31 October 2011 § 1 Comment
I returned exhausted last night to San José, where I’d hoped to find my messy homestay room just the way I’d left it a few days before heading to La Fortuna. I’d half-slept on the bus all the way back, and listened to the screeches of the little girl in the seat in front of me, simply glad they weren’t cries instead.
It took the whole ride back for my shirt to dry – it being the last piece of relatively clean clothing I had that morning. In the morning rain (a constant), we went to the rope swing at the river. Mud, rapids, cold water, rocks. The cut on my foot was still wide open from a week before, when I swan with the sunken ship in Panama, refusing to heal over (In another world, it would probably needs stiches, but it doesn’t hurt much, so I’m patiently waiting for a scab to form.), but I figured a swim wouldn’t hurt it any more.
Rain, rain, drama, and rain. This weekend, I figured out why I tend to travel solo. Other people make for easy miscommunication and hurt feelings. And the plans, in my eyes, should never be so permanent as to not permit change or redirection. Lots of feelings were tossed around in hostel rooms, and I pretended to be asleep so as to try to make sense of them without adding to the trouble. What great fun it is to hear what people will say about you when they think you’re not listening! Absolutely fascinating.
We found waterfalls, a sleighted surprise, after a 4km walk along dirt roads which lead out of town. We were greeted by a hammock house and, later, an elegant visitors center charging an exoribitant amount of money to see one of the many wonders of the world. After descending nearly five hundred steps to the jungle floor, I found religion cascading from the stone high above, and my shoulders broke its course before it hit the dazzled pond where we stood. I had a moment. Eyes closed. The world existed in unison, and I was okay for a few minutes. Silence. Splashing, understood silence. Pura vida. The sort of thing we find, and are immediately unwilling to share.
Let me repair that: it’s the sort of thing I find, and am immediately unwillingly to share. I’m not sorry for this. These minutes go unphotographed, to be plied and manuevered to the whims of my memory forever, and untold amongst the stories of coffeeshops and walkabouts in cities anonymous and grand.
(It’s not that I don’t like you. It’s that we operate on different pages, and it seemed that no resonancebowl was going to mend the shift between us. Please don’t take it personally, because it has to do with me, too, and I’m not cool with people stealing feelings from me. They’re mine, damn it.)
Like I was saying. I got back last night and my mamatica (my host mother) reminded me that Mel had bought me a ticket for the Satyricon show, and showed it to me. I told her to tell him thank you, it was going to be a good show. Her sister, who saw my oblivion, cut in.
The concert is tonight, Sean. At eight. I must have looked perplexed while my brain searched for the current time. I’d just looked at my phone. It was 7.58. Shit.
I was exhausted and hungry and thirsty. My mamatica called me a cab.
The summer after high school, I lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with a family friend and her beau, who’d been kind enough to take me in so I could finish school and figure out what to do next. My best friend worked in a local venue, The Launchpad, and after a few shows the bouncers, one of them an old-school hardcore punk from Jersey (though it could have been New York – I mean no insult to him 😛 ) named Miles, stopped giving me shit about getting in for free. I was there every week, and even if my buddy wasn’t working, Miles would let me in for free, so I could spend my money instead at the merch tables. My collection of t-shirts from metal bands was immense.
One of the shows in Burque at the Sunshine Theatre had a huge and diverse roster of death metal, black metal, and hardcore, which at that time had many clashing fans. The noble intention of the bands was high-spirited and supported by everyone but the troublemakers, like the guys in the pit who wore skinny jeans (before people mistakenly thought they were cool), and would kick you in the face as a form of musical expression. This did not go over well in a mosh pit where, if you fell, all attention went to getting you back on your feet before you’d get punched in the face again (the differences seem arbitrary, I know, but the cultural differences were subtly very profound, and caused many black eyes and friendships). Satyricon, Suffocation, Jungle Rot, The Black Dahlia Murder, and Victimas, a local grindcore band I thought myself on good terms with, personally.
Satyricon is a black metal band from Norway, and are as sucessful as black metal gets. They have a long a history of putting out both really great, as well as really funny, dancable (in elitist terms, shite) albums. Nevertheless, their performances are well-honed from years of touring for a devout population of fans who sometimes go to great trouble and distance to find albums and shows from bands they love.
