginning to read The Alchemist

Being displaced from the scenes that have been the background to my story makes my writing now a process of filing through memories. I cannot see the busy town my character walks through, from my usual seat at Smelly Cat Coffee. So many exotic plants, fruits, and people surround me now, and it is as hard now not to mix oil with acrylic. Two cultures separate me, and while I look upon the beautiful tropics of Thailand, I am forced to look back to American culture as I continue writing. It makes me miss home, honestly, and I have to try very hard not to put a coconut tree in the front yard of my character’s home.

Southeast Asia, from what I know of Cambodia and Thailand, has taught me a great deal so far. The Alchemist has described this learning flawlessly, calling this transmission of knowledge a “universal language”. I do not speak the languages here, and yet the common tread of tourist establishes an understanding, and I have yet to feel out of place. Through their beliefs and way of life through Buddism, a universal intellect is in the form of enlightenment. I do not sit in this paradise and pick nervously at my fingers trying to figure out what comes next, how will I finish my novel, or will I find an office to work in upon my return. There are signs, omens if you will, that have brought me here, and will bring me home. It is my choices on a daily basis that will acquire everything I need in life. It is my actions that will complete this novel, that will open the doors to my very own chiropractic office one day. It is a power in us all, which is so thrilling and enticing. Stop waiting. Stop waiting for things to be the right moment an utilize your time so that you are working towards that dream. My novel is a dream, and as many who know me, I have far too many dreams to keep track of. But today I worked towards a purpose, and tomorrow as I climb the waterfalls of Koh Samui, I will work towards that same purpose.

 

 

Heartache Motivates in the Land of Smiles

35th Trial: Wanting to go back and alter a past description or illustration, and realizing the manuscript is back home and I am across the world with only an empty notebook. Taking mental notes does not suffice anymore, and so I am making pages of things to remember to correct. I am finding it easy to change that which is already written, than brainstorming on that which needs to happen.

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: Since last post, I would guess-timate around 2 hours

Weekly Choice of Tea: Chrysanthemum iced tea and Thai Milk Tea

Biggest Success: Visiting Angkor Wat temples and getting a spiritual Sak Yant Tattoo in Bangkok, Thailand! I am currently in Chiang Mai, and this backpacking trip has been the most thrilling, let-loose, connecting with humanity I’ve ever done.

My writing has been more in the forefront of my mind than I thought it would be. Grant it, I have not the time or energy to actually write–even more so than when I worked back home. My days have been filled with temples, site-seeing, and documenting through my notebook and travel blog. Facebook is getting its fill of pictures and videos on a daily basis. I am writing more than I ever have because the documentation portion of this trip has been the most consuming, and I find that it is still an exercise for my writing. I had not planned on writing any chapters while abroad, and yet I find I cannot detain myself! I love that I miss writing my novel, and I love that I miss Chiropractic. My life does not seem without or wanting, and seeing this new world in Southeast Asia strengthens my inner character rather than filling a void.

I have a stirring passion to pick up chapter six where I left off in January, primarily due to finishing the novel “Villette” two days ago. Charlotte Bronte is a mastermind. Her ability to grip the heart and tear apart one’s world is only paralleled by her sister’s ability. Whatever gene they have that makes them professors of unrequited love and debilitating despair sadly ended with their much too early deaths, and the world is at a loss without it. While I admire their ability to crush my soul into bits with loss of love, I have a cautious relationship with the Bronte girls. I can trust them only so far. I can rely on them heightening my spirits by connecting to my deepest desires, but am appalled that they could then treat me so brutally afterwards.

Regardless, I am so inspired by Charlotte. In regards to somethingmorebritish, it is ultimately authors like her that motivate me to write. I put down “Villette”, warming my sobbing heart with the thought of my own novel, and how I can end it however I wish. Love with always triumph–you’ve heard me say it before. However, I must learn from the Bronte’s how to pull at the heart stings a bit. Just a little.

Some Travel Photos for you 🙂 see more at http://www.blankpproject.com, my travel blog!

