Sunday, June 18, 2006

Bugs, ants, geckos and other friends

Are tiny brown ants bad for laptops? My desk is teeming with them. They crawl along the iPod wire and they race around the edges of the laptop screen and they dart underneath the keys. I chase them, my fingers smack the keys. It spells nothing. They are a bit distracting but it’s nice to have some company. They don’t care if I wear a shirt.
My clothing is fully alive, nearly self-realized. The least odorous dries on the balcony rail. The others are downstairs with a pair of shorts, rubbing around inside a machine. This is their first machine ride in a month. I wonder if they are giggling. Are my t-shirts ticklish? Are my shorts stoic?

I’ve developed a certain bond with other creatures of the world. There are very silly geckos who dash for the ceiling or behind anything when you walk into a bathroom, or down a hall at night or, well, just about anywhere I guess. There’s a sort of humor when, standing up from a massage on the beach, I see my electrolyte beverage is now covered with ants, lots of them. When the waterbug makes his nightly appearance, it’s always a fresh new show, very fast and exciting for everyone. I don’t think to kill any of them. I’m heavily outnumbered.

There’s a guy from Calgary who doesn’t mind any of the insects or reptiles, but moths send him into hysterics. His girlfriend thinks it’s cute. She’s afraid of spiders.

Back to my friends the ants. They have overstayed their welcome. I may be about to make a big mistake, but it needs to be done. I’ve sprayed insect repellent on nearly everything else, why not the laptop? … Deet can stain some parts of a laptop. It now looks like I was frying bacon next to the touch pad. Otherwise, all is well. Unless, of course, you’re an ant who once decided it was a good idea to climb all over a laptop in Laos.

Border Pretzel

Get me to a border crossing, any border crossing is fine. Expired visa. Already too far for Malaysia. Is Vietnam easy to get to? Must I go through Cambodia? Will I backtrack? How much to fly? I say easy ten times to the woman. She sits next to the counter where I got my Thai SIM card. I trust them. I say easy again. She parrots, Easy? and declares my next destination, Laos. I’ve heard good things. How soon can I get out of Khao San hell? Tonight. I spend the day lost, wandering the streets of Bangkok. I get funny looks sometimes, but not many.

There is a certain enjoyment in folding myself into various positions on a bus. Once I’ve achieved one of these fancy yogic postures, I “sleep”. Sometimes I don’t even recline the seatbacks, just to see if I can do it. Overnight, there is nothing anyone wants to see. The driver barrels down on motorcycles and compact cars, they whisper close secrets fender to bumper over a dotted white line and no one is the least bit phased. So we sleep and don’t look.

A single border crossing can have many signs. Some say $30, others say $31, others say 8am others say 9am, others say Saturday and Sunday, others still say other things that make absolutely no sense at all. Sometimes there are conversations about it which make even less sense, if that’s possible. Each window wants something from my pocket. I want to leave two days late, my pocket. I would like to enter your country, my pocket. No, really, I’d like to come in today before 9am, my pocket. No, I don’t happen to have a 3x4 photo of myself, my pocket. I want to walk over there where the bus is, my pocket. I’m not sure why I’m giving you this dollar but you have a booth and a uniform and I don’t think it would be any cheaper at this point to turn around and go back, my pocket. They smile and explain that it’s three because today is a holiday. I don’t ask which one but I expect it’s the famous reach-in-your-pocket holiday. Quite enjoyable actually.

Philosophical questions stroll beside the pedestrian events of my day.

Whiling away the days on Koh Phangan, it’s easy to loose track of time. An hour can be a day. A day can be two or three. A moment can be a lifetime. I watch the tide go out and my day unfolds. I watch the tide come in and another cycle begins. On the other side of the world I hear good news, I hear bad news, I hear no news. Life goes easy and hard at the exact same moment and I contemplate humility. I smile because it makes more sense than anything else I’ve tried.

My pedestrian day. The attendant dispenses another 40 baht into the motorbike tank. A guide on a longtail boat smiles more than any person I’ve ever seen, he is a champion at poi but will never mention it to anyone – that was a different time. Iodine, alcohol, gauze, bandages, tape help to doctor a pretty girl’s toe torn open on a dance floor beach. A thousand lost pairs of sandals sunbathe in the morning; their owners will come to retrieve them and they will never be found. Another dejected thousand un-paired flip-flops and birkenstocks gawk at the couples, their own mate has staggered off for breakfast, for sex, for drink, for fun, for a ferry back to another place – the moon begins to wane. Life carries on.

