January 4, 2011

A friend wrote this to me and asked if I might put it somewhere – something about about not wanting to offend friends and family. I haven’t changed any of it, and I rather like the sentiments, so why don’t you take a minute to reflect on the good ole Christmas spirit?
I have a confession to make: Christmas…really bothers me.
I mean, yes, there are the usual erudite bah-humbug reasons why Christmas is ridiculous: most of us aren’t really practicing Christians, the commercialism and competition surrounding gift-giving, the beautiful ideal that is never quite reached that leaves someone, without fail, weeping at the lack of perfection…I’ll spare us the rest of the rambling list about lies to children and poor translation of customs and symbols that has led to the Disney circus parade of characters that swarm over us in a dizzying tornado for just over a month each year.
What I WILL talk about, the part that bothers me most, is the rottenness of the warm fuzzy core of Christmas. More than Little Baby Jesus, Christmas is supposed to be about family and togetherness. It never really was about Jesus anyway: it’s a celebration after a year’s harvest. It’s a time to kick back amid the bounty of a year’s hard work and indulge in a little excess and catch up with people as the busy earth breathes a sigh after birthing of her muchness and prepares to roll over to sleep for a bit.
We get together to celebrate our successful journey through a year and to fight seasonally affective depression in the darkest part of the year. We remind each other that the growing season will return and we praise the sun for consenting to give us just a little more light every day.
We have lost any of the original relevances of our yearly celebration and most of us don’t miss it because that is not our reality anymore. Fine. But the sickness that plagues us now is that we don’t celebrate a job well done, we celebrate our yearly shortcomings and pray to the gods of plastic items that they will somehow help us assuage the guilt we carry for the sin of being too busy to have meaningful exchanges with people throughout the year. We hope that we can purchase something of value, since we’ve failed to make anything of value ourselves.
Our Christmas, with all its stress and expense and etiquette is a thick and glittery plastic sham that we uphold as a sacred social contract: You don’t call my bluff and I won’t call yours. But that emperor has no clothes, friends! Plastic crap and other novelties given under quasi-duress do not create a meaningful exchange.
My brother and his wife (who doesn’t really like me, I don’t think) dutifully got me a present because I am a box to check on the family list. They do not need to get me a present. I don’t really need anything or merit anything just because it’s Christmas, anyway. And besides, they have a new baby girl and Amber quit her job in November, so I know that the money can go to other things. But they did as we
all do: they wrote the list of all the people they are obliged to get gifts for, searched the corners of their minds for some quirk of mine, and went searching for a deal on something – not too expensive but jazzy enough to pass – that would fulfill the responsibility to get someTHING for all blood relatives, even those that have been off in other countries and on the other side of the state for some years now.
The want that gift to communicate that they ‘know’ me. That ‘knowing’ must then represent a bond and a connection. We still know each other, right? See – I know you like tea and art, so I picked out these TWO Thomas Kincaide mug/tea gifty set thingies! (It must not matter that we only see each other if I happen to talk to my sister on a day that they’ve actually come to town). It was the same with the other side of the family – I got a novelty chocolate-making set that is good for approximately 2 oz of prepared chocolate from my fiance’s sister. God help us.
I do not want to demonize my brother or my sister-in-law- they are fine people just trying to do the best they can at being adults. And I know there is a wealth of criticism reserved for those ingrates who would “look a gift-horse in the mouth.” A gift is a gift, right, and one should accept it graciously – that’s what we’re taught. But I think we’re taught that because gift-giving is so often not just wrong-headed, but wrong-hearted. THAT is the problem I see. Giving gifts just to check off the names on the list, or even giving gifts to make up for a year’s lack of meaningful interaction isn’t really giving at all, is it? It’s more like plastering a bandaid on a finger that isn’t cut or, worse yet, shoving a mug/tea gifty set into the hands of a guy who’s just lost a phlange…or his wife – it’s inappropriate. And while that kind of gift-giving may require some kind of monetary sacrifice it doesn’t actually represent love, thought, craft, work, or celebration of much of anything – at least, to my eye it doesn’t.
You see, I don’t WANT a novelty chocolate kit, even if it is Fair Trade Certified. I despise Thomas Kincaide and the cookies that came with each plastic-wrapped set contained milk whey and I’m lactose-intolerant. And I can forgive the whey and the novelty and be happy that these guys were thinking of me and trying so hard to find a match for me and a thing so I would KNOW they were thinking of me. But the unspoken burning truth on my tongue is that I do not WANT things from the people in my life. I don’t care about manufactured crap – in fact I rail against it constantly. Instead, I would like to spend more TIME with my brother. I want him to know just how much I love him and I wish more than anything that I could help him understand me, make me less of an uncomfortable anomaly to him (and the whole stinkin’ rest of the family, if I had my ‘d’ruthers). I WANT to be able to talk more easily with my sister-in-law…like maybe dig up some of the misunderstandings of our early relationship and settle them instead of pasting over them and pretending everything has always been dandy. I want for her to see that me just being me and living and breathing and having opinions isn’t any kind of judgment on HER. But I’ll likely not ever receive any of those gifts; instead I’ll forever get novelty crap that doesn’t even really suit me.
I say this, and I’m going to follow it with a truth about myself that will seem self-righteous, but bear with me: I do the best I can to make gifts for people at Christmas. I figure if I’m going to participate – and, hey, I have to admit that, for all the reasons it’s bullshit, I still like being with people and sharing good food and catching up – if I’m going to participate, I’ll do it on my terms and in a way that feels deeply satisfying. It helps that I am always hijacked and taken over by my right brain in the autumn.
It wakes me up at night and compels me to create. I meditate on the essences of the important people in my life and create things that I present to them at Christmas gatherings. Granted, I am bothered by twinges of doubt and embarrassment that my gifts won’t be understood, that they’re ugly, that they’ll never be used; my packages always look strange and out-of-place…sometimes they are foods or oddly-shaped, bizarrely-trimmed bundles or just naked products amongst the neat and glitzy packages and bows. But people always seem to like my inexpensive hippie-gifts best, and I think that it’s because my gifts represent a culmination and a connection and a communication – from my essence to theirs. It also demonstrates a sacrifice of time and creative energy that mass-produced landfill grist just doesn’t possess. I received a painting from my mother-in-law that she had done from one of my photographs. I was so – touched?, astounded?, overcome? – that I could hardly speak. In her way, she had used her art to give a nod to mine. THAT is a gift that is thoughtful, loving, meaningful, and, in a true sense, an offering of oneself. I think that’s what Christmas is supposed to be.
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Kalahari Capitalism

November 6, 2010

I read a news story earlier today that really illustrates my problem with this capitalism we let run our lives. In Botswana, in southern Africa, there is a community called the Kalahari Bushmen. They have lived in the area for 20,000 years, longer than any world empire, longer than we like to admit civilization has ever existed. Now, because of the discovery of the world’s richest diamond deposits on their ancestral homelands, these people are being pushed off their land by the government, which, oh, by the by – is in negotiations with Gem Diamonds, a global diamond mining company. (they call them production, but come on now – these things come out of the ground: you didn’t make them – you cut and polished them.)

The Botswana government is actively pushing the Kalahari out of their homes, capping off wells, taking away water distribution trucks, removing storage tanks and water pumps. The Kalahari Basin is mostly desert, and the people there depend largely on underground water to survive. Without access to water, people and livestock die, and so the people there are slowly migrating, abandoning their ancient culture for the benefit of their government and a giant diamond conglomerate – how much of the $3.3 billion dollar payoff will ever reach the disenfranchised Kalahari people? How many of those diamonds will come here, be sold to American young men to give to their loved ones? It staggers that anyone could do the calculus of diamonds against human and animal lives and come out in favor of this destruction. It requires a dishonest and myopic view of the exchange going on, one which does not value life, which does not value humanity, or history, or culture.

Let’s do that math right here – the government of Botswana stands to gain $3,300,000,000 dollars, or roughly 11 million $300 iPhones. The remainder of the diamond deposit, which surely is valued far about $3.3 billion – else why would Gem Diamonds bother to excavate it? – will go to a London-based Diamond group with no interests in Botswana. Aside from mining jobs, the company will not be putting money into Botswana or the hands of the Kalahari Bushmen, rightful owners of the diamonds being poached out from under them. Look at those mining job pictures; don’t you want to do that? It sure worked out well for those Congolese.