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A Concieted Sort of…Independence

34th Trial: The only issue I have is carrying around a backpack already filled to the seam-breaking-point.

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pusuit of Plot: 1hr for plot brainstorming, 30min for travel journal

Weekly Choice of Tea:  Jasmine Tea, Cambodia

Success: Exploring Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Also, getting lost in a jungle in Koh Rong was an experience, and I consider a success that we found a beach after 2 hours of trekking!

Currently, as I write to you all, I am sitting on my hammock outside of a bungalow, perfectly perched and overlooking Koh Rong Island, Cambodia. It overlooks the beach and the islands in the distance, as its location is at the beginning of the jungle and a slight hike from the beach. It is 7am, and the local music has been playing since it woke me up earlier, a welcomed alarm clock for me to witness a very cloudy sunrise. We arrived here yesterday, and it was like an ice cold refreshment after the dust and dirt that becomes the air in Phnom Penh. Going from city to city, one must break the journey with the indulgence of beach life to sustain calm composer with the sometimes grueling forms of travel.

The beauty here comes in all forms. It is exactly what I anticipated it to show me—that there are areas of true paradise, but also there are areas where poverty creates hard labor and exhaustive effort. It is easy for one who has come from where I have, to see some frivolities of my life as truly pointless. However, a hot shower is not something I shall ever take for granted again!

When I look around, I see many people that look as I do with a heaping backpack and the look of travel in the frizz of their hair. I have been hearing over and over again in my head a line from the movie “Pride and Prejudice”, where Mr. Bingley’s sister describes Elizabeth Bennet as being “wild”. She states that her eyes displayed:

“A conceited sort of, independence.”

And her petticoat! Six inches deep with mud. Anyways, it humors me in the fact that we all look the same. We all rely on that independence to guide us through unknown cultures and lands, and each takes pride in where they are and what they are doing. Whether it be conceit or not, I am happily reminded of the book, and illustrate my demeanor now to be only conceited independence! Naturally!

I have been documenting more and more of this trip in my journal and our travel blog. On the flight over here I created another journal to brainstorm on a central theme that is to propel my novel forward, one that is inspired by my girlfriend, Jamie. She is an Industrial Designer, and when it comes to competitions or product development, one must solve a problem. To solve a problem—which is such a fun opportunity to create around, however it is as open as the universe. So while I sit on this hammock, I revitalize my purpose to seek a topic that can work in the background as the story line progresses, one that focuses on an issue, brainstorming, redesign, and a solution. This topic too has potential to illustrate the evolving characters and the social interaction that inevitably occurs.

This area is highly diverting. But I shall not allow it to persuade me too much to think little of my novel!

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Something More…Oriental!

33rd Trial: Putting it all aside to pursue a 4 month adventure around Southeast Asia

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: 4 hrs. I was not able to conclude at a good stopping point, but time waits for no man.

Weekly Choice of Tea:  Mint Tea

Biggest Success:  Fitting everything I packed into one backpack. I have no idea how that was accomplished.

This week I travel to Southeast Asia, and shall continue to greet the adventures that await me for the following 4 months! I shall not forget my purpose in literary pursuit nor chiropractic philosophy, and expect my time in these countries to inspire me to create. How interesting it will be to see what influences I can bring to the humble neighborhood in my story, though an Indonesian volcano cannot be the backdrop in countryside Ohio. But at least in seeing new lands and new cultures I can focus on the story’s morale, the heart that beats within the pages. I will not be able to progressively write the chapters as I have been doing, but I can progress it in other ways.

I look forward to sharing with my blog what I see and what will translate in my writing. But also, the beauty and knowledge that new landscapes bring. Here is an introductory to the trip:  in Vietnam we will kayak Halong Bay’s islands, caves, and clear water. In Cambodia we will walk around the ruins of Angkor Wat. The vast beaches, islands, and monasteries will meet us in Thailand. We will see Malaysia’s large tea plantations and the world’s oldest forest. In Singapore, we will go on a night-time safari and see the incredible city. Indonesia will amaze us with an orangutan reserve, crater lakes, active volcanoes, and the best surfing spots available! Boo Radley really, really wanted to come, but she will be happy spending time with her grandparents!