Boxed up long pants and sweaters are sent on a three week journey home for the cost of twenty nights in a bungalow. Mysterious rashes were never the cause of ant work but instead too little water. Smelly t-shirts remind me of varsity letters earned years ago in high school. Mastery of contortionism with two seats on the top floor of an overnight bus gets interrupted by a night market pit stop, time enough for a piss, mystery food, a smoke and another conversation. The ride ends. Find shelter for the night in Bangkok. I could strap the bag to my back, but there’s pavement and sidewalks and ramps and it is hot and I am hot and I use the wheels and I feel smart because I’m lazy. I still don’t have dredlocks. I can shave without a mirror.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

What do you do?

Initech seems far away now. It’s nearly capable of being romanticized. It seems a long time ago, but that is just the experience fattening that silly goose, time. The jarred nerves from corporate life are rebuilding. Gradually that little kid is starting to show up a little more often. I notice small changes in me. Changes from being further removed from the captains of modern business or changes from being closer to something else, I don’t know. And, yet, as far as I may be from making pushpin designs in the soft fabric walls of a cubicle, it returns to me each day, an undeniable piece of my personal history.

People love to ask questions and want lovable answers. They want to know, it helps them. Helps them identify. Helps them talk. Talk helps them feel there somehow, alive somehow. ‘What do you do?’ They love the ring, the tone, the sound, the rhythm of the words as they bubble out of their mouths, ‘What do you do?

What do I do when? Now? Then? Next? I want to ignore the question. Pretend I never heard it. Act like I have no intention of answering. It means nothing, really, what do I do? But it’s important for one reason or another and I know I will answer. I want to say ‘I’m an escort.’, ‘I’m a hand model.’, ‘I work for the witness protection program as a location scout.’, ‘I’m in the witness protection program’. But these are not the truths and in my own pursuit of the truth or something that feels a little honest, I am compelled to give the straight answer. And I am lost for words.

How do you say I did all these things and each one has a title but I never really was any one of those things and I really don’t do any of that anymore I hope? How do you give them enough so that the innocuous conversation starter what do you do doesn’t turn to seed-pulp in an instant. Some words have bad effects; corporate, technology, information technology, sales, education programs, nausea, glaze-over, All the words have their shortcomings, so I tell them honestly of my jack of all trade nature with the best title I can muster. ‘I’m the Prime Minister of the United States living in exile in Canada.’

They chuckle. They want to talk politics. I refuse. They forget about what I do because for now, I make funny. They want to talk politics – politics are funny. I refuse. They want to talk about the US and Americans and dirty little things. I refuse. They remember and ask ‘What do you do?

Are we not the culmination of our experiences? Our lives are shaped each day by what we do, our actions. Once they occur they become what we’ve done. We hand people things and ring them up at cash registers. We make fittings that will be examined by experts. We write emails that make something happen which causes a little more or a little less stress. We screw up, we sit in meetings, we work weekends, we show up late, we win awards. Things we’ve done. In polite conversation they turn to what we do. But in polite conversation we don’t want to know what someone has done. We don’t want to know the details of a TPS report. We want to have some way to move the conversation along, share something interesting for a change. We want to meet escorts and drug dealers and witness protection program scouts and presidents and kings and prime ministers.

What do I do? For now, I hope. I hope for sun and more rain to cool it off. I hope to never experience dehydration again. I hope my flip-flops don’t blow out. I hope if my flip flops do blow out I wont hum Margaritaville while I hobble over the hill. I hope to meet more interesting people who after a day we will hug and be comfortable with our shared honesty. I hope for another text message to make me feel like the luckiest person alive. I hope someday the notes and the watching will come together into something interesting that helps someone making pushpin designs in a cubicle somewhere live a slightly better or happier or sillier life. That’s what I do. I hope.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

thoughts from a tiny island

On this tiny dive island in the Gulf of Thailand, motorbikes race up and down the streets of the main town. Other than that, there is no sign of hurry. Expats control the way and their eyes watch with detachment the silly antics of the newly arrived tourists. They are lucky, some might remember, that even though they are tourists, they are mostly here to dive. Diving tourists are more sensitive to the reefs both under water and those on land. Unlike many locations not far from here, there are no busloads of frantics anxious to rush by art and edifice, pausing only to snap a photo or buy a trinket. They are lucky, but that does not minimize their slightly superior pose. It exists everywhere, I suppose; dominant coffee house buzzards in Greenwich Village, self-righteous non-smokers on the patios of La Jolla, style commanders draining perfect martinis in the air conditioned safety of South Beach. And here, amidst simple bungalows dotting palm covered cliffs, it is hard to take it too far or too seriously. It is beautiful and easy and friendly. It’s sad to think that in ten years it may be prostituted to Burger Kink and Starbucks. The Hyatt’s will bring their exclusivity and profit margins will be analyzed against other resorts and quality control will be enforced by policies dreamt up in an industrial park in Horsham, Pennsylvania.
I am too new to say how the Thai’s fit in here. Perhaps it is only to provide an example of how to smile and let it all happen, no matter what it is. It would take a few months, maybe a year, maybe a lifetime to peel back the layers to see how the pieces connect. There is no purpose in that, though. Better to come, enjoy, take a little, give a little, and hope someone in my footsteps may take an afternoon to listen to the breeze or watch the ballet of butterflies in a slightly imperfect garden while waiting for the rain to cool off this dot of sand.