Let’s go a bit more into that math – $3.3 billion dollars is still a good bit of change. There are 2,029,307 people in Botswana, as estimated by the CIA. That means the government stands to gain approximately $1629.17 per person in this deal. Is that impressive? Would you stand by and let one of the most ancient living cultures die out for $1629.17? How many thousands of dollars will it cost the government to throw the Kalahari off their land? What will become of these people, these ranchers, once their livelihood is taken from them? Won’t they become beggars, nomads, a burden on the system they now are forced to survive within? In all likelihood, the government of Botswana will spend much of their ill-gotten gains dealing with the problems arising out of the destruction of a people. Already, they have had the most costly court case in their nation’s history – how many more will there be? Then there are the costs of mining – polluted land, destroyed water tables, demolished ecosystems – generations off damage, all outside the calculation. Thus, does it not seem the calculus of government and corporation is flawed here – they give no value to the damage they do, and thus even from an economic perspective, this is no good deal for the people of Botswana, or for the people of Earth. We are all poorer for the loss of people different than us, for the loss of good land, for the destruction of life.

Capitalism is worthless in determining true values – if the calculation does not include suffering, environmental damage, human and animal loss, culture, art, language, or history, then the value being cited is accepted only through ignorance or conscious malice. Are $3.3 billion in imaginary value and a lot of shiny stones fair compensation for valueless true wealth and beauty? Capitalism says yes, but intelligence, emotion, and honestly will say no.

Yet here it is, in naked violence – a people, the ancient caretakers of their land, are forced by the thousands out of their homes under threat of death by thirst, all so that a soulless corporation and a corrupt government can dip their beaks. A culture is destroyed, a way of life forever shattered, so that people in the richest nations in the world can buy price-inflated rocks they’ve been programmed to need through manipulative advertising. The irony? Diamonds, these supposed gifts of love, would be so common if not for the market manipulation by companies like Gem Diamond that there would no impetus to mine to mine them in Botswana at all. There you have it – naked greed, supply manipulation, open robbery, corruption of government, destruction of true value for artificial, all to fill an demand that was created by the diamond companies themselves within the past 80 years – I can think of no better epitaph for the whole corrupt crony Capitalist system.

When the supposed libertarians and capitalist sympathizers of the world talk about freeing business from government, they are romanticizing the encounter. They mistake who is in command. Capitalism is war, fought by different means. It is the pursuit of profit at the expense of every other value humanity has ever held dear. It is the religion of the libertarian that the government which does not interfere with business is the best sort, but in this world the problem is not governments fighting against or blocking corporations from their actions, but instead from massive multi-national corporations so powerful that they can buy governments and surpass them completely. A land of free capitalism is a land where life does not matter, where profit is God, where all value ceases to exist save ability to money. Money has no real value. You cannot purchase love, you cannot have a life-changing conversation in exchange for any amount of it, and once it becomes the standard of value, then all life becomes valueless.

We are not the first people to have discovered the terror of capitalists run wild, but ours is the first generation to have to deal with the deathless global amoebas of the modern corporations. The governments we have today exist because our ancestors created them – the regulations on business exist because unregulated business creates a feudal state, ruled not by divinity-claiming monarchs, but by the profit motive itself – in the end, everyone loses. There will always be a better competitor, a more efficient, less human method of creating that good or providing this service, and as the dollar signs pile up, so do the bodies. The impoverished classes swell – we have never had more poor on this planet than today. We have never had more wealth on this planet either. The tiny ruling classes of each society shrink, as the very highest among them crush the others to rise ever higher. The actions of all humanity have never supported fewer so well. The bonepile grows, and eventually the last Capitalist will succumb, the final victim of the system we created and which grew to consume us all.

I hope mass consciousness will turn against the cancer we have set loose upon ourselves. I hope that we will stop this suicidal run before Earth is rendered unliveable, before all human life becomes slave to profit. Today it is the Bushmen, tomorrow it will be another people who cannot defend themselves, and one day soon it will be your and my time as well. I will leave it here, with a man who knew what we are dealing with all too well. Benito Musselini -“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power”

-k

“If you’d like to let Gem Diamonds know how you feel about their business dealings, here is their contact page. Here’s the Botswana US Embassy’s info also, but I’m not sure they want to be involved in this sort of thing.

The Wrong Side

June 3, 2010

There’s 2 sides at least to every issue
and I’m sure that each has merits
but my nation picks the worst (or seems to)
and I don’t know how to bear it.

In the game of global politic
the stakes are high as ever
the world is grinding down to shit
with American hands on the lever.

Across the world apartheid reins
a million and a half in the cage
would anyone please try to explain
why we’re on the side of the captors?

Oil slicks the size of nations
set loose by reckless corporations
we have the strength to rein them in
if the politicos weren’t paid-for patsies.

Obama, Osama, who’s worse for your mama?
Who fights the bigger war?
Who takes your rights, privacy, money?
Piece by piece by little piece.

Give up freedom to fight those who would steal your freedom.
Who is the real terrorist here?

One slain in NYC is worth more
than one in Kabul.
Or Baghdad
Gaza or Tehran.

How much more?

A little girl
or a wedding party of dozens
destroyed by remote control.
Is that how to react to terror tactics?

If the one with the gun
to the head of her sister
must shoulder the blame of her actions.
These sister nations all have bloody hands.

Still…

Doesn’t the one who always sides
with violence, funds oppression
courts authoritarianism over freedom
bear the blame a little more?

What if she is the one passing out the guns?
The one with the biggest armies
the most bombs
the biggest stake in the status quo?

Sister America, you’re on the wrong side!
Sister America, you ARE the wrong side.
Sister America, you hold the world against the wall.
Sister America, you must fall.

If we are all to live.

This one will probably get me some heat. Before you react, claiming I hate America, I’m acting unfairly, don’t see this in perspective, use too much hyperbole, realize this – the biggest player in the game (in this case politics) is the one who makes the rules that all others must abide by. Iran, China, Israel, Russia, Britain, everyone must play by American rules right now, because we have the biggest guns and the best capacity to wreck everyone’s day. It’s been this way ever since we took over as global hegemon from the Brits, and will remain this way until another country arises that can take us in a fight. I’m betting on the Indians, honestly.

In this present moment we are the strongest military in the world, and are very open about using that capacity to achieve our goals. It didn’t start with Bush – Clinton bombed and shot cruise missiles at his share of the world – Bush the elder had his Iraq adventure, Reagan his secret wars… it goes back a long while. I would make the argument that we have been at some sort of constant war since the Spanish-American war in 1898! Warfare is our primary means of international relations, of maintaining our position at the top of the hill.

We need war to keep our cheap cars, cheap TVs, cheap oil, low taxes. We’re addicts – to consumption, to abundance, to waste, and to the warfare that underlies it all. We hold the world at gunpoint and reap the resource reward. How else do 5% of the world’s people get to consume 25% of the resources? It isn’t because we’re free and they’re not. It isn’t because we have some god-given right to all this abundance. It’s schoolyard tactics, nothing more – we are the biggest, meanest kid on the playground and until another, bigger kid (or some sort of Karate Kid) comes along to knock us around, we’ll remain atop the dirt pile.

It isn’t just, fair, or equal – lip-service values that every American needs to profess to be taken seriously, but ones unsupported in our nation’s history. Before the ink dried on our Constitution, the revolution was betrayed – equality, liberty, the pursuit of happiness were not, are not, for any except the privileged. Doubt me? We’re suspiciously absent from the French Revolution, leaving Thomas Paine, mother of our country, to rot in jail, and the revolution to fail. Then we funded Napoleon in exchange for land that wasn’t his to give. Haitians were so inspired by our example that they too threw off their colonial masters and became the second republic in the hemisphere – we ignored them then, and have actively worked against their subsequent democratic movements to this day. We massacred a continent’s worth of peoples, destroyed entire cultures, stole homes and lands from every group we came across in our mad rush to the Pacific. At least some of the survivors have casinos now, right?

The Civil War was northern manufacturing against southern agribusiness at the core, with the respective elites of each society vying for influence. The north won out through blockade and systematic destruction of the south’s biggest economic advantage (slave labor) and as history is written by the victors, so did the official account blur out the economic underpinnings and slap on a facade of human rights. Abraham Lincoln put it well – “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery.  If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that” War in industrialized society is about power – I can think of very few exceptions, of very few wars where one side at least has not been motivated by gaining power. (Money, land, people being expressions of that power.)

