Go Mexico. And greetings earthlings. After surviving the first week of this much delayed trip I thought it time to see if this intergalactic messaging system works, Mexican computers are different and this message has already gone sideways three times, but i’ll do my best to stay tuned. I’d forgotten how bizarre the streets of Mexico are: perhaps the greatest danger is from the sidewalks since they consist of an endless series of gratuitous drop offs, head bonkers, trip wires, loose rocks…. other perils await: a friend was on a booze cruise and went to use the toilet only to find the seat was not attached, so he ended up with his butt stuck in the bowl (fortunately the walls were close enough to allow for a sort of mountain-climbing-style climb out). the point of this is that I’ve been so busy avoiding all the booby traps that I haven’t had time to get into the really dangerous stuff yet. Other than a two day trip north to a surfing town, I’ve been in Puerto Vallarta for a week. A couple more days of this (mostly to try to learn a bit of Spanish) then its south along the west coast. They say humility is a good thing, and so I expect my efforts at surfing the ocean south of here should provide a lot of a good thing. Like a good coach, the ocean shows no mercy. Until the next interplanetary beacon…
PUERTO VALLARTA • EFFICIENCY
Date: Friday, November 02, 2001 7:39 PM
Star date 2001 captains_ log supplemental: the aliens here on Zihuatanejo (or, as they call it zihua) are very friendly. The air is breathable and the beaches outstanding. After three tough days of travel through alien territory (on third class buses that weren’t giving fourth class much room) the enterprise finally landed in friendly territory–actually paradise is a good word for it. This is a small city to which even the folks from Mexico (the name Mexicans call the worlds largest city) come to vacation. Zihua is a place to stay for awhile.
Here is a report from the sports desk: “the Mexican higher authority has decided to keep the score between the alien traveler known as “the gra” (a previous nickname of mine) and Mexico (the country). so far Mexico is leading with some surprising scores through the gratuitous booby traps that are part of this country: the score now is Mexico 5; the gra 1. this is a recap of the scoring: on his first day the gra stupidly ran into the ocean.
chasing a frisbee only to smash his heal on a rock (Mexico 1); of course, the gra ate at one of the many street side vendors (Mexico 2); beguiled by the cost savings of a fifteenth-rate “hotel” the gra spent a miserable night in barra navidad (Mexico 3); while at that “hotel” the gra reached up only to find that the Mexican “electrician” who hooked up the ceiling fan had placed it savagely low–thus inflicting a brutal blow to his hand (Mexico 4); the next day in a vain effort to escape that place the gra boarded a series of three nasty buses heading south (Mexico 5); however, the last of those buses dropped the gra off in a place called Iazlo cardero where he had to spend the night–only to find out later that that city is one of the more crime infested, nasty places around. Leaving that city unscathed, the gra finally scored a point.
Enough of this third person stuff, since I am dubious of people who refer to themselves in the third person (such as the rock of wwf fame), in short, life is as bizarre as usual here is zihua…your friend…
Sent: Tuesday, November 13, 2001 7:39 PM
Is anybody out there, out there, out there? (that’s what pink floyd said) I have engaged a groundhog day existence, since living in a place like Puerto escondita generates no need to change what you do from one day to the next. The whole point is the beach and there are some great and punishing waves to be found here. every time I go into the water I simply accept that the ocean is bigger and tougher than I am (it’s humbling to be waiting for a wave to body surf and watch one come ripping in that is way too big to catch–the only thing to do is to hit the deck and grab onto the sand). I’m sitting at the world’s most bogus computer–the seat is so low that I can’t even see the keys and all the keys are misidentified. I’ve just reread what I’ve typed so far and realize that this is not the message I intended to send. What I was trying to type was a message of general good will, peace, enlightenment, harmony and general good humor. However, that will have to wait until I find a place that provides a computer that works- what I can add, though, is that I’ve relearned a lesson while on this distant road. It is important to trust that inner force that resides within us all … nothing else matters…
Sent: Tuesday, November 20, 20018:05 P
Subject: on the road (what else is new)
There is a thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning, says jimmy buffet. Just the same there’s a thin line between the good girls and the bad ones here on glory road. Indeed, the book Glory Road by Robert Heinlein is a great travel inspiration (recommended by our friend kimball with the kind inscription: “go find it–go to it–endeavour”). that is what I intend to do. by the way, I had intended not to travel with any sort of weapon even though a friend had passed on one of those extendable clubs that are now standard issue for police. however, a week or so before leaving, I had a dream that I was fighting off alligators and desperately needed a stick pointy if available). thus, I packed the club and am glad I did. haven’t had to use it yet, but after reading glory road and revisiting the importance of the sword I’m glad I have such a device and have been practicing its use–mostly defensive, sipce the offensive weapons I still prefer are fist and foot. like oscar (the hero of glory road) I’ve dubbed he weapon lady vivamus (a rough translation of vivamus being: touch twice .ie. eat. drink. laugh.) while I’m on this topic I’ll send two more quotes: ‘somewhere out there is Helen of troy and all her many sisters and there is ;till noble work to be done.” not to worry, I’ve not yet fallen completely into the world of the imagination, “just heading up that glory road, rocks and all.” on another point, I made body surfing a contact sport yesterday. A weasel Mexican dude on a boogie board decided not to care a riff that he was ;cooking straight at my head, so with about a second or two to respond I drifted him with a forearm shiver. the last I saw him he was limping out of he water in a lot of pain–his fault, not mine. anyways, enough on all of his and if it doesn’t quite make sense, give glory road a read, because it toes.
