29 November 2011 § 3 Comments
So the other day, I found Cristo Rey, supposedly a neighborhood of San José even the police don’t go near, mixed with the locals and ended up losing my stuff to a group of crack dealers, some of them as young as 15. It is an experience I don’t need to live again, but I’m glad to have the story.
The old man ripped my backpack from my hands. I fought for it, only briefly because of the movement I heard to my right, and the hill whose climb would lead me to safety was to my left. I booked it.
In my backpack was
1. a metal water bottle. I love these because of how durable and light they are, and that I can write in sharpie on them and it fades eventually to make room for a new favorite phrase, word, or rhyme.
2. a copy of Live for a Living by Buddy Wakefield, a poet I saw earlier this year and whose material I have been minorly obsessed with since, and tried to emulate in my own performances in order to find that fringe of vulnerability I’ve been looking for for years. Oh yeah, the copy was signed, with a poem and a handshake from the author once cold spring night in Alaska. He might be proud to have his material in such a farway place. Next time I see him, I’ll have to tell him the story about how his poetry was lost.
3. a 40-page long letter to one of my favorite people in the world, Fazeela Jiwa, written on coffee paper (which looks really cool, and is an excellent writing surface). I was planning on sending the letter off that day.
4. a sound recorder, gifted me by Carmel, a sometimes-travel buddy and poetess extraordinaire, with which I caught the atmosphere of New York subway stations and their lovingly tragic musicians in the middle of rush hour. It was my dreamcatcher, my sampler, my last way to keep sounds to myself.
5. a blackberry cell phone, gifted by my friend Tony, on which I learned to text with a touch keyboard and had the highest score on wordmole ever. occasionally, I’d even use it to communicate.
5. a camera. Canon SX 120 something or other. I’ve been taking photos and video this entire trip with it, for about four months now, and had more than 100 gigs of digital memories saved on…
6. a terabyte external hard drive, which contained the entirety of my digital existence; all of my photos from the last two and a half years of travel and home in Alaska, videos, all of my typed writing from the last seven or eight years, and countless albums from bands who never seemed to exist outside my little world of music and wonder.
These things were my travel companions. These things. Things. I was tied to them, I required them for the keeping of memories, for storage so as to go through them later and sort them out and make sure that I did this or that. They were my proof of existence to the modernized, facebooking world where everyone shares everything and the only privacy we have left are the looks we give ourselves in the bathroom mirror. I depended on them, and for a couple of days, I was crushed, between fits of laughter for my loss.
and it’s done. They’re gone, and I’m still breathing. Feeling. Fucking hell am I feeling more. Everything around me. My nerves are at peace, taking in my surroundings, the buildings and the rain and the glintorange clouds they call sunset on the far side of the mountains. I’m full of humility and fear of what comes next and I wonder if I’m ready to face it, knowing me and my penchant for ‘adventure.’ I’m at peace, or getting there, and learning how to get along in a world where batteries do not power my day, where that hesitation to pull out the camera to be That Camera Guy no longer pulls at me in moments of intense culture clash and earthquakes. I can’t play with light, or keep the sounds I hear and love. My monologues will be to myself, or the scenery, or the block I’m walking on.
My other goodbyes led up to this one. I had to say goodbye to a lot before I could say goodbye to what I thought was me: a collection of unshared recordings – twenty countries of memories and stories I sought to keep for me alone. Someone had to yank them away.
And twenty countries later, it’s time to start traveling, for real.