Farewell to Leon

January 4, 2010

I don’t understand how I’ve gotten so attached to a place, a single city so quickly as I have, but there it is – I’m leaving Leon, Nicaragua in a couple of hours, and I actually ache with the realization that I might not be back any time soon.  What is it that ties people to locations so tightly, drags them in and wraps them up and makes it hurt – physically, mentally, emotionally all – to leave again?

I never intended to come to Leon, never even heard of it before I met a random traveling acquaintance on the Honduras-Nicaragua border.  Sjoerd, this crazy Dutch fucker, and I were hitchhiking south on a whim when we crossed paths with Mike.  “If you end up in Leon,” he said, “I’m staying there at the Tortuga Booluda.”  We had no intention of visiting, but hey, information is always appreciated to those of us who travel without plans.  A few hours later, after being chased around by drug dealers in Chichigalpa, we skidded into Leon after dark and without many other options, stayed the night.  And another.  And another.  We walked around town every day, did some drunken Michael Jackson karaoke, made friends, had a blast, and when we did finally leave it was only by tearing ourselves away from the sweet, easy, addiction of Leon.

It happened again, returning from Costa Rica to my life in Honduras.  And again two days later , chasing a beautiful Belgian woman.  A week later, looking for tattoo parlors and ending up in a part of town so run-down and gringo-unfriendly that a local man actually marched us out of the neighborhood to the nearest bus stop, and the gang-affiliated tattoo artist wouldn’t even let us talk to him.  It was so strange – every time I came to town it was “just for the night” yet I stayed a few, or a week, maybe two. Each time I left it was for good.  There’s a magnetism to this place, that much is certain – consistently good times don’t hurt, fun-loving and humorous people either.  The hoards of Scandinavians are an added bonus.  Perhaps it is just the memories that draw me back so consistently.

Still, when I left in August I wasn’t coming back – Leon had been great, but I was off to bigger and better things – or so I told myself until I found myself here again a month later, smellier, with more holes in my clothes, but welcomed with open arms nonetheless.  We’re dysfunctional lovers, Leon and I, always parting ways, pretending it is for real, but never meaning it in our hearts.  I left again, chasing a girl of course, went south to Granada, Ometepe, hitchhiked Costa Rica for a while, and when all of that ended, I crawled broken-hearted back to Leon, hoping she’d be so forgiving as to take me in again.

Of course she did – in her mercy she even gave me a new family at Hostal Sonati – sent an Irish lass to fetch me from the bus station and dumped me shell-shocked and exhausted into a big dorm room full of sinners, saints, artists, prophets, adventurers, lovers, and Dengue-fever victims.  Leon knows just how to heal me – one night turned into ten, we dabbled in debauchery as high art, flung minds, bodies, souls into the practice, spent nights in a blur, nights in a haze, forged lifetime friendships and love affairs timeless.

It was all I could do to get out, to flee before Leon consumed me and carried me off struggling into the night, to break me of my adventuring ways until I started a restaurant and a magazine and lived my life contented and happy – who would want that anyhow?  I fled to Guatemala, wrote a poem about it all, and again thought I’d gotten away from this dangerous siren.

It was not to be – another life ended abruptly, another love affair collapsed, and Christmas fast approaching – what else was I to do but come back to Leon, tail between my legs, to see if there was anything left here for me?  There was, of course, there always is if you’re willing to ask, but the pull was so strong that I’m still here fifteen days after I showed up.  I’ve canceled a boat cruise, pushed back paragliding, flirted with giving up the whole hitchhiking adventurer life just to stay here and hang out at the beach with Norwegian metalheads all day.  Today is the absolute last day I can possibly leave if I’m going to make it to Columbia on time, and I just don’t know if my heart is in it.

I guess I just don’t know how to treat a city like this.  My friends back home used to say that we weren’t allowed to have nice things, the reason being that we’d always do something stupid with them, but what about a nice city, a contented life?  Am I allowed to have one of those?  Something inside tells me no – it isn’t time yet – and so once more I shoulder my pack and prepare to head out of town.  I’m not kidding myself this time – I’ll be back to Leon – there’s no way I can stay away from the city that has brought me so many friends, laughs, good times and bad, love, tears, cheap drinks, live bands, great bars, stray dogs, street parties, and magnificently dangerous fireworks displays.  How could I?  Once this bitch gets hold of you, sinks her claws into you, there’s no escaping – I might as well admit that I like it.  So farewell Leon, you’re the best city in Central America, a hitchhikers’ oasis in a cruel, confusing life – don’t ever change!  I won’t know what to do with you otherwise.  To all you Leonites, I’ll pour one out for you if you’ll do the same, and when I get back, you’d better bet the first bottle is on me! -k

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I Still Love You

January 3, 2010

In moments of weakness,
the moments like these –
I find
that you’re still in my heart.

I miss you beside me,
and wish you were here –
Kid myself
that you still feel the same.

I haven’t the will now
to banish these thoughts,
Give it all
to be with you again.

There’s a rip in my soul
from where I tore you out.
No patchwork
can fill that hole in.

What wouldn’t I give?
for a taste of your lips –
Nose to nose.
Eyes to eyes. Chin to chin.

To lie here forever,
Share eternity with you.
To be happy,
content in every way.

Then I remember –
how bitterly we fought!
And I know
that we’ll never see the day.

I Weep

January 3, 2010

I weep. I am not sad, but weep all the more. I give my tears as gifts – a part of me so small, so pure – drips of pure spirit, each a tiny, emotional gem, sparkling, silvery, precious. “Thank you,” says the tear in its slow slide, giving thanks to the universe as it rolls and dries, disappears again. The tear is life’s cycle in fast motion, birth-life-death-rebirth all in a few moments. What better gift can I give the universe then my thankful tears?

I smile. I am happy, but I do not smile for me. I smile for us all – for you, for her with the coffee mug, for him with the hangover and the sarcastic shirt. They were not smiling, but as I smile at them, they cannot help but to return the same. There is a contagion to smiles – like yawns, but all the more beautiful. I could be happy without smiling, but how better to share the joy in my heart then to smile?

I kiss. I do not kiss for you, for me. I kiss so that for one instant we may unite our separate souls, to be carried away on that electric, sensual impulse of connection. There are so many ways to kiss, but only one that truly matters. I kiss with love for all things, and a song in my heart. Kisses spread joy better then smiles. Why would I not kiss you?

I meditate. I do not meditate for any reason, but simply because I can. To meditate, quiet, unmoving, alone, is to touch a part of oneself that cannot be seen another way. One who meditates can find freedom there, sanctuary, peace. One will find what she wishes to, if she chooses to find anything at all. I meditate for nothing, and find a vast, unending ocean of sweet nothingness. How can I not jump in?

I swim. I swim until the dawn pulls me back into the world. I weep, smile, and am happy. My laughter floats across the universe in waves – reflection of the beauty in all things. The sun dries and warms me. There is no one here to kiss. Life weeps, laughs, smiles back at me, and in that moment all is well in the world.

A Lot of Bad Poetry

January 3, 2010

I found this old notebook from my other life tucked between some books in my bag – I’d thought it lost for good. The first half is from one of the worst parts of my life – uncertain, hopeless, questioning, searching in the dark. When I found it again almost a year later, I was a different person – happier, lighter, and more certain. Reading it now, front to back, is like charting my own development. I’m hoping that by laying out some selections, I can find something underneath the sorrow, hurt, growth, renewal, and rebirth – some nugget of truth, some message hidden, and if not that, then perhaps just an interesting read. The italics are (mostly) my present thoughts, interpretations, details, whatever.

This poem is the first – page 1 of a dark time, reflected, I think, in the themes I chose throughout.

August 9th, 2008
What do you do when your god is a whore?
I break down on my knees
as tears fall to the floor.

This isn’t lament, but reaction to truth,
A vision of beauty,
blocked out since my youth.

God as a man – what a cruel fucking joke!
The chicken never lived,
til it sprang from the yolk.

We deny ourselves god, in all of her names.
Drown soul in vice,
on others put blame.

We too much fear love, never leave ourselves bare.
Mask true smells in foul scents,
chemicals in our hair.

We hide from ourselves, but blame it on others –
Everyone sees through you,
especially mother.

Embrace our whore god, for she brought you alive.
Accept into your heart,
what you knew at age five.

It doesn’t matter – she cares not what you do.
Just give her your heart,
and she’ll always love you.

The following are from the days after my whole life disintegrated – a house full of friends disappeared overnight, I came home to find rooms empty, and everything quiet. Living alone in a 6-bedroom house, one that had once been so vibrant, so fun, and knowing that I’d soon leave so far away – It nearly broke me. I was to move to Bolivia in mere weeks, and the doubts and fears that come with such a change were overwhelming.

August 10th, 2008
They’ve taken it all –
all my things,
my whole home.
And now that they’ve left,
and I sit here alone.
Not sure how to
feel,

like an accident victim –
Eyes sting and ears ring
I can’t quite feel
pain.

Everything so empty,
when I live in this place
No deep thoughts in my head,
and I just burnt my face.
Boiled spoon,
metal on face,
I felt myself sizzle.

I deserved it,
I earned it,
I’ve been drinking so
hard.

My friend Jack keeps me warm,
As I sit in my hole,
curtains closed,
pen in hand,
and I draw on myself.

Just random symbols,
or notes to myself.
Things to remember,
a big call for
help.

I’ve never been good,
at living sans purpose.
Waiting makes me edgy,
too much quite makes me nervous.
Excess then withdrawal,
that’s my self-prescription.
How I live now:
Solitary self-deception.

Keep it hidden,
bundled inside –
this isn’t a bad life.
I’ll hang on for the ride.

Lookie, I can be political too.

August 11th, 2008
Russians in Georgia,
shooting up kids.
The world’s pot boiling over,
spilling over the lid.

America moves –
ships blockade the Gulf.
Whole world picks up arms,
they circle like wolves.

Just one spark!
Strike a match,
watch the planet ignite.
Descent into madness
bloodshed,
violence,
strife.

Who’s going to light it?
Burn six billion lives
I bet it’s our fault,
think further still –
The rest will all know it,
but no one here will.

We’ll blindly wave flags,
as our brothers all die –
as our families bleed
as the whole planet cries.

All the news channels play
the same patriot tunes.
The masses sing along
to the cadence of drumbeats,
each a heart slowly stopping
blood spills to dry earth,
and breath
rasping
fades.

Not one of us
or a thousand
but everyone together.
United we die,
while in life we all squabbled.

Bitch and moan
fight, argue,
shoot, stab, kill, poison, burn.
Choking on our own blood,
and I can taste bile,
feel the life ebb.
Know that this was our fault.

Hug your kids,
kiss your lover,
We all die in the end.

Cheerful, eh? I was immersed in global politics, obsessed with the teetering international situation, watching John McCain and Sarah Palin present their case for fascism, and unable to remain hopeful that Barack Obama was going to do anything substantially different. All I held out for was escape – another life in another place – a chance to cut a lifetime’s baggage away. Call it the “cut and run” approach to dealing with one’s problems. Interesting foreshadowing of the Peace Corps implosion in this one.

August 15th, 2008
What is about this time of year? It’s like the air’s alive with change – I fear the writing scribbled on my wall, it says “you life ends this fall.” I know that it’s true – just don’t want to believe. Don’t wanna think, can’t let myself, it just brings me down – but this is the end of my time here in town.

Say goodbyes while you can, I’ll leave without a sound. No whisper – disappearing act – you won’t see me around. My time has passed, now I must go, and that just brings me down.

I smoke myself to sleep these nights, alone in this big home. Torn between “can’t wait to leave,” and “I can’t wait to roam.” I’ll miss you all so bad, all the things we’ve done. All the drunk wild nights, memories I can’t recall – no matter where we do end up, I’ll always love you all.

So say your goodbyes while you can, cause I won’t stick around. I’ve so much left to do in life, my feet don’t touch the ground.

While I zig-zag cross this earth, and hopefully off it too, I’ll think back to the life I had, and regret none of it. To all my friends and drinking pals, I pour this one for you. I’ll keep you always in my heart, just please remember me too.

The Truth (undated, August?)
Like a hollowpoint bullet,
the truth rips through your head.
Blows out your mind,
leaves you for dead.
Didn’t expect it,
or maybe you did,
the truth feels the same –

The truth feels like shit.
The truth feels like life.
The truth feels like reuniting
with the love of your life.

And what is the truth
That rips through your brain?
Decoding nerve impulse
it says “we’re all the same.”

Four words, one sentence,
but it just can’t sink in.
Ten thousand years fighting,
still we never win.
So long as we divide
on color, race, creed,
we’ll never have peace,
never get what we need.

There’s no fucking difference!
I just want to scream.
For no other reason
To see who gets what I mean.
Turn your heads round people,
shake out the lies,
think for yourself,
Open your eyes!

Go meet your neighbors,
make friends who think differently,
smile at the world,
see the truth staring back at me.

Notice how all of this just sits on the same rhyme scheme? There’s not much variation in content or style, and I noticed it too. This is about that, I think.

August 19th, 2008
The creative well of the world has been running perilously low. The aquifer is depleted, and the product is getting harder and harder to pull out of the ground. We’re not doing anything new, haven’t for ages, and it’s wearing through the gilded lie of America. The shabby state of affairs is spreading even to me. I can’t think of anything new or different, and so now I’ll go back to staring at my empty home and bare walls.

I took another blow August 23rd – sitting in my back yard, patting myself on the back for having finally finished cleaning and repairing our rental house, selling most of my possessions, quitting my job, and putting the final touches on that clean break I wanted, when I got a call from the Peace Corps. My program had been canceled, the organization was pulling out of Bolivia, and I was in limbo again. “Don’t make any sudden lifestyle changes,” said the voice in my ear, but there wasn’t a life left to change. This might be best described as a pep talk to myself.

August 26th 2008
These past few days have been such an emotional drain on me – it can barely be described. I’ve been on the verge of tears, consumed by fears, tearing my hair out – the unknown looms over me, but losing independence is what really terrifies me. Living with the family is either going to kill me or turn me back into a stooge. Fuck. God Damn it! I love them – I love them more then anyone, but there is no common ground between their lives and mine. I’ve no strings left tying me down, I’m free to live wherever, whenever, however I so choose. Instead, I’m trapped at home, no ability to roam – mother FUCK!

At least I’ve got my creativity: must keep exercising my spirit or I’ll lose that too along with my wings, my things, and the puppet strings of college life. Never thought I’d miss it this badly, considering how much I hated it while I was there. Quite a scare – I’m not strong, I don’t want to be alone, yet I don’t dare walk my own path. Time to start daring and take back my own life – I’ve left it in the hands of others and blind fate, striving in vain, always arriving too late.

The bullshit stops here: I am the only one I can count on to live my life. Breathe, exhale, hold. Let the spots come, the pain in my lungs, discipline, strength, just stay calm. I won’t die. I won’t die. I can’t die. Too much left to see, to fuck, to be. Stop wasting my life, and just let me be me – let me see – I am free.

That last bit is a lot better on paper – watching the words get wavier, sloppier, more frantic – the whole last paragraph is nearly illegible, and I passed out facedown on my desk after “I am free.” Bit insane, come to think of it…

The other thing I struggled with was my ongoing clusterfuck of a bad relationship. I wish the following was true, but I wasn’t that strong – it took my running off to Central America to finally end our mutual self-destruction.

August 26th 2008
I told you I’d stop writing you letters, and I don’t intend to renege on that. Even though I love you, I have to face the reality of things – you don’t want me the same way I do you. We will always be close, but I can’t keep praying and hoping and crying and smoking that things will get better. You’re not worth this pain, this constant agony of never being the guy you want, but being close enough to see and know that I’m not that guy.

It’s slow, agonizing, evil torture, and I refuse to put myself through it any longer. I quit. I love you, and I could happily spend my life with you, but you don’t love me back, and I just have to face that. I’ll try not to cry over you any more, or at least not where you can see. I miss you already, and I hope you’ll be happy. Don’t come for me, I won’t be coming back anyhow. Thanks for helping me understand love and heartbreak. -k

If only I could have been that strong outside of a notebook. August 26th includes this near-illegible scrawling, written over a few joints on the tar-paper roof of my parents’ house.