Peering through the lens of costs and benefits, as any good Capitalist ought, America has made spectacularly good returns on her wartime investments. The Mexican-American war, instigated by and pursued almost entirely by the USA, gained us a coast-to-coast empire. The Spanish-American war earned us a global network of naval bases for pennies on the dollar, and sunk one of the world’s faltering empires in the process. We fought a dozen small wars in Central America against weak republics, gaining a century of dominance, control over the Panama Canal Zone, and another resource pipeline from these subject states. In World War One we made our money selling to one side of the conflict, then jumped in to fight the last 6 months against shattered Germany and come out as victors. In World War Two our isolation from the fighting and scorched-earth policies in Europe and Japan led to a stunning victory – a near-monopoly on world manufacturing capacity, and no one to oppose our cultural and economic dominance save devastated Russia. From an investment standpoint, nothing we did before or since can compare with the returns on World War Two. From that conflict we became the world’s imperial master, and every fight since has been a holding action to keep ourselves on top.

The problem is that we’re losing now. We’re broke, owing money to everyone, importing nearly everything. We built up the foreign markets so well that it became profitable to manufacture everything overseas instead of simply importing the resources and making things here. Now we sell knowledge, education, and guns. Lots and lots of guns. We sell them to our allies, to neutral parties, to enemies when it serves some aim or another. We arm the world, in exchange for mountains of cheap goods – an arrangement that has no foreseeable problems or future consequences for anyone. Oh wait, that’s not right… THEY’RE USING THEM AGAINST US?! Who could have seen that coming? The height of folly has been to first drive ourselves into reliance upon far-away colonies, then to build for them the infrastructure and armaments necessary to throw off our yoke. How long before the nations of the world tire of sending us their minerals, their oil, of using their labor to build our entertainment devices? How will we oppose them when they rebel?

It is a cycle in every empire I have ever heard of for the central power to grow and thrive and gain until it is fat, bloated, weak, and dependent on its long-stretched tendrils for survival. At that point another power, be it from within or without, topples the empire and after a period of turmoil and infighting, another power arises somewhere within the system. Looking at the Romans, the Dutch, the Venetians, the Spanish, the Brits, the Russians, and now ourselves – the similarities are there, the biggest difference is our possession of a huge quantity of doomsday weapons. None of the previous dying empires had such a trump card, and as such there is no real precedent to our decline. We’ve certainly gotten more violent, more willing to use torture, assassination, remote-controlled killer drones, undeclared war, accept civilian targets; time will only tell what the American people are willing to accept in order to maintain the social order. If we’ve already accepted torture as necessary, racial profiling and religious violence as means to our ultimate end, and constant war as the way of the world, there is truly no telling what America’s next move is.

We have a situation where any strong, charismatic leader can have near-singular power over the nation, and while Barack Obama is not that leader, can you see the possibility of another him, but stronger and with malicious intent, as leading our country down the path to immolative global war? Certainly the power exists, as do the means – it remains to see whether the American people will demand their leaders take the sensible route – laying down the motorcycle, as it may be – or will continue our collective push toward totalitarian annihilation – and run us all face-first into the brick wall.

This is why I urge America to fall from our high mount – we cannot sustain it without destroying all we once held dear. There can be no American empire without slave labor and an owner class, without the rescission of freedoms, without constant violence to put down unrest, without surveillance and police state; without becoming the very sort of evil empire we portray ourselves as fighting against in film and popular culture. The transition will be rough, surely – perhaps it will be the greatest challenge of the American people, to put this out-of-control machine to rest – but only by acknowledging our internal problems and the fundamentally inconsistent manner in which we live our lives. We will come out of it stronger albeit poorer, and the whole world will benefit.

It begins, however, with us. With this generation. We must stop taking the prosperity for granted, stop charging our lives on credit cards, stop supporting the very things that hold us in this perilous position. Our food must come to us down traceable routes. Our power must come from sustainable sources. Our basic necessities must be produced locally, within a day’s travel preferably, if we are to stop relying on foreign powers with no interest in our well-being. We cannot live sustained on oil and corn (really, more oil) and propped up by our military power. Stop supporting the financial industry that owns our government, stop voting the same corrupt politicians into office, in fact stop voting and start participating. There is no substitute for a good angry protest in terms of inciting change. It is foolish to believe that pacifism and inaction, blog posts and angry letters will ever change the world so well as taking on your elected figures in person. This country was designed so that the highest authority would be the people, but it is run as if the only ones that matter are those with the money and influence to drive events directly. Does this stem from “them” corrupting the process, or is it because we have stopped caring, dropped out, and chained ourselves to TV, microwave dinner, iEverything, stable wage-slavery? When did you last take any action to better your society?

Every people have the government they deserve. Our ancestors faced harder problems than we do today, and came out better. If we wish, as a people, to survive and prosper, then it remains our responsibility to do so. No elected official, no president or congressman, can do that for you. No vote will ever change the world. If we want to leave a world, a country worth living in to our children, then it remains our responsibility to push for that. The status quo is unsustainable. The center will not hold.

I welcome any commentary, but please be prepared to back it up.

Writing with Letters

March 9, 2010

All of this was written over the course of 22 February, 2010 – 9 March, 2010, the vast majority on 23 Feb while I was sitting in airports all day.  Most of it is true.  Some of it is hyperbole.  I’m unrepentant on that last bit.  Enjoy!

I almost died today – came within a few feet of high voltage lines, crashed into a tree, fell 30-45 feet at high-speed, and crashed unceremoniously to the ground in a tangle of paraglider and branches.  It wasn’t the first time, either.  Today’s collision marks my 4th tree landing in 2 weeks of paragliding school, and while it wasn’t my worst, it was my last flight of the program, and the reason I won’t be getting certified to fly solo from this school.

It got me thinking as I climbed trees, machete in hand, to cut my wing down once again – about all sorts of things, but really how there are so many things I need to communicate to people in my life, and how I’m absolute shit at doing that unless really hard-pressed.  I mean, if I die now, there’s a solid forty percent, sixty, ALL of the story that won’t ever be told, a lot of hard-earned lessons and truths wrestled free for no real purpose except my own erudition.  I’ve been ok with that for a while, but… Well, today also marks the final day of a year-long traveling circus, and that I suppose means that it is now time to process a bit of this madness, chew it up and spit it out and suck it up again until the whole mess is somehow more digestible.  Since I dodged that oh-so-tragic-but-woefully-appropriate death on the final day of a grand adventure, I can’t think of any better way to tell another bit of the story than to write out a series of letters to those who have touched my life these past weeks and months, some short, some long, some meaningful, some silly, and to try to tell the story that way.  Now just isn’t the sort of time for traditional narrative, though I must ask – was there ever one?

Vish – this starts and ends with you, my friend.  Your crazy idea, crashing my party in Guatemala to spread ideas of flying as eagles is what spurred my rush south, turned plans of hitchhiking Mexico on their head, inspired me to dream bigger, wilder, more recklessly than before.  Of course, since neither of us had flown before it wasn’t like we could have known that without having come down here and tried it! On the one hand, I must thank you for setting this all into motion, while on the other I want to crack you upside the head for being so damn similar to me!  Running off, chasing beautiful women, doing what makes you happy and fulfills you – it sounds so pleasant, and from where I’m sitting it definitely is.  I’m sorry we never got to meet back up after Salvador really – those one and three night stops in the same hostels just weren’t enough, not even close!  We’ll have to cross paths again soon, just as surely as I’ll have to come back to writing you.  First though, here are a lot of letters to everyone else!

Natalie – Remember first meeting?  There I am, wild hair, 40 or 50 hours into a wild travel marathon across 3 countries, stinking of road, bone-weary, patience worn too weak to be fucked with.  Finally, a wifi connection, I can find out about the declining homefront situation, say the goodbyes I dodged in leaving Leon so quickly, catch up on life.  Just then, a voice – “Oh my God, are you still on your fucking phone?” – it was so brash, annoyed without reason, confident crossed with familiarity, served up by a redhead with sexy librarian glasses and red hair pulled back.  You sounded American, and I wrote you off then, telling myself that you weren’t worth it, that I was too tired to be bothered talking to another dumb judgmental hostel girl.  And a gringa, to boot…  Quite a strange first introduction, which we smoothly turned into a very friendly bitter argument over psychiatry, politics, mental services, healthcare… my image of you as dumb bimbo dropped, to be replaced grudgingly with admiration – your story, your battle, is the sort that deserves respect.  I don’t know how, but by the end of the night we were promising to share a plane to Colombia, friends of some sort.