Boo for SEAsia

I am happy to bring you along on the trip, as much as Wi-Fi spots and down time will allow! See you on the flip-side of the world!

Follow our trip at:  www.tofallup.com

In Time for a Watchman

32nd Trial: Grey VS Gray. Still clueless

Weekly hours writing or in the pursuit of plot: 6hr

Weekly choice of tea: Ginseng Tea from the Goad household

Biggest Success: Began Chapter 6 and finished Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’

I was apprehensive to begin reading Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’ because, really, I felt the same way Scout did in the novel itself. Do not change Atticus. Do not alter the precious childhood memories produced on the streets of Maycomb County. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is in us all, with its innocence and its political strength. Lee’s newest release seemed to put us all in check, because Mockingbird left at least myself feeling strong in the ideas of right and wrong, of the ignorant and of the discriminated. And with that strength we could challenge all racial adversaries with the radical mindset of the now developed Jean Louise.

I bring this novel and my review of it to my blog because it harnesses the human power and ability. Watchman supported segregation and hope through slowly lessening prejudice and increasing one’s faith for the future. How can we have a fair and just world? By turning a light switch on and off? Or do we, as Atticus feels, keep our differences until all demographics are on an equal playing field when it comes to education and abilities? I take pride in my strong opinions, as does the family I grew up in, however the element of bigotry threatens my arguments. It threatened Jean Louise.

And yet in this world we need bigots to shout out Right, just as much as we need people like Atticus to keep balance and foster the strength to build. I liked both Jean Louise and Atticus in their opposition, however Jean Louise did annoy me. I find that I dislike extremists–there is nothing progressive about them really. Without a certain amount of balance, understanding, and give, proper change is impossible within a society. It is due time that we set out our watchman, know ourselves and know our environment. With consciousness comes intention, and with intention comes supportive action. Just like a wisp of smoke in the billiard room, politics fly from my mouth with littler substance than the falling snow.

“A man couldn’t vote simply because he was a man, in Jefferson’s eyes. He had to be a responsible man. A vote was, to Jefferson, a precious privilege a man attained for himself in a–a live-and-let-live economy.” Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman

Next week I fly to Southeast Asia, where Jamie and I will discover new lands and the inevitable inspiration that comes with the beauty and power of the world. I have been familiarizing myself with as much of the culture as I can, reading their beliefs and customs. I am intrigued with the triad of the Hindu religion, the yantra-mantra-tantra triad. Yantra specifically, as it is one’s harness and guidance of their intention and will. I shall go to S.E. Asia, and with my literary inspiration, set my watchman!

 

Will Always a Romance Make

31st Trial: Saying goodbye to Alan Rickman and David Bowie

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: 5 hrs

Weekly Choice of Tea:  Gingerbread Latte

Biggest Success:  Finished typing up Chapter 5 and began brainstorming on Chapter 6

 

Chapter five proved to be an important chapter in my opinion. It has given the book a deeper level, where we now have shaved off the introductory surface of characters and new places and looked more inward. Into the guts of it all!  I am sure no matter how much I spell out the book’s morale the reader will come up with their own interpretation- but alas, one can only hope their message is getting across. Not only do I sense a change in story direction, but it was the novel’s first meet-cute. Anyone who knows me will expect ardent romance and excessive longing within this book, and so with butterflies and giddiness I confess the first stage of courtship has began!

“A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.” -Austen, of course!

How biased I am! A story without the hope of love or the pangs of the heart is no story I would willingly pick up. Action, adventure, and mystery are all very well, and I do sometimes take interest in it if I have had my fill of sappy romance. But a world without love and romance, holds little interest in my mind because that alone is unrealistic. I walk out of the door everyday and fall in love with one person or one object regularly- and that is what makes life worth living. I remember seeing Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon in the movie Sense and Sensibility, and with his deep voice and sweet gazes he grew deep roots into my heart. In high school, I listened to “Changes” by David Bowie and was taken by his voice and peculiarity. Though these two men have died, I will think of them and the moment I fell in love with them as contributors to my romantic and intellectual education. As expected they were British, and I look to that country yet again with admiration, professing always that something more British will always a romance make.