Rooftop Thoughts
(1)I smoke alone on my roof as the world sleeps below. It’s like comedy, just less funny – the good bits fly off in a puff of smoke. Nobody knows! I’m hidden in plain view, the danger adds to the pleasure. Disobedience manifested in self-destruction. Pleasure in the poisoning, rebellion of the basest kind. I gain nothing from this crime, just ashen lungs and wasted time. Still I puff, and (warm inside) the smoke and flame bring me false pride. “I’m doing it!” the body cries, “I’m breaking rules! I’m being free!” Stupid way to make my point, but still I suck the small white joint
(2)Puff puff, french inhale – the smell is acrid, sweet, and stale. Hold my breath, ignore the pain, tortured lungs cry out in vain. Now let it out and close my eyes, feel wild magic rush inside. My body drinks the cool night air – the odor lingers in my hair. A breeze tugs wisps of illegal smoke, disguising all hint of my midnight toke.
(3)A law is broken, but no crime done – just controlling my own life, trying to have fun. I slip inside, throw off my clothes, stare down at black and filthy toes. Fuck it – I can’t care tonight. The bedsheets don’t put up a fight. So naked ass and dirty feet, sweat and tears, and fresh washed sheet, all twist in one sad tangled mess, and now you see me at my best.
(4)Back on my back – in my usual way – I long for sex or a new day. Tired of alone and desperate poor, missed opportunities piled outside my door. I’ll get a girl, that ought help some – but who wants to fuck a poor depressed bum? I feel pathetic, I don’t even try – inaction backfires, sticks in my eye. Lucky me, I’m out of pot, so perhaps tomorrow I’ll have my own thoughts. Goodnight world, please wake up sane, and mystery girl – I’ll dream your name.

Raw, isn’t it? I must confess, I don’t know how these are going to be received by anyone – too emotional, drawn out, dull. Still, I look at them proudly, because I see now how much better off I am. That’s something, right?

This bit, under the stupid accents idea, is about the weight of one’s past. I’ve since learned differently – there is no reason, no ability for your past to control your present beyond your own choice do allow it.

August 28th 2008
I should just pretend to have an accent. Be foreign everywhere I go, forever an outsider, but only in my dreams. Really, I belong to the world, and I’m forever tied to the experiences I’ve had. Still, girls dig it, so perhaps…

There’s a big gap here – 2 weeks, where the only writing is a miscarried wreck of a sketch comedy series. If you ask me, it’s not that it was a bad project, but it turns out that severely depressed people choose subject matter that most people are uncomfortable with – a man dropping out of his life to hitchhike, panhandle, steal, and refuse to work is so far outside the comfort zone of most people, especially when everyone else, the “normal,” working members of society are portrayed to terribly. A pity. I found out that someone had already done it just a few months ago – the book is called “Evasion” and you can get it free online. Fascinating read.

It just struck me that only in the simple 4 bar abcb scheme, at that point in my life, was I able to write candidly about myself, and my feelings. Such, it sucks, the rhyming is repetitive and annoys me, but for whatever reason there is much better clarity in it then my other scribblings. I’d forgotten that.

September 13th 2008
I’ve been breaking my promise to write out my life – to pour out my high points, my lows, and the strife. I want it as chronicle, so someone can know. It’d be such a pity to let it all go, to do all the work with nothing to show. I guess it doesn’t matter. I won’t amount to much – too hung up on missing you, too far out of touch. Can’t relate to anyone, I feel so far removed – I don’t know why I try so so hard; I’ve nothing to prove. So fuck this melodramatic shit – I’m done trying to pretend! – I guess I’m going to keep writing my thoughts. Hope it comes out right in the end.

September 14th 2008
Depressed again. She’s back in town, and I want to see her. Probably shouldn’t, but I miss the hell out of her, and I’m weak. Also – sex.

Yeah, gave in to that – here’s the result. It has my favorite Kerouac metaphor too – I think I’ve used it a few other times.

September 15th 2008
Then we turned at twelve paces, for love is a duel, and the feeling washed over me, merciless but true. “This is the end for us,” said me to myself – I bottled foul truth, left to rot on the shelf. We couldn’t bear face it, but both stood there still, both our heads full of poems, but our mouths standing still. Slowly turned on a heel, we both walked away, left everything unsaid, bricked up feelings in the catacombs of the head. You walked back inside, and I choked back the pain – the flame flickered and died, and I begged for rain.

Of course, like any mutually destructive relationship, that was a lie – it certainly didn’t end there. This next part though: scarily true.

I hide depression so well that nobody suspects me. I’m an undercover agent of misery – outwardly cheerful, killing myself softly. I don’t want to spread it, or hurt anyone else, so I self-mutilate inside, where no one can see.

Another Peace Corps delay. I had been holding off on making friends, doing anything while living at home, because I was sure that the leaving process would begin again soon, with all the attendant pain and misery. When I learned I definitely would not leave in 2008, I went reeling off into another circle of my personal hell.

September 19th 2008
I lap up their stories, hungry to feel that fullness which comes with being alive again. My own (illegible) is dry, for I am between chapters. Bookmarked, on an end table gathering dust. Bored with being boring, and desperate for some attachment. The flotsam of life becomes my obsession – dull gossip and never-ending arguments. I justify it as a time-filler, before my adventures begin anew, but the deadline pushes back again, and I know I ought to find a real life here. I just don’t want to admit defeat – so close to running away, only to have it all fall to ashes. C’est la vie, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

We all want to be in love, but those of us who aren’t will settle for any attention we can scrounge up. We may all be inherently alone, but that forces us to reconcile some terrible truths, and so we all try to find someone to lean on – just to make living more tolerable.

Hey, at least I called the financial bailout pretty well – perk of having no life: you can do some pretty spot-on, albeit cynical analysis.

September 21st 2008
It’s funny to see someone like Henry Paulson talk about how giving $700,000,000,000 to investment firms and banks to pay off their gambling debts is helpful to the average American. The gall it takes to go on TV and say “No, the payments won’t be limited to debt, yes, the executives of these companies will get massive payouts, and no, there will be no direct benefit to taxpayers for their TRILLION dollar investment.” What bullshit!

Let me get this straight – These same fatcat fucks, with their 7 years of record gains, must now be given our tax money to pay off their losses? What happened to the American people when their mortgages went to hell, when their jobs disappeared? “Tough luck,” we were told, “They should have seen it coming.” They gambled – they lost – that’s how the market works. (but only if you’re poor, as this new move shows.)

So now we see it happen, unfolding in fast-motion – the rich stand to lose money, so they yank the leashes of their lapdog congressional leaders, and call in their debts. And what debts they are! Groupthink and short-sighted profitmongering have driven all the big players to invest in the same markets, and now those markets are crashing.

The question now is whether the American people will stand for this transparent money-grab by the rich crooks on wall street. My guess is that sadly, they won’t care enough to speak up. The money-changers and printers, the real leaders of America, will line their pockets again and go right on spending our country into poverty for their benefit. By the time Americans are mad enough to act – to throw bottles and bricks instead of standing in free-speech zones waving cardboard signs – there won’t be anything left to fight over.

It breaks my heart that getting drunk and puking on the floor was literally the highlight of my month. God, what a life…

October 10th 2008 – Sweet October
A new month, and I return to my notebook. I have no new news to report, save that I’ll be out of debt by mid-November. There is something to be said for living at home and working all the time, even if it’s boring as fuck

Speaking of things that aren’t boring as fuck – I spent this past weekend in LA drinking my face off. Here’s how it goes down: Friday night I drive with Kel, we hit LA around 10pm. Commence drinking. Chad and entourage show up, we hide-and-seek in the apartment, Kel kicks ass. More drinking, lots of fun, whiskey shots, and we’re out. Oh, and Garrett and I scream politics while the smokers kill themselves slowly.

Next day, Kel, Chad, and I are up early, breakfast at Denny’s, hit the liquor store and refuel. I accidentally stiff the Denny’s guy but don’t realize until later. Pocket change buys us drinks, and then off to the pool. Commence horseplay and drunk. The Santa Barbarians show up, it feels like home. Beer pong until the wee hours, I get ripped and pass out in front of the back door. A good time is had by all. (I think!)

Next morning, 4am: I’m up, clean, shower, finding shoes takes a while. Get Kel up by 5, we’re on the road by 5:30. Hungover. The road swims in the fog, my head far cloudier. Home by 6:45, in bed an hour, off to work by 8:30. Terrible day, but I thrive on this life. Wouldn’t trade it for the world: I can’t believe that I’m going to be giving it all up by February (or so they say…)

I’m glad of very few things like I am glad that I “gave this up for the world.” Drinking myself to sleep versus climbing mountains and exploring Maya ruins, chasing women, hitchhiking… wow! It’s been a pretty formative year. More political crap, so skip this next one if you’re uninterested. This one is particularly relevant with Obama.

(undated)
People hate to admit that their leaders are corrupt and dishonest. They won’t accept it, will go to great lengths – lie to themselves! – in order to stave off this reality. WHY? I think I finally know the answer. People must make another decision if they accept that their leaders are fucking them. Namely, one must decide whether she will act, or whether she will roll over and pretend that none of this concerns her. People like to assume that they are good and true, but the live by one’s morality is infinitely easier if one just buries her head and ignores the problem entirely. When faced with a problem, an opportunity to be a fighter, they shirk their duty. What will you do?

What I did, and will continue to do, is run off, leave that whole mess behind, and not spend another second of my life on the “duty,” “obligation,” or “honor,” of fighting for my country. Let’s face it – your politics are boring as fuck, because they’re not relevant to my life – I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t recognize nations as having legitimacy in the first place, don’t live by their laws, don’t grant them they authority to rule over me. I can’t fix the system without being a part of it, but I can refuse to participate, can live my life, by my rules, and find so much more joy – why would I bother taking part in their games when I can make up my own?

October 3rd 2008
Loved her for ages,
was too shy to ask.
Too little, too late,
now our ship’s passed.
Clinging to threads,
of what we once were –
now I love our memories
more then I love her.

I wrote about religion a few times, so here’s that:

October 8th 2008 – Religion is the Problem:
I’m seriously disturbed that there are so many uneducated, racist, bigoted, violent, hateful morons in this country. Watching them on TV, burning effigies, marching around with guns, calling for the assassination of a presidential candidate on Fox because they don’t agree with his views – I’m truly afraid for democratic institutions in this sort of environment. What causes people to attach themselves blindly to a team, a cause, an ideology, and relentlessly attack anything that contradicts their view?

What I think it comes down to is the basic Christian/Jewish/Islamic/Evangelical/Fanatic/Religious worldview – they all believe that they have the <<*TRUTH*>> the ultimate, complete, and total answer to everything! Honestly, it is that basic premise, that each faith claims to hold the eternal word of supreme, omnipotent, omnipresent GOD, that leads them to hate.

They are incompatible, not only with each other, but with reality, with science, with the basic workings of the universe – but it doesn’t matter to the faithful! Each being indoctrinated in their separate worldview, taught to believe and never think, they are forced to choose between their “truth” and the compromises of coexistence with those who do not share that faith.

Consider – each group’s view is uncompromising. They have the word of GOD after all – how can one compromise the infallible world of the almighty? These groups cannot peacefully coexist, and without peaceful coexistence, the human race is doomed to perpetual conflict and bloodshed – for what? So that ancient books of superstitious fables can be revered as false idols? So another generation of children can be lied to, have their minds warped, become indoctrinated to hate, so that their brains can be forever shut to the beauty and truths in the world around them?

Enough! Enough! Religion, like racism, bigotry, prejudices of all sorts, the hatred of the other, all the primitive tribalist remnants of ancient man, must be stamped out before humanity can evolve past this earth. If we do not lose our false faith and the hatred that must come with it, we will be a plague released upon the universe.

October 9th 2009 – Regarding Religion:
People claim that they need belief, or perhaps that others do, but have you ever considered that people “need” what they have been brought up, taught to need? Would they still think, “God lives” if they hadn’t been told since birth that every aspect of their lives was set in motion by this all-seeing, all-knowing, unimaginable bogeyman? I propose an experiment – raise a child to worship an unimaginably great flying space asshole, one which violently shit out our universe last week sometime. What do you imagine will happen? What if we did that a few billion times, over many centuries, and tortured, raped, murdered, and killed everyone who disagreed and dared say so. Wouldn’t that view become mainstream, accepted, another respectable religion in the grab bag?

We all mock the outliers, but when a group grows large enough to influence society with their beliefs, they are legitimized. All it takes is time and tenacity – Scientology will be a respectable faith one day, unless we start calling people out on their irrational and false assertions. The older the faith, the less scrutiny we put it through, but the fact is, we don’t accept ANYTHING thousands of years old without scrutiny, unless it is contained in one of a few “sacred” texts. A scientist clinging to the work of Aristotle as absolute truth would be mocked mercilessly, and rightly so, but a priest who preaches literal interpretations of books of fairy tales is lauded for clinging to his beliefs. They are gospel, these old rags, their errors ignored – they are untouchable, and you’re traitor or intolerant if you point out the gaping flaws. Let me put it here – fuck your god, fuck your book, fuck your inability to think, fuck your religion. There is nothing controlling you except the limitations you place upon yourself, so just wake up and think for yourself.

Not too shabby, considering how doubtful and uncertain I was in my personal life. As evidence, here’s the only autobiographical entry I’ve found in a while.

October 18th 2008
Today was all work, but I didn’t earn much pay. Worse – I know my ideal life, but I know not the way.

I have such vivid memories, but when I write them down it’s so hard to get the feel across. It all comes out 2-dimensional and monotone: Life on Valium, filled with wooden dolls and blurry-edged. Too many metaphors are worse then none at all.

It’s been too long since I wrote a diary, but I want to start again. How to begin – I’m stuck in SM, the purgatory, and I must pass through on the path to my third-world heaven. I teach swimming lessons to little kids, which is rewarding but pays shit, and I work at a swim store as well, which isn’t rewarding, and pays even shitter. Really, it’s a whole lot of busy work, a holding pattern keeping me constantly off of the places I want to land. Likewise, I’m still living with my family, which pushes me ever closer to the brink of insanity, in the form of a new womb.

So, with that as my base, where have I gone? I have no new friends, but a lot of acquaintances. I’ve no girl, but flirt like a champ. I dance Friday nights, and I’ve gotten quite good. Still, I feel so alone, so pent-up, so afraid. Like I’m wasting my life in this brackish backwater, friendless yet needy, impoverished and greedy. I can’t sleep for the nightmarish dreams, and I’m writing in prose to conceal what I mean. I’ll put it here plainly, for no one to see – I’m miserable, hate my life, and the grief’s killing me.

This was scribbled in a margin:
I love love, crave feeling, like the touch of another.
Someone to kiss me, one to call lover.
I’ve actually found one – of course I must go.
My heart tells me I could marry her, but I’ll never know.

I really ought to title this whole thing “portrait of a miserable guy” and paint in in grey. I’m a little embarrassed I ever felt this low, except that I still remember how it felt. The thing is, I face a lot more pain, disappointment, fear, and failure now then I ever did then – I didn’t do anything at all! – but I’ve just learned to never let it stop me. I push through the wreckage and keep moving, and in doing so, find the beauty hidden behind the hurt.

November 2nd 2008
A rhyme without verse is a curious thing. Like a quote out of context, or a song you can’t sing. People who read it are often confused – the lone rhyming couplet is ne’er seriously used. It’s a powerful line, a lyrical jolt, heart to pen straight to soul, a hit without pads when you’re caught unaware. The effect is, I think, magnified all the more when rhyme comes uncouched by the dressings of prose – the full brunt of the words connect, pretense being a luxury unafforded by unguarded rhyme. The ugly, naked, whole lies before you, and you must accept it as-is or reject the notion. There is no halfway with these rhymes – they are either loved or hated. They are the most direct link to the mind of another that I have yet found myself capable of creating.

“If the night be dark or bleak, or grating on the soul, then look only to the one you love, and she will make you whole.”

I can’t believe I actually used “ne’er” – still, I’m not really disagreeing with this, but I will say I’m rubbish at putting it into practice.

November 4th 2008
“I like your Christ. I dislike your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” – Mahatma Gandhi

November 12th 2008
I’m finally starting to accept this new chapter in my life.

November 13th 2008
Never put the words “I’m finally starting to accept this new chapter in my life” into print, for the universe punishes arrogance. Today blew donkey nuts. I want pot, ‘shrooms, adventure, a drinking partner, or sex. Not choosy.

November 19th 2008
I wish the world worked as if people mattered. Like individuals were more then numbers, and money wasn’t king. Where happiness came from doing good, and not from buying things. In this crazy topsy-turvy world, there would be no blood for oil. No kids would starve in Africa, so rich men could grow richer. Those who had would give freely to the ones who need it most. Decency wouldn’t be synonymous with Christian dogma, nor equality mean “commie,” and no poor baby girl would ever have to die because a rich white man killed her mommy.

It’s too bad this world isn’t like my dream, because it easily could be. Without the rich and their hired thugs, what a beautiful world it could be. So if money is what you lust after, if Capitalism is your belief, then be forewarned – we’re coming after you, and all the world’s money can’t stop us. You cause the world grief, strangle the very planet, and until you and your filthy -isms are dead and buried, the world will never be as beautiful as I wish it to become.