The world’s worst pancakes, rings in freezers, and we’re just way too comfortable – Why did we ever let each other so close, so quickly, so fully?  It worked out well, but it might well have been disaster the way we threw everything to the universe.  Speaking of disasters, the story almost ended itself right away, when my “don’t bother with reservations, just walk onto the plane” strategy left me watching helpless as you walked away – it wasn’t as bad as the second time in Bogota, but something about the way I felt told me that to let you walk away would be one of the bigger mistakes in a life full of them.  I bummed and cajoled my way through the ranks of ticket sellers, baggage handlers, and computer jockeys and found a flight a few hours later to Cartagena, one way, cash, just me and my bag of machete, lighter fluid, knives, and the like.  I needed it all, so I just shoved everything controversial into my backpack, had it wrapped in about 2000 layers of green plastic, and checked the lot with crossed fingers.

Security didn’t know how to deal with me – the guy about had a stroke when I emptied my pockets!  “What is this?” he hissed at me, holding up a new blue ballpoint.  “A pen” I told him, trying not to laugh.  “You can’t have this – it’s a weapon,” and there went my writing utensil.  Well, one of them anyway, since the carry-on bag has twelve or twenty more.  Belt, shoes, and that special little wand led detective dipshit to my heinous crime – a dollar’s worth of change in my hip pocket – and I was off the hook.  Considering I’d been in Central America for a year, the airport felt like commercialism’s bastard assbaby, and after a couple hours uncomfortable wandering, I made it into the plane and almost airborne before passing out.  I almost missed seeing Cartagena from the air!  As it was, I changed money, freaked at how expensive everything was, took a taxi to the hostel you said you would be at and didn’t find you, and just bummed around the rest of the afternoon feeling foolish.  What if I was wasting my time trying to find you?  Wouldn’t you just find me excessively creepy and stalkertastic?  I gave up trying to find you before long, and just crashed out at the Hostel Holiday, in those glory days before the staff didn’t actively dislike us.

I shouldn’t have worried – we went together like really big people and tiny coats, sex and chocolate, rain and dancing outside, rich kid parties and poor college students – fantastically.  It still amuses me how quickly we became an item, became inseparable, and broke all of our plans and promises in order to spend more time traveling together.  Equador probably would have been great, but you couldn’t be bothered to leave, and paragliding never even crossed my mind for a few weeks.  Instead, we bounced around, lived like our lives depended on it, and had exactly one pissed-off flip-out say things you don’t mean argument.  That aside, it was so wonderful, so real, genuine, and fun that I couldn’t believe when it ended.

Another airport, another city, not our primary language, the same scene – we’re late, you’re leaving, and I don’t have a ticket.  Once more I had to stand there and feel helpless hopeless as you walked through the gate and out of sight.  I’ve been developing a strong dislike for airports, I might mention at this point, and not only because here I still sit in one, six hours after arriving, three weeks after we split ways, and still a few thousand miles away from ever seeing you again.  These concrete duty free jungles – they’re enough to kill a guy’s soul without him even realizing it, like the hole in my pocket that eats change quietly over the course of the day, it’s a cancer.  At least it lets me play Socrates a bit more, wandering the market and taking solace in all that I don’t need.

Oh, and I’ll just write it here – I’m broke in a way that rarely exists outside of bad car accidents or political systems in Banana Republics, and that’s what makes my idea of coming to visit you in New York City, the belly of the beast, the gaping maw of Global Capitalism (for another few years, perhaps) all the funnier, right?  What could be a better decision than to run out of money and then come to one of the most expensive places on Earth?  Perhaps doing the same thing, except in the middle of winter, without bringing anything warmer than jeans full of holes, a ratty leather jacket, and gloves I cut the fingers off of.   Shit, I must be some sort of genius.

Distraction – there seems to be a theme here in the airport today of running quickly past with a worried look on your face – so far I’ve seen a couple stewardesses, a heap of passengers, a couple assorted uniformed peoples, and just now a guy in full military dress with a xbox gripped tightly under one arm.  Weird stuff, right?  I guess so long as it isn’t everyone running in the same direction at once I’ll be ok.

Anyway, it took me about 40 seconds after kissing you goodbye to realize that was a mistake, but another week to do something to remedy it.  I’m basically making my life as hard as possible (recurring theme?) in order to prolong the magic, if I may steal an album title.  I’m reasonably sure NYC is further from home than Colombia, a fact I’ve asserted into existence without anything, not even a casual glance at a map, to back me up.  Let’s pretend it’s true anyway.  Point is simple – you’re worth it, even if this blows up in my face, it’ll be worth the scar tissue just to see your face again, to kiss your lips and hear you telling me to cut the drama.  Scar tissue?  Fuck, it’s not working!  I really can’t wait to see you again, even if this airport, the weather, this universe, my meager finances, and the entire Harlem Globetrotters are set  up against me!  I must go now, though I’ve much more to say, because there are more letters to write.  I’ll talk to you in person soon.

Aside – This is going to be ugly, slapdash, pegged together, and double disjointed like all you freaks! (Hi Alex) I keep moving around, different waiting areas, hallways, tile floors, these godawful divided benches you can’t sleep on, stinking carpet chairs, all the threadbare faux class of air travel – a million people, a thousand bad perfumes, a gorgeous Colombian woman every twenty-eight seconds – this stuff distracts, confuses, draws the mind and hands and eyes away from their careful collusion, and I’m starting to dislike the letter-writing limitations I’ve placed arbitrarily upon myself.  Even scarier – the Internet works mockingly slowly, so I’ve nothing else to do  but pump the music and let the fingers do their magic tricks.  Besides, we’re pages in already, and I’m hardly one to back out of commitment because it’s going down brutally in flames.

Becky & Seth (Seth & Becky) – I feel like now, six or so months after we split ways in a flash on a  San Salvador street corner, I finally understand where you were then – what you were feeling, the doubts and fears, the sense of nothing worthwhile accomplished, the glee and guilt and gut-rocking uncertainty.  It’s not easy being here on the razor’s edge between lives, arms windmilling and body arched, trying desperately to hold onto one reality yet unable to resist looking back, down, over your shoulder at the What Might Be below.  Becky – I still have something you wrote, the Day after Thanksgiving in Honduras piece you gave me a copy of.  I read it still, share it with friends when I want to give them a little mouthful of another life.  Your words are so vivid, sharp yet warm, and they take me back to a time before I spent my time crash landing into and out of everyone else’ lives.  Not a bad time, not my sort of time, but that doesn’t mean I can’t miss it, right?

Seth, I’m sorry we never got a business off the ground in Honduras – I’m pretty rubbish at the business angle of anything, but your ideas weren’t bad.  When I get back home I have a couple things I want to run past you, import/export sort of ideas, bringing in goods that are too scarce to places like Colombia, Guatemala, Panama, where there is still a big markup on gadgets but not a huge competition in tech luxury goods.  We probably could have made it work in Santa Rosa, but you’ve far more important things going on, and I just couldn’t sit still long enough, patiently enough, to build up the market and customer base and oh god just writing those words brings me back, drags me into this place – this drab, gunky airport, it’s Panama now, but it could be anywhere.  Where do you think airports get their carpet?  Who decided “art deco kitsch” and all the classical muzak you’d ever have nightmares about was going to be the go-to mode of every international terminal?  If we hypothetically found that person, who’d be down to give him a good old-fashioned chain-gang beating with me?

I never thought I could get so OVER Western culture, but I did – that happened somewhere, sometime, and now it’s too far gone for my own good.  Four minutes off the plane, I’m getting pushed by fat, stupid, rude Americans in their rush to go into Subway and insult some locals.  Fuck, I hate these people – it’s not everyone – there are a lot of good, normal, smart Americans in the world, and you meet them all the time while traveling.  The problem is that the greasy porkfuckers that the entire world (really, the entire world!) associates with Americans are so obnoxious, toxic, caustic, so easily hateable that they act as a sort of force-multiplier effect unto themselves.  One of them quickly becomes the loudest, most obvious, mostly cellulose, cultural and genetic embarrassment in the entire time zone, and from then on there’s no way to avoid or ignore their presence!