Last night, in the same venue where two weeks ago I saw my legendary introduction to Sonambulo, I re-entered the world of metal after many years of wading through piles of music I only partially cared for, and rarely enough to buy it, and found again the place where I feel most at home, most familiar, and connected with people. It’s a rare experience, and one much-needed after a tumultuous weekend at the foot of a volcano where, if it erupted, I could see nothing through the rainclouds until the boulders smashed into the fancy restaurants which surrounded me, thinking it perfectly okay to charge eight dollars US for a plate of food in a self-proclaimed third-word country which even in the states would be a rip-off.
24 October 2011 § 2 Comments
Okay. I’ve just returned to San José from Bocas del Toro, Panama, part of an extensive archipelago where vagabonds, backpackers and filthy rich yachters go to spend their money, time, and winters. The place is surreal and full of sunlight and shipwrecks. It was once a sort of Tortuga, like from the Pirates of the Caribbean films. Unlike Costa Rica, they take care of their roads and that Ford F-150 yellow cabs treat their fares like paying hitch hikers. 60 cents to the other side of town.
More on Panama later. I’ve decided to write a novel. November is National Novel Writer’s Month, and I’ve been putting off participating for years. I’ve said this recently, to someone. Maybe here. Either way, after an inspiring slap on my roasted skin (snorkeling may cause skin cancer, or a career in marine biology – perhaps both), accompanied by a sincere “stop being a fuckass” from a friend who had recently returned from tears and Panama, I’ve decided to stop procrastinating (yeah, right) and participate in this ridiculous tradition of flipping off the publishing industry with 50,000 words in thirty days. Starting 1 November. I’ll do it.
Time for class. more later.
20 October 2011 § 1 Comment
if the architect of my dreams
were a bipolar eating disorder
she’d run miles for dinner,
and for breakfast, stand still.
behind the scenes,
she’d sketch trampolines
on post-it notes,
swirl her smile into
every spiralspring she could wring life into,
and toss them like flower petals,
sing them to the sea, with
‘he loves me’s’, and ‘i love me nots’.
she loves me.
i love me not.
todos somos obras de arte – en progreso.
we are works of art
our picassoface says common sense,
and our melting clocks are missing hands.
she could still jump, though,
so she does:
once for every pound of her
she thinks is a mistake.
so she does eighty-seven backflips a second,
waiting for her weight to show up and say
i’m okay now.
when it didn’t, she’d get a text.
says love is out to lunch
over bloody ex-virgin marys,
they doodled a crucifix
on a napkin, folded it into
an origami swansong of
we binged on possibility
instead of triggers, if
she loved herself,
even when her thighs touch,
and wouldn’t it be neat if
when I said ‘I understand,’
I admitted that I didn’t believe that
Love conquers only mattresses and mirrors, y’all.
and that’s just on the good days.
because some things don’t break
when you throw rocks at them,
like people who talk because
they never learned how to listen.
now, she kisses only though
tinted, deprives sleep
of her essence, and
turns off her cell phone
as for me, I’d rather race my scars
toward a self-conscious sun
than be standing here with you.
I might be standing on a ledge,
but I’m on the brink of peace,
and still breathing –
’cause there ain’t no way to
battle myself without breaking.
so instead of jumping,
let me just wake up,
and be here
20 October 2011 § Leave a comment
Ticos seem to brush their teeth incredibly often. And it’s not like they’re just trying to freshen up after eating a clove of garlic. At least once a day I see a guy in a public bathroom attacking his molars with a bristled battle axe, sticking to the one-minute rule as if he’s going to get a piece of candy at the end of it.
It’s not like I hang out in the bathroom all day, either. I mean, they’re clean here at the university, but they don’t make very comfortable writing spaces – unless the point is to make other people uncomfortable – and after having to pay greasy fat women two euros to use the gents’ in Europe – even in very small towns and public parks – I’m not a fan of spending a lot of time in them. So you can see how, in the many, many times I use a public restroom per day (once, maybe twice), if I saw someone brushing their teeth as often as I urinate, my suspicions might rise, like:
1. Do ticos carry an extra toothbrush in their pocket? Do they grab the one from home, or keep one in their backpack?
2. Should I brush my teeth whenever I use the restroom?
3. I’ve gotten really strange looks when I’ve brushed my teeth in a public restroom in the states. In Europe, too. When you don’t have a bathroom to call your own, sometimes it’s necessary.