The further I get from home, the poorer (monetarily) I become, the happier, freer, more joyous I find myself. I didn’t know it as I wrote this – though I certainly suspected it – but this world I wish for is absolutely possible – one must work hard, harder then ever before, to live without their rules and control, but what reward could be greater then the freedom to live as you please?

November 19th 2008
There’s a certain small beauty in being alone, but it’s lost on those who spend their lives in solitude. To do what you want, when you life, with whoever you choose is a wonderful way to live, but the freedom pales when it runs on forever. We all need to be wanted, we all want to feel love; by a boy or a girl, or creator above. And really – who blames us? We’re all social creatures. Dive headfirst into love, “give ourselves up to preachers. The ironic part comes when we’re finally together, and we realize we don’t want to live like this forever. Once we’re claimed we feel chained, like a picture now framed. The feeling, the moment, is captured and saved, but the luster grows softer, and the mind feels enslaved. Once the passion is gone, we long to be freed, forget our once-lonely selves, with those solitary needs. What’s my point? There’s none really – I’m just poking fun. Whichever path we choose in life, we long for the other one.

Robert Frost put it better.

November 25th 2008 – One Song Ride Home
The ride from your house
takes me only one song.
A few minutes of music stretch
last all night long.
Acutely aware our affairs are so brief
with Ted Leo in my ears
the wind in my teeth.
Too soon over and done with,
just as we’re soon to be –
a one song ride home
separates you from me.

The final bars fade,
pull up to my door.
Sneaking upstairs to bed
I feel like a whore.
Climb the stairway in darkness
my feet choose their course.
Sit, stare out the window,
smoke myself blind, hoarse.
Stretch a song a few miles
it feels neverending
but as for this poem,
right now it’s just ending.

The song I forget, but the band was Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. They’re not great, but the one track meant something to me once. I don’t remember because like all the other music that reminded me of her, I refuse to listen to it any longer – the past is easier to forget when you don’t dwell on the reminders.

December 3rd 2008
My love affair with driving draws to a close. I’ll miss Sally.

Sally is the car. She was good to me.

December 15th 2008
For an instant I saw a little Flower-man running around on my lawn. I blinked in surprise and he vanished, replaced by a flower swaying in the wind and rain. I liked the flower-man better.

Unlike the waking hallucinations I started getting months later from my anti-malarial pills, I’m reasonably sure that this one was just a figment of my imagination. I’m still a big fan of the idea though – little floral societies hiding in the bushes, playing macheteball and never forgetting to smell the roses.

You know that “day late and a dollar short” saying? I was always a step behind in my realizations – I did manage to capture that here though:

December 20th 2008
It’s difficult even describing these past 48 hours, so let me start at now and work back a bit from there.

I’m sitting barefoot and shirtless on South Ponto beach in Carlsbad killing time and braincells before I have to be at work in two hours. It’s rather cold, by southern California standards, but SLO didn’t get this warm the entire time I was there. You see, I just got back from a whirlwind of craziness, a road trip to San Luis Obispo where my living-in-sin lover lives (3x fast, go!)

630 miles, 8 hours in a car, all to see her for a day. Worth it. So worth it. That girl does something wonderful to me – whenever I’m near her I feel like I belong. It’s a totally foreign feeling to me. I just wish I had realized how important she is before I signed up for 2 years in the Peace Corps!

Anyway, I’m going to S a J full of W and watch the waves clean my mind out. I need a vacation from this emotional landslide. Oh, and for the record, I suck at sex – out of practice.

This is one of my favorites of the “bad poetry” category:

December 30, 2008
I don’t want to see one nation,
united,
standing free.
Nor a hundred smaller ones,
branching off the human tree.
Instead
I want to see them fall,
The governments of the world.
So people might act out of love,
not fear
of those above.

This ones makes me smile – I mean, yeah, it’s juvenile, but there is such a manic joy to the way we partied – complete shameless debauchery. I only hope that we’ll still be getting together and doing it when I’m 60 – if I’m 60.

January 1st 2009
This ought to be a time for self-reflection. Fuck that! In 2 months I’ll be stuck on my own with all sorts of time for that. For now, I’m exactly where I want to be in my life: surrounded by friends, between binges, healthy, alive, not alone. I am with my best friends, my family, my fellow souls. Jake on guitar, Street Fighter alternates with football, bong rips, and swimming. We’re unabashedly degenerate – living to glorious excess, reliving our best times, creating new ones. All the people who make me happy are around, save L, and the place doesn’t matter really – we could be in any shithole apartment in IV and we’d act exactly as we do now. Real People are the ones I belong with, honest, open, themselves without fear. In a society so bent around hiding ourselves, it cannot be understated how good this feels, to be myself. I miss them all terribly already – all that remains is for me to leave all this behind, and hope blindly that it will still be here when I get back.

Oh, and for the second time in my life, one of Kel’s girlfriends tried to have sex with me. Well, technically she only offered to “suck me dry,” but it was just one of those “seriously, what. The. FUCK!” moments.

I resolved to have a fling before I leave the US, but this wasn’t what I had in mind…

Topless beer pong was fun, but this girl pretty much started propositioning every guy in the room – was more then slightly awkward. Kel took it well though, just told us no pictures allowed.

After leaving the -ad’s house, I went north to SLO again, hoping to clear my head. I kind of went the other direction with it though – as evidenced:

January 3rd 2009
Days like today are the ones I can’t stand. Everything worked: went according to plan. Fixing the problems seems what I do best, but when there are none I want only to rest. I got what I wanted, right? I came to see you. But that wasn’t it – I wanted love too. So you gave me your love, and we had a fun time – all the right touching and chills up the spine – yet none of matters! We can’t change what comes. I might as well like here, or sit on my thumb. The fact is, I’m leaving, and you’re staying here. The future immutable, the ending quite clear. We work – that’s for certain – for whatever that matters. Stick a fork in us, we’re done, relationship on a platter. Yet I still can’t regret all the things that we’ve done – all the long sleepless nights, our possible son. I always will love you babe, though I may not stay true: know I settled for her, because first I loved you.

The writing gets less frequent from here – preparations for the Peace Corps, emotional turmoil, a general resignation to my life ending soon all conspire to rob me of creative juices. Reading these pages, it’s just a mess of stale thoughts, looped together in new orders, but there isn’t any growth or development. I wrote it like this at the time:

January 10th 2009
Really, I just want to go already. I’ve been stagnant for too long, treading water in this shallow end of the pool. I long ago put my feet on the bottom, and now I want only the signal to move on to something more challenging – deep-water spinals, ocean rescues, a storm would break the monotony. As is, the waves slowly crash, lulling me to sleep as my skills deteriorate for lack of use. Someone drown already! I need the practice.

Also wrote this later that day:

The problem I have with this life of mine is too little sex, too much alone time. Nobody’s hanging out, we’re just hanging in – it’s so meaningless! My soul is wearing thin.

The gradual withdrawal, from one life to another, is at this point a 14 month process – longer if I include the Peace Corps application process – and I’m just useless. The rest of January is bitching, except for one great road trip. (Which got its own posts, 2 of them) There’s also this, if you’re not sick of radical politics yet, this was a marvelous foreshadowing of Barack Obama’s desecration of our rule of law in America. Never did I imagine Obama to be the man who finally destroyed our legal system, but I knew it was possible – thus, this piece:

January 17th 2009
War crimes are state crimes. They must be, as war is always the action of states, though fought by individuals. In war the dispute, the causes of violence, and the prize at stake is always a matter of state (elite) interest. The poor bastards shooting each other do not have a personal dispute, but have been conditioned to internalize the interests of societal elites. What does a poor man, lured into the army by signing bonuses and a lack of other options, really have against a middle-eastern farmer, himself snared into fighting by the promise of eternal paradise? Without incentives from those with a vested interest in conflict, the individuals of the world don’t have any reason to fight for the causes of another – this has been true of all wars since civilization developed enough of a surplus population to support having them.

Therefore, the perpetrators of war crimes are the states themselves, or more specifically, the elites within those states. Without their selfish power struggle, disguised behind lofty causes and noble goals, there would be no war, and thus no war crimes.

This is not meant to excuse the actions of the individual perpetrators of horrific acts against their fellow humans, but to raise the point that their actions were, are, and always will be, motivated by elites and leaders within society – themselves too frightened to actually fight the conflict, they send the poor and desperate to die in their stead. The elites must thus share in the punishment meted in response to these despicable acts, for without their having caused the war, there would not be the environment in which to commit war crimes.

And should these crimes be persecuted? Of course they ought! For a crime purposely unpunished is no longer a crime at all, and a state crime left unpunished today becomes the state policy of tomorrow.

Imagine it thusly: a man grows to despise his wife, and conspires to kill her. He is caught after the deed, clearly guilty, and in his defense pleads with the judge to “let bygones be bygones” and to “look to the future instead of wallowing in the past,” for the punishment of his crime will surely bring up unpleasant memories in the community, and make it more difficult for everyone to do the very important work they need to do to keep life running smoothly.

Any rational observer, knowledgeable of the purpose of law, will reject this defense as both ludicrous and counter-productive. To pardon the clearly guilty for their crimes is to both give tacit consent to their actions, and to encourage them to act similarly in the future. The law exists to deter actions – without equal punishment to members at all levels of society, there is no motive to obey the law.

Yet this absurd defense is the same course proposed by our political and social elites in regard to their heinous crimes, offensive wars, torture, wiretapping, and destruction of civil and legal protections for the citizens of the world. Given their positions of arbiters of justice and protectors of the nebulous “public good,” these elites are in the unique position of being able to subvert the justice system and avoid punishment – a murderer cannot declare his act a state secret and change the law to place his punishment off limits, but a lawmaking body can, if the court system and president are willing accomplices. Without mass public pressure to hold these criminals responsible for their crimes, they and their successors will have learned only one lesson from their wholesale rape of the rule of law, namely that these acts are permittable and without consequence – so go for it! Today the third world, tomorrow the American people. (Edit: and now, with proper legal precedent, they don’t even have to hide it. Like Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon, the message is clear – you are above the law, do whatever you want.)

Any obvious crime left unpunished sends the message that the action is no longer criminal. We cannot allow crimes of the magnitude committed – aggressive war, torture, indefinite secret imprisonment without trial, domestic spying and wiretapping, propaganda programs subverting national media, police action against non-violent protesters, the unraveling of the rule of law – to be swept aside, left to fester, and infect the rest of society.

An illness of this magnitude will destroy any nation, especially one beset by the troubles facing the USA. Please, together, for the sake of humanity, at the risk of plunging the entire Earth into a terrible lawlessness, let us persecute these criminals and scrub their foul taint from this ailing nation! The people of the world deserve no less then for the richest and most powerful to be held to the same standards as the lowest criminal.

Since I  wrote this, the Obama administration has taken a deliberate course against this sort of persecution – by upholding the dubious legal arguments of the previous administration, by continuing to wage wars illegally in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and now Yemen, by maintaining a torture program and secret prisons worldwide, by creating a tiered legal system that allows the president to indefinitely imprison anyone, for as long as he cares to, by continuing the domestic spying, immunizing elites against any retribution, he has done everything necessary to end the rule of law in America. I do not mean to be overdramatic – basic reading (I recommend Glenn Greenwald to start) into any one of these topics will yield the same conclusion I reached – that the law does not apply to members at the top tiers of American hierarchy.

From this I take the only logical steps that I can find – if all human beings are equal and free by virtue of their very humanity, then they are certainly equal before the law. If the laws do not apply to the rich and powerful, then they cannot possibly apply to me, and I therefore reject them. I doubt it will stand up before a judge anywhere, but that is the point – the judges are a weapon of the elites, and their purpose is to maintain the present striations of society. If I don’t recognize their laws (and certainly, I have never had any input into the laws that affect me, so they are not my laws) then I, by my virtue as a free human being, have every right not to follow them. In a society where the elites can have me imprisoned indefinitely, tortured, and executed in secret courts without ever having to prove my guilt or even give me a show trial, what does it matter if I follow every law or not? We are all vulnerable in a system ruled by men instead of law, and it is the business of all just men to to oppose injust laws.

Consider this my warning shot – I will not follow your laws, I will never restrain my actions based on threat of punishment, and will act as I see correct. I will not, cannot, follow an unequal system, for I have no betters, nor do you. To submit before a legal system based only on the fancies of the strongest powers around is folly – you place yourself their mercy. I may fare no better, but at least I will act for the right reasons, with the proper motives – mine.

Switching gears, 5th straight down to reverse at 80mph, and as my engine rips itself straight through the hood and skips across the highway, here’s something completely different:

January 19th 2008
Sitting in San Jose, Jake’s apartment. He has this fantastic window – overlooks the “main street” of town. Sitting in his living room, I overlook the whole world going about its business: moms with strollers, bums, old couples still in love, shoppers, eaters, friends, lovers commingle and pass through each others lives. Unbeknownst to them, I’m sitting a story above their heads, studying their movements. I try in earnest to expand our brief time together into a coherent view of the whole person – to know someone I’ll never meet or interact with – no small order. It’s silly, pointless, but it keeps me entertained. Maybe I’ll learn how to deal with people if I can see how they deal with each other.

Who is that girl? Mid-20s, dressed in black, with a tired face and a giant purse. She’s hurrying somewhere, eyes forward, face never turning to see the world she’s rushing through. I hope she’s happy – I pity her, perhaps underservedly – for missing life.

The man in the white Taurus needs to replace his brake pads – a lot of these drivers do – but his are especially terrible. I hear bare metal on rotor, and his brakes will rip themselves apart soon. How can he not hear that?

The girl with crutches exerts herself to keep up with her friends who walk too fast, heads together, animated. They don’t seem to notice her struggling. She’s frustrated at them, I can see it in her body language, but holds her tongue. A good friend, or just unwilling to speak out?

Parents with five kids – too busy to give any of them the time they need – I could never do that my children, or the next generation, or the planet for that matter.

So many passersby, cars, buses, traffic! The world is alive, dripping activity, energy abounds. Yet it is so compartmentalized, so isolated. Each acts as part of the whole, yet seems ignorant of her neighbors. And who am I to judge, hiding up here in a window? Seriously, hypocrite much? I ought to just -whoa

Angry bitch just came close to ramming a woman parking her car. “Stupid cunt!” she screams out the passenger window as she swerves unnecessarily and lays on her horn. So ignorant, so unaware of her surroundings or her own idiocy – there isn’t much hope for her in life – she’s dead already. Oops, “she” turns out to be an effeminate man with a ponytail and a shrill voice. Maybe he’s just bitter at the world?

A young boy, five perhaps, looks up at me from the car’s back seat. We share a smile – he’s the first to see me. People don’t grow up, just grow more closed, less creative, less tolerant, meaner. Most people die long before their final breath – I must remember to resist this process with my every atom – to never be a responsible, respectable adult. If I ever reach that point, it’ll be all over, and I’ll be another walking corpse.

This is life – freeform, creative, disorganized beyond the immediate moment. Each ought seek to do best in the instant, leave future to the dreamers, to be found out as it occurs, and past to historians, to be organized and studied until the meaning crawls behind the desk and out the back door to be lost forever. As one who thrives on chaos, it is intoxicating, but terribly sad. Life is meant to end, both on the individual and macro levels – We don’t look ahead to avoid disaster but to obsess on possibilities, don’t focus on the moment and miss life, dwell on immutable past. We plunge headlong into disaster, repeating the same mistakes, not daring to act as we desire. What an awful way to live – I must try my best to avoid it.

Beautiful girl in a brand new car, parking across the street. She’s digging through the piles of garbage on her passenger seat for what? A bag? No, a card – she seems like the less-than-organized sort. Disappearing into Starbucks along with my interest in her.

Bicycles everywhere. Another kid notices me. Time to hit the road, get out of this spectator role and live.

Full disclosure: I rewrote a hell of a lot of that piece – it was disorganized, scribbled, stream-of-crap, and I think it’s better this way. Couldn’t help but to change the mood of it though – much stronger, or ruined forever? Doesn’t matter, it’s done.

Here’s another entry that evolved into it’s own story:

February 1st 2009
Dad and I are driving to SLO to get Kenny out of jail. I guess he attacked his roommate, wrecked up their house, threatened people with a knife, and ran from the cops. What a shitshow. More details to come, but this isn’t exactly a surprise.

I still don’t have all the details – only he does, and he’s not talking.