“Hey, girl!” one gargles at the overworked fast food slave, “Gimme oneuh dem sammiches, whatchacallit, polo.  No, no, not that one, jesus, lissename!  Polo, you know, chikkin!” Cue arm flapping.

No joke – this happened.  I saw it.  Everyone saw it.  Some thirty people stopped and watched the American doing the chicken dance and butchering Spanish while she muttered about how incompetent the poor Panamanian girl on the other side of the counter is.  What in the fuck is that!?  Who comes to Central America with no Spanish, then openly starts insulting everyone who can’t communicate with them?  Why does nearly everyone I see doing this sort of shit have to be from the same place as me?  I’m sick of telling people where I come from and getting reactions from “oh.” to “ugh, I’m sorry,” to my favorite, the abrupt turn around and walk away.  I didn’t choose to be from the place that rapes the world’s poor!

Anyway, I was going somewhere else with this, and it was mainly in the direction of not realizing just how heavy, all-consuming, terrifying yet liberating it is to be on the very cusp of going back home.  I know it won’t be easy, that I’ll do a spiral dive into the ground most likely, that adjusting and accepting and compromising will suck the life out, but I also know that you both have done it, gone there and come back, and I think you’re still yourselves, holding out for what you love, doing what you think is important.  Right guys?  Right?!  Please let me be right…  It’s a pretty fairy tale I use to keep myself sane, so even if it isn’t, don’t tell me Santa Claus doesn’t exist just yet – I couldn’t take it just now.

What I want to tell you both is that I love you so much, you were my friends when very few people were, you played a huge part of my safety net through the hard times, let me tag along as I was finding my feet, and when it came time to stumble off and survive on my own in these strange lands, you were there to cheer and make every day we had together the more beautiful.  I treasure our times together, living in your funky house, cooking, climbing that crazy mountain, hitching all over the West, the way you just smiled when Sjoerd and I took off for months and left you holding all of our things.  Talks over tea, pastels, crepes, TS Elliot, the way you let me drag you down into sin and crazy stupid games and never stopped laughing, Seth’s crazy-genius inventions, Becky’s paintings, that hammock-slinging game where you hit your body on the wall on purpose, yoga, and sleeping sick as a dog on your Ninja Turtle sheets – you two have been some of the best friends I could ever ask for.  I never meant to drift so far out of touch, still don’t want to, and I guess this is partly my way of reaching back out to you both.  Perhaps it’ll be easier to communicate once I’m back home, probably it won’t, but I’ll make the effort if you’ll do the same!  Much love, and I’m sure we’ll meet again soon.

Sjoerd – Hatford Doma (Godverdomme) buddy!  Where have you been all my life?  I think as long as I’m handing out blame for the situation I’m in, you have to get a lot of the credit.  It was you, after all, who said “Hey, lets hitchhike to San Jose, Costa Rica” when we were blind drunk after the Rivera wedding, and overnight changed our path from Guatemala, Belize, Mexico to 180* south and the best times of my life.  Without that one crazy night who knows where we would be?  Well, you would probably be right back where you are now, to be fair, but I might be dead in a ditch in Mexico, long-since home, or still living in Honduras, or… well it doesn’t matter where I might be, because right now I’m here, that airport thing I keep talking about, surrounded by well-dressed travelers with scowls and too many bags, and I can’t stop laughing inside and smiling outside as I think of how well things worked out.

I will say this one thing – you should have brought the trumpet!  That two-day trip, dance party and wedding, turned into one of the best adventures of my entire life, and without you I could never have done it.  We have this great personality overlap, where one of us says something godawful stupid, like “hey, let’s go see if we can live on an abandoned prison island” and then the other says “yeah, that sounds great,” and then we’re stuck in a creepy building that smells like batshit and ghosts and oh-dear-jesus-why-is-that-doll-nailed-over-the-doorway?!  We made a fabulous traveling team, just as we made a great kitchen-bar-drinking team.  I still wish Dan had come with us for some of the fun bits – poor guy only got the hard work and missed out on most of the really great stuff!  Still, three is a crowd for hitching, so perhaps it worked out for the best – I don’t know, never do, but what I am sure of is that you helped set me onto this crazy path of adventurous wild living and I owe you the world for it!

We really need to stop chasing the same women though, especially if we end up traveling together again, which we definitely ought to.  The drive-across-Africa plan was a good one, even if we dreamt it up over rum and karaoke in Leon – oh man, I wish you’d been in Leon some of the later times I stayed there!  There were such good crowds, entire schools of Norwegians that somehow we didn’t meet the first times, Dutch people everywhere, a live music scene, dancing and parties and friendships we barely scratched the surface of.  Come back sometime, and tell me when you do, so we can get out there and live wild again.  I didn’t think I could make such a lifetime friend in so little time, over such awful jobs and such poverty as we chose to live in!  The Casa Kiwi – I’ll have to work hard to find a worse job than that – remember the day we both quit and Chaz started chasing cows and hitting them with sticks because she was so angry at us?  That’s a whole other crazy saga I need to write up, and perhaps now that I’m not living an adventure a day I’ll have time to do just that.  Until we next meet, this Black Label is for you my friend!

X – Yeah, I guess I’ve stuck with the single letter motif too long to use any of your seventeen given names, but I think you like it better this way.  When I think about it, you were my first friend after I left – thought Randy was, but the whole trying to punch me in the face thing cured me of that – and I owe you a lot from our short time together.  I wasn’t prepared for life in Honduras, didn’t have the language, nearly none of the skills, and I came into that program with nothing comparable – no international travel, no exposure to other cultures, nothing at all – straight from spoiled US life (and to think, I used to believe I had it rough!) right into the Cerrato family homestead.  I would have freaked out a good deal more if I hadn’t had you to give the whole thing a sheen of relative normalcy.  Seven people in three-ish rooms?  Tortillas with mantequilla for breakfast? Bucket baths?  Nothing too difficult when I’ve a friend who seems to be better than me at absolutely everything, and not only that, enjoys it too.

Small wonder I was so enamored of you in the early months, and even smaller wonder you weren’t exactly about to return the same feelings.  I only feel bad that things got weird after I was thrown out and had to fend for myself.  I never asked you to interject yourself between the WatSan team’s politics and my own situation, but like a true friend you did anyway, even as it hurt you.  Thank you for trying, even if there wasn’t much hope of my salvation or return to the cool kids’ club!  When did it begin to feel like you were taking care of me?  Probably well before it began to show through – you’re strong, moreso every time I see you, which, incidentally might not be for a while, considering my current airborne status, an hour out from NYC and freezing to death.

A hundred thank yous, X, for the small kindnesses, home cooked meals, letting me sleep on your floor, the open arms and doors, for allowing me to help out with small projects and make a fool of myself from time to time.  You’ve really a knack for governance and management, which simultaneously makes me jealous and want to run far away to places where there isn’t much of either… Ah well, I wouldn’t be me without it.  I love your stories, our dancing, even the completely arrogant domineering part of your personality started to grow on me by the end!  I’ll never forget that when the entire Peace Corps took a shit on my head, you risked your status within the program, your career and reputation and all those supposedly valuable things, just to sit with me and grieve a bit.  Thanks friend – I owe you a dozen.  I’ll be seeing you around, I expect, since our worlds do overlap just a tiny bit, and for all the dumbshit things I do, losing track of true friends isn’t one of them!  Take care of yourself down there, and let’s keep in better touch.

Alex – You’re the new kid on this list, and perhaps the only reason I kept at paragliding after a straight disaster of a first week – I nearly killed myself battling high voltage lines that first morning when you showed up, and was just sick of it all, from the technically unforgiving fly site to the people to damn near everything, and then all out of nowhere you’re there, excited and ready to learn.  I couldn’t stomach the thought of quitting and complaining about danger and possible death right in front of someone who hadn’t had a fair shake at it yet, and as it turned out those next 48 hours or so were when the whole thing clicked for me and I finally felt more like a pilot than a guy on the verge of falling out of the sky.  Lucky break too, because unless I’ve sorely misread you, I’m pretty sure we made real friends real fast – something about being stuck in bunk beds and having the same lame sense of humor?

