two people exhibited a tremendous amount of respect for me and this is how:
person #1: i was standing on a street corner in panama city pretty late at night. just kind of watching life being lived by others while temporarily suspending my own. wondering, since it’s been such a while for me, what it must be like to live somewhere for more than just a couple of days, to know that tomorrow you will wake up and know where to locate a bowl and a spoon and a cup. and then, from behind, i heard sounds that led me to expect an expectoration and immediately after this expectation, i sensed a subsequent, though nearly simultaneous, splattering of phlegm and mucus and saliva on the back of my neck. i verified that the audibility and the splat were indeed directly related by wiping my hand on the back of my neck and collecting some of the specimen. as i brought it to my nose, i could smell the tanginess and acidity of rank, stale breath, tinged with more than just a hint of cheap booze. i turned around to see a man sitting on a window sill with a look of despondency, lacking any shades of shame, but rather satiated with satisfaction. i wanted to shake his hand and with my free hand embrace his shoulder. to salute him. because something, whatever it was and it doesn’t matter what, about me bothered him. i think there are many things about me that bother people, until they give me a chance. a chance i am not often given. regardless, this man acted on his feelings, let me know without wasting his time (and more importantly mine) by talking about it, and instead, let his lugey do his locution. it spoke volumes. it said i am a gringo and i have more money than him and that’s not fair because he didn’t ask to be born in panama just like i didn’t ask to be born in the states and that i should go back to where i belong (i wish he would have been specific as to where, but i guess it´s hard to do this with a lugey) and allow him to swallow his spittle in peace. as a result of this encounter, i took two things: his message and a shower as soon as i returned to my hostel. by then, the expectoration had dried to be something i could more easily peel, than wash, off. i considered keeping it as a testament to this man, but instead surrendered it to solubility and the drain.
person #2: i was in a pueblo looking for a restaurant, desperately hungry. i saw a woman, walking with her son, approaching me. i patiently waited, said good afternoon, and told her that i had a question for her if she didn’t mind. the woman did not break stride, she did not make eye contact, she in no way acknowledged me or anything about me. maybe she felt threatened, maybe she worried for her child, maybe she didn’t hear me, maybe and probably it was my beard. but i could maybe all day. the point is, to her, i did not exist, and rather than get angry, i let her pass, watched her over my shoulder, genuflected in her direction, and ended up asking some other guy who ended up asking me for money i didn’t give him.
barely faster than an incredibly slow mac truck. if you´re looking for superman, you need to look further...
everything i have ever done, with the exception of four things, eventually bores me. as a result of this, i am somewhat anxious about my future because when my atm receipt reaches some sort of threshold that i find myself constantly decreasing, this bike ride, one of the the four things that doesn’t engulf me with ennui, will have to end. unless, of course, i can hook up some way to receive an income to keep the tires rolling. but this is all way off into the future and not of immediate concern to me now, i’d rather ignore it, and just continue to imagine a globe and me, somewhere on it, with a bike, amongst other things, between my legs. but what i’m trying to tell you is that i would rather, much rather, do everything, than just one thing. throw me on wall street and put me on the floor with those jokers and i’ll trade stocks and ruin people’s fortunes with the best of them. for maybe a couple of days. and when i get bored of that, let me be the guy that pushes the button to lock down the safety devices on roller coasters. you know, people always feel good when they feel that tightness and possess that sense of security. and i could be the cause of that which would make me feel good. and after that i’d like to play the harp and in the evenings write haikus:
i am serious
why do you not believe me?
haikus are money (just like me)
and then i’d like to be a mascot for a college football team and hug lots of cheerleaders, learn to throw whole-wheat pizza dough, and then maybe something else, i’m still thinking. all of those things hold appeal for me. maybe a couple days a pop. but then what? that’s the thing. it’s a question i can’t answer. i just want to ride my bike. or do the other three things.
this was a day i got famous in colombia. i knew this day would come. of course, i initially tried to shun my fame, like all cool famous people do. i was very reluctant and stand-offish and refused to cooperate or do anything. but it was all an image i was trying to portray, you know, so people would respect me for being real. but as a result of this attitude, they were getting ready to leave and so i basically had to beg them to stay and apologize and sort of slip them a $20. after the tv interview, we moved on to a photo shoot. i figured it was the least i could do for all my adoring fans. what i said is in red. i am only publishing these transcripts because i don´t want you reading it in some grocery store trash mag. i want you to know, that initially, during, and always...i was a sell-out.