A Love Letter to Dick Cheney:
FUCK YOU Dick! Go get waterboarded you sick torture-loving hypocritical rendition-masturbating fuckhead shitforbrains liar! May you die of rectal cancer while paralyzed and without painkillers, while an endless stream of your innocent victims spit, piss, shit, and vomit on you! May your name forever be synonymous with pathological lying and pure evil. “Dick Cheney” the idiot manipulator whose crimes against humanity leave him beyond redemption forevermore.

Curse you Dick – fuck you, dental-floss style – in the mouth and out the ass – with rusty barbed wire. How many children have you murdered today? And how much did Halliburton’s stock rise for it? Die slowly, burning, just so we can save you moments before death, painfully rehabilitate you, then feed you feet-first through a wood chipper! Fuck yourself just like you fucked over the human race!

I’ve made my point – now go die alone and unloved. You’re a traitor to your species.

I stand by it.

Toward the end, acceptance started to set in, mercifully.

February 5th 2009
I’m really happy where I am in my life today, which is funny because my life couldn’t be more shattered and falling apart. I just hope it calms down before I go into my darkness.

Plus, I had a distraction – someone I care deeply about was in worse straits then me, and my attention turned to helping him rather then myself.

February 12th 2008 no 2009
That’s the first time I’ve written the wrong year in ’09, probably because I’m nervous and my mind is elsewhere. I’m in the waiting room of Kenny’s shrink, waiting to be called in to talk with the both of them.

What worries me most is his reaction to what I’m about to tell her – how he’s not sleeping except during the day, playing too much video poker, not living, just barely surviving. His running away, threats of self-violence, short temper and shorter attention span. His claims that we “don’t understand” and that he doesn’t care about anything – how he can’t. If he only knew! I can’t save him, but maybe I can show him he’s not alone…

I’m going to show her the video of him from the night he was arrested – if anything will convince her he needs help this will be it. More later, I’m being called in – here goes nothing!

There went nothing – she wouldn’t view the video, refused to, and just put him on drugs. He and I never got to the level necessary for him to trust me, to believe that I did feel the same, and in the end I left with the situation unresolved. It still pulls on me – if I go back to the states anytime, this will be the reason more then anything else.

That’s the end of my writing before Honduras – I was too busy, too frantic, too scattered, and too wild to add anything else. Once I got in country I used a brand-new notebook (which I no longer have) to record my thoughts, and wrote out the Peace Corps Diary series of stories on my website. If you’re interested in those, just start with February 2008 and go from there.

In the meanwhile, my life got a whole lot better – I was happy, busy, had purpose. Occasionally I had pangs of longing, and in those moments I wrote, but by-and-large I found myself unable to do anything with poetry, with music, with anything truly creative. It was as if my sadness lifted at the price of my art, and for a while I despaired about ever finding it again – if sorry was my muse, did I even want to be an artist? Here’s one of the few exceptions from my early months in the Peace Corps:

February 27th 2009
Hey babe, don’t you cry.
Take a breath and dry your eyes
Things are sure to turn out right some-day
Feelings come and feelings go
melt away like fallen snow,
the world spins on and winter turns to spring.
Looking back you’re gonna laugh,
don’t take your toaster in the bath,
Bad memories will fade away with time.
Remember that we were in love,
forget the bad times just because,
There’s nothing you can do about them now.
So go outside – hold your head high,
Today’s the day that you might die,
Don’t be sad on your last day alive.
There’s nothing left for us to say,
I still love you, to this day,
And if you feel the same we’ll meet again.

I find it only mildly hilarious that the day I wrote this, we had a presentation with Trudy Jaycox, the country director of Peace Corps Honduras. The topic? Discipline and rule violations. Yeah – wrote a love poem while the lady who kicked me out of the program was lecturing us on how she kept a tight ship, and rulebreakers would not be tolerated. You know, I think one of us had the wrong priorities!

From here, the entries are scattered, irregular. Here’s the next:

April 6th 2009
Holy shit – has it really been a month and a half since I’ve written anything in here? Scary and sad both. My angsty self is slumbering, but with him seems to have gone my ability to write poems or songs. Also, I think I’m out of love with L – I still love her, but the distance and outright rejection has killed my desire to write about that subject.

Still, I have my blog, huge group emails, and a ton of journal entries. I guess that’ll have to tide me over for now.

“And we sat there, your head on my shoulder, talked, cried, and together got over each other. By the time we climbed out of my car, one last longing kiss was all that remained of the years of passion, love, betrayal, and heartbreak. As I sat and watched you drive away, I knew what it felt like to fall out of love.”

If I wrote a book about her and I, those would be the final lines.

I like this one too:

June 15th 2009
It’s crazy – I just read through this whole journal, and what really strikes me is how well it captures who I was in the intermission between college and Peace Corps – I can’t even write this way any longer, because I’m so different now, in worldview somewhat, but in happiness especially. I’m too happy to write poetry like this, and I have an interesting life, so now the politics, religion, and whatnot are further from my focus. I wish I could have it back without feeling so low, but what would I write about? It is a mystery.

What I will do though is put some of these up on the blog – worth seeing if anyone likes them, I guess.

Hey, I got around to it! Only 6 ½ months late…

After that, there’s a gap in this journal for months – the entire Casa Kiwi fiasco, hitchhiking Central America with Sjoerd, Chasing Veronique, and my epiphany of discovering my own happiness pass by completely unnoticed, because all of my writing from that period is in another one, the “Peace Corps Diary” volume. Man, I can’t believe I’m giving away all of the working titles – where’s the surprise going to be once I actually get around to finishing these stories? Nowhere, that’s where. A pity, but I guess it’s your loss anyway – I already know what happened!

Anyway, here’s some self-reflection, or what passes for it in this crazy life. Chronologically, it’s a few days after I wrote my “Ode to Sonati” and “I’m happy” blog posts and just before my “Beautiful Dream” – a day on the road, especially one right after some amazing experiences, will often drive me to write dozens of pages, poems, stories, and this was no exception. I mean, you try and cross 3 countries by public bus and hitch without music or a friend – aside staring out the window or making friends, what else can I do?

I love writing on buses, if only because I can’t help but to connect with my fellow humans on them – hitching you can avoid it, but on buses humanity tides over you, the sounds, smells, uncomfortable seats, yelling food vendors, curious staring children, and 100 or more people slammed into a ramshackle US school bus, painted wild colors and hooked up with a bumpin’ sound system – just don’t take those fucking directos, or you’ll miss the whole experience. How could bad 80’s movies or barely functional AC make up for the lack of 3-people-to-a-seat, traveling evangelists, and reggaeton? It can’t, that’s the honest truth of it!

October 23rd 2009
Here’s the scene – It’s Friday afternoon, 3pm or so, and I’m sitting on a bus headed to Guatemala City, off to start a new job in a new city, a new state too. (State as in nation-state, since this place is pretty tiny.) I don’t even really know what I’ll be doing there, except that it will have something to do with guiding or working for a guide company or just anything, so long as I can get paid and eating I’m happy. I just finished writing my whole other journal front-to-back, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing in this one – rather leave it pristine, a monument to the lonely heartbroken lost soul I was. The new, centered, happy me doesn’t belong. Still, I might as well writing in here, being as it is full of paper and I have no other.

Anyway, I was – fuck that pen, I write in blue now – anyway I was reading the previous entries and found it quite curious that in the last one – 6/15, the day before the Casa Kiwi disaster, that I mentioned how I could no longer write poetry, songs, that I was happy and thus had no subject matter. “I wish I could have it back without feeling so down,” I wrote – well, a glance at my other notebook, especially the newer stuff, should show that I’ve accomplished that goal. I’ve my poetry back, songs play out in my head, and I’m neither morose nor melancholy. In the past months I’ve touched upon my inner muse – not L for once! – and I’m learning how to – holy shit, lady across from me has a pair to cause whiplash – I’m learning how to channel emotion – to use it without being consumed. Does this mean I’m developing as an artist? I can only hope so.

I just looked at myself, and I serious resemble a homeless person – shit (cow) all over my pants, tears and holes everywhere, hand-me-down boots, paint covered and speckled with mud, blood, and something as yet unknown. I washed my hair for the week yesterday, shaved for the first time in days. I think this is day 5 or 6 in the same clothes, and they’ve just gotten dirty enough to be comfortable again. Bracelets adorn my wrists – no watch to be seen – cuts and bruises, a cracked fingernail, a wicked slice out of my left pointer, innumerable cuts and bruises – the evidence of a life well-lived. Oh, and the matching bright yellow handkerchief and shoe laces to round out the picture – I look like I feel – a ramblin’ man, well-traveled, a patchwork of places, styles, ideas – a work in progress, yet constantly here – Each instant can be frozen, taken alone, judged, graded, conclusions may be drawn – yet the whole is in flux – the me of today won’t be here tomorrow, tomorrow’s me will pop into being as he is needed.

Chance, adaptation, evolution – these things I feel occurring on a constant basis – I am improving as I learn what works, adapt, experiment. There is no failure, only different conclusions then those desired, and these we learn most from. Today I learned not to cross the Guate-Hondu border at Aguas Calientes on a Friday afternoon if you don’t want to pay a $10 cab fare. Yesterday I learned that exposure to insanely loud marimba at close range leads to audio-visual hallucinations, nausea, cold sweats, and a day-long headache. Some lessons are more useful then others. Another look at that woman – they’re just exploding out of her shirt, it’s not even fair…

There’s this too:

¡Oy gringo! ¡Hey chele! ¡Amigo! ¡Senor!
Se vende helotes, naranjas, gaseosas mi amor.
¡Comprela, barrato, rapido, aqui!
Tengo lo que necesitas – ¡precios mejores!
Up and down the bus aisles,
pushing in through the windows
Ey gringo, Ey chele, regalame un peso.
Tengo hambre, estas rico –
¿Por qué no me ayudas?
Dios te mira – en frente El sos.
The madness of begging, the old women selling –
products shoved in my face, down my throat.
How can I tell them –
and make them believe –
I’d give them all something
if only I had it?
“I’m not rich!” the mind screams –
No soy tonto gringo, ni rico estoy.
Mis bolsas vacios, como siempre, como suyas.
I bite my tongue, smile,
“No gracias,” my mantra.
The sad truth, la verdad,
mi situación no comparable a sus
and even if it was I’m still white
and white people must be rich
We’ve fucked this whole world –
where’s the dough?

Áéíóú ñ¿¡ – This was one attempt to make sense of the strange world inside buses – Sjoerd once said it was like the whole supermarket comes through during a long enough ride, and there’s something to that – the long lines of salespeople, the suave man selling miracle crème, vitamin injections, or toothbrushes, the preachers, the beggars. I remember one guy, who had what I thought was the best sales pitch of all – he just blew godawful racket from his harmonica as he moved from row to row, hand outstretched, and absolutely refused to move on until you handed him something – I think he got money out of damn-near 100% of the bus, but I gave him a book of matches.

In addition, it’s another step in my path toward writing in another language, which is, I think a whole hell of a lot more difficult then speaking in it. The sad truth is that I would write a whole hell of a lot more in Spanish if the accent-work wasn’t so damn tedious – alt-key combinations that change in every program, copy-pasting punctuation marks, and sometimes I just can’t bring myself to care – the Christmas letter for example, tells everyone to have a happy new anus, just because I couldn’t be bothered to make Gmail work for me. My bad.

I lose a lot of work just because of the timing – the perfect rhyme comes to me as I’m washing my ass, but by the time I’m dry enough to write it down, the whole thing has collapsed into the garbage pit, and I’m stuck wondering at how it could stink so badly.

October 27th 2009
I had a great poem in my head yesterday in the shower, but I wiped it clean out of my mind as I toweled off. It happens often enough that I want to scream – Fucking Remember! – but truth is, art is ephemeral, exists only for long as it is valid, as long as it ought. At times this makes it private, slipping away before it can be shared. Try as I might to hold on to the words, they break free and scatter, out the back door, under the bed – I scrambled after them, to no avail – I’m left holding the empty bag of my once beautiful thoughts and wondering what could have been . Afterwards, I beat myself up – what did it mean? What was I trying to say? And what – of all things – could have come out of my brain? I’ve thought too much, wracked my brain without avail, but today I went a different way. What if these aborted ideas exist to show me my potential, too urge me onward to greater things? I’ll treat them as such, even if it isn’t correct.

I still wish I didn’t forget so many ideas – the waste is staggering! Any time I’m not close to pen and paper, that I can’t drop everything and jot down something, I can do little except watch as the prose and rhymes and stories float through my mind and leap gleefully out of it, doing little backflips off the high-dive, and are lost into the great pool of nothingness. I think I’ll put a whiteboard in the shower, at least.

October 27th 2009
The body breaks down as it dies – cells slowly dissolve, systems stutter, choke, the engine grinds to a halt on accumulated debris, and the cleaners are too tired to care. In the end it isn’t violent, sudden death that sweeps over the majority of us, but a gradual weakening and decay – in short, a lack of maintenance of the aging machinery.

The body is a system of systems – complex in the utmost, composed of trillions of individuals, each aware only of what it needs to know to perform its small role. The similarities between the living individual and the living society are striking, and the two break down in much the same ways. As a society ages, the maintenance piles, the debts mount, inertia sets in. Some portions of society harden like arteries, impede passage of fresh blood, defy needed change. Without the ability to see beyond one’s individual needs – and don’t fool yourself – no one, no president, no prime minister, congress, parliament, king, has the whole picture or can act in the good of all – we protect us and ours. All societies, all individuals, must die unless they can replace worn parts, revitalize, renew needed resources. Death is not bad but simply necessary – the flip side of the coin of life – inseparable and necessarily so. Just as a society of immortals must run into severe problems of resource overuse, population overflow and extreme crowding – all necessitating totalitarian control individual freedom, so does a permanently stable society tend toward centralization, stagnation, striation, and the crushing of all that is different or new. Stability blocks development at least as much as it protects us.

Societies must die, like great rainforest trees, so that fledgling societies and cultures may spring from the undergrowth and add their own contributions to the web of life. We ought not mourn their passing, but celebrate their greatest contributions – which, one might note, often come early in their histories, before they have solidified under cultural or political pressure. In order to preserve liberty and further human and social evolution, the existing order must be fall – torn down if need be. That which follows will be better or worse, but we may be assured that at least in the beginning it will be different, chaotic, and from it will spring new ideas, inventions, poems, art, dreams, new people, new realities. Nothing in the universe is permanent, nor ought it be. Change is life is change.

And stagnation is death. I guess I’d better get moving.

This next one is for Tina’s dog Coyote, who died of some injury sustained while I was away – a friend passing though Antigua gave me the news, and since this dog was so sweet, so loving, I just had to write a bad poem about it.

November 5th 2009
Coyote is dying,
or dead perhaps –
I just heard the news
and wish I could do
Anything
except sit
and write
how much I wish
I could do
Anything
to help.

Losing a dog
like losing a friend
sometimes worse –
you always imagine
as a child
a best friend who listens
and loves
but never judges
and is always around.
That’s a dog,
and Coyote was one of the best.

Not exactly sure what
but something bad happened
to a big lover dog
and now I can’t sleep at night.

November 6th 2009
If the drunken stumble was an Olympic event, I’d medal for sure. Had a couple in a row lately, and I’m starting to realize every street is identical when you’re here in the middle of the night.

Yet another group of people compared me to the guy from Into the Wild but they’ve pegged me wrong – I’m a different beast. I don’t reject society, I reject your society. The western world, capitalism, consumers braindead and programmed, the stale odor in the gasping maw as it slowly chokes out and dies. I welcome its death, I work toward it actively. My gift to the world will not be the story of a life lived fully in line with nature. No, instead my story, my gift, will be to throw myself so hard at life that others will be unable to do anything except join me. I refuse to be an example – I won’t show you how to be happy or how to live – that you must find on your own – if you wish to join me however, I’ll gladly share.

The 6th was a writing day – I forget why – but there are pages and pages, political, angry, questioning, fierce. Some in Spanish, some in English, but I’m worried that this massive post is going toward the irrevocably dull. I highly encourage skipping sections you’re not interested in, taking what you want, discarding what you do not, and adding to all of it what is uniquely your own.

Later:
It’s impossible not to participate in their system here in Antigua. Just as impossible as at home, sadly, but the means are different. First, it’s impossible to buy anything, not in the smallest shop, that hasn’t been labeled, packaged, juiced with corn chemicals, and then examined, primped, pinched, tucked by the soulless shitsuckers in marketing until there is no resemblance between food and whatever the hell We’re eating. It all screams corporate domestication to me, whispers softly on the peace, love, understanding, happiness, sex appeal I can purchase at the low low price of – well, I don’t know, because I’m not buying.