until the next. gramobile
Sent: Wednesday, November 21, 2001 x-38 PM
“could be good, could be bad, I don’t know.” so said the Chinese man to the villagers after his only horse had escaped and they said it was bad. a few days later when the horse returned with numerous others and the villagers said that was great the old man replied the same way, the next day his only son was trying to break one of the new horses and broke his arm. the villagers said that was very bad. you know what the old man said (if you’re following along). a day or two later the army came through town conscripting all able men but the son was spared. villagers’ response? that is great. old man’s response? as before. and so the story goes. point is? such is Mexico. one thing is for sure and that is that any sense of logic must be scrapped in favor of the old man’s attitude. anything else is prone to make you crazy. some examples? I try to book a first class ticket to oaxaca for Friday (I’m leaving for school-yes school, but more on that in a moment) to find that it takes 10 (always grueling) hours. but the second class bus apparently only takes 7 hours. “could be good, could be bad.” I had thought I had earlier devised a cunning theory for Mexico and that was that you have to look at the margins: usually the differences are small between spending a little more and getting a whole lot more. that theory, like logic, has now been thrown out. as per my previous message, the only force to be reckoned with here is the inner force that resides within us all, like the old game of good cop, bad cop, I’ll engage now the game of good anecdote, bad anecdote. funniest thing so far I’ve seen is an effort to launch a beefy feller (not giving 300 pounds any room) on a parasail from the beach in Vallarta. problem was that there were strong inshore winds and the boat couldn’t get enough speed, so buddy launched briefly and then moments from the shore started dragging his legs in the water (that’s when I knew he would be swimming). the heroic effort continued for a ponderous amount of time (couldn’t resist that one) until buddy, and his parasail took the plunge. editor’s side note: salt water is the worst thing for a parachute and the rig wasn’t so much as rinsed out, bad anecdote: walked into the washroom of my then favorite restaurant to find a gecko (small lizards that roam the walls of these places) who had just caught a cockroach, had it still fighting in its mouth, and stopped as if to say “no, this is mine, if you want your own you’ll have to talk to the kitchen staff.” I have said in the past that in the cheesy hotels I stay in they ask if I want a one, two or three gecko room (a three gecko room being the most expensive because those guys do their job). yes this is getting long’ but I have only a few thousand more things to say. about school: my plan (subject to the great number of variances that Mexico can induce) is to go to the instituto cultural oaxaca for a week to learn a little spanish (for a flash of Mexican pinache check their web site at www.instculturaloax.com.mx). as a friend says: whenever you walk into a room check to see where the idiot is (because there’s always one in every place) and if you don’t see an idiot, you’re him.
point is that I’m tired of being the idiot, last point: I was able to make a joke today in Spanish. I saw a Mexican guy I know with his dog, he was speaking exuberantly to the dog and the dog was responding with what appeared to be nods and appropriate gestures. At that point I said “la perro hablo espanol meior a yo.” (he speaks better Spanish than I do), the guy laughed (and I think he agreed). as dean martin used to. say (after singing “everybody loves somebody sometime”) “keep those cards and letters coming in…” john
Sent: Friday. December 07, 2001 5:51 PM
now back from retirement from the intergalactic network (due to popular demand and a couple of threats): tales of mystery, imagination and foolishness. two weeks of Spanish school is enough for now. do you like conjugating verbs? that wasn’t too bad, but when we got to the gerunds I knew it was time to pack up the school bag, loosen up the old school tie and ditch the silly school shorts and long socks. standard advice for safer travel down here is not to take night buses. but san cristobal (my next destination) only has night buses. in Mexico you learn to replace the word logic with the word ironic. besides, guys like Cabot, de Gama, magellan, drake and cook didn’t go to language school and rarely worried about night buses.