That might be part of it, but we both know it isn’t the real reason – we came together at a time when we were at the same point, the final days of year-long trips, and together forced ourselves through the “freak out and dread it” part of going home by reminiscing, telling stories, talking about our lives, and just reminding each other that life does go on, that we are more than the situations we’re in, the places we live.  We want similar things, to do something we find value in, to control our own path, to surround ourselves with the sort of people we relate to, and have the freedom to pursue what we love.  At least, that’s my read, but since you put up with my shit for as long as you did, I don’t think I’m far off!  I think you’ve a good shot at it too – you have your passions pretty well sorted, know the people you need to break into the industry you want to work in, and you seem pretty well motivated – add in some pretty ridiculous dance moves and rockstar hair and you might well be writing your own paychecks.

Here’s where I’m scared though, for you and me both but I’ll write it to you.  It’s really easy to get trapped by the way you live your life, from the job you work to the company you keep, and while I haven’t any indicators that you hang out with the wrong sort of folks (I’ll excuse you paling around with me since you were forced to) but you’ve been working primarily in exactly the sort of industry that grabs you by the ears, slaps you around, and eventually bends you over and makes you its bitch.  Maybe you’re into that, but I’m pretty sure no, since escaping your job and the reality surrounding it was a big motive in leaving.  It wasn’t healthy, the work consumes every aspect of your self, and in the end you’re basically tarnishing your soul bit by bit in order to feed yourself – it’s no way to live, and if you aren’t careful it is the sort of work that will turn living into surviving, into dying day by day until you look into the mirror one morning and can’t remember the last time you felt truly alive.

You made the right decision once, in getting out and living for yourself a bit, but it seems as if you’re poised to go right back into the same under a different guise – closer to what you want in terms of proximity, perhaps, but I just don’t see how working in finance, even if it is finance for the industry you love, is going to get you even one step closer to doing the real work that you want, helping people and not entities.  It’s a dangerous game, because as you know better than I, once you’re in that job is your life, just like everyone else who gets in.  You work and everything else comes secondary – something that this last year ought have shown you the futility of, if nothing else!  I’m worried for you, because I see how truly happy you are now – I called you a beautiful person because that’s the best way I can put it – and I can’t bear the thought of seeing you lose that spark and get muddied up in the gears of unfeeling corporatism again.

Ask yourself, perhaps – what best serves your goals, the ones you spoke with me about?  How can you most directly help the people who you care about, the artists and bands as opposed to the industry that holds them back and profits from their art?  Surely there’s a better way to do that than finance!  If your goal is to get more profit to the bands, why not use your same skills to help bands negotiate better contracts, or find sponsorship for events, or organize indy labels to work together and get the big dinosaurs out of the picture altogether?  If that isn’t what you’re looking for, there are a thousand ways to help bands promote, organize, and share their talents that don’t require big labels, and if you’re serious about giving power back to the musicians, that power is going to have to be wrestled away from the labels.  You can’t make that sort of difference working from the inside, because the entire thing, the structure of the modern music industry is built around the necessity of big corporate labels – reality doesn’t require them, but they’ve made a nice niche that sure does!  If you want to make positive difference, that probably means doing something big, something authentically yours, and something radical – that won’t happen from inside the finance department at Universal.

That’s all I’ll say there, perhaps too much already, but I’m writing as much to me as to you.  We’re in similar ships, and I hope that neither of us is forced to compromise our loves, or lives, or our values for mere survival once we get back into the fake world.  I’ll be rooting for you, and waiting for that book too!  Maybe if I keep bugging you for updates it will motivate me to do something myself…  Don’t hold your breath.  Again – fantastic meeting you, we had a ridiculous time, and seriously – practice the PLF.  That is not a beginner’s paragliding site, not even close, and it just might save your life someday.  Trust yourself and you’ll go anywhere you desire.

Russell – Here’s the thing man – you’re serious all the time, like 99.999% pure business, pure business time, and I’m out to make everything into a big jumble of bad jokes and chaos.  We get along like styrofoam and gasoline, to be honest, in that when we’re together we stick to everything and burn.  That’s an awful analogy, please wipe it from your memory.  What I mean is that we’ve personalities that don’t mesh all that well, and that came out especially during paragliding training.

It’s a hard sport, and people might die if they don’t pay attention and learn quickly, but much as you drill that into us, there are some gaps in your program that pretty directly affect us, the hapless students who wander up to the flying school based off friends’ recommendations and Lonely Planet.  It’s great that you get us doing practical training within minutes, that we’re kiting and flying the wings, practicing takeoffs on the very first day.  I much enjoy getting into the grit of the sport early, learning by doing (badly), and making my mistakes – it makes me feel much more involved than I would otherwise, gives me a real show of where I need to improve.  That said, your program has a couple bits where I think you need to change, or you’re likely to lose a student sooner or later.

I’ll start with the most direct – you need to learn how to constructively criticize, because from your instructor position you are very much the person we most depend on in the early days and weeks, and if you’re not someone we can trust, respect, listen to, then you’re going to end up with students who don’t take you seriously, who don’t want to listen because they’re sick of hearing your voice!  I’m serious – it gets to the point where you can actually shut your students down – not just me mind you, but all of us – because you’re relentless in your critiques, and you get pissed off at people who have been Paragliding for a matter of hours.  It shows in your voice when we don’t get the takeoff routine perfectly down after maybe 15 attempts, when we set the wing down too hard, when we’re not correcting quickly enough.  I know it’s frustrating to see the same mistakes over and over out of hundreds of people, but you must remember that while these things are second nature to you, we are still thinking the entire process out – center, lines, accelerate, push up, keep running, head out, long strides, arms back, superman, correct, pendulum, keep running, check lines, forward, correct… It’s a lot to process, and when the guy yelling commands over the radio can’t keep the frustration out of his voice, it’s about the most demoralizing thing in the world.

We react to it in different way – some of the students outwardly shut down, get frustrated themselves, start to make mistakes, and eventually have to take a break.  Me, I found myself wrestling with my own brain to just listen to you!  That’s dangerous man, really dangerous – I would just start to tune you out whenever you started lecturing, not because you were wrong, but because you deliver these scathing critiques in a tone of voice that says “you’re worthless, you’re an idiot, you’re wasting my time.”  Never mind the words, your tone and body language are those of the expert pilot but of the frustrated teacher who doesn’t want to be doing this.  Don’t think I don’t understand the dangers of the sport – as your most infamous treehugging pilot I know them better than most, but I found myself on your shit-list early on, and by the day it because harder and harder to listen to your words.  How could I, when you’re basically telling me to fuck off in your commands?

I’ll never forget that last flight, with me heading into power lines and fighting not to hit Richie’s house, and your dripping, contemptuous “what the fuck are you doing?” over the radio.  Not helpful, not professional.  If I hadn’t cleared those lines by half a meter, that could have been the last thing anyone ever said to me.  The same theme played out a few other times, when I wasn’t doing what you asked – first contempt, then abandonment.  I know you think that you know what is best for me, but really, if a pilot isn’t obeying you despite obviously hearing what you have to say, is it possible that you don’t have the whole picture?  Ordering me through the landing routine when I’m 40 or more meters up, then groaning that I never listen isn’t helpful or necessary.  A lot of times we only have seconds to react out there, and small mistakes can lead to death or serious injury – at no point should you, the professional, be letting you, the angry person, take control.  We depend on you to keep us alive up there, and excess radio chatter doesn’t help, especially when it’s insulting.

In a similar vein, I don’t think you should be training beginners to fly at Ritoque, period.  I don’t see it as any surprise that every student seems to hit the ground too hard a few times there, because as any pilot who comes there will tell you, it’s a very technically challenging site.  Why did whatserface break an arm?  Why did people end up in the hospital daily my first 3 days in town?  Why do all the visiting pilots have close calls in their first few flights?  It could be all chalked to pilot error, and to be honest, every single incident can be charted to that as a direct cause, but that just brings the question one level higher – why are there so many pilot errors?  Ask the pilots, and really, think about it yourself – that is a very dynamic, very technical site, and there are a huge amount of variables – from ground moisture to wind direction to cloud formation – that utterly transform the whole area.  It’s the equivalent of punk ethos – the only rule it conforms to is constant nonconformity.  When the conditions change so much, so rapidly, it forces pilots to adapt quickly and correctly, which isn’t so bad except that many of us have never, outside of the book we read at your school and the brief videos, seen, heard of, or experienced anything quite like what we now have to deal with!  It makes better pilots of us to learn this way, but it also puts people in a huge amount of danger with only their wits and a radio line to you guys on the ground to help us.