¨so you really think having the statue from 3300 b.c. will add to my stoicism? ok, let´s go for it. but make me look tough, not smiling or anything, make sure my hair is a mess, like you caught me off guard. like i just walked out of the jungle and stumbled upon this ancient civilzation and there you were, the paparazzi, blitzing me. so please don´t make it look like i´m posing. also, give me a 3 count because i want to be flexing when you take the shot. and how´s my hair anyway? i´d like some make-up. i feel shiny; i need some powder. you swear this looks cool, right? god i hope i look cool.¨
¨ok, for this one i was thinking something without much color. maybe sepia. no, that´s overused. forget sepia. let´s go pure black and white. forget gray-scales. make it look like i´m suffering. like i can´t sleep at night. like i don´t enjoy what i´m doing but i´m doing it anyway. i want this picture to represent an inner struggle. and please, make me look tough, not scary, but i want to be on that fine line between the two.¨
¨and can we get some crowds to make it look like people actually care about what i´m doing? i´d like to get at least seveal thousand people. you know, to make it realistic. 5? only 5? and they´re just kids? and we have to give them each $10?? jeez. allright, allright, let´s just roll with it. just make sure it looks real and not staged. i want to add credibility to my claims that yes, i am a hero.¨
¨for a parting shot, i was thinking of something pensive, with me looking out into the distance, i want it to look like i am realizing the emptiness and hollowness of it all, how nothing matters, how days are just days and months are just pages to be capped with cutesy pictures only to be ripped out and thrown away, never to exist again. and could you get me with one foot up, to show how that no matter what, i am moving, always moving, for whatever reason there isn´t.¨
and marylea, if by some chance you somehow have found this and are reading this, i just wanted to say that i am sorry and that if you haven’t forgiven me you shouldn’t, and also, just to let you know, i’m doing allright these days...
one morning as i was getting out of my tent and i had, as i always do first thing in the morning, an incredible urge to poop. as i was eyeing for a most opportune spot, two dogs, seemingly out of nowhere but surely out of somewhere, charged me with bloodthirsty barks and grizzly growls. within mere feet of my frozen self, they slammed on the brakes and retreated for a reason i didn’t understand but was extremely thankful for. after this episode, i no longer had to poop. and this story, i will allow you to conclude.
that same day, a flat. this picture symbolizes my dedication to matters at hand. some people have time to pose and look at cameras. and as you should know, i too love doing this. but not when something else is of immediate concern. even then, i forsake my responsibilities to be money for the camera. i am only good at focusing on one thing at a time.
i’ve got this podiatrical problem with my feet. if you will notice on the photo below, my toenails on the piggies that stayed home are non-existent and have been since i walked from mexico to canada on the pacific crest trail. there are some crusties where the nails should be, and i do enjoy picking at and flicking these, but there are no nails. how can i get them back, my toenails, possibly the most useless of all things? and if you’re curious, my right sandal blew out on me so i had to improvise. and if you’re still curious, jeez, give me a break, but my right foot has a wart on it that is covered with the white bandage under which some magical medical discs are supposedly dissolving it away, but the thing is, it’s not working. not much these days works, you know?
speaking of ailments, the other night my gas was beyond imagination. as i was constantly deflating my intestines, i swear i could see my sleeping bag inflating, and when i vented it, the gust of foulness singed the hair on my beard, which mildly traumatized me, but i got over it (i was getting split ends anyway). but it wasn’t just gas down there, i was also belching, and each one tasted faintly like popcorn (i was kind of enjoying this). but what i’m trying to say is that i couldn’t sleep. and i was also worried that maybe my intestinal amoebas, with whom heretofore i have established and maintained a favorable equilibrium with, were staging some sort of revolt on the fourth consecutive dinner of bread and bananas. but when you’re trying to do it for $7 or less a day, sometimes you gotta do bread and bananas for four, or seventeen consecutive dinners. i am ok now, so you don´t have to worry that you aren´t concerned.