Sent: Friday, December 07, 2001 6:57 PM
my last message was an excellent example of by lack of ability with computers and also why you rarely see paragraphs in my writing. I intended to push a key which very much looked like it said push here if you want a paragraph. instead it sent the (unfinished) message without even a by your leave. henceforth I disabuse my mind of paragraphs (they’re just too dangerous). someone said once that learning a second language is like getting a second soul and I agree with that. when you think in a different language you interpret your thoughts, feelings and what you see through a different filter. what’s interesting about my Spanish soul is that it is about the equivalent of a two year old child. in addition, the zen Buddhists aspire to a state of mind which only lives in the present–no past and no future. perhaps luckily, my classes in Spanish for the last two weeks have dealt with nouns, adjectives and verbs in the present tense only, the past and future tense are in next week’s lessons., but I’ll be on my way to san Cristobel. On a night bus and viewing the word through a two-year-old, Zen Buddhist filter. sounds safe doesn’t it? by the way, did you know that there’s someone in Mexico who looks just like you? that’s right, I’ve seen many Latino versions of people I know. My theory is that there’s so many people here that if you travel long enough you will see yourself as you would be if you were Mexican I’m looking for a guy who looks like a Mexican mix of Billy bob Thornton and Ed Harris. forgot to mention further proof that I speak (and think) like a two year old: when at a restaurant and I ask where the bathroom is people respond and give me a look as if to say “wow, this kids only two and he’s well toilet trained.” I am enjoying the new asset I’ve acquired; the ability to communicate a bit with the people of this nation. before I was like a carpenter without a hammer: I could do the job of communicating, but it was a lousy job. further, it’s like the edges of this place are more round so that I can flow through it, rather than bouncing off a lot of square and sometime pointy edges. that was figuratively speaking; as far as the bumps and grinds of the streets go, I’m still taking shots. in fact, while at school I decided to turn up the video game speed by going for runs at night (classes ended at 6) . I think there should be a whole reworking of the Olympic games to include real urban sports and the event should be healed every four years in Mexico city: so that the Olympic games include the real elements of hazard people face daily (smog, high altitude, robbery, bad drivers, and my favorite–low hanging concrete or steel outcroppings from buildings or posts that are high enough for Mexicans, but catch the average Caucasian male right square in the forehead). events such as the mountain bike through erratic traffic, the last second dive into a subway car, the newspaper toss to two and even three story high balconies (the world record is five stories, but that’s not confirmed), and the stolen purse relay (a favorite in new York) are all sure to be crowd pleasers. but my bet for the top event is the high speed run and jump onto a speeding bus that has no more room inside. this was the top event in downtown Cairo, since the goal was to run and actually stick to the side of the bus. needless to say the crowd fascination (much like that macabre attraction to motor racing) is to see the crashes. I figure that with the urban Olympics we’ll find the real survivors on the planet. I am still pursuing the erudite, but simple philosophy handed to me by my friend Kimball: just be nice. because it is so simple, its quite easy to put into practice if you try, or as our great Canadian philosopher red green says, “I am a man. I can change if I have to. I guess.” however, I had to toss the be nice concept the other day when visited in my room by Mr. scorpion (this fellow was a whopper). however, when introduced to Mr. teva, Mr. scorpion departed this planet to a rousing rendition of “bang, bang Maxwell’s silver hammer came down on his head.” I haven’t yet attempted to describe how amazing the city of Oaxaca is. powerful and many colonial buildings with stone streets dating back 500 years. friendly people with a vibrant living culture that includes weddings that last four days, salsa music and dancing that proves we white guys are welded at the hips. but more, the largest tree in the world (trunk wise its 20 meters or so) lives nearby and has for 2,000 years. and the ancient site… of monte alban dates back to 500 b.c. showing a simple prairie kid (of two years and thinking like a Zen Buddhist) that this place is a place of power for people to live. they do so happily. we tend to write off our next door neighbors as being simple, poor people who have nothing to teach. yet they’ve been here for years and they too remember the Alamo. even so, it seems time to pack up that magic travel bag and head down the road. as sheen said in apocalypse “every day I stay in this hotel room I get one day weaker and charlie out in the bush gets one day stronger.” point is that it feels time to move and so it shall be. thanks for tuning in and “don’t forget to keep those cards and letters coming in.” oh ya, “everybody love, somebody sometime.” your friend
Sent: Sunday, December 16, 2001 7:49 PM
Subject: on the trail of kilo laversec
the title will be explained shortly, but first some facts from the sports desk: long bus rides have put me in a jungle haven called palenque just north of the Guatemala (G) border. the rides through the jungle are much like space travel, but with atmosphere. one problem, though, is that they insist on playing bogus American movies on the bus (I take the so-called first class when I can). there I was cruising through nirvana with none other than Jean Claude van Damme being the universal soldier–one thing I do like about his movies is that they always have to come up with an excuse (bogus) as to why he’s an American, but has a French accent (almost worth the price of admission).