There isn’t the money anyhow, but I’m not buying as much as I can get away with. Still – I’m buying because I have to. I’m st- fuck, I just got up because I’ve been craving something, anything, a cigarette, and bought a pack of gum made by an American multinational corporation – one of those immortals. Sure, it helps me quit smoking, but I feel like – Am! – a twat to have it. I should have just stolen it – at least that’s still pure. Still, I’ve almost cut consumption aside from the most basic of things, and still I consume too much! Food or cheap substitutes, water, coffee, tea, alcohol, marijuana, the occasional cigarette I bum, condoms, gum, Canada Dry snuck from the bar, soap, shaving cream, razors, detergent, electricity, Austrian vagina – that’s about all I consume these days. Oh wait – Ink, paper, plastic, metals are in my writing supplies, the packaging, chemicals, the list goes on forever. Point is it’s impossible not to consume their products and live here, because they own everything, make everything, and short of stealing it, I can’t get what I need to survive without buying.

Granted, I’ve cut down a lot – don’t even want new things, give away those I do carry, but try as I like I’m still stuck in their world, and getting out isn’t any more likely here then there. If I want to escape their fucked up system, the one that necessitates poverty, begging, makes no one happy, and consumes us all and our planet too, I’m going to have to blow a fat motherfucker of a hole in the walled garden, or we’ll never taste free air. Now I just look for how, and who, and where. The what and why I’ve got. -k

Last note for the moment – why is it that I’ve had better luck with women since I started to drop out and go my own way? Am I more attractive somehow, or am I just fulfilling their mysterious bad boy fantasies? How can I be sure to find a similar soul?

There’s a problem with words – with communication in general – that makes it all but impossible to pass feelings and thoughts from one to another. Words are so imprecise, have such subjective meanings, and signify different things to us all. Take “Love” for example: it can be used to express so many things, to pass so many thoughts into the world – “I love that new hat!” “Like oh my gawd, didn’t you just loooove the new Twilight movie?!” “I love it when you do that trick with your tongue.” “I love you.” “We’re in love.” and on and on it goes. How can I possibly communicate my meanings using these words? How can I communicate at all without them?

I wrote briefly before about how touch communicates so much better then voice, how the shiver under your lover’s fingertips tells her so much more then a mailbag of poetry and sonnets, how the smell of another person tells a life story, how the taste of a kiss beats a lifetime of writing love stories. Writing, speaking, words have no chance to express the same level of truth. Still I try, with imperfect words, because there isn’t a way to kiss the whole world, because there are plenty of people who I can’t tell how much I love them with my hands (and really, think of the lawsuits!). For people far removed, writing is perhaps the purest medium to share thoughts – more measured, accurate, then speaking – it takes a lot of work to write, and with more effort comes better, truer communication.

Sometimes I write in Spanish just for the difficulty of it – when I can’t find the right word, when I don’t even know how to say what I want, the struggle makes the product all the purer. Here’s the same sort of anarchist, anti-globalist sentiment as above, but in a language that still trips me up quite a bit.

Los colores son tan brillantes como los que son adentro tu corazon. Los exudes cuando haces las cosas que autenticamente reflexionan tu amor por la vida. Si no tienes este amor, o no trabajas para tu felicidad como la meta mas importante del universo, los colores se irán y con esos irá la punta vivir. Siempre haga que necesitas estar feliz, pero pienses siempre en si tus acciones, valores y piensas son de acuerdo.

Si no, cambie algo, porque sea mejor vivir un dia con paz internal que vivir 100 años en desacuerdo con tu espiritu. Recuerdes siempre – la vida es de tiempo limitado. Cada segunda peciosa, cada momento un regalo. No la bota en frente del televisor, ni trabajos que odias – la poder cambiar tu vida y tu mundo nunca esta más lejos que la distancia entre tus manos y tu corazon. Nadie conoce, nadie, cuales son las cosas mejor para ti mejor que tu. No politico, ni profesor, padre, puta, or pariente sabe como hacerte feliz – descubrir ese es concerte al mismo.

I wanted to write character pieces about each of the members of Cafe Te Quiero, but ran out of time when I was run out of my house. The only one I even started was Makanaki, our Rasta chef. Here’s that:

Makanaki the cook is my favorite character in this wild business venture of ours. A Belizean Rastafarian, a devout vegetarian, with a history of crack addiction, homelessness, and the teeth to prove it. From his leathery black hands to his eclectic wardrobe all the way up to the magenta-red-purple knit cap he eternally wears over long black dreads, Makanaki is one of the more fascinating individuals I’ve ever met. He’s a genius in the kitchen, no movements wasted, total concentration and focus. There’s a rhythm to his every motion, and the songs he plays in our cramped kitchen never fail to be delicious. He doesn’t speak it, but reads his French cookbook and pulls off some incredible creations, and on top of that, he knows where to find or buy anything in the town market.

Yet despite this encyclopedic knowledge of the city and command of the culinary arts, the overwhelming impression one gets from Makanaki is one of complete chaos. The guy jabbers on about anything under the sun in English, Spanish, Creole, Patwah, and it feels like our conversations work better when I start reacting based on his emotions rather then wording. Put another way, it’s like listening to a conversation already finished, and then just finding your part in it, because when he asks a question, you’d better give him the response he wants, or he’ll just repeat the last 30 seconds’ conversation over again until you do. He talks himself through every action, step by step instructions to life. We play the same album – Bob Marley’ Bob Marley – every day until six, when Tops turns on the main stereo and plays Bob Marley and Groundation songs until some customer wrestles control away. Makanaki preaches me the faith of reggae, love, Jah, and ganja – Jah’s gift to man, proof that he loves us.

“Its tru mon, padnah, dis is holy mon,” he pauses to puff, “You smoke – oh, so good! – jis a liddle mon, jus a liddle, poquito, a liddle. Too much joo go crazy, loco! Tops man, he crazy that loco, sitting ova der, wooo, wow loco! HAHAHAHAHAHAhahaha…” And then, suddenly pensive, he’ll turn back to the stove, and check bubbling dishes, stir one, and then “You know, Bob Marley, the musica?”
“Yeah man, of course.” I respond the same every time.
“You know das about Jah, right? About givin’ tanks tah Jah, you know?”
“Ya mon,” I say.
“So good, so good.”
“So good padnah.”
We make a good team.

One of my favorite things about Makanaki is his guitar – it is in some way a metaphor for the man. He found it in a dumpster, salvaged what he could, built his own parts out of scrap plywood, metal, and part of what I think is the surface from an old linoleum countertop. He’s loved her to death and it shows – parts of the body and fretboard are worn white from countless passes of finger and hand, while others are stained black with sweat, dirt, tears, and cigarette smoke. The strings, of which there are five, are constantly out of tune, and the effect of all this excess love is an instrument that might collapse if you looked at it too hard.

When Makanaki plays, it’s almost an affront to music – like hitting convention in the face with his dick, he does everything his own way, twanging and strumming, playing all over the place, no melody just plain feeling. Over this sound riot he sings reggae lyrics of his own devise, praising Jah, Jesus, “Oh Jesus Jesus, thank you lawd, o dank you Jesus Christ mah brutha lawd!” and praying for universal brotherhood. He’s chaos through and through, but I like listening to him play. It’s not a popular position. Maybe I’m just crazy enough myself to appreciate his work? That seems possible.

Anyway, the mystery of Makanaki, the reason I need to stick around and study the man lies in his ability to know – well – all of the hot young alternative girls. The man has some crazy Rasta magic that makes him well-loved by all and if I’m going to be stuck in 40 square feet with him for so long, I might as well learn a bit.

Looking back at it, I think his “secret” was just to be completely authentic – in every fiber of his body, Makanaki is truthfully and honestly himself. The sort of power that comes from that inner peace can be turned to whatever means you want, and if you’re into befriending young impressionable tourists, well, that can work out quite nicely. Makanaki – I miss you padnah – I hope we cross paths again. Also:

It’s amazing the way the threads of our lives connect. I’m drawn repeatedly back to new/boys’ house from here in my cramped Antigua kitchen, the dimensions and shape, the chaos and willful disrepair – it’s so weird to feel these small tugs when you least expect it.

I felt like a black and white movie stereotype one day:

November 11th 2009
I slept right through the celebratory minute of Armistice Day, which I think is the best way I could honor the end of pointless war – by getting a good night’s sleep.

Now I sit here at a small, smoky comedor, a just-killed plate of pollo asado off my right elbow, an empty glass coke bottle in front of me, and a standoff between two feelings – satisfaction and resentment – in the pit of my stomach. Really, I feel a bit like a character at this point leather jacket and shades sitting under 1950’s ceiling fans spinning gamely, soft static Spanish on the radio, looking out into the cobblestone and red tile of Antigua as two old women cook chicken and steak on a charcoal burner in the doorway and dry dishes with old rags. “Just rolled into town,” my character would drawl, “might stick around a while, might take off tomorrow. Only God and the Devil know, and I’m not even sure about them.” Then he’d relax, lean back in his chair, and flash a grin at the sheer insanity of it all. Sadly, the real me would have to translate that, and besides losing a lot of the impact, I think the God-Devil-I-don’t-know bit might not go over so well in Catholictopia. Anyway, the women are chatting in low quick Spanish, and the only other customer is deep into his own plate. I don’t blame him – it was delicious. Point being – the main difference between myself and the protagonist in a novel is that I don’t have the luck or skill to make every witticism stick when needed. Interesting idea though.

Back to that coke, now cleared from my table – it still bothers me, and I’d like to work out why. I know why I don’t like it – no mystery there. Big corporation with a history of worker, human abuse, murder, exploitation, greed, destructive behavior of all sorts, just to push a sugary bottle of sweet and health problems – no Sherlock Holmes needed to see why they’re on my shit list. Worse, they’re so fucking good at it! Everywhere I go, Coca-Cola has already been, “civilizing” the unwashed masses through diabetes, obesity, and tooth decay – the tip of the iceberg. Worse still, they’re omni-present in Central America, having displaced any local companies that might dare to compete – if there is a town of 50 people, and one of them runs a store out of her house, dollars to dogshit it’ll have a case of Coke.

Still, the reason why I’m really angry right now isn’t even for all of that. No, I’m pissed off at myself, because I took a bottle of this bullshit out of a freezer 30 minutes ago, opened it, drank it, and you know what? I fucking LIKED it! What the fuck! How can that even be? How can I, knowing all that I do, feeling as I feel about this world-destroying conglomerate nightmare? How can my I react as I do, with all those chemicals, corn products, and artificial preservatives, flavorants, caramel color?! How can my body enjoy this swill? How can I be so weak as to let my body make those choices for me? And what sort of weak-hearted, dull-minded bastard am I? An anarchist, a freedom-lover shouldn’t be this much of a hypocrite, so I guess it’s pretty obvious I have a long way to go. I’m so pissed at myself for this self-destructive behavior. Be it pot, cigarettes, booze, women, Coca-fucking-Cola, the internet, or video games, WHY do I waste my time on distractions when I have so much more to offer the world, and it me?

I don’t like having to ask that, but truly, it needs asking. I don’t have the answers to anything, but I know the method to find out, and I owe it to all of us to spread what little I can. Instead, I’m pursuing the long slow death, which isn’t a cause worth spitting on. I’m cutting as much of this shit as I can, starting now. I won’t be the slave of any man, and I sure as hell won’t let myself be controlled by my own base instincts either. To change the world, looks like I’ll be changing myself first.

So far, so good. It’s still a long road though – desires are strong, and we all need an outlet – I guess I’ll just channel mine toward the things I like best, the travel, women, adventuring side, and drop the booze and cigarettes and mindless entertainment. Drugs – the good ones – I’ll keep, on the once-in-a-while side of things, or maybe drop them too after I can get past drinking and smoking. Those are the tough ones, really. What social situation have you been in lately where people are sober? Not a whole lot where I am.

This poem I wrote lying awake in bed, more or less as it played out.

November 12th 2009 – Past and Future
I’ve a joy in my misgivings
and misgivings to my joy.
The life I live’s worth living,
but life is not a toy.
What’s the point to my existence?
Am I only out to play?
Is there a better route to happiness
then the one I’m on today?

As I lie awake here wondering
Why, and What, I think of you –
our midnight talks,
hopes dreams and fears
you always helped me through.
I’ve never had that since
you know – that honest, or that raw.
Too intense you called me then,
I was and forever am.
In secret, I think that’s what you liked.
Doesn’t matter – Earth turns –
we revolve past horizons and sight.
The memories fade with the distance,
and that brings me back to tonight.

Once in my life I could call you,
we just don’t work like that
any longer.
Any longer.
Any longer and I’ll lose my mind –
I’m reaching for the phone.
But wait! A body stirs next to mine,
pulls me back –
from old longings to the present moment.
Her soft warm hand
takes mine, pulls close
and I’m torn –
caught between a love that I’ve felt
most my life,
and the chance
of the one I’m now discovering.

I’ll lie awake a while still.

I don’t care what anyone else says, that’s among the truest things I’ve ever written. General rule – if it hurts to read, brings the moment back into sharp relief, burrows right into my core, then I’ve done a good job, and this one does all of that.

I found my notes from being on LSD – they’re sufficiently insane to post here unedited, so all the spelling and whatnot is probably intentional, and if not, how the hell would you know the difference?

November 12th 2009
I’m on LSD, and just this morning I made a drug-free pledge – “the whole weekend,” I said, “I won’t touch a drop, or a puff, or a toke,” and here I am, a tab of acid into what might be one hell of a night. So far, I don’t know how to describe the feeling – It’s sort of like my body is vibrating, and I can feel every string of the whole glorious orchestra flowing through my veins, rolling out in waves of shimmering energy from my mouth and eyes. I bite my lip and feel a joy so deep, electric I can only sigh at the sheer ecstasy of it. It’s a subtle drug, but pervades every nook, every small recess of my brain and body – it’s easy to function normally but impossible to feel normal. My mouth is full of cotton, my words come out on cushions, and all through I vibrate bounce along the strings of existence and very reality, spiraling downward through the drainpipes of the universe, clattering merrily along to the rhythms of a whole underground orchestra, one I neither heard before nor even knew existed until just.this.moment as I put pen to page. It burst forth into reality, flaming wings and noises of — fuck it, don’t know where that was going.

It’s as if the LSD itself is in control of the pen and all I can do is watch the words appear and try to remember to breathe. And bite my lip – that seems significant right now, more then a lot of other things. Clearly I miss L – that’s been bubbling up through my consciousness all day, but perhaps now, with this strange rush flowing through me I’ll get to the bottom of it. ½ hit left, and we’ve hours of fun to go ahead. I’m quivering – all nervous energy and who knows what else – raw potential! – we’ll see how it goes.

A few hours later –
This has got to be the worst rolled joint I’ve ever smoked. Except the last one. Except the next one. And yet, I see an angel in the smoke, twirling, dancing skyward before me, disappearing toward smoky ceiling. Except for the last one. What’s the difference? It’s all one big smokestorm. Breeding inhalation mixes the cloud, swishes it like fine wine, spits back into the air as if to say “I’m through with you.” It mingles back, smoke to smoke, ashes to improbably long dangly ashes, dust to well – dust. Fuck that analogy anyhow – never liked it. Put that down in the record, then strike it from it forever. Smoke angels, that was my point. I see them dance away, but stretching after them is no use – they disintegrate and fall away before your outstretched hands, smoke and angels both – intangible, ephemeral – like dreams – like everything worth dreaming about.

Later again –
I can see why this was such a revelation when it first came about, because I can see the sublime in every living thing. God – to be first, to have been there, here, everywhere! To feel this for the first time, to fly – it’s all I can do to keep myself grounded now. I need to go find my laptop charger, some drinks, and to hide all the valuables. This is going to be one fuck of a night!

And still later –
“Ok guys, victory cigarettes then we’re out.”
“Yeah man, sorry we can’t stay with you longer, but you know, real life.”
“Love you guys too.”
“Goodnight buddy.”
“I’m out!”
Just like that – hang up the phone, click off the skype video chat, and we’re a million miles, a lifetime apart, and I miss them more then I did before we started.

Yeesh – I can see a few good thoughts, or partial good thoughts, in that mess, but it was just a stream-of-consciousness nightmare – still describes the whole experience pretty well, all music and vibration and a sense of universal oneness – the poor man’s religious experience. I can certainly see the appeal in it, but I could never shake the fakeness of it all – the chemical shows through the whole charade – it tastes, feels, is man-made, though unless you’d had some experience with natural hallucinogens that might not be so obvious. Still worth having done, but I doubt I’ll do it again soon – there are just too many better things to do with my life then to spend my time on false, empty enlightenment.

