24 September 2010 § Leave a comment
Nearly every American traveler that steps off these emblematic shores to traipse about the globe knows that some of us do our best to abandon – or at least can joke about – our nationality while abroad. Whenever I hear an American accent outside of the US, I lower the brim of my hat and walk away in quite ignorable silence. When pressed, I divide Alaska from the United States – to the confusion of some, to the understanding of others. “Oh, I’m from Alaska. No, not America. Alaska.” _____ and I exchange knowing smiles. In a perfect world.
The other day, I had an encounter with another American traveler on my own shores, and I wonder if I’ve ever been met with such condescension. He stepped into a conversation in which I was talking about my own traveling, which is a rare occurrence in mixed company. Upon hearing a philosophy or two of mine regarding cities and towns, this arrogant college student made it known that I was wrong in my ways. After all, twenty four hours isn’t nearly enough time to capture the ‘flavor and aura’ of every town. It was absurd. It was invasive. I gave him my best ‘fuck-you-and-the-bastards-that-have-allowed-you-to-live-this-long’ look and stopped talking. Never again. I’d been raped by a USB drive, and had the scars to prove the robotnik attitude in the last rebellion of escape left in the world.
In Glasgow – that lovely, lovely city – I stumbled into a bookshop in the west end. They specialized in rare books. I gave the clerk a polite smile and went about my perusal. Hours and hours of a beautiful autumn afternoon were spent in that shop. I found a biography of Courtney Love written by none other than the author of some very grotesque and equally awesome horror books – Poppy Z. Brite. When I was fifteen, I was told to read Wormwood, and it formed a strange outlook on abortion that it took some years to shake from my head. I collect these connections to books, to authors, and I smile when I find them in shops.
At some point during that utopian afternoon, I found Hunter S. Thompson’s autobiography and a collection of Kafka’s stories with a damned awesome cover. I was headed to Ireland the next day, and maybe I could get some more reading done. Those were the books I bought, although the two volume, seven inch thick Compact Oxford Dictionary was very tempting to lug around Ireland in my backpack for the next week.
The next morning, I sat on a bench in Dublin watching the river Liffey flow by me with dreadfully industrial efficiency and the speed of the American political system. My eyelids were anvils, pulling my whole body into that sludgy river. I hadn’t slept all night – I’d love to say that it was because my newfound books had me so enraptured, but in reality it was for much better reasons. I struggled through a saturated, exhausted mind to focus on the addicting words of the suicided American dream, while sleep was alive in my eyes with the morning markets and bright sun. It looked as if Dublin had never seen rain. Where was all the emerald, the green, the potato fields, the subtle hills? Didn’t matter – there was a comfortable bench that begged to be napped on.
22 September 2010 § Leave a comment
Sometimes it’s fun to see what other people have to say about the things I love. Other times, it feels redundant and lame, to the point where I have to wonder about the nature of communication. Social media? Everyone’s got a publishable voice? Yeah, freedom of expression and all that. But so much of what we say is utterly useless. Must we publicize every thought and idea that crosses our mind? Twitter may be the future, kids, but that doesn’t make it okay.
Let’s tie some nooses, shall we?
He’s being very kind for having a disclaimer about offending people. Naturally, few people are going to admit that they travel for negative reasons. It’s a committing thing, to buy an obscenely expensive ticket and go off to some country you may know nothing about, simply to look around. Time and money? People seem to value these things. But they are not standards respected by everyone. To hell with your recession. I don’t care if it’s over.
I have many reasons for traveling. Very near the top of that list is escape. To be in my own world, to wander – without regard for others, ‘normal’ things and life when it is not new and adventurous. It is a fight against complacency, and it is constantly inspiring. It is an excuse to feel more intensely, to write with abandon. To find stories, to discover the things under rocks and in the woods. Hitchhiking is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, and a large part of that claim is that when I’m on another continent, there’s no safety net, nothing to depend on but instinct and a map.