more facts: in a couple of days I’ll take the leap into G via bus, boat then bus again–sounds like a fun way to get into a country. the boat goes down? up? the usumacinta river, which translates as “the river from which once you go down? up? it you cannot turn back, the point is to get to a place called tikal, which people say is one of the great remnants of the maya. if it’s anything like the ruins at palanque, then I bet it’s a whopper. palanque is exactly what you imagine mayan ruins to be: mysterious, old and lots of jungle. I spent two days wandering around–I’m not sure if it was the jungle or the power of the history that kept me there (the mayan “dudes”–to use Californian archeologist surfer terminology–“were hangin'” from about the time the Big Dude was born to about 800 years after He rode the big wave). traveling tip for down here, as coined by chef in apocalypse: “don’t get out of the boat; don’t ever get out the fi&%”$°* boat.” had a great trip by boat to a canyon near san cristobal with two terrific folks from argentine (howdy gustav and gabriella) and saw Mr. Big the crocodile. saw two others, but I figure I might have a chance against junior if I saw him coming: even so, I’d be lunch for the mid-size croc. for Mr. Big I’d be but a snack. “don’t get out of the boat.” Now if you’re still with me I did say I’d explain why I’m on the trail of kilo laversec. But there are still a couple of facts that need explaining. you see, this is a strange trail with jots of information from fellow travelers, but not lots. thus, when I found a three-year-old-second-hand copy of a travel guide for central America I dickered and bought. now I have maps. put it this way: imagine you only speak, lets say, Norwegian, and you arrive in Columbus Ohio without any idea where you should go.. that is where I have been. thus, the guide book is a welcome comrade, so why kilo laversec?
like baseball players, many travelers are a tad superstitious. thus, after buying the guide I became aware that someone else had gone on a path with this guide and I wondered who the person was. no name on the book, but only an oblique reference on the first page to the following; “7 kilos of
Sent: Monday, December 10, 2001 4:32 PM
Subject: Captain’s Log Supplemental
Samuel Johnson said that the thought of being hanged in a fortnight concentrates the mind wonderfully. similarly, the thought of taking a 12-hour bus to san cristobal (mexico’s home to bus robbery) does the same. rule of thumb: money in the bag, in the boot, in the book, in the bandana, in the bottle and in what ever else banditos may not carry with them from the stoppage point. dissipation is somewhat difficult when you only have one bag. I figure books about spanish language are a good hiding place, since I postulate that dudes that hijack buses aren’t inclined to study spanish. me too, for that matter.
You will note (I hope) that someone has now taught me how to put paragraphs into my writing. such freedom. This morning I tuned into the local radio station and such a diverse selection of tunes you (or I) cannot imagine–from john lennon’s imagine, to accordion music with tuba, to oldies that even I had forgotten. but what twigged my interest was eris cross’ tune “got to ride like the wind”: I was born the son of an honest man (and then there’s something about a gun and then the need to get to the border of Mexico). in any event, my point is that life is indeed stranger from moment to moment than I can predict. indeed, predictions and expectations (like logic) are concepts that are necessary to toss out in this land of many. I’m taking this opportunity to write since I predict and expect (based on a strong sense of logic) that computers will be few out there in the further field of central america. if they’re not, then once again I will be wrong–another concept that I visit daily.