Here’s a few random notes, scribbles, and a half-assed attempt at explaining my moniker, since someone asked:

November 17th 2009
Ma-Ka-Na-Ki
Vi-Shal
K
Tops
Kar-La
She-Ny
Ki-ri-na
The Peo-ple of Te Qui-er-o

Undated:
I want to be a citizen of the universe, and so I will. I disdain nations for the same reason that I don’t divide species based on race, creed, belief, or any other group characteristic – because no individual can possibly be reduced to any of them. We fatally weaken ourselves by dividing like this – only through uniting all our individual threads into a great human tapestry can we hope to join the enlightened species of the universe. I am only one thread – I represent no other, and none can stand for me, yet I am of the same cloth as all others. That is why I am a citizen of this world – that is why I am Citizen K.

November 22nd 2009 – Recap
Last night in Antigua, and I’m sitting, thinking, smoking, and just trying to reflect on the past month of craziness – and what a crazy fucking month it has been! I’ve found an enjoyable life, house, a job I actually liked, friends, an honest to god home, and it all just fell into my lap. I even met a girl I liked, pursued a semi-normal relationship, pushed some sexual boundaries, had a blast. Then we had the live music, crazy characters, wild parties, too much pot and booze, a bit of LSD, and made a very gratifying and developmental time of it all. To bring it to a climax, Vish from Sonati shows up and puts a Columbian adventure into my head. Then collapse – the police evict us at riflepoint, and now I’m leaving to El Salvador and beyond with $0. Why can’t I live a calm, normal life? Because I choose not to!

It wasn’t my last day in Antigua – not by a long shot. I didn’t write it, but that night I managed to convince a whole group of tourists that there was no real difference between prostitution and the western concept of “dinner-and-a-movie” dating except that one was honest (and thus better) then the other. “Girls, have you ever gone on a date with someone you didn’t like because of the promise of free food and something paying attention to you for a while? Boys – have you ever taken a girl out less because you wanted her then because you heard that she was ‘easy’ and would sleep with you? Aren’t those both exchanges based around trading something for sex, attention, and human contact? What is prostitution except for a more honest version of the same?” Seriously – what is the difference, except that one supports a whole lot more industries, and thus creates demand for my products, then the other? I don’t particularly dislike prostitution anyhow, so it’s a moot point for me, but if you’re going to argue for the immorality of people selling their bodies, I’ll be right there to contest that they sell nothing more then any laborer, then any wage-slave. Just doing my part for chaos and shaking the box.

The next bunch of pages are drawings – unfortunately not something I can easily reproduce here. In lieu of the actual works, I’ll just say that they’re magical – life changing – and liable to bring any hardened art critic sobbing to her knees. The scribbles, the smudged ink, the uninspiring subject matter and artistic errors – just incredible. I’ve got a bright future scribbling pen and ink drawings on bus rides.

I was stuck in Antigua for a long time, so there’s a lot more short musings, arguments with myself, and then a burst of poetry that sprung up in the next few days.

November 28th 2009
Simple living and high thinking – do only what you need in life, understand every action taken, and constantly analyze and refine yourself and life. Keep your head in the clouds, but only so far as your feet can be placed on solid ground when need be.

En Español – La mujer estaba bajando los pasos cuando yo estaba subiendolos. Me muevo al lado permitirse pasar, pero paró directamente en frente yo. “Estás mal chico,” ella dijó, interrupcionando mis pensamientos, “¿Como?” contesté, confusado y inseguro que yo se habia escuchado correctamente. “Estás mal chico.” “¿Por qué?” “Porque haces malas cosas.” Miré en sus ojos y realizé que no fue una broma. “Pues, a veces hago cosas malas, pero las hago para razones buenas.” Torné y sigé subiendo.

In English – The woman was coming down the stairs as I was going up. I moved to one side to let her pass, but she stopped directly in front of me. “You’re a bad guy.” She said, interrupting my thoughts. “What?” I responded, confused and unsure I’d heard her correctly. “You’re a bad guy.” “Why?” “Because you do bad things.” I looked in her eyes and realized that it wasn’t a joke. “Well, at times I do bad things, but I do them for good reasons.” I turned and kept going up the stairs.

That actually happened – to this day I’m not sure why – the woman was one of the housekeepers, and I can only assume she was referring to my habit of smoking on the third story terrace at night. Still, sneaking cigarettes on a balcony doesn’t quite add up to a “bad person” in my book, so maybe she had me confused with someone else? Perhaps I wronged her in a past life – regardless, I think my answer was just about perfect.

We’re almost done – hold on tight – the emotional roller coaster takes a bit of a dip again.

November 28th 2009
There’s something I should have told you,
that last night;
before we kissed.
I wanted to tell you
I love you
and today you don’t even exist.

We stood on your steps –
our last moments together
flames to lips, huddled close
in the cold.
I knew what I wanted
to say to you then,
but my words found no voice –
I was scared.

All that we shared to that point
was so beautiful, true,
a charmed we had
without issue.
We knew from the onset,
that we would soon part,
ignored it but a part always knew.

When together we came
to that dreaded last call,
with our hands intertwined
eye-to-eye.
I tried, failed, to push the words out.
The storybook ending
sometimes turns out a lie –
all things fall apart in due time.

December 3rd 2009
I sit here at sunset, on this empty beach, and all I can think of is you. I don’t even know you, not sure who you are, but can’t stop myself thinking – it’s true. We met for a moment, were just crossing paths – it makes me miss you all the more. I’ve been alone now, for such a long time – I’m not even sure what is real. All that I now is this: You’re in my head, and I can’t shake the feelings inside.

If I could just have a second, I’d pull you in close, our lips would say what we both know – there’s something between us (I can’t call it love!) Connection is there all the same. But each day I sit here, you’re further away, and our time together grows dim.

As the sun’s light does fade, on this fast-spinning planet, you go places that I can’t chase. How can I catch you? Our lives aren’t the same! Perhaps it’s best just to let go. Crumple this note – throw it into the sea, and then I’ll have only my dreams.

December 4th 2009
The leap into the unknown is better than sex.

A stray dog, ankle deep in the warm Pacific, puts his nose down to the water for a closer sniff at the flame-orange tinted sea breeze rolling over me. A little boy, no more than six, walking down the beach swings a shoe over his head on a length of rope. The dog sees, startles into flight, water flicking from his paws glints in the reflected sun rays, blood red on purple orange, blue pastels. The waves, dark green, crash on steadily, the boy is called in by a mother or aunt to do some chore, and still the sun slides down down down, ever round, ever steady, ever narcotic – like the voices of audiobook readers.

Everything so crisp, clear, so like the Platonic ideal of a sunset – idea and reality both, the essence of all that is sunset. It’s idyllic, the fishermen bring in their boats, two small bobbing friends on their surfboards – you don’t have to make this stuff up for sappy romance novels. Just go out, find it, and do it. And write in a way true to yourself, not your reader. If she understands it, so much the better.

December 5th 2009
Another day, another gorgeous sunset, but this time we’re in a bus with terrible suspension on a shit road in beautiful rural El Salvador.

There’s a gap in here, during which I crossed Guatemala to do a wild, 150km hike through the gorgeous Peten jungle. It was drop-dead gorgeous, stunning in every sense of the world – one of the best experiences of this whole great adventure. That said, it deserves a whole story of its own, and I’ve gotten too deep into too many other writing projects to do it justice. All I can say is hold on tight – I’ll post it, along with about 25 other stories, once I get settled down in Columbia. In the meanwhile, here are the last bits of writing in this journal -that’s right, we’re actually reaching the end!

December 18th 2009
What happens to a people when their art has died? Expression of self and of culture buried beneath crass commercialism, branded McImages designed to sell sell sell shit that nobody needs. I see “artisan” markets stuffed to the rafters with cheap mass-produced knockoffs of a people, a society long strangled to death by the same money-ideologists who now produce these tourist-seeking manure missiles. It’s all fake, even if it is made by the descendants of now-crushed native peoples. Call it authentic faux-Maya, replica original Central America, it doesn’t change the cynical fakeness of it all. This Frankenstein’s art just fills a niche, offers rich tourists a way to bring some trinkets back home, prove that they were there, that they went and took pictures of the charade.

Clinging to a dead past isn’t the same as having your own art. Just look at the billboards clogging the sky, catching the eye, buy buy buy – I want to cry. Fences and houses, painted the same corporate hues, signs plastered on every bus, every bridge – this poor community was given a bridge by the same corporate raiders who make sure the residents will never earn a living wage. They draw the eye upward, keep the bus-riding gringos from seeing the reality, the shanty-towns tucked away, the barbed wire, the kids sniffing glue, the starving victims. After the Capitalist beast has devoured all that is saleable, ugly truth must be painted over with comfortable advertisements, so the tourists won’t get a bad taste in their mouths, won’t see that this is OUR art, won’t realize that this all the culture we can have if money is the highest value, the ultimate virtue.

Such perversity! Wealth becomes synonymous with goodness, intelligence – people become worth their monetary wealth! Such a cruel joke – as if the best or worst parts of life could ever have a dollar value! In the distance I hear the devil’s mocking laugh as we wait, pray for a savior, and carry HIM in our pockets, covet him, treasure him more than our own families or experiences. An entire species, blind with greed, captive to its own creation, tumbling willfully to our common demise – we’re not unwarned, it is no surprise – the message has been written clearly for so long that only our willing indifference, our lust for cheap tricks and shoddy toys, keeps us from throwing off the self-imposed chains. We are slaves all. We have no art, no culture. There is only money left.

“But we do have art, music, videos, games exploding out of every corner of the world! Surely that counts, doesn’t it?”
“That depends on how you look at art. To me, art is creating something that you want but cannot find in the world. To create more of the same – the same beats, the same styles, copycat works with money as the focus – that is not art. That’s just a job, and a perverse one at that. She who can stomach selling her creative forces for worthless paper is the one I pity most.”
“So what can we do to make our own art, if everything has already been done, if there is no originality left?”
“Originality isn’t possible – everything has already been done, was done long before the ‘first’ person tried it. He probably heard about it from his grandmother as a young child, and brought about a masterpiece inspired by a good friend, a lover, a mentor, a passerby. No, it isn’t originality I’m after, it’s authenticity – truth, both to myself and to the world around me. I think that if you can write, draw, paint, sculpt, create something that truly speaks from your innermost parts, then you will find that you speak for many others as well. That is art, as far as I am concerned.”
“But how can you say that that isn’t what all the other artists are doing? Aren’t you being arrogant to even suggest that others you don’t even know are being inauthentic.”
“Perhaps, but I’ve been called arrogant before, and I reject the word on the grounds that it just seeks to perpetuate a useless and harmful hierarchy – he made money off of his work and you don’t, so therefore he has been validated. No, that is horseshit, to put it mildly. How many people relate to a McDonald’s billboard? How many people find some part of themselves in the latest beer commercial, the newest clothing ad or internet banner? People, talented but weak of spirit, are drawn to advertising and marketing, because that is where they can gain the most money – and thus the most validation – from their gift. If you create something to sell it, that isn’t authentic – you’re trying to guess what people want, what people will buy. You must create without any regard for your audience, market value, or success – only then can you truly create art.”
“You’re a pompous jackass, you use too many words, swear just to get a rise out of people, and further, you’re a fucking parasite on society.”
“That might be the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.”

Here’s a note I wrote to Karina the day before I last saw her – I never had the courage to give it to her, but perversely, I’m completely comfortable posting it for the entire universe to read.  Go figure.

November 22nd 2009
Karina – I don’t know what I can say or do that will ever be enough to show how much you mean to me. These past few weeks have been some of the most incredible of my life, and the reason for that comes right back to you. This town has become tied to you in my mind, because without you I don’t think it would have been half as enjoyable, or half as memorable either.

Te Quiero, our rooftop, slow dancing, long walks – it has been as good as I could ask for, if too fast for my liking. Have an amazing trip, do everything you like, and don’t be sad for a moment – keep the good times in mind, and live for today. I’ll always be glad we had Antigua together. ¡Te Quiero! -k

And that would make this the last bit – my attempt to bring end to beginning, outro to intro, to paint the circle, the cycle of birth, life, death, rebirth that we must all undergo.

December 18th 2009 – Regression
I started this book painting god as a whore,
mankind finished the job for me
foot on throat,
pinned to floor.
Weak as she is,
from our species’ violation
the Earth cannot protest –
there is no retaliation.

But what is this now?
Her fever keeps rising –
with a body so ravaged
is that really surprising?
Mountains of waste,
the smoke darkens the sky,
rivers, oceans choked with garbage.
We all slowly die.

What a great cosmic irony,
universal cruel joke –
mankind now burns
in the fires we stoke.
We carry on pretending
to dominate nature –
seeming forget
how we can’t live without her.

We don’t value what matters,
deny our upbringing
ignore even now that
the pendulum is swinging.
Creation in one hand,
destruction in the other.
Dominance versus slavery
and in the middle lies mother.

It is she who sustains us,
but not for much longer –
our scales tip toward extinction,
but without us she’ll grow stronger.
A world without humans,
perhaps it ends thus –
not idea for our species,
but poetically just.

I’m really struggling with this – on the one hand in love with life, with the world I inhabit, on the other hand knowing that we are destroying this whole beautiful planet, and with it our very existence – the only we know to support complex lifeforms, the only “god” we’ve ever found, and we desecrate her body, rape her and leave her for dead. So then:

Back Cover:
Here then is the question I gamble with still – does man value more or the world that we kill? The first is a parasite, the other life’s fount, but our actions destroy the only home we’ve found out. For what do we do it? Rank money and fame. Lust for power beats existence in this insane human game.

When is it better to just let us go? Trade the one for the whole, and get on with the show. If humans persist, soon all life will die – the Earth left in ruins, with none left to cry. There must be a point, perhaps already passed, to put humans out to pasture, consign man to the past.

And if this is correct, what am I to do? Don’t fancy myself savior, can’t fit in those shoes. Perhaps just to wander, wonder, learn and teach is my fight – shake the box time to time, bring ugly truth to light. It’s a coward’s path maybe, but freedom is worth more then life – if they won’t change themselves, let them fall on that knife.

As for me I’ll keep learning, always do what I can, perhaps one day create something to redeem part of man.

Thank you for reading – if you made it this far, I applaud you – there’s a whole lot of crap between here and where we started, and the good bits aren’t exactly highlighted. For me, this was spiritual, the catharsis of laying myself bare, to be read, seen, judged, hated, loved, mocked, pitied. I don’t know what else to write, so I’ll leave you with a passage from Days of War, Nights of Love that struck me as particularly close to my own goal in life – so much so that I wrote it across the final page in my journal. So here’s that:

Days of War, Nights of Love
There’s no excuse to let even a fraction of our lives go by doing things we don’t love, or to let any of our talents and efforts serve to prop up a world order we oppose. Instead, let’s fight so hard, and live so hard that others inside the cages of mainstream life can see us and are inspired to join us in our complete rejection of the old world and all its bullshit. And let’s make our communities something greater then they are; let’s make them more open and more capable of offering life-support, so that others really will be able to join us.

The system we live under offers only losers’ games – so why play them? It’s up to us to create new games, more joyous and exciting than the old ones. Let’s not try to beat them at their games, but make them join in ours! You can’t change the system from the inside – the system is the problem.

If you want to come play, I’ll be out here waiting. I will say this – we have a whole hell of a lot more fun! Until the next time -k

What is a New Year?

January 1, 2010

What is a new year, anyway, but another day?

I know that everyone is has been getting excited about the whole New Year’s celebration, end of the decade, holy-shit-2009-sucked-eggs thing, but I just can’t get so worked up about it myself. It might be because I woke up this morning with some awesome stomach ailment, necessarily tying me to a toilet by a “oh god oh shit oh fuck runrunrunRUN!” 2 minute leash, or it might come down to my whole New Year’s plans falling into the toilet, but I think that it’s quite likely because people use New Years as an opportunity to start over fresh, to throw old emotional baggage in the back of the closet – a year’s end enema, if I must be so crude – and yes, yes I must! The difference is, I imagine, that I’ve been trying to use every day in much the same fashion as most people use Dec 31st – to get shitfaced and wake up the next morning with a clean slate. More seriously, I have been trying for months now to get better at getting over my own past – analyzing my mistakes, learning what I can from them, then tossing them to the wayside so that the next day may start off fresh.

It doesn’t always work, because there are of course necessary connections between yesterday and today. The reason I am here and not hanging out getting hammered with my friends in Los Angeles can be traced to a whole line of yesterdays and a pile of decisions, each running linear into the next. I cannot help but for some of my options, some of my opportunities to be constrained by what happened before. Still, I have choice – the freedom to do what I will of the options presented, and to live my life as I want within the constraints that exist. I could hang around, let emotional baggage drown me, mourn the loss of Peace Corps, friends, money, love, the bad decisions, the injuries real and imagined, and just sit paralyzed, but what good is it? What will that get me, what do I gain from focusing on what I cannot change? It’s a recipe for a sad life, lived poorly, and I refuse to take any part in it. Yes, I fucked up – quite a lot in fact – but I just can’t bring myself to waste energy caring about all that. I try to cut my emotional chains every day, and while the first time is so damn hard that it makes you dizzy and leaves you crying in a pile, it gets easier. Now, doing it so often, I feel liberated by the very act of consigning my past to crazy stories and the mental shitcan.