this is the kind of person i was and in some ways still am. when i was in third grade, i opened my sister’s, who was in seventh grade, math book. i looked at it for five minutes tops, and realized i didn’t understand it at all. it was algebra, and what i knew as a subject dealing only with numbers, was for some reason now infiltrated with letters. this not only killed me, but it also overwhelmed me. and since i couldn’t figure it out then, i mean i had spent five solid minutes looking it over, i figured i never would be able to. so i announced to my family that night at dinner that i was going to drop out of school, because, i mean, what was a fact for me at that point was that someday i would eventually be in seventh grade and i would reach this insurmountable bulwark of algebra, and so, since this was a known, why reach that inevitable point and drop out then, when i could just call it quits now? oh yeah, and also, i had just read how boy george, my idol at the time (this surely made my father proud, especially the autographed silk poster i had) had also dropped out of school. but anyhow, what i’m saying is that i was forced to stay in school and the thing was that once i got to algebra, it turned out to be one of my favorite subjects, and by then, boy george was a thing of the past. i had moved on. though i still think androgyny is a crucial ingredient to peace. but this overwhelms me too. peace. when will we stop shooting bee’s nests with squirt guns and being baffled at what should have been such an obvious outcome? maybe a bare foot in a fire ant pile is a better idea. yes, let’s try that next.
a tree, a man, a house, another day in colombia...
yes, colombia, definitely hard on the old eyes...
this is what i was looking at during an erection...
...of my tent, which is a nightly routine for me.
and so, a home for a night, a rainy one, another one, and there will be more, because what i do is move on, but this time to other countries, like...
i had been driving for weeks going to the corners of places and just being the anonymous entity it was necessary for me to be at that point in my life. cooking noodles down by the mississippi river, avoiding questionable flirtations at truck stops when i woke up in my back seat near kansas city, getting free tickets to baseball games in st. louis, trying to answer this girl who asked me where i had lost my smile but not being able to say anything, meeting eddie vedder after a show in birmingham, strolling around chicago and seeing a police boat search lake michigan for a dead body, trying to stay awake through nebraska, taking a walk in new york city only to find out the statue of liberty was closed that day, checking out the mountains of maine, going to utah and eating canned mandarins, visiting a girl i had loved and never told and just going to see her so i could later rip my heart out. it was perfect. i also went to the allegheny mountains of pennsylvania to take a walk in the trees, specifically the pines, my favorite. when i found a stream and i found a nice spot where i was hedged in by a bend in the creek and evergreens, i stopped, set up my tent, and wrote a poem about a piece of frayed rope hanging from the branch of a tree, about how that represented something fundamental about my existence but i couldn’t figure it out so i never finished the poem. i didn’t care. the beginning was awful anyhow. it was all awful that day actually. i chose it to be that way because i needed it to be. that day. but being in the trees made me feel better as it often does. so i forgot about my shortcomings at sonnets and just got on with it. none of this is the point. this is the point. i was sitting on this stump thinking about taking a swim and also thinking that it would be nice to have a hug, but i saw this mealworm. maybe a couple of centimeters long. beige. i know, i know, who cares if i saw a mealworm, but the thing was, this mealworm was being indefensibly annihilated by a posse of ants. and this mealworm wasn’t engaging in any apparent form of self-preservation other than twisting and turning in the sun-parched dirt in a fruitless and futile effort to put some type of moratorium on what was an imminent death. so there i was, a spectator of struggle, and i was faced with several options: watch like a sick voyeur of nature until the meal worm, for whatever reason, just like i think humans do at some point, decided to stop the struggle and succumb to destiny. or maybe i could interfere, be a temporary god, and save the mealworm, with the implication that the ants might go hungry. i also started thinking of how to incorporate all of this into that blasted poem, but i had already burned the bloody thing so just let it go, okay? the fact that i failed at that poem doesn’t matter to me. just like the life of this mealworm probably shouldn’t have mattered to me. but it did and i recognized it and i acted. i swept the ants away with a twig. i picked up the mealworm. i walked with it in my hand to the stream. i placed it on the moistened bank of the creek. the mealworm, for some moments, didn’t move. i thought that maybe, like too many other times in my life, i was too late. that i had thought too much, ruminated on one too many possible ramifications. just like i was thinking too much about the verses i was trying to write earlier that never got written. please, enough already about the poem. i’m trying to forget about it and you aren’t helping. but the thing is, as if the meal worm was perhaps justifying how i debilitatingly deliberate, it moved. it seemed to me, and i know i just created this in my head and that´s ok, but i swear it seemed to me that this mealworm was happy. and this made me happy. because i had delivered happiness to something else, and that’s commendable, isn’t it? you know, to be a do-gooder. but i thought this was even more commendable because i had done it for something that couldn’t understand what i had done. so i felt that this was selfless of me which is commendable, right? i mean, being selfless so i can ultimately praise myself. but what i’m trying to tell you is that i almost completely forgot about that dadgum poem that i don’t even care about (and really wish you’d get off my case about), because i was just looking at this mealworm and that was all that mattered to me. i had framed the mealworm between my two bent knees, and i just watched my little buddy and thought about how serene everything was at that moment. and i reveled in that. i mean, screw uncompleted crap poems that i don’t give a dime about anyhow. so i was just taking it all in, you know, until seemingly from nowhere, but obviously and definitely from somewhere, this toad jumps right on top of that hapless mealworm, sweeps it up in one giant gulp, and disappears just as nimbly. and so there i was; the meal worm was being dissolved by the digestive juices of an amphibian; the ants were starving and searching desperately for a meal that was rightfully theirs; the stream kept flowing to wherever it went; and dang it all to heck if i didn’t get out another sheet of blank paper and start staring at it more hopelessly than before.