4. US Americans don’t brush their teeth very often.
Needless to say, ticos in general have very clean teeth. Not necessarily good teeth, which is strange, given the remarkable number of dental clinics in San José, but clean teeth nonetheless. But they don’t smile so much. Not as much as the giddy blonde girls with the loud voices and confused looks.
and lettuce stuck in their smile.
A couple of months ago, I hired two very determined individuals to forcefully cut my wisdom teeth out with a machete. It was my first time to any sort of tooth care professional in years. I don’t remember much, because when they take a machete to your mouth, they give you drugs to make you not remember the machete. But I distinctly remember a machete. I didn’t even get a free toothbrush when I walked out of the office with gauze balls in my mouth to keep the blood from running rapids through the streets of Anchorage. Consider it my O Positive donation to the world. I don’t like needles.
The point is, I need a new toothbrush. And care about my teeth more. The Costa Ricans seem to be on to something.
(and in my experience, it is not eco-friendliness. but we’ll save that for another time)
17 October 2011 § 1 Comment
The notebook has gained my affection. I’m submersed in San José – neither wanting to leave or stay, but simply to Be here. To stroll about in the rain, with holysoled shoes and broken umbrellas, to the tunes of early dark in the big wide Central Valley, there’s peace in there somewhere, except in the Chinese restaurants – I wouldn’t try that again for a thousand colones a bite. For future reference, lechón is turkey, and I think that it is not supposed to be red. I’m going to be vegetarian again by the end of this trip, so says my digestive system. I don’t know about the guinea pigs in Ecuador. I thought perhaps, just for the experience… we’ll see how it goes.
The rain is high, and except for the constantly wet socks (I’ve reverted back to wearing sandals, embracing the water, instead of tiptoeing through ankle-deep puddles), I’m loving the cold. Everyone around me, including many of the Americans, are dressed up in hoodies and scarves and stylish cardigans. Or so they try.
I’m finally at the point where I’m not sweating every moment of every day, and having cold feet has its advantages. It keeps us moving 🙂
So my mamatica (my host mother, who diligently feeds me and gives me impromptu Spanish lessons when I ask about a word I don’t understand from La Nación – of which there are many – asks in astonishment how I can wear shorts and a light shirt in this freezing weather. I just smile. finalemente soy comodor.
I doubt so often that what I say in Spanish is correct that I fear to say it at all. Better rather to act it out, or say it in English where I am comfortable and the listener gives me the blank look I’d otherwise be giving them. This morning I discovered true immersion, and noticed how rare it has been since I’ve arrived: sitting at the breakfast table, reading the local newspaper, listening to the Tico equivalent to Good Morning America – TV anchors and hosts carry the same tone of enthusiasm everywhere, I’ve decided – and speaking intermittently with maria, my mamatica, her father (who speaks no English that I’ve heard, so our conversations usually end right around “I’m good, how are you?”), and a couple of her kids all talking in the kitchen, my blubbering repetition of words I don’t recognize, and wondering what they mean well into the next topic of conversation. I was invisible.
Drinking tea for this obnoxious sort-of cold that I have (it showed up today with the cold, how about that?), and nibbling on bread and cheese – turrialba cheese – a constant, crumbly reminder of a town not far away that I have not visited, which is perhaps the best hub for whitewater in Central America. Next weekend, I tell myself. I’m not ready for the water again. Funny enough – in Alaska, my season would be ending right about now. I imagine the shows have come to the mountains, the white line creeping downward toward the sea, as the sun stays a little closer to the horizon for a little longer every day, and I’m so fucking glad to not be there this time around. Hitching to Talkeetna every weekend had its perks, even when it was a disaster, however, I did not look forward to repeating the downward spiral, as I’m sure I would.
A year ago I wrote in my notebook something like “you have to be out of here and traveling again a year from now, Sean. Doesn’t matter where you go, but go.” It’s nice to know I can at least keep promises to myself.
…still working up to the idea of street poetry in the depths of the city, where english is rare at best, and spoken begrudgingly by most. The park where gypsies unicycle in traffic intersections and juggle bowling pins between them seems a fitting place to start. good thing is that I’ve got a new piece down, and am fine-tuning it, perhaps too much, for performance. That was the point of it, though: I wanted to create a Slam Piece, not simply my version of whatever I feel like reading on stage in a coffeeshop somewhere.