That said, it’s the last day of the darkest decade I’ve lived through – not for me, for everyone – from the United States’ turn to tyranny and warfare to my family’s personal struggle against demons, bureaucratic idiots, hormone imbalances, mental illness, disease, cancers, and what-have-you, to my friends and their fights for control of their own lives, to the basic battle of humanity at large, to eat, sleep, live, and maybe smile every once in a while. The aughts will not be remembered kindly, I wager. You can feel it in the air, here in Nicaragua, but from all the way back home as well, via the internet. Witness the struggles in Iran for self-determination to see that the hope of this time of year can reach ahistorical proportions. All of us, it seems, are ready for something new, for a breath of fresh air, for a chance to let this all go and move on to another life.

And it certainly is possible – we’ve the means to start living anew tomorrow – if we can find the will, then we can create the universe again on January 1st. I’m interested to see where it all ends up – what changes, what remains, who ends up where. I feel a strong current of rebirth in the air, not just for tonight, but for the coming years and months and [time period here] – it’s not like I’m Nostrafuckindamus – everything is in flux, constantly, from the quarks on up. No, predicting change is like predicting that the Earth will keep turning and rotating the Sun – a winning bet damn near never day. What I see more than that however, is the exciting proposition of people actually wanting things to change, drastically, and working toward it. Perhaps it is my imagination, or my position in a community of travelers, artists, writers, and ex-workers, but the atmosphere is electric, palpable excitement oozes from the walls like that pink shit in Ghostbusters 2, but instead of turning the baby into a demon child, it leaves us all feeling refreshed, excited, ready to set out for unknowns and great adventures. I hope it is not constrained to just my own peers, because the effect on all of us rejuvenating – the 75 year-old backpackers, jaded old hippies, nihilist gen-Xers, all the way down to the idiots like me. We’re ready for something big, and so as I set out to the unknown – a new continent, a new country, another transformation, flying high above Columbia – not a coke reference! – as I set out for whatever waits, I hope that everyone else is as excited about, and ready for, the new world that awakens with us tomorrow.

Drink some water, wear a condom, don’t believe anyone who benefits from what they are telling you, and for fuck’s sake – Smile! You’re alive, now act like it! Love -k

PS. As for a New Year’s Resolution(TM) I’m going to spend the next month and a while, until I care to, completely substance-free. Pot was easy to drop, I’m down to 1-3 cigarettes a day, but the boozing is something I’d like to cut away from for a bit, so for Columbia, I’m going straight-edge. Inappropriate location for it? Perhaps, but cocaine is not my drug anyway, so I think I’ll be alright.

Running A Marathon

January 1, 2010

At times the urge to do something crazy just overtakes me, and I can’t do anything until I’ve satisfied it. Most times it turns out great, but occasionally everything goes wrong. This is the story of one of those times.

2pm – It doesn’t make much sense – I’m sitting in Flores, Guatemala, resting in a beautiful island town after hiking 150km in 6 days, climbing Maya ruins, sleeping outside, and generally abusing my body in the Peten rainforest of northern Guatemala. I’m tired, beaten, feet swollen and blistered from my too-large boots, and more then anything I just need a good night’s sleep. Being me, I decide instead to see if I can make it from Flores to Leon, Nicaragua in 24 hours. It’s only 4 countries – how hard can that be?

After the necessary laundry, packing, and my first shower in 7 days, I buy an overnight bus ticket to Guatemala City, and resign myself to a shit night’s sleep in a bus – I strongly dislike “luxury” bus rides, much prefer hitchhiking, but I’d asked town earlier in the day, and there didn’t seem to be any long-distance truckers – my main form of transport – leaving Flores in my direction, and with so few stops between Flores and the capital, that option wasn’t working for me. Running out of options, I swallow my pride and lay down 160 Quetzales – damn near $20 – for a bus ticket across the country. “Too rich for my blood, but sacrifices can be made later,” I told myself at the time. Had I known just how right I would be, I might have just stayed in bed.

8pm – Friends come into town that night, so instead of resting, writing, and mentally preparing for the journey ahead, I throw that plan out the window to drink tequila shots and say goodbye to Mara, the beautifully unattainable Dutch woman I played machete-ball with in Antigua when we were both sick in bed. She tells me stories about monkeys pulling her hair and cleaning up shit all day – animal rehabilitation clinic – and I gush about the crazy ruins and latest adventuring. After she and her coworkers go barhopping to celebrate their night off, I make friends with some fire spinners and dancers fresh in town from some massive raves in southern Mexico. Their stories of hallucinating in the jungle complement my tales of bribing my way into archeological dig sites quite nicely, and right before I leave a disheveled man in a “repression no es seguridad” homemade T-shirt throws a full pack of Payasos – the cheapest cigarettes in the country – at me. “You might need them,” he tells me, and his gaze is so piercing that I can’t help but to look away before long. I did just resolve to quit, but hey, the guy might be right, so I slip them into my shirt pocket, shoulder my bag, and walk out into the night. Adios Los Amigos, and to my new friends as well.

10pm – The marathon starts off without much fanfare. I climb into a waiting taxi with 3 other travelers, bags in the trunk, and hang my head out the window in the cool night air. I really need a haircut, but it blows in the wind deliciously. At the bus station we pile out, buy tickets for the 11 o’clock bus, and I leave my bags with some Dutch guy while I water the pavement between some parked cars – no way I’m paying 2Q to pee in some hellhole bus station bathroom. Sacrifices. At 11 we all climb into the bus, tequila works its magic on my battered body, and I drift off within minutes.

Sometime during the night – I wake up with an electric jolt as the bus driver slams on his brakes and swerves wide right. From my seat at the left-side window I see a pickup truck and semi race past, neck-and-neck, on the 2 lane road. We’re practically in the dirt and the pickup shoots between the 2 behemoth vehicles without a care in the world. Good old Central American drivers. I’m too jazzed up from white-knuckle fear and the adrenaline enema to sleep again, so I stare out the window at the pre-dawn world – small houses, tin roofed, windows without glass, barbed wire fences in front of lush rolling hills – same as anywhere down here, I guess, and from my position behind the glass of a speeding bus, I feel too detached – it’s a movie, Central American Homes, and it’s none too excititng either.

Light streaks the sky, the sun grudgingly pokes its yellow head above the hills, and the world begins to come to life. Women and children and men going about their lives, chickens and cows and dogs stirring, and slowly life stretches, shakes itself out of slumber. How many more times in your life will you watch the world awaken? I want to be a part of it all, but I’m stuck on my side of the speeding glass wall, and the world flees out of sight – I have somewhere else to be.

I have no idea what time it is when we get into Guatemala City, but the place is bustling with bodies, choked with traffic, and everything smells like diesel exhaust. I want to cover my mouth and nose with something to keep out the choking fumes, but my handkerchief is still covered in my blood from a pocketknife accident, and somehow I think a bloodstained rag over my face might make me even more of a spectacle then I already am down here. At the bus station everyone climbs out, my Dutch friend takes off to Antigua, and shoulder my bag and start looking for my next ride.

Unfortunately, this is a private terminal, meaning the only buses that leave from here belong to the company I rode in with, and I’ve had enough of private buses for a while, so after consulting with some of my fellow passengers in sleepy Spanish, I learn that yes, there is a public bus terminal nearby, but it’s 10 blocks, and this is a bad part of town. “Get a taxi, you’ll be robbed,” is the consensus of the people I ask, and so I head outside to face the bane of my existance – taxistas.

The reason I hate taxi drivers so much is that their business revolves around ripping off ignorant travelers for huge profits – I’m not saying everyone does it, but it is most definitely a major strategy. They’ll rarely take you where you want to go, charge you double if they can get away with it, and it’s a situation where they hold all the advantages – how can I possibly know what a fair price is to ride across town when I’m not even sure where I am or where I’m going? If you’re getting a taxi in Central America, especially in capital cities, just resign to getting charged the Gringo Tax, and let it slide – no use getting upset about something that doesn’t matter. I find a taxi driver that isn’t actively yelling “Hey boy, where you goin’?” at me, and ask him if he knows where the public bus terminal is. “Where you go?” he asks in broken English, and I respond in Spanish that I want to go to the nearest, biggest, bus terminal, stressing several times that I do not, under any circumstances want to go to a station with luxury buses. We talk a while, he wants 50Q, and I want to pay twenty-five. He laughs, says forty, I respond with thirty. He turns and pretends to walk away, and I let him get all the taxi. Finally he turns and says he’ll take me for thirty-five, and I agree, throw my bag in the back, and hop in.

Negotiation accomplished, I sit back and hope he’ll take me where I’m asking to go. We talk about the usual things – him: where I’m from, where I’ve been, why I’m in Guatemala, me: where he was born, if he’s married, how are his kids – I have this conversation a lot because it helps to establish a bit of confianza with people around you, and it reminds me that we humans have a lot in common no matter where we’re from. His name is Carlos, was born in Chichicastenango, he’s been married for 5 years, and has 2 young sons and a daughter, in case you’re wondering. He also drives like the devil himself is chasing us, which it doesn’t take many questions to figure out. We weave perilously between buses, trucks, in and out of traffic. At one point, driving the wrong direction on a divided road, I regret that the seat belt was taken out of my side of the car. Carlos isn’t wearing his either, so at least we’ll go down together.
6:15am by Carlos’ dashboard clock, we pull into a driveway and he gets out, leaving the motor running. It definitely isn’t a public bus terminal, so I watch him walk to a nearby door and speak to a uniformed man there – Strange – Carlos gestures over his shoulder at me, and the man laughs about something – What’s so funny? – I see the other guy hand Carlos something that looks like money – oh no, this shit is not happening – and Carlos walks back over to the taxi and opens my door.

(In Spanish) “What gives Carlos? Why are we stopping here?”
“This is the station for buses to El Salvador. Your destination.”
“Where?”
“Here,” he points over his shoulder at the door with the uniformed man.
“Where? I see no buses.”
“The bus comes soon, go inside and buy a ticket.” God-fucking-damnit!
“Is this a direct bus station?”
“Yes”
“Why did you bring me here? I asked specifically NOT to come to a direct bus station.”
“No you didn’t.”
“Yes I did!” I’m livid, because this sort of shit happens constantly down here – taxi drivers get pay-offs to bring unsuspecting tourists to high-end hotels, expensive restaurants, and private bus terminals instead of their destinations, and most people don’t have the Spanish to argue. It’s a con game of the highest order, and I carry around a mental list of businesses I will never visit, simply because I know they pull this shit.

I climb out of the taxi, glaring at Carlos, and move to grab my bag. He pulls me by the shoulder and puts himself in front of the door. “Pay me,” he demands.
(In English) “Fuck Yourself.” (In Spanish) “No, you didn’t bring me where I asked to go.”
His look gets uglier, “Pay me gringo.”
“That guy by the door already paid you, thief.” I shouldn’t have said that.
“Thief?!” He’s pale with anger. “I’m taking your things if you don’t pay.”

We stand there for an eternal moment, locked in an angry stand-off, until the uniformed man from the door comes over and asks what the problem is. “He’s robbing me, and you’re paying him to do it.” My overheated comment just brings the two of them onto the same team, and they piously deny any wrong-doing. Fuck it, this is going nowhere. I grab my small wad of bills, take all the lowest ones and the coins and hold them out to Carlos. “Here you are friend, your money. Enjoy it.”
“This isn’t 35Q.”
“I don’t care.” I drop the money onto the pavement, coins scattering, elbow past him, throw the door open, and grab my stuff. I’m shaking with fury as I walk out to the street corner – no way I’m going to satisfy them by taking their bus – and begin asking passersby where I can find the public bus station. Quickly I learn that I’m fucked as there isn’t a major terminal in this zone of the city, the nearest city bus station is at the market 6 blocks away, and it’s dangerous to be in this area with a backpack like mine. “You should take a taxi” I hear over and again. Because that worked so well the first time. I swallow my pride again and head into the private bus station. Do you see why I can’t stand taxistas?

I pay out the nose for a direct bus to San Salvador, and comfort myself with the knowledge that I’ll be a country away in only a few short hours, and possibly make it to Nicaragua on schedule this way. The bathroom is the stuff of nightmares – no seat or lid, a piece of the bowl missing, green, brown, black, red(?!) streaks. The stench socks me in the face and steals my lunch money. I laugh the whole time I’m standing there. Back out in the main station, my bag is thankfully where I left it, and I notice a huge stain down one side – the baggage compartment is never clean, and I’m not going for style points, but it feels wet, so I open the top and investigate the damage. Everything on top of the bag is wet, fuck, my leather jacket is covered in clear liquid – what is this stuff? I run my finger across the jacket, sniff it cautiously, and smell mint. It tastes of alcohol and menthol. Suspicious, I open my medical bag, and yep, the small plastic bottle of rubbing alcohol I use to make my wounds hurt more is torn down one side, and the contents have spilled everywhere. For the first time I read the label, and apparently I bought menthol rubbing alcohol unaware. At least everything I own will smell fresh. I spread my clothes around to dry out a bit, but soon it’s time to board, and so I throw minty-fresh clothes back into my bag and go. “It has to get better from here, doesn’t it?”

7:30am – Another bus, this time with assigned seats and the coldest air conditioning I’ve felt in a while. I wrap my jacket around myself and try to sleep, but between the food sellers and cold I can’t manage to drift off. I have one unread book left, so I read disintegrating pages of Civil War-era letters, which is interesting only in small doses, and spend the rest of my time trying to see the outside world past my slumbering neighbor. I’m awful at riding in buses. A pretty young girl selling chilis rellenos walks past, and I buy 2, plus a bottle of water – if I’d known it was going to be my last meal for 30 hours, I might have gotten a third, but they’re delicious nonetheless.

Eventually we reach El Salvador, pile out, and do the passport thing. I had changed almost all of my money earlier, but I change the last 42Q to $5, and then we’re off again. The bus TV is playing some dubbed Jackie Chan flick, and I fall asleep as Jackie is using a Lamborghini and a samurai sword to rescue a kid in a wheelchair from some assholes with a giant hovercraft, and don’t wake up until San Salvador.

Sometime around 11am someone is poking me in the ribs, and I open my eyes to some cute kid giggling. I smile at her, and she says “we’re there” before running off. I stretch, look around – the bus is empty except for me and the driver, who smiles understandingly at me. I thank him, climb down, and thankfully my bag hasn’t walked off without me. From there it’s a short taxi ride with Roberto, who loves that we share a common name, is 21, unmarried, and has no kids that he knows of. We get along fine, laugh a lot, and for $4 he drops me off at the central bus station I’ve been at a few times before. I have to piss like a racing moose, but just as I’m walking into the station my bus rolls by, I chase it to catch a ride, and off we go again, crammed like sardines, backpack sitting on my very full bladder. To distract myself, I start up a conversation with the couple sitting next to me, and that’s when I learn that the bus ride is 3 ½ hours long. Sweet merciful fuck, what a ride.

5 hellish hours later we finally arrive at the next town, and from there it’s only 40 minutes to the border. I’m so grateful to get off the bus and find some sweet, precious relief, but I’ve barely hoisted my bag before the Frontera bus rolls by and I’m chasing after it waving my arms. Sorry bladder, take another one for the team.

At the border, I join the thin stream of people crossing to Honduras – not a lot of demand for it these days – and $3 later I’m back where it all started, and the familiar electric tingle climbs my spine. It’s not my home anymore, but I still tie a lot of memories and love to this poor country where everything went wrong for me. Just then I want to slap myself in the forehead – everything on this side of the border crossing uses Lempira, not dollars, and of course there isn’t a free bathroom to be found. I have to find a money changer, practically wetting myself, negotiate a rate that doesn’t completely rip me off, and finally, finally I can go take a piss.

Just kidding – I can’t find a bathroom, so I start asking, and everyone points me further down the line. Life is turning into farce at this point, the sort of comedy so painful it’s funny, and so when an ayudante from one of the buses starts badgering me, asking where I’m going, I just roll with it. “Guasaule,” I tell him, “I’m crossing Honduras to Nicaragua, and I want to cross at Guasaule.”
“That bus left already, you have to go to Choluteca.”
“I can’t stop overnight in Choluteca, I don’t have enough money left.”
He shrugs at me, “there is no bus, you have to go to Choluteca.” and makes to grab my bag.
“No thanks, I’ll hitchhike.” and I twist to pull his grip off my bag. Stabbing abdominal pains ensue. Oh yeah, that.
“Do you know where I can find-” but he’s already gone, running back to the bus as it pulls out of the lot. I really hope he’s lying, or I’m sleeping on the border tonight.