sometimes i wish i was the kid on the left. it´s a waste of time to do such things, i know. but if i could go back, would i change a thing? surely. and surely not.
i much prefer concrete examples rather than just talking about intangible ideals or theories. wasting food kills me, because so many in this world are hungry and blah blah blah but it is true though i think it is impossible for most of us to know what it means to really be hungry because the only hunger we know is of such a temporal nature. it isn’t diuturnal. but this wasted food. i just can’t bear to see it. to me, it’s like a slap in the face to all the permanently hungry people in the world, such that i have recently been contemplating giving up vegetarianism just so i can eat more of what others leave behind. when people stand up and walk away from a table with their paid for food just sitting there on a plate with a napkin on top of it. it kills me. and i always try to scarf what i can. and then i get the weird looks from the people at nearby tables or employees or whatever, and in my head, i’m thinking jeez, these looks should be for the jokers that just walked out of here and left this stuff here, but that’s the way it is with me. so many things make so much sense in my head, but it never plays out the way i imagine it. and so the people, the real ones, not the ones in my head, act as if it were somehow normal to do this, i mean, just leave food behind. but food is not nothing. and leaving it to be disposed of by someone else does not remove any of the guilt that should be associated with doing such. i just don’t get it. if you’re full, then fine, you’re full. but won’t, at some point probably within six hours, you be hungry again? so why not wrap up the rations in a napkin and finish what you have already spent your hard earned money on later? where’s the unrealistic component in this train of thought? i think it all starts with crusts. i see kids who eat sandwiches made of bread lacking crusts. so these kids, who would probaby eat the darn crusts if we all didn’t make such a big hulabalo about it, see their mothers or fathers or brothers or sisters cutting off the crusts and listlessly tossing them in the garbage. and here’s where it starts. because kids are so easily influenced, you know? and if the kid is old enough to be eating a sandwich, she is surely old enough to recognize that food is something we need. and now she has just learned, by example and action (the most effective way of learning), that food is also something we can waste. after all, mommy did it. so follow along here. crusts are food. so i argue that if you are someone who cuts off crusts and throws them away then you believe that wasting food is acceptable. if you don’t believe wasting food is acceptable, then i argue that you wouldn’t throw away the crusts. i am not saying that people who throw away crusts think wasting food is a good thing, just that they think it is acceptable, perhaps normal, maybe even necessary...those evil crusts! i, however, i argue that it is not acceptable. i argue that it is despicable. but as a result of the majority thinking in this wasteful fashion, and more importantly, acting in this fashion, we, and i say we in reference to the western gotta-have-the-biggest-bestest-and-mostest world, are engaging in self-evolution to ultimately become the most improvident of all the planet’s populace. all the while, we have brothers and sisters scratching away at parched patches of dust hoping to produce something edible, and if not, well, they go to bed hungry until the one morning when they just don’t wake up and they themselves are placed underneath that charred clay. fertilizer. while, nearby, an ox being drawn by a man who has no energy (but would if he had your crusts!) fruitlessly whips his unresponsive beast. and, meanwhile, we are feeding our disposals a tupperware of food that was hidden in the refrigerator and that, ooops darn it, we forgot about, and, ooops, now it’s gone bad, and, ooops, oh well, it’s no big deal anyway, especially once the tupperware has been sterilized in the dishwasher and we put it back in its place in the cupboard, all the while forgetting, or perhaps not really even fully considering in the first place, what it is we are actually doing. and besides, our favorite sitcom is on anyhow...
i wanted to tell the girl to paint her shadow, or that i would, because it was so perfect and beautiful, but i instead retreated in silence and she continued to work on her teddy bear.
that´s me heroically emerging from the bowels of the earth. when i cycle through tunnels, i sometimes think of all that is on top of me. it´s incentive to find the light. sometimes the incentive to find the ¨light,¨ especially for awkward impressionable freshmen at college, is a free pizza, constructed smiles, and a poorly written pamphlet.
