Madrugada Rambles

February 1, 2010

I can’t sleep any more.

It’s because I don’t know what I’m doing. This shouldn’t bother me so much – I rarely know what I’m doing.  I’ve spent nearly a year flying by the seat of my pants, doing whatever seemed right in the moment, just living day to day as I saw fit.

It was wonderful.  Truly fantastic, if I am to be honest with myself.  Finally, in the unknowing, in the not planning, I had found a life that made me truly content, happy in the most basic way.
And now that’s over.

It wasn’t my choice – it wasn’t anybody’s choice.  Things just change, ebb and flow, with time.  The universe just does this, and it isn’t our place to whine or bitch about it.  Life back home, the life I left behind, abandoned like a prom night baby, walked out on and never looked back; that life caught up to me again.

Debt was a big part of it.  Family drama is a much bigger one.  People I love need help, and I can perhaps give it.  I might be a freer spirit, a selfish prick living a life based on doing on what makes one feel content and fulfilled, but what sort of complete shithead would I be to walk away from family?

Don’t answer that – I really don’t want to think about it right now.

There here it is, all of these thoughts – am I ready yet? – where will I go? – can I even work in the US? – won’t I just get trapped? – how the fuck will I even eat? – can I, this me, be happy there in that past me’s life? – all this shit, nonsense, worry, pain just rattling around in my head, and I’ve lost my coping mechanisms.

It was easy to quit smoking when I had sex on a regular basis.

All the little things that I take particular joy out of in this life, like singing into the wind in the back of a speeding pickup truck, running into the ocean with my pants on just to float out in the waves, spending an entire day walking circles aimlessly around a bustling city, making lifelong friends over coffee on a small couch, then saying goodbye forever – those sort of things didn’t happen before.  Those sort of things don’t happen in a place where the magic is dead.  Where is the place for someone like me in such a hard, rude, fast place as the US?  People who write poetry and sit around all morning watching the clouds pass by aren’t exactly in high demand.  Where is the productivity, the value, in any of the things I enjoy doing?  What if I just don’t want to become another wake-eat-work-shit-sleep automaton, desperately throwing myself into hobbies, activities, to pretend that I have some sort of meaning in my life?  Where’s the fucking place for that, huh?

Nowhere.  There is no place for that sort of bullshit.

Not in fast-food, fast-cars, fast-forward, faster-than-last-week, can’t-get-fast-enough modern society.  There’s no slowing down there – just full speed ahead until you shatter into a million pieces on the bricks, and everyone says fake shit and sheds crocodile tears over your corpse.  There’s nothing for me when I go back.  Not when I’ve sworn off the advantages of a self-destructive society.  I don’t want what it has to offer – the exact opposite is what I’ve found happiness in.

Is it possible to do what I need to, but also what I need too?

I’m being  a brat about it, honestly.  Just sitting, self-pitying, being a rock.  Me, the guy who tells every tourist, traveler, vagabond in their final days before returning to jail “go 110%, right into the final seconds, so that instead of sitting on that plane regretting the things you didn’t do, you’re that smelly, exhausted-looking guy all the other passengers whisper and point about, but secretly envy.  Live so hard, and so well, that you burn it all up in what you enjoy.  Have the best damn time you can while you can, before you’re stuck back home.”  I truly believe that, and yet I’m just loafing, lying around and wasting myself away.

Why can I give such good advice and then refute it in my actions?

It’s just – well – honestly, I didn’t see this end  coming so abruptly.  Whereas most people have a set date to leave, I haven’t had to plan anything, have deliberately avoided planning anything, since last February.  I tried to a few times, sure, but whenever you plan, you end up doing exactly what you planned to.  There’s no mystery, no adventure, no intrigue or desire or despair, pain, spontaneity, laughter, love, or authenticity to it.  You just do a list of shit, check the boxes and move on – it’s like having sex with your hand, or watching a movie.  There’s the barest outline of what you really want, but the reality, the truth, isn’t there at all.  I just got tired of fooling myself, and vowed no more plans.  Until now, that’s never been an issue.

Everything changes.

Now I need to plan something, or I’ll just be fucked completely whenever I get home.  I need a job, a life, money, an escape route, and above all, I need to be really goddamned sure that I don’t get stuck in that country any longer than absolutely necessary.   And I’ve forgotten how to even do!  What, do I make a list or something?  Should I start brainstorming, strategizing?  The most important decisions I’ve made in months have been decided by coin tosses, bets, sealed with kisses or handshakes.  Job hunting means walking door to door asking if people have work.  A resume?  That’s an insult to even ask for!  Just let me work for you, and if I’m not good enough, throw me out on my head!  What sort of fucked up system decided a contract was needed for that?

I’m used to a better life, that’s the real problem.

Make no mistake, life is better down here.  Simpler, poorer, rougher, harder, but better nonetheless.  It comes to a few things, I think.  People know each other, for starters.  They know their neighbors, who is fucking who, which dog belongs to whoever, when the neighbor’s  kid is going to have her baby, who was kissing in the park last night.  They talk, they keep up on the local goings-on, and they don’t isolate themselves from reality.  In the US, I lived years without knowing the first or last names of people who lived 20, 30, 50 feet away.  No idea who they were at all.  I’m certainly not the only one.  People know each other, and it shows in every interaction.  Further, they trust each other.  I was in a bakery today, buying a sandwich, and everything was on display right next to the door.  Not behind any doors, not covered by cameras or sensor tags, just loaves of bread, rolls, buns of any sort, sitting right next to the big fuckoff roll-up doors.

Bear in mind, this is a city of over 1 million people.  We’re not out in the countryside here.  Any asshole thief could walk right in and load up on free food, and probably even the cash register, since the employees were nowhere near it except when people were paying.  No, not here.  People don’t steal from their neighbors – not from people they know and care about.  And even if they don’t, it’s just not done!  Better to give people something, any day.  I could go for days, but let’s just concentrate on this for now – they have community here.  They have pride in their surroundings, know their fellow humans, respect each other.  You don’t see people stealing cabs, making old folks stand on buses, pregnant women lift ANYTHING.  They see the other humans around them, and live as if everyone mattered.

Try finding that at home.

I don’t know what to do, what I can do, but I do know that I will be just about the worst American in a while.  I’m giving away everything when I get back – everything I  can live without.  Considering I’ve been living from a backpack for a year, it won’t be a small pile.  I’ve been an ignorant, materialist, self-centered pig most my life, and it took this whole other life to realize it.  I can live just fine off of rice, beans, bread, and eggs.  I don’t need fancy designer pants.  I don’t need more then 3 pairs of any pants, really.  I don’t need heaps of things.  Really, all I need are friends, love, adventure, and the very basics of human comfort.  It’s not a tall order – the trick will be remembering it in the mindfuck and bustle of the corporatist world.  I guess I’ll just have to see how well I can hold onto my self and my values in the belly of the beast.

Keep smiling, and never let the bastards keep you down.

I’m going to bed. -k

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Farewell to Leon

January 4, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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