Rickman and I

The Extraordinary Snowfall

30th Trial:  Began another show on Netflix. Thank the powers-to-be that it is only one season

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: 6 hrs

Weekly Choice of Tea:  Earl Grey

Biggest Success:  Finished Chapter 5

I woke this morning to a winter wonderland. I have settled myself in Ohio, where now the chill in the air makes me feel as though I am home for Christmas yet again. Yet it wasn’t the excitement of running down the hallway to see a tree base full of presents, it was the excitement of the extraordinary. Most mornings I do not wake with such an unexpected snowfall to greet me, especially my years spent down south with the warm, red soil.

There is nothing more exciting than surprise. Adventure awaits, and ultimately always follows! I immediately put on my jacket, hat, and gloves and leashed my dog for our winter walk. After a mile I realized how ill equipped I still was when the piercing wind howled against my face. My suffering was still little against the beauty that surrounded me. A land of untouched snow. Boo Radley quickly mucked up the restful snow with her tint of yellow and messy paw prints. But we were happy.

I set to writing afterwards, with a hot cup of Earl Grey tea, and joyfully concluded chapter five!!! Since being home I have been able to write a lot more, plan a lot more, and sleep a lot more (I could be doing more of the first two and less of the latter). And yet I can only see my place here as extraordinary. I have travel on the horizon and a purpose that evades definition or shape, giving me the hopeful youth of freedom. Each day, if we can only wake up with the eye for the extraordinary, or the ability to see it within the folds of the ordinary, then we can begin each day with more hope, love, and the chance to be better versions of ourselves.

Now, I am off to beat my aunt at Scrabble—cause like I said, though ordinarily she beats me to a pulp at that game, today is a new day!

Art, Love, Loss, and Literature

29th Trial:  Interpretation.

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: 1hr. I am not sad about the lack of writing that has happened this past month–though any reader to this blog must be. I have decided that before Feb 1st, I will have completed chapter 5 and IDEALLY chapter 6.

Weekly Choice of “Tea”:  Gingerbread Latte

Biggest Success:  Jamie and I purchased tickets to visit Vietnam! Everything we own is now in boxes and storage…why not see the world before we have to be responsible adults again?

 

How does one interpret? Art, love, and the inevitable goodbye? Any absence or void leaves behind it a remembrance, just as any writer or painter leaves behind an echo of their voice. Do we look upon such voids or legacies with sadness and loss? Or with warmth and admiration? I had a very eventful visit with Jamie’s family over Christmas break, one in which I was left to ponder loss, love, and art. For one, Jersey their beloved husky, died the morning after Christmas after two emergency visits. The void was suffocating as it was quick and unexpected. While my heart was heavy with the feeling that something was taken that shouldn’t have been, others felt the memory of Jersey lived on and was enough to make their hearts light.

Secondly, we saw the Cleveland Museum of Art, where interpretation thrived in the whimsical strokes of Renoir and Degas, and hardened in the corners of Picasso. They created art that speaks volumes today, and still takes people by alarm and uncertainty.

Thirdly, we saw The Danish Girl, where I cried at any moment of love, longing, and insecurity. It was truly a story of acceptance, and the characters surrounding Eddie Redmayne were, to me, unparalleled in kindness and unprejudiced temperament. I was stunned by the attitudes and the beauty of each character we followed, and my interpretation, while my own, could not be more in favor.

Lastly, I have been so inspired by the aforementioned events, that I look toward the upcoming event in my chapter where I hope to illustrate my thoughts on reality and interpretation. To accomplish this, I reached back to 2014 where I stood in front of the infamous mural by Herakut while I was in Miami, FL.

This mural is pictured for you, and I would love to hear any interpretations you might have!

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