time is seemingly infinite on a bike. and how you spend this eternity can be ruminated upon for just as long. but one day, rather than just consider how i was going to spend this everlastingness, i made a decision. i decided i was going to try to; and perhaps the harder i strive, the less likely success will be; create a false memory. so i invented an event, completely fictitious, complete with people, places, details, all the necessary ingredients, except none of the ingredients are real, except, of course, to me, in my head, which, also of course, may be the closest thing there is to real. regardless, everyday, for as long as it fancies me, i recall this created memory, constantly adding details like the color of a sweater, or the direction of the breeze. and so, each day, this created memory becomes less and less created, and more and more rational. and it’s impossible to know if it’s possible to reach the point, the transition, at which i no longer have to consciously recall this memory in order to make it a remembrance, but rather, this creation is somehow just seamlessly assimilated. because if i had such a knowledge that my creation had succeeded in becoming implemented, it would implicate a lingering subconscious differentiation between what i consider to be my real memories and this, my created one. but when that, the lingering subconscious differentiation, vanishes, then i will have achieved an unrecognizable success that can never be congratulated because it will, of course, be unknown. and the divarications of this potential triumph are terrifying.
these were taken in otavalo, ecuador where these women will be on every saturday morning of their lives during...
...south america´s largest outdoor market...
...and this is chess, a game, which, like many things in life that aren't games, i have no patience for.
but you see, and i do know this for a fact, nobody is going to appreciate the previous paragraph for what it represents to me. i’m talking about believing, recalling, and perhaps using in such a way as to conduct one’s future...things that don’t exist. that aren’t actual. it’s absurd, you say, but i say it’s not. i say it’s possible. and i say many of us have done it without even thinking about it or knowing we even did it, which of course means it’s too late. nevermind, i won’t try to convince you of anything. because each of you has already promised to believe everything i say. what? you say you never did this? but i specifically recall you doing so. remember, you had on that brown sweater and there was that gentle northerly breeze. don’t you remember?
that is a baby monkey. that is also a woman´s breast. she insisted i take the photo...i´m assuming of the monkey, but it was hard not to get both.
can you name both of these guys or just the one on the left? i mean, that guy put balls through hoops and tries to sell you underwear and hot dogs and stuff. all the guy on the right did was try to start some sort of revolution or something.
so i’m sitting in this park under a tree in the grass and it’s perfect until the police tell me to leave because the grass i’m sitting in is not allowed to be sat upon. so i obey, reluctantly, and move to this bench and i just want to sit for some moments and not exist. but these people parading by me don’t understand parades because they’re tapping me on the knee, making signs of prayer-to whom or what i don’t know-asking for money, and worst of all reminding me of my existence. and it’s true, i have $1.95 in my pocket as i write this in real time, and it’s true i could hand this out to one or split it amongst six. but how do i decide how to do this. and, $1.95 doesn’t divide equally by 6 so what do i do with remainders? and if i give it all to the first lady, well, then the five subsequent potentials are left with nothing. but do i justify my actions in that i did a really swell thing for that first lady and to the five other suckers, well, sorry, the early bird gets almost a couple bucks (but no worm, because, remember, the mealworm is dead, i killed it). or do i give everyone a penny in advance preparation for the contingency that 195 people may beg me, and this way, i can equally allocate to all? or do the people i do or don’t give money to have to have some sort of criteria? if they meet it, then three cherries, they win and i reach into my pocket? is that better? what’s better? no, forget better, what’s best? because that’s what i, in my lack of doing anything as a result of too much hoo-hawing about a whole lot of nothing, strive for. if i could just not think about and rather just do things. if just one thing could be simple for me. if it didn’t have to constantly be a battle with no one but myself. i went home with $1.95 in my pocket. and the six people that asked me for money, went home on worn shoes, in moth-eaten coats, with the horrible smell of rancid alcohol on their breaths. and i, and i don’t expect you to believe this, but i, as i sit here typing this, will go home with bird discharge on my shoulder. it just splattered there from above. maybe god is a bird. and maybe that’s just the answer i needed. and before i can even finish that last sentence, bird crap still on shoulder and all, here’s number seven.
until next time, be assured that this is what i´m doing, when you´re cutting your toenails, when you´re enjoying picking your nose thinking no one sees you but someone does, when you´re annoyed at the commercial you are seeing for the umpteenth time, when you look at the mirror and are taken aback, whatever it is that you do, this....this is what i do.