If I knew before I started what I know now having completed the course, there is not a chance that I would have come to Ritoque to learn, not as a beginner.  That is an intermediate-advanced site, and you’re sending complete novices off into the air and hoping that conditions don’t get too hairy.  When nothing changes too rapidly, we usually end up ok, but what happens when we’re landing in a 45 degree crosswind on our third flight, or sinking out rapidly into that awesome ditch before the landing zone?  People without experience in the air are being asked to make decisions and judgments that we don’t have any business making, and worse, are doing so without proper warning.

I dug my own grave – before I headed up to fly with you guys, I was thoroughly warned.  Vish told me it was a P3 site, I saw Steve in the hospital, translated for him even!  The guys told me a few stories, and I was still dumb, young, and brash enough to head up there to see for myself.  What about the others?  I warned Alex a bit, but the new students?  Why aren’t you teaching the PLF, making us practice deploying reserve chutes, talking about uncollapsing wings, getting out of stalls and spirals, making us focus on safety and our own health before throwing us into the sky?  How about an honest lecture on the dangers before we start flying?  Are you worried that students will get scared and leave?  You owe everyone who comes up there the truth – you need to tell them about the accidents and mistakes and dangerous spots before we make them ourselves.  Not doing so conveys a sink or swim attitude, which is great except when things literally translate to die or fly.  If you’re not more careful, if you don’t teach us the basic survival skills, then some student is going to be me but a bit less lucky, and is going to end up in the power lines or crashing to earth and not getting back up.  You’re going to have a student die if you don’t teach emergency skills.

All of that aside I had a fantastic time, which sounds ludicrous after all this but is the absolute truth.  I’m glad I did the course, near-deaths and all.  I just wish I could have had some advance warning on the terrain, on the dangers, on the possibilities and problems.  I’m a better pilot than the people who learned on the bunny slope, I wager.  I’ve had more experience in more conditions, better flights, and had to think and react on the fly much more than anyone who just had to fly down the bunny slope a couple of dozen times.  I only worry that someone else will come down a bit differently, fly a bit lower over the power lines, hit the ground a tiny bit harder.  We’re very fragile, human beings, and while a certain level of risk is inherent to this sport, your students deserve a little more warning before being thrown off the cliff, as it were.  Thanks for putting up with me, I guess – it seemed like you really didn’t want to after a while.  I’m not bitter, but you really know how to make a guy feel unwelcome.  That’s ok though, because I’m gone, and you won’t have to deal with me again.  Take care of yourself man, don’t believe everything on Prison Planet, and smile once or twice.  Life is good!

Sofia – When I first met you all I really knew was that you were the Swedish girl, blonde and blue, who had made friends of all the local paragliders in Bucaramanga.  You spoke a whole lot of Spanish with a Colombia accent, knew just about everyone in that community, and had a level of confidence I found simultaneously intimidating, alluring, and confusing – combined with the fact that we never quite spoke beyond trading jokes for days in passing, it left me quite ready to write you off as another pretty face I’d never meet again, honestly.  I’ve never been one to go to ridiculous distances to meet people unless I know it’s worthwhile, but as it turned out we had a great intermediary in the Jake the crazy Alaskan.  Without him, I don’t think I’d have anything to write you about, or to thank you for.

Remember Jake?  How could you not?  The guy is a one-man party, a dancing machine, the sort of fool who could drink and dance and be the life of the whole party until dawn if only you let him, then do it again the next night, and the next…  Once he was medically forbidden to fly, (possibly due to the effects of eating a two-pound hamburger in a matter of minutes, but that is a story for another day) Jake quickly tired of life on a mountainside, and started going to more and wilder lengths to amuse himself.  He found you and your friends, got accepted into the paragliding cool kids club, and eventually dragged me in as well.

It was my great fortune, because you guys really know how to have a good time.  Your birthday party was ridiculous – from the little tienda where everyone comes together and drink, to Club Tiger, to the shenanigans at that $5 all-you-can-drink nightclub, it was a wild time.  Who knew that losing all my money playing drinking games and getting molested by drunk fifteen year olds could be so fun?  I mean, it certainly didn’t help my paragliding career, but I can’t complain – fun times and good memories are worth so much more than sound health in old age.  Tapadas, Tapados? – that game was so good at parting me from all my money – lowest number buys the round seemed to translate to “K buys every round he plays, unless Sofia is there to pick even worse” and it seems like the hands-down best way to make friends with the locals.

Actually, that’s what I need to write about here – you’ve gotten in so well with the community, become a part of their lives, that I was both jealous and inspired.  You speak like them, use the same expressions and gestures, live with them and cross lives with everyone.  You’ve become part of the family because you don’t hold back, don’t hide from the new and foreign, and open yourself up to the world.  I admire that so much in you – it has been one of the hardest things for me to learn this past year, how to leave myself vulnerable and open to strangers – but you seem to have done so completely with this group.

You were honest with me as well, even when that meant you weren’t making friends – even when that meant a disdainful comment on my lack of flying savvy or a goofy face when you caught me staring.  I appreciate it precisely because I know how difficult it is to be truthful with others, and have struggled to do the same for so long.  I’ve gotten better at it, but you’re leaps and bounds ahead of me.  Thank you for that.

Still, I don’t know if you realize it, but there is something you’re hiding from yourself.  I’ve seen only the outlines of it, the smallest glimpse, but I think there’s something I ought tell you – you’ve lost the magic of paragliding, the love is replaced by fear and bad memories, and it might never come back.  Not that I blame you – had I taken the same fall that you did, come so close to the face of death, I don’t think I would have ever stepped foot onto that launch site again.  Still, you’re so caught into the paraglider family, with all of your friends being pilots or girlfriends/boyfriends of pilots, that I worry somewhat you might get pulled back into it without really wanting to take part.  There’s no shame in staying far away from a sport once the fun of it is gone, no matter how much everyone around you wants to you back in the fold.  I don’t know if they’re pressuring you now, but I imagine they will be before long – it’s in the nature of boys, bold pilots, and Latin men, and when they’re all three… Well, you’ll see it soon enough, if you haven’t already.  I guess I’m just encouraging you to do what you want, not what makes your friends happy.  Peer pressure is a wicked thing sometimes, especially when it comes to throwing yourself into an activity that demands such concentration and precision of you.

Aside all that, it was a pleasure and an honor making friends with you.  That one night, when Alex and you were inventing sex positions on all the bunkbeds, was priceless, really ridiculously fun, and without you I couldn’t have gotten into the same group of friends as I did.  Sorry for not coming out to play futbol or volleyball, and for not supporting the “lets do things that don’t involve binge drinking” movement – frankly I would have, if not for it being my last night!  If you ever come up to the US, you’re welcome wherever I am.  I owe you a place to stay at the very least, after being my link to such good people and good times!  Here’s hoping we cross paths again someday.

Dale – This one is for you, crazy Canadian!  Don’t fret that sometimes you’re wrong – we all are, just let it slide.  You’re a great guy, but I felt like half the time we were tip-toeing around you to avoid pointless arguments, and the other half stringing you along to get a cheap laugh.  There’s no shame in just smiling and taking a seat when the whole world is against you and seems to be right!

That said, you did say something that stuck with me – “the first thing,” as you put it, “the first decision you must make, is whether or not you’re going to take off.  From that decision come all of the other choices.”  That stuck with me, especially after I took a wicked crash on a flight I didn’t want to take in the first place!  At least you warned me…

My family – Sitting here in a chilly Brooklyn cafe, with this fantastic trip winding now to a close, I’m staring reality in the face and preparing myself to re-enter the once-familiar and now terrifying life back home.  Most likely I’m going to be miserable, just down in the gutter, when I first get home, and I want you to know that isn’t your fault.  It never was, never will be, but you’re going to have to deal with my unhappiness most directly, and for that I am sorry.  It isn’t fair to you, in the face of such love and support, but honestly I mean you no harm, and wish you didn’t have to see that side of me.  For what it’s worth, I’ll hide the worst from you, keep it to myself because to show you, to see the hurt in your faces, is more painful than any of the regrets and frustrations I might vent.