15 September 2010 § Leave a comment
Standing nearby, the boy in the red shirt had seen the man with the backpack walk up to the lady. He was entranced by what the backpack could mean. Where could this man be from? Where was he going? Why is he in my neighborhood? He listened to every word the man said to the smiling lady. Elephants and tigers? Adventure?
Just then, the boy in the red shirt and the no-longer smiling lady made eye contact. For one moment, neither of them said anything, daring to think about their fates from that day on. She wondered if she was prepared to receive what could be a large sum of money for doing nothing at all but tolerating this hoodlum boy in her yard sale. No one would ever know, she figured. She saw the amazement in the boy’s eyes and justified to herself that he really wanted to go. Even though she had no paternal right to say one way or the other whether this troublemaker went off to the circus, the lady at the ugly yellow table loved money very much, and did not give a thought as to the boy’s parents at all.
The boy unconsciously dropped the trinket he had been playing with. His mind was elsewhere, in some far off land where lions leaped through flaming hoops and he himself had a black top hat and red waistcoat and all the power in the world.
The palpable excitement did not elude the man with the backpack. He knew how this would turn out – he’d seen it every night, in the eyes of the mesmerized audience, heard it in the chatter afterward as people shuffled out of the giant tent into the darkness. If daydreaming was real, this was it. But it did not seem to capture him in the same way it did his two conspirators. He busied himself pulling stacks of paper from his pack and setting them on the flimsy yellow table, next to the lady’s metal cashbox.
Five minutes later, the man extended a pen to the boy. When he flicked it with his thumb, a flame erupted from the tip. And that’s when the boy hesitated.
At first he jumped back, for the flame was much bigger and more impressive than that of a cigarette lighter. This flame had arms, as if it were part of a large bonfire, or one of those designs he had seen on old trucks with loud engines. The fire wisped and grabbed at the air, the man’s jacket (which did not seem to burn), and then the boy’s nose as he moved closer to it, took it from the man and inspected it. It looked like an ordinary pen, the kind you click one end of to produce the ink tip. The fire shot up when he moved his thumb off the clicker.
The boy was captivated, and therefore was not thinking of the otherwise obvious symbolism the flame represented, especially so as he wrote his name in cursive that he’d been learning at school – his teacher had said cursive makes things more official. To add to the feeling of importance in the depth of his stomach, he tried hard to not make any mistakes.
In what seemed like just a second, the boy noticed that the grass under his feet felt mushier than it had before, and he wondered where his bike was. He had ridden it here earlier, hoping to steal a thing or two, perhaps a toy or a book, and be off quickly without getting caught. Then he thought of taking the pen. It would have been the find of the summer. Imagine, having a pen that shot fire! He could be a magician!
But the man and the unsmiling lady and the backpack and the important looking papers, brochures and contracts, instruction manuals and ones that said ‘Warning’ and ‘Caution’ and other things he had overlooked – these things changed his plan immensely.
13 September 2010 § Leave a comment
This is how the story begins.
A well-dressed man, looking about as old as he was, walked through town early in the morning on the first day of sunshine in weeks. The streets were still wet, in fact, and occasionally he made a quick sidestep to avoid being splashed by some inconsiderate person driving a car through a nearby puddle.
The pack he carried on his back looked cumbersome but he moved as if it didn’t exist at all. It was full of papers and books, actually, as well as a sleeping bag and some food, too. He appeared to be talking to himself, but if you knew him this wouldn’t strike you as odd behaviour.
The man wore a pair of elaborate spectacles too exquisite to be called mere glasses, and through these he read every posted sign he came across – signs stapled lamp posts, tied to stop signs, duct taped to picket fences. He even paid his attention to the soggy cardboard boxes containing piles of stones to keep them from moving with the wind. There were all sorts of postings indicating garage sales, a found cat with only one ear (the photo was saddening to him – it showed all the dirt and blood on the orange and white animal that seemed could possibly accumulate – did the finders show no mercy to it? he thought). Another page showed a picture of a smiling teenage girl. She’d been missing for most of the summer, and this was September.