Monday, May 22, 2006

and a few more shots from the Royal Palace

Pretty girls abound in Thailand - especially the ones who have been dipped in gold.

nope, I'm not meditating, just got zapped by the flash. On the other side of the doors behind me is the Emerald Buddha, one of the most holy items in all of Thailand.

Imagine, shrink-wrapped tourists

lot's of gold Garuda's at the Emerald Buddha

Bangkok - Khao San Road

Bangkok. Not really as foreign as I anticipated. In fact, it’s pretty much like any other place I’ve been. Well, sort of. For some reason I had it in my mind that I would be stepping into a very unfamiliar land where I would be absolutely at the mercy of whoever would take pity on me. In actuality, it is nothing like that at all. I found my way to Khao San Road, searching for a budget place to stay. I expected to find sort of an Asian version of Bourbon Street or some similar place in Prague, but in reality, it’s more similar to Canal Street than anything, except there are far more white people here than there are in Canal Street.

In Steven King’s The Talisman, there is a character called Wolf – briefly, he is the specie of which the legend werewolves is derived. Wolf refers to the world we live in as ‘the land of bad smells’. I think of Wolf often here and hope for his sake he never comes to Bangkok; his senses would simply not be able to handle it. It’s funny though because there are times when it smells really nice and then just when you are thinking, hmmm, this is nice, is that yellow rose incense? Or fresh jasmine flowers? The tables turn and you are infused with a smell that I find suspiciously similar to some of the ‘experiments’ I’ve grown in the back of my fridge – you know, the ones that kick in the gag reflex as they get dumped down the sink. This smell can be purchased, apparently in a bowl or on a stick.

In all fairness, Bangkok seems like a decent place and I have explored only a small fraction of it. I’m very glad that I’ve stayed out of the Sukhumvit district. From my conversations with people this is the heart of the sex tourism area. I know I won’t be able to avoid witnessing this pimple on the Thai culture, but I fear it will sadden me as most red light districts back in North America and Europe do. And on a happier note…

The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew must make the Vatican City green with envy (no pun intended – Wat Phra Kaew houses the very holy Emerald Buddha). The gold and semi precious stones that guild the many buildings of this site is simply outstanding. Unlike the cathedrals of Europe, there is far more texture to the intricate mosaics that adorn the stupas in Wat Phra Kaew. Instead of all the tiles being flush with the fa├žade, many stick out to form little lotus flowers or some other decorative flair. I spent a good 5 hours here and could have spent more had I used a little common sense and eaten a good breakfast before heading out to this spot. Of course, I ran into my favourite deities, the Garuda and this certainly made me feel quite at home.

In both the Grand Palace and the Royal Regalia, Decorations and Coins Pavilion, I found the plaques are virtually useless. There is rarely mention of when something was made and most of the information is written in Thai. I had a pretty good time chastising myself for forgetting all of my studies in Buddhist lore while strolling along the longest mural I have ever seen, nearly 2000 metres. The mural depicts various classic Buddhist themes and stories and I could figure out a couple, but most ended up being impressive on an artistic scale only. Of course, with my vivid imagination, I had a pretty good time making up my own version of the story, but I did yearn for a guide from time to time – well, about half way through I thought, ‘sure, they have guides, spend ten years in a Buddhist monastery and you might get the stories straight’. Also unlike Europe, I found it hard to hijack other guides (you know, listen in on their discourse) and when I did, their explanations seemed, frankly, a bit shallow.

Once, in a museum in Florence I was a parasite to one guide who was so knowledgeable and I got such a tremendous education I felt compelled to give her a tip or pay her normal fee outright. In contrast, in the Grand Palace today, at one point I was tempted to start reading aloud from the free brochure while a guide was reciting it nearly word for word to his customers. I didn’t mostly because I didn’t want to embarrass the guy and didn’t feel it was necessary to point out to the tourists they had been rooked.