The reality is that I really don’t like living in the US, and not just because I found life so much more enjoyable, challenging, authentic, REAL in Central America.  Things are just so much more convoluted, unnecessarily complicated and frustrating at home.  It runs from the mundane – expensive living, ID checks, security cameras, rules, to the really fundamental – I can’t stomach my actions, efforts, brainpower, and labor going to support a nation that does such terrible things around the world.  When I left I swore that I wouldn’t ever again aid a terror state or benefit from my status as an American, and yet here I am retreating tail between my legs, coming right back home, crashing into my old life, old room, my own past.  I’m doing exactly what I don’t want to in coming home, but believe it or not that has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with you guys.  It’s the sense of failure, of betraying my values that I hate so much, not you guys, not my flesh and blood!

And yet…  Regardless of what I do, I know there is no way I can convince you not to live in the US, or to internalize the feelings I’m going to have to vent from time to time.  I can’t hide my disdain for this system, not so long as it keeps crossing my path, keeps popping up into my life.  I’m probably going to be a negative, angry piece of shit for a while, at least until I can start planning to get out, run away again.  I just wish I could get you guys to come with me, to leave this failing empire and live somewhere that isn’t trying to start wars or rule the world.  Still, mom and dad, I know we’ve had this argument and I can’t win – there isn’t any way I’m going to convince you I’m not some sort of liberal or terrorist lover because I don’t love the nation, and there’s no way you’re going to convince me that the US is where I ought to spend my life, so perhaps we ought drop it entirely – the arguments lead nowhere except tears, and when it comes down to it, I’m absolutely ecstatic to see you all again.

I’m amazed that it has been a year since I saw you all, that I’ve missed an entire round of birthdays, holidays, and family gatherings.  It slipped by unnoticed!  I never thought I could get so disconnected, so easily, from all of your lives – the guilt tastes bitter, leaves me feeling unsatisfied whenever I’ve thought of it, and so for the most part I’ve hidden it deep inside.  Isn’t that terrible?  Burying thoughts of family, or those people I love most, feeling guilty because I keep hiding from them, and allowing that guilt to bury things still further.  I’ve been a miserable son lately, hiding out in far-off lands while you’re all having such a hard time at home, but just knowing that has driven me further into seclusion, made me hide further and deeper in my own life, in the day-to-day mundanities.  I owe you all an apology, because you’ve been nothing buy good to me, and I’ve been so disconnected and ungrateful.

It will be a great day when I can finally see you all again.  There will be tears and laughter and dad will probably give himself a hernia trying to pick up the whole family – I love you guys so much that just thinking about it brings a smile to my face.  It will be a great reunion, moreso because I keep delaying, keep pushing it back with side trips and detours and road trips with strangers.  I’m sorry for being the son who can’t stay put, can’t stop moving, can’t keep close to the family.  I know it hurts every day we’re all apart, because it hurts me too, but I just can’t sit still!  There’s this wild bug in me that cries out “do more crazy things, have more fun, get out there and give it your all, because this is all you have, this one life, these few brief moments alive.”  I can’t deny myself any more than you can, and so I know that as I laugh into the wind with sheer extasy of living, you’re all sitting patiently and waiting for me to come home.  I’m a selfish bum, but I swear I’ll make it up to you when I get back home.  I love you all so much, and I’ll see you soon.

Natalie again – Thank you again for NYC, for Colombia, for stealing me that jacket from Steve, for the laughs and the criticism and the doubts and for being real – thank you for everything.  You’re a beautiful person, and I’ll write you a worthy story as soon as I’m able.  Keep in touch, keep in touch, for fuck’s sake don’t drop off the face of the planet!  You know everything I want to tell you already, I think, so I’ll leave it here.   Until the next time, friend, there is a scavenger hunt in your room – I got bored.

Vish again – Here we are again friend, back at you, reaching the end.  I hope there’s some sort of narrative appearing here, in all of the letters, in all of the stories half-written, sketched out.  I owe you a dozen letters by now, and miss our long drawn-out conversations every time I’m sitting down alone – which, these days, is a whole hell of a lot.  I’m in NYC now, Brooklyn usually, Manhattan when I feel like taking the subway, and I’m too poor to spend much time outside.  Instead, when I’ve done enough walking around and people-watching and sitting in parks, once the fingers start going numb and the teeth chatter, I head back to the 2nd Stop Cafe, this legit little worn out coffee shop, and write until my eyes hurt or the endless cups of strong brew get to me.  It’s a life, I guess, but it doesn’t compare too favorably to what we were doing in Central America, what you might still be doing, and what I wish I was doing today.  It’s just so unfriendly, so isolated in the crowds that I want to start doing handstands in the street, and might except I can’t do handstands too well, and I’d get run over by a taxi.

I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining too much – I’ve had some great times here with Natalie, with this crazy Aussie pair named Steve and Steve, with my cousin as well.  It’s just that life can’t be the same here as it was there, and I truly like life there better.  I know you’re thinking about heading back home, and I think you probably ought to go see your family and new nephew, but I encourage you to take the same advice I gave to Alex above – don’t forget what you know now, don’t let this life fade and pale in the London fogs and life at home.  I’m fighting it now, right now, today, because I can already see that I won’t be able to live as I did on the road once I get home, settle, and replant myself there.  I’m scared, no terrified, of the prospect.  Part of me thinks that is just silly – how could I possibly forget what I’ve learned, felt, experienced?  Yet at the same time I can feel myself losing the language, losing the memories – it all has gone so damn fuzzy, so heartbreakingly vague, and it might as well just be a dream.  Without my torn clothes, scars, and care lines, I could so easily discount it.  How easy it would be to lose it all!

We spoke about not tying ourselves to the past or defining ourselves but what we have done, been, or seen, and I have tried to live as we counseled each other, not letting my ties to this present moment be overwhelmed by what has already been.  However, I wonder now what to do when the past was so good, so positive, so formative.  Is it possible, do you think, to keep the lessons and experiences without letting them guide me into some specific future?  I want to keep it all, but I know that if I do it will become impossible to approach the present openly – in essence, I would be trading a future of limitless possibilities for one narrowed by my actions.  It might not be bad, but what am I losing?  There’s that great unknown that comes with facing the world innocently, and I fear giving it up willingly.  No matter how good I feel about this adventurous life, it seems quite possible that I’m missing something far better and won’t even recognize it if I’m not careful.  The present challenge as I transition into a new life is to keep the values and lessons, friendships, loves, adventures, and memories from disappearing while also keeping them from completely dominating my present and thus future.

I wager that you are going to be facing the same soon, if you aren’t already – all good things must end in due time, and you seemed ready at our last meeting to cut your travels for a bit and see how the settled life suits you.  I admire that courage – I’m going in kicking and screaming now, with reality essentially dragging me by the toes into a sedentary life.  I wish you only the best my friend, and never forget that we still have a book to write!  We should talk soon, or at least keep an email exchange going.  I have to much to ask you – about Katarina, about your travels since we last parted, about your family and ideas and  paragliding, and other topics that will spring naturally out of our conversations.  I apologize for taking so long to write – it has been a busy month, in a busy life, but that is no excuse for going so long without conversing!  I hope you are well, and I’m sure that we will speak soon.  Take care friend, and keep your beautiful spirit alive!

It comes now to this – a coffee shop, an adventure ending, lovers parting, and the world spinning serenely onward.  I’m not sure what the future holds, or even where I’ll be tomorrow, but I am sure that it will be fantastic, wonderful, spendid, adjective-ful – how could it not, when the world is such a wild and magical place?  The transition back to the USA hasn’t killed me, and tonight I leave on a cross-country drive with someone, or someones, that I haven’t yet met.  I need to pack, I need to shave, I have no money, my hair is sticking up like a lunatic’s.  I probably stink, but that won’t stop me either.  I’m a sucker for this life – I’m mad about it, head over heels, and there is nothing I have ever seen or done or loved or touched upon that could make me give it up.  I’ll figure out how to keep going, how to keep drinking the ambrosia, until the day I die.  How I know this I don’t know, but that not knowing hasn’t stopped me before, won’t stop me this time either.  It’s just a feeling I guess, one that permeates my soul and body, mind and spirit.  This is perhaps the only truth I know – I am happy when I live the way I do.  I don’t regret what I’ve done, and just hope I can share some small bit of it with you all before I go.  Go where?  No where – it’s the action that is important, not the destination.  Until the next time! -k

Ran away to find myself.  Suceeded.

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

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