Sometimes only glancing at the notices as if he were window shopping, he usually just kept walking, especially when the traffic lights were amenable. He was headed somewhere specific, you could be sure, like anyone strolling down the sidewalk. But this man, in his muddy shoes and blazer, had not yet found exactly where he was headed, for now and then he pulled a pen from his pants pocket to jot down a phone number, or perhaps an address, and this he would reference as he walked, looking down at his paper, up at a street sign and back again.
Soon enough, as he passed by a residential neighborhood full of duplexes and apartment buildings, he read from a wooden plank that was nailed to stacked railroad ties that formed a garden wall. In carefully crafted letters, the black marker ink said “Multiyard Family Sale” with an arrow that pointed into the sunny neighborhood. He followed the arrow, interested and hopeful.
Sitting at a yellow folding table that was quite ugly, the smiling lady politely negotiated with her customers, took their money, and provided them with proper change. She also kept a close eye on the boy in the red shirt, who was at that moment violently shaking an old music box as if it were full of candy.
He was from somewhere in the neighborhood. She’d seen him around – riding his bike, tramping around in flower beds, kicking a football around in the street. Eight or nine years old, she figured, and already a troublemaker. now the boy was tinkering with her grandmother’s spinning wheel. She’d never learned to use the thing properly, and as with most things of that nature – things she did not quite understand, that is – she hated the old contraption and often told her husband that they ought to sell it. Her sweetheart did not need to be convinced.
“Hello! Good morning, buenos dias, bonjour, Guten Tag, Konichiwa,” said a man wearing a large backpack. Is he camping? she thought, and had just enough time to picture him in the mountains of some far off country, like that crazy man on television (she told her husband that man on television was crazy – he did not need to be convinced – but what she did not tell him was that his homemaker wife masturbated to this crazy man’s television program while he was at work), before the man with the backpack continued. “I’m from Dudley’s Circus, ma’am, how are you today?” He didn’t give her an opportunity to respond, and kept on. “I saw the sign a few minutes ago, the one indicating one multiyard family sale, though I see only one yard here with priced items about, and I’m curious about the selection.” His eyes were expectant.
The smiling lady was dumbfounded and silent. “Well then,” he continued, “I’ll just tell you what I’m looking for, to make it easier, and perhaps we can see what you have. A boy, perhaps eight to ten years old, with a sense of adventure and a sharp eye, to ride elephants, dance with tigers and juggle fire.” his words were articulate and sincere, his posture good, as if he’d been raised well. And sane. His slight smile said something about his personality, but the lady that pleasured herself to survival shows saw that he was not joking.
“Oh, sorry – imagination! He must have imagination!” He shook his head quickly, to put out a distraction, or to chastise himself for forgetting such an important requirement. Still, the lady could not believe what she was hearing. Letting out a noise that you might think was between a scoff and a giggle, she began to speak when he added, slightly hushed, “And we need him pretty cheap. Attendance is down, you understand.” His smile was warm and trustworthy.
10 September 2010 § Leave a comment
we held hands under the starlight and milky way
until the night could no longer reach us.
and we climbed until I had to scramble
by myself into that pearl tower
you waited on the edge of that forever.
for me, you watched your own kind brush by,
and I don’t know what you were thinking,
but I don’t think I ever thanked you.
instead, I condensed my everything
into that moment high above,
shotgunned my soul into another,
and did what I do best to you.
my recollection’s full of wild horses
and whispered inspirations of
the wicked things I did to
get back at me for giving in.
I don’t know if we fired off enough rebellion,
but it felt right at the time.
and when the rain finally came,
maybe it was just another lavaflow
so I could do what I do best
5 September 2010 § Leave a comment
I feel like dying. Or just sleeping for a thousand years. My body is tensing up into a cold mass of muscle and mush. My brain is baked at three hundred seventy five degrees for hours at a time, scorching the oiled surfaces I used to balance lightly on. On the walls are maps that once contained legends and routes and directions – they are blurry and convoluted with green shaded areas and fold into themselves at the slightest hint of hope. They whore themselves out for a dollar a trip, and we’re guaranteed to have the time of our life.
Your ability to feel is your strength. But maybe that’s just an excuse.