There aren’t many coffeeshops here that I’ve seen. Which is strange, given that Costa Rican coffee is widely considered some of the best in the world – the kind of coffee Seattlite roasters are proud to fairly trade for skinny jeans and gauged earrings. They can always buy more of those. Just like they can always buy more coffee, right? We must be energized to last past lunchtime!
But hey, I go to coffeeshops to drink tea. So maybe they’re just avoiding me. Like Americans who come to Costa Rica and are thrilled about trips to Walmart, where they give away free liquor samples to the gringos for hours, who go back to their houses talking about how the party next weekend is at Walmart. I’m interested to know if Walmartians are truly the same the world over. Extensive evidence points to that truth within the United States, but have the aliens made it to Wally World with their elastic band sweatpants and chocolate-and-TV-dinner-stained Hard Rock café t-shirts (from, of course, a second cousin who took a trip to Las Vegas in the late 80’s), carrying obese and screaming, candy-and-toy-begging brats by the forearm and leading the others through the container aisles on leashes? I loathe to find out. But if this regimen of fruit loops and hot dogs for breakfast continues, I’m going to have to take some evasive action and actually find a coffeeshop to pass the rainy mornings by with less digestive violence.
I’m telling you, I’ll have my rabbithabit back by the time you see me again…
10 October 2011 § Leave a comment
Okay, so the pizza was good. It wasn’t great. Expensive, too, for what it was. I thought Costa Rica would be cheaper. Truth: I want to see true poverty.
Not for the novelty. But to know it exists outside of commercials with fat white men holding up African babies with distended stomachs from starvation, and seeing bad actresses play AIDS-ridden prostitutes in Hollywood blockbusters. I want to see where that bearded Christian man, who spoke in his sym-pathetic tones about how I needed to send Him money, spent the night after recording that commentary on the sad and poor state of half the world’s population. And where did that baby sleep that night?
I wanted to move beyond the simple reasons for being in another country – to drink and meet fellow travelers who also want to drink and … drink. And I’ve done that, if I’m willing to forgive what goes on upstairs at night.
But I’m also not willing to sweep aside my conclusive stereotypes – no matter how well-researched they are – and eliminate everyone familiar from my path to another culture’s insides. I’m an explorer, of sorts, and can investigate the avenues of my discontent with humility. I can step ahead of you off the curb and not feel bad about it. I’m an asker of questions, storyteller unextraordinaire. Most of them are true, most of the time. Others I embellish, because I’m a fisherman, and that’s what those dirty mongrels of the brown seas do. I have no excuses for my flaws, only elaborate explanations etched and sketched in sandy verse, ready to be shaken and rewritten whenever the rain comes.
And it comes, hard. It flows down the miniature ravines with the speed of fire art armadas, complete with pirate hats and tassels. My respect goes out to the travelers of these sidewalks: my daily task while running through these streets is not merely fitness and sanity, but to avoid as many broken legs as possible. Remain calm around the 19-year-old security guards who bear their shotguns like tennis rackets. Pedestrians are targets here, and the old ladies who once made their way across the streets now drive giant SUVs. They will have their revenge. Stop signs have no stopping power, for they are made of cheap wood and rot slowly.
thank you for the conversation. It’s the first I’ve had in weeks. That bit with the napkin, though. It felt a little contrived. Like I’d practiced it before. I hadn’t. I’m still learning all that I said myself.
But I’m glad you kept it anyway.
8 October 2011 § 1 Comment
Art. Do what you need to do. Your purpose will reveal itself shortly.
You’re no thief, except when it suits you. leaving hearts and oceans. at what point are you living life, instead of just watching? Is there a line between spanish lessons and spontaneous dancing, the hours in your room letting word flow through you to no particular stopping point?
Are you a useless dreamcat, harsh eyes on passerbys, Charon without the toll, or do you carry on emotional burdens for the delight of being searched for weapons hazardous to others’ moving on?
Loyalty reserves itself only for the hellhounds perched up on the stoops up in baskerville, so that whole philosophy of saving the mongrels from the slaying may well only count up to five o’ clock.
do what you need to do.