5:30pm – He wasn’t lying, as it turns out, but it took me getting conned, robbed, and extorted to be sure of it. After I find a bathroom and pay 5L to take possibly the most satisfying leak of my life, I skip out of the little tienda, buy a soda, and find a line of microbuses. They have to be going somewhere, so I start asking down the line where everyone is going, and if anyone knows where I can find a bus to Guasaule. One young man tells me his bus is headed to Guasaule, so I follow him, throw my bag in the back, and ask him what it costs. “100 Lempira” is his reply, and it seemed reasonable enough. He starts talking to the driver, and I’m starving but broke, so I smoke a cigarette and start a conversation with Niko, this 5 or 8 year old kid sitting on the back bumper of a truck. He speaks some English, so we practice a bit – I ask him questions about him and his family, and tell him never to smoke cigarettes because they make you ugly and kill you. I’m sure it was convincing

After 15 or 20 minutes of this, the driver starts his engine, I say goodbye to Niko, and hop into the bus. The ayudante asks me for my fare, and I hold out a 100L note. He grabs it, but instead of climbing into the bus starts sprinting across the road, hops a concrete barrier, and slips between a couple parked trucks. “Where is he going?” I ask the driver.
“I don’t know,” is his uninterested reply.
“Isn’t he your ayudante?”
“No. I don’t have a clue who he is” One smooth motherfucker, that’s who.
“Where is this bus going? Guasaule?”
“No, just down the road.”
“Oh.”

I climb out again, drag my bag over to some steps, and sit down. Mental cigarette time – The sun is setting, it will be dark soon, and there are no more buses or minibuses, no transport at all except from private vehicles. I could hitch I guess, but that gets dramatically harder once its dark out. I don’t have money for both a hotel and a bus, so if I do find a place to sleep – not a great proposition in this sketchy border town – then I’m pretty much going to have to hitch from here to another town with a bank. Plus, that ruins the whole “lets do this in 24 hours” game, so we’ll keep that as a last option. What I really need is a friend.

6pm – Luckily, I’m pretty good at making friends, and I’m not halfway though my cigarette when a young guy, looks about 20, sits down next to me and asks if he can bum a drag. “Have one,” I tell him, “they’re terrible.” We laugh, I light him up, and that’s how I met David, the first guy to really save my ass here. Turns out he’s a transit worker, is in charge of making sure international truckers fill out the right forms crossing into Honduras. He knows everyone on the border, where the trucks are going, where they’re coming from, and which drivers are likely to take hitchhikers. He also thinks my story of getting ripped off is hilarious, and says he’ll be glad to help me out. How’s that for making friends?

We finish our cigarettes, he tells me to wait around until he talks to a few people, and so I doze against the wall as David proceeds to tell absolutely everyone about the dumb gringo who got robbed of 100L by being so trusting. Everyone loves it, and I’m a local celebrity among the daytime drunks and young kids – the village idiot, more or less. I’m starving, and I have 134 Lempira – $6.70 or so – which could get me a good meal, except that I have to cross a border still, and might have to pay my driver for his help. I can’t afford to eat. I light another cigarette and think about something else.

Half an hour later David comes back, and tells me he has found 2 possible rides for me, which sounds great except that they leave at 8 if they can get through customs by then. This isn’t fun anymore, and knowing that I still have hours, 5 or 6 of them, of just travel time left leaves me feeling pretty lifeless. Still, what else can I do? I smile, thank David, and hand him a cigarette. He works nights, so officially he’s off work right now, and so we sit, talk, bullshit, and pass the time as best we can with no money or energy. After a while, another guy comes over, sits down, and starts asking me where I’m staying tonight. “Nowhere, I’m leaving in a truck in an hour or 2.” He doesn’t like my answer, keeps insisting I stay at a hotel, not just any hotel, but the one he’s recommending me. “Come on man, you don’t know how dangerous it is here – I do. I got shot 7 times.” and at that he lifts his shirt to show 7 bullet holes in his chest, stomach, arm, and one far to close to his dick for him to have shoved it in my face like he did. “Wow, lucky you lived.”
“Yeah, and I killed the fucker too.” wonderful…
“That’s, that’s good. Why did he shoot you.”
“Because I’m dangerous.”
“Oh. Ok.”
“Hey, give me money.”
“What?”
“Money.”
“What?”
“Give me money, I’m hungry.”
“I can’t – I have only a little bit, and I need it.”
“I need it too, come on man, give me money.” He’s pouting – what sort of gangster pouts?
“No.”
“If you give me money, I can protect you.”
“From who?”
“Dangerous people.”
“Like you?”
“Like me.” He flashes me a wicked smile, the sort you see on someone who enjoys causing pain.
“Here.” I give him 20 Lempira, and his whole demeanor changes.
“Wow man, thanks a lot! I’ll be right back.” And with that he goes running off around the corner.
I turn to David – “That was the weirdest thing that has happened to me all day.”
“Yeah, Mike is crazy.”

20 minutes later Mike is back, beer in one hand, cell phone in the other. “Here man,” he tells me, “I’m gonna hook you up. Do you have a pen?” I give him one, and he scribbles his name and a phone number on a piece of paper. “This is my old boss in Tegucigalpa. He can get you anything man – drugs, girls, guns, anything you want. Oh man, you’re so lucky I’m your friend man. Just tell him Cholo is your friend and he needs to help you out.” I look at this bit of paper, at Mike’s goofy grin, and back at the paper again. “Really?” “Yeah man, it’s cool – he’s loaded. Anything you want.” I shove the paper in my pocket, and thank Mike, tell him I’ll keep the number in mind. He bums another cigarette, David takes one too, and a passing drunk asks for one, so why the hell not? Cigarettes all around. We sit, smoke, and Mike bails right afterward, promising over and over that he’ll be right back, that he just needs to do something and oh yeah, if the guy who robbed me comes back, he and some friends will kick his ass and get me my $5 back. I never see him again after that, thankfully. I just give David a tired look and shake my head. What a day.

Around 10:30pm, after 5 mindless hours at the border, I finally catch a break. A trucker headed south to Managua is willing to give me a free lift straight to Leon, and so I thank David profusely, give him the rest of my cigarettes, and take off – still owe that guy back in Flores for giving them to me – sure, lung cancer might suck, but they helped me skip dinner. I try to start up a conversation with the driver, but he isn’t having any of it, and the passenger just keeps telling me I’m too gringo to understand him, so within 15 minutes I’m passed out completely, and don’t wake up until someone shakes my leg.

I startle, sit up too fast, feel faint, recover. The driver is looking straight at me, and telling me that he’s sleeping here, so I need to get out of the truck. I thank him, hop down, and set off into the bushes to take a leak. It isn’t until I’m done that I realize the passenger was a hitchhiker too.

“Hey gringo, you going to Nicaragua?”
“I was thinking about it. You?”
“Yeah.”
“Where is it?”

From where I am, we’re just sitting on a road somewhere, and since it’s an intersection, I have no idea which way to go. Thankfully my new friend does, and so we walk and talk and sweat in the warm night, hoofing it south to the border. He tells me that his father left before he was born, an American man who lives in Florida, and that once, when he was 14, they met. His father promised to bring him to the USA, but after 12 years he’s never heard from the bastard again. I tell him he’s better off without that sort of shit, and he agrees, but tells me the biggest insult that anyone ever did to him was that his father gave him $50 out of nowhere when he was 18. “$50!” he tells me “Fifty fucking dollars, and he doesn’t talk to me my entire life? What do I do with fifty dollars?” I can only shake my head and make a mental note to always, always wear condoms.

A while later, it’s the middle of the night, the stars are gorgeous, and the border crossing is unfortunately closed. We bang around in the office for a while, but even though the lights are on and the computers too, there’s nobody answering, and so we just walk across the bridge, and presto, we’re in Nicaragua. My Nico friend gets a bit spooked – “Did you see that guy?” No. “The one with the machete?” I shake my head. “Do you know what a machete is?” I point to the one hanging on the side of my bag. “Oh.” We walk on in silence. “I hope we don’t get robbed,” he whispers. I laugh inappropriately, too tired for all of this. Things are ridiculous – I’m sneaking into Nicaragua across the wide-open border with no money, walking right past an army base, and this guy is worried about thieves? I tell him that we’ll be safe, and we walk on a bit longer while he talks about his father.

On the Nicaraguan side, it’s the same story – open buildings, lights on, nobody home. It’s beginning to feel like a cheap horror flick, honestly, and we’re giddy and nervous – where the hell is everyone? Do they really leave things so un-policed? We’re talking, Nico and I, and just then a voice out of nowhere scares everyone shitless. “Hey, you need to go get a stamp to enter.” Very threatening. We look around a bit, find a guy lying a hammock in a nearby tree, and he points us back toward the building we just entered. We protest, he won’t have it, and so we walk back into the building to immediately exit the other side and keep walking – tricky tricky… From there, we’re good to go, discussing possible rides or perhaps sleeping in one of the nearby buildings, but at the final guard shack we’re caught good and tight, and while Nico is good – he’s a resident after all – I have to go back and get a stamp. “It doesn’t matter if nobody is working, those are the rules, and no, I can’t come with and do anything to actually help you.” The response of a lifetime bureaucratic turdburglar.

I wander back, debate at each building I pass where I could possibly sleep, and have just decided on an open piece of concrete between two shipping containers when I see a body moving around in the immigration office – somebody has to be up. I shoulder my bag and take off at a trot – I’m beat, and this isn’t fun any longer, but my luck holds just barely – there’s a large hairy man in his wife beater and boxer shorts walking around, and I’ve never been so excited to see so much of such a fatass in my life. I hammer on the door a while, shout, and after about five minutes he gives up ignoring me and we go through the passport stamping game. Finally! I’m off at a brisk walk to see what Nico has gotten himself up to, passing the army base – tresspassers will be shot – when a man on the base, in full camoflage with a rifle, starts waving and hissing at me. “Chele, venga.” I keep walking a few steps. “Vengase ya!” and his voice says it’s urgent. I turn and walk back to him – there’s just no pleasing guys with guns – they think they’re in change just because they can put holes in everything.

“What is it?”
“Are you walking to Nicaragua?”
“Yeah, I’m hitchhiking.”
“It’s really dangerous here. Really dangerous.”
“Ok”
“I saw a guy get stabbed to death over there last week.” He points in the direction I’m going. “Blood everywhere.”
“Ok, thanks.”
“Goodnight.”
“Goodnight.”

Warmed by his good news, I creep a little bit more cautiously back to the guard shack, knife out but concealed – it doesn’t feel dangerous, but the guy with the rifle has me spooked – the words “this is fucking ridiculous!” blare in my head, and I’m too tired to shut them off. Nico is still there, lying outside on his bag, and the guards are nowhere to be seen. I plop down next to him, and ask where the guard went. “They’re asleep inside.” Nice. We watch the stars a while, trade phone numbers, and lie in the dirt. Hours go past, we talk a lot about nothing in particular, share the last sips of my water, and a piece of bread he had from somewhere. Time crawls.

2am? Later? Time has long since passed the point of relevance, we’re dozing, when I hear a diesel engine rumbling – the guards are waving a truck through the gate! We scramble up, and I run for the truck cab a few steps in front of Nico. The driver looks at me, starts to say something, then rolls up his window and drives off as I shake my head – tough break. Still, not 15 minutes later another driver rolls up, and this guy would be happy to take us. Nico climbs in back, we toss our bags in, and I’m shoved into the truck cab, sharing a bucket seat with the passenger – I never figured out why – there was a ton of room in back, but they insisted on it. The 4 of us roll out, a “most overplayed of the 80s” soundtrack blasting, and with conversation impossible, I fall mercifully asleep.

Aside from a few brief jolts and sudden stops, I’m pretty much out – either asleep or staring at the stars – the entire trip to Leon. The driver can’t hear me over the screaming music and engine noise, the passenger is pissed off that I’m taking half of his seat. I lean my head out the window and stare at Orion. I miss you Matt, but I love that I can look up and see you every night, watching over us. I wonder if you ever wanted to do something like this? A tear crawls sideways off of my face – I still miss him, still want him back, but at least this time I smile. He’d be happy to know I’m better then I was, I know that much. The whole group is, almost – there’s still two we need to pull back from the self-destructive edge – but perhaps as a group, the group Matt made so strong, we’ll be able to do it. One day… I drift off again, wind in my teeth, hair like a bad 80’s rock band.

3:38am – I wake up in the parking lot of an On The Run gas station, and the sign across the street says Leon 3km. The driver is parking, the passenger asleep on my shoulder. We’re adorable, I’m sure. Dried drool, pushed by the wind, has actually wrapped from my mouth around to my right ear, and I stink, and I need something to drink. I thank them both, offer my useless 100 Honduran Lempira as payment, but they wave me off. I jump down, grab my bag out of the back, and after sticking my head under a spigot behind the station, wander toward town.

4am – Taxis honk or flash their sirens, and I wave them off. I can’t pay for anything. One driver is a bit more insistent – he pulls over to talk to me, and refuses to speak Spanish. He can’t speak English. I don’t understand him, and I don’t care either. I keep walking, he keeps driving to match my slow trudge. “Me take you drive man! Taxi ok?” At some point I kind of flip my shit and just start speaking broken English right back at him.

“No taxi no ok. No me have money!”
“Taxi! Me drive you (he makes exaggerated driving motions with his hands above the wheel) to town. Leon?”
“No taxi. Me walk. No money!”

It goes on for a while. I walk, he drives, we talk. I’m not in the fucking mood. Eventually I stop talking, and just concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. He drives ahead of me a while, and right about when I think I’ve won, he climbs out of the taxi. Not good. My knife finds it’s way into my hand, the “leather punch” aka the “sharp as fuck part that fits in a balled fist” out and ready. This guy had better be stupid and overly helpful, or he’s getting a blade in the eye. I’m positively bloodthirsty.

As I walk up to his taxi, I try to defuse the coming storm – (in Spanish) Thanks for your help, but I don’t need a taxi – I was robbed at the border, I have no money, and I know where I am going tonight. I am going to walk, do not help me. Stay over there!” The last part is shouted, because he’s coming around the car toward me. “Stay the fuck away!” I shout, figuring that there is very little about that statement that doesn’t translate, especially when combined with my facial expression and stance. Apparently I was wrong, because he walks right up to me and grabs my backpack. “Taxi…” he starts, but I hit him hard in the chest. “No taxi – vaya a la verga, culero!” I’m yelling and looking for a rock – thankfully he backs off, looking hurt and confused. He goes back around his car while I stand there, blade out in one hand, chunk of concrete in the other, glaring daggers. He climbs into the driver’s seat and throws me one last sad puppy look before driving off. I wait for a while before continuing, and keep my weapons ready until I’m well into the town center. I have no idea if he was trying to rob me, hurt me, or was just the biggest idiot I’ve met in a while, but that guy unnerved me a whole lot more then robbery or extortion had.

Sometime after four I finally get to the front door of Sonati – 31 hours, more or less, since starting this marathon. I knock on the door, the night guard opens it, and lo and behold, it’s the same guy from before, and we share greetings as he lets me in. I’ve rarely been so happy to arrive anywhere as I am right that moment. I pitch my bag on the floor, fill my water bottle, and we talk a few minutes before he lies down in the corner to sleep and I – too jazzed to sleep – sit around through the predawn light checking my email, of all things. I’m actually too hungry to lie down, so I wander out around 6:30 to get a traditional plate, and that settles me – I barely drag myself home before passing out in the dorm room and sleeping the day away.

So that’s how that particular adventure ended – you’d better believe it was one of my worse ideas since I started traveling around down here, and that my bad decisions and utter lack of plans precipitated every one of the bad things that happened to me. Still, the end result is pretty impressive – look at a map and chart the route – Flores-Guatemala City-San Salvador-El Amatillo-Guasaule-Leon – four countries in one sprint, and in the end, all-included, it cost me about $37. I lost any financial records, so that might be total horseshit. I can’t look at the distances, being as I don’t have a map, but I think that’s worth a pat on the back. Really though, it was just training – after I find a way to leave Leon behind again, I’m going to be doing another hitching marathon from here down to Panama City, where I have plans to fly to Columbia (the whole boat idea fell through when it came to cost over twice the plane trip) and do a month of paragliding, reflection, writing, and wicked cocaine abuse. That’s all really – just a little tale of how even the bad times can be good, in their own weird way. Until the next time -k

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