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A few years back whenever I had a lot on my mind and needed time to myself, I would often drive to clear my mind. For a while I wouldn’t really need a destination, just drive for 20-30 minutes and turn back. I would try to avoid areas without volatile traffic conditions so I’d only be gone at most an hour.

It was soothing to just drive and forget about everything. No family drama. No drama with friends. No school problems. No work problems. No girl problems. Not a care in the world (besides following traffic laws of course.)

After the first dozen times driving wherever my heart wanted me to go, the route slowly developed into a pattern of driving up to Ranchos Palos Verdes. There were inclines, hills, curves and nice scenery to drive through.  While growing up my parents would always tell me, “That’s where the rich people live!” We never had a reason to go to Palos Verdes besides the Ice Skating Rink so it was foreign to me in my youth.  It wasn’t until I drove through this area frequently that I came to realize: It really was a different standard of living.

There were actually kids playing in the streets without their parents having to keep hawkish eyes on their children. Cars weren’t parked in the streets and the cars in driveways and driving alongside me were actually clean. Neighbors had conversations with each other without needing something or yelling at the top of their lungs.  The grass was literally greener on the other side and it was well landscaped as well. It was just a different world from what I’ve been used to my whole life.

I’ve been to nice neighborhoods before and have had friends that lived in nicer neighborhoods but driving through Palos Verdes while freeing my mind let me take it all in. Since it wasn’t just a drive to clear my mind any more it became a tunnel to just be somewhere else, a clear disconnect from the world I live in.

Palos Verdes has cliffs and nice grassy areas overlooking the ocean and the rocks below. Having always seen it while driving, I wanted to park my car somewhere and just take it all in. After the first time, I began to park my car there every time I went and just sit on the grass to enjoy the view, the cleaner air, and the escape from it all. My hour long drives became hour and a half long getaways from my own life.

With my “likelihood” of getting tired or too accustomed to things I decided to drive east more down Palos Verdes with every other trip I would take there. A year or so later I eventually reached  the point where there was no longer any public areas to just sit and enjoy life. While driving towards Western Avenue, I began to realize it was no longer about enjoying the drive and being able to think things over but instead it became me looking for a place to enjoy the ambience. I needed to go back to my original intentions and just be able to cruise and think it over. I turned down Western and told myself, “I’ll drive until I feel like heading home or find somewhere I know I can enjoy it all.”

Driving down Western didn’t feel like I would end up anywhere of merit.  Western eventually became Paseo Del Mar and I continued driving. There were parks but nothing really called out to me. I kept driving and went through more parks and neighborhoods until I finally saw it on my left: The Korean Friendship Bell. I had to go and see it.

I remember when I was younger my dad drove by it on the way to Cabrillo but we never stopped.  This was my first time here and I don’t know why after all those other parks I decided to stop here. It wasn’t even next to the beach like all my other previous stops were, but I still was able to find peace sitting there on the steps of the bell. This became my newest spot to rest and escape when I needed to think things over. After a few dozen visits I thought I finally had my life in order and didn’t need to go on drives any more. It was at least 3 months without an escape.

July 8th, 2011 came and after my dad passed away that afternoon I didn’t know where to go. There were so many emotions and thoughts going through my mind I didn’t know what to do. I was too scared to talk to the person I’ve been talking to the most in the past month so I told her something along the lines of,”Thank you for being my friend when I needed a friend the most.” I turned off my phone, left it with my sisters at the hospital, took my dad’s car keys and just drove.

I didn’t have a destination in mind but after an hour of roaming around the South Bay I ended up at the Korean Friendship Bell again. It just felt like I needed to be here before I could face my family again. I didn’t even leave my dad’s car. I just sat in the parking lot with the windows and sunroof open and just cried as I looked at the Bell. When I finally mustered up enough courage to see my family again, I drove back to the hospital.

For a month after his passing I drove my around Palos Verdes in his car. I didn’t bother stopping anywhere and just drove. Looking back: it was a lot of gas to be wasting when it was close to $4.50 a gallon but I didn’t care. I was spending money to get rid of my sorrows. I did that for a month until I decided I had to get back to society and start my life up again. After the 49 days following his death I didn’t do the drive to the Bell again.

This year’s been pretty crappy and these past two months I’ve been more “frustrated” with people than I’ve ever been in recent memory so I needed an escape. Today (April 16th, 2014)  I decided to drive to clear my mind again. After finishing my business at the bank and picking up a birthday gift at a Japanese gift shop, I went on my drive.


Driving Route for April 16th, 2014

I drove a different version of the route I used to drive today, cutting through Crenshaw and not circling back on Palos Verdes drive. I drove until it hit Western and until Western became Paseo Del Mar. I drove down Paseo Del Mar knowing that the Bell would be close but it wasn’t. There was construction on the road and there wasn’t a direct way to the bell. I made a U-Turn and drove back up Western, but instead of going home I resolved: I’m going to find my way to this bell. I finally used the GPS on my phone and tried to find an alternate route to this bell.

In the back of my mind even when I drove to the Bell often,  its name became the “Korean Happiness Bell.” I couldn’t find “Korean Happiness Park” in GPS until I sat there confused and bewildered. Did this place actually exist? Was it just my mind playing tricks on me? I eventually came to the realization of it being the “Korean Friendship Bell.” I let GPS do its magic and drove to the Bell.

On the way there I tried to think “Why would I replace friendship with happiness?” Finally arriving at the park and still having no answers I parked my car and went for a walk to the bell. It slowly came back to me why I would do such a thing. My life is defined by my pursuit of happiness. Although I value all the friendships I’ve had over the years, I wouldn’t remember many of them had it not been for the happiness that I experienced when we were friends. Happiness and friendship had become synonymous in my mind. My friends are what made me happy, so I connected Happiness with the bell.

It was a nice day and the park wasn’t overly crowded so I was able to find serenity sitting on the steps of the bell. I was finally able to think things over. I was finally able to clear my mind of all the shit I’ve been putting up with for the past few months. It just felt good to be there.

I probably spent 30 minutes there before I realized I should probably start heading  home and get ready for my late afternoon plans. The drive home was peaceful and it felt great. I listened to calm and relaxing music the whole way 😀

Here’s some pictures I took before I headed home as thanks for reading all of this. ^__^ I apologize ahead of time for the crappy pictures (finger in the way in one and not level in another)

Thanks again for reading 😀


Author Khoi

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