Parting words from 1. cohen: “I came so far for beauty, I left so much behind, my patience and my family, my masterpiece unsigned…. I changed my style to silver, and all my clothes to black, where once I would surrender, now I would attack,” until the next time all I can say is that I predict the unpredictable. john
Laundry. wash 300, dry 150.” so you see, I had no name to call the previous traveler, but MY superstitious nature invites me to explore the path of someone, but that person needs a name. thus, the name kilo seems appropriate, since I know not if kilo is man or woman. but the last name is a problem: “kilo washdry” sounds bogus, but the spanish works–“kilo laversec”. is that I hope your’ re still with me here because what I m trying to say this road is all foolish, and perhaps it is not love but levity that will conquer all. I’m writing a touch longer than I was at first inclined, but once connected to you all I’m glad you’re there. and besides, chance to do this will arise. now for something really important: I have discovered something more important than the lost mayan culture–it is alive in current Mexican tourist brochures with a form of english that I may adopt. example: “walk around the jungle that surrounds the vestiges of the mayan culture and live the sensation of climbing the ceremonial places.” (the spelling is correct) or: “admire during your tour the always green vegetation characteristic of the jungle.” another brochure describes a waterfall as being “delicious”, but call me careful: I ain’t lapping up any Mexican waters that aren’t purified.
Now taking that, I will explain in “tourospeak” the design of Mexican bathrooms, which for some unknown reason are usually 6 inches higher than the rest of your room, have showers that are just a spout from the wall of the bathroom and have drains that share inslower than fntheecleansing “revel thathe warm water as you enjoy splashing sounds the floor and washes by you and cascades down into your room, washing the e floor by the rejuvinating all. relish the feel of your travel bag, now wind a led byythe waters and soaked with the cascades. enjoy the quest that will dry not only clothes, but also books, papers and whatever other gadgets you tourists bring with you.” but I think this okay, enough. I have a bunch of other stuff I want to say may jam up the intergalactic highway, so I will desist. if I don’t get to a computer soon, I wish you all a feliz navidad…
Subject: kilo laversec’s mysterioso trailo (for correct spanish just add o)
Just a few last words before parting Mexico–that is if the ticket I have to guatamala is valid and the bus I’m supposed to take gets me to the boat I’m supposed to take…. bought some “quetzales” today. what, you say, is a quetzale? me too, I wondered that. first found out it’s a soon to be extinct bird, but also the name of Guatemala’s currency. made me suspicious about buying money named after a doomed bird. I don’t think the birds are too happy about it either.
Have stopped keeping score between Mexico and me. Mexico put in its third-string quarterback before half time and still scored points. in what I hope was its parting shot, I got hit in the head with a rock. scenario: swimming in what was the best place I’ve ever swam–a place called aqua azul where the water is robin’s egg blue (I’m not exaggerating) and there’s a series of pools and falls. I was minding my own business standing under one of those falls and thinking if someone could market a shower with this kind of power… kaboink. a friend says that you should expect the unexpected. what I didn’t expect was a rock might be part of the waterfall process. a few friends have written back and subtly queried if I’m still on this planet. I believe I am. but everything is negotiable. what I can say is that beyond this e-mail persona is a person with an intact sense of discipline. after all, I consider that my main job while on the road is to stay healthy. for example, my hotel rooms become a karate dojo for some time each day. we each need to draw from a source of power and peace–such is karate for me. to date, I’ve only broken one chair (the side thrust kick is a definite chair killer). I carry and read desiderata from time to time and each time find something new and relevant: “nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. but do not distress yourself with imaginings. many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.” in short, for me, travel is a balance between completely letting go and a discipline. health is not an option, but sanity is. as jimmy buffet says, “if we all weren’t crazy we’d all be insane.” I hope this answers those queries about where I’m at.
Hot music tip: the album by manu chau called esperanza is great–he’s from france or spain. his song “mi gusta” (I like) sums up the spirit of this place.
Well, that’s enough for now. don’t forget that this is a country where you can buy mounds of grasshoppers (spiced for savory eating), where electrical connections are two spliced wires stuck into a socket, where street dogs are more diverse in appearance than nature ever intended, where massive intrusive noise is met with indifference, where signal light on cars are completely inoperative, and where we as smug occupants of an organized society have a lot to learn. I leave this place singing “lord its good to be Guatemala bound” to the tune of gordon lightfoot’s alberta bound. see ya soon.. .and don’t forget “everybody loves somebody sometime” and “keep those cards and letters coming in”