Hunger eventually caught up with me and I headed back to the familiar territory of Tr. Khao San. I was very pleased to find the place called Pannee where I sat for three hours eating, watching, drinking and eating some more. After 3 hours, I decided it was time to leave, asked for my check and nearly fell out of my chair – 360 Baht. That’s pretty cheap for 3 hours of drinking and eating. Especially when the food is so tasty and the service is attentive in that special Thai way of being attentive while ignoring you. That’s hard to explain so let’s just say, if you come to Thailand don’t get your britches in a bundle just because the waitress has spent the last half hour setting up a stand across the street. That’s just the way it works and if you need her, cross the street and say hello, otherwise, enjoy your time here on earth. I know I certainly am. Love you all – even if I don’t know you.


I guess I forgot to add in all the stuff between Kitty joining Gillian and I and heading off to southeast asia. Oh, well.

Needless to say, it was, as it always is, an absolutely terrific trip. No wonder they are my favourite people. Gillian likes them too!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

one more passenger

It looks like kitty is coming with us. I never noticed how well suited kitty is for Gillian.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

another side track

There may be a thin or thick line between flexibility and complacency. I wonder if I might have fallen into a lull lately. Each day, I have fears that I have abandoned my dreams, hopes, goals, aspirations and plans. I sit by the pool, I stroll the aisles of Target with the housewives picking out acrylic margarita glasses, I wash and wax the car more times than any rational person should. ‘Why am I still here?’, I ask myself. Better yet, why am I not there? Is it fear? Is it responsibility for all the loose ends that never want to be tied? Or is it that I have become too attuned to the Dr. Suess philosophy of life that I end up more or less happy no matter where I go.

Lately, I have been recovering some lost time with loved ones. Maybe this is an important item to pack into my bag before I go. Maybe it is that I am complacent with just visiting. Maybe I simply do not care to be on my way yet. I am starting to accept that in my plans, I must be flexible. To be rigid, may, in fact, take me further away from this mysterious isle of appetizers. What regret might I feel, if I arrive at the table only to find that my appetite is for something else. If I did not consider my appetite before departing, I suppose it would be fine. But I do consider it and for a little while, my hunger takes me somewhere else.

They say, of all the senses, the sense of smell is the most powerful catalyst of memory. Today, I smelled a scent that reminded me of something; something I hope to never forget. That reminder solidified a recent notion I had to introduce another tangent to my trip. As much as the on-coming rains encourage me to leave today, I know there is something else I would rather do. Samosa eludes me today and I am happy with this choice. Too many times we set out on journeys and never realize that the destination we crave is right in our own back yard, right here within us. I refuse to do that this time. Perhaps I am a fool but I think to ignore this would be also foolish. So Anna, Gillian and I are going to head off for another long drive. I think we will start with Zion. But we all know where in my heart of hearts I want to be and where this trip will take us.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

random things weird people think about while driving for a long time alone

Driving from Vancouver to Arizona is best done over the course of more than two days. I did not have the liberty to take more time due to a fictitious delivery date and this is the cause of only slight disappointment. I would have liked to have passed through Wala Wala, WA, for which I long ago prepared a lovely song and dance, but that will have to wait for my autumnal return to BC. In any event, there were some interesting observations and insights on this rapid trip south which I would be remiss to not share (in no particular order).

  1. I am not a bat, but somehow the phrase “bat out of hell” kept coming to mind.
  2. Coconut donut is much more fun to say than to eat.
  3. There seems to be a surplus of white fluffy people in Oregon.
  4. Blythe, CA. Upon driving into this town there is an overwhelming smell of jasmine. Either it is a soap factory or there are actually things growing there. Once you get into the town of Blythe it no longer smells like that but there is a girl at the Burger Kink with a script tattoo on her neck which reads “La Blue eyes” - I think the first ‘e’ in eyes is lower case on purpose, but I decided it was too personal to ask.
  5. A traffic jam in Los Angeles moves 40km/hour faster than regular driving in Vancouver.
  6. I made it all the way to Los Angeles before I saw any patriotic billboards. There, I saw two. The first read “God Bless America”. Simple enough. The second read “Bless this land and it’s people – God” Does the cute factor work for anyone? Hmmm, me neither. It’s a good country but I don’t think God gives a shit about national borders – oh, man, I hope not. What happens if someone dies out of their country? Is there a form to fill out?

I think one of my favorite things to do is go on very long road trips. I know I have been a less than ideal companion on some of these trips, mostly attributed to sleep deprivation and SUV headlights in my rearview mirror. Regardless, there is an unquantifiable joy in tearing down the road pretending to be a trucker while singing “Harmony and me… we’re pretty good company…” knowing full well that if I got caught I would be required to sew my lips together.

Now, there are some other epiphanies that came to me that have me very concerned (aside from how badly smoking has damaged my otherwise heavenly singing voice). Let’s start with cell phones. Remember when we were in high school and on Saturdays we would get really stoned and go to that course called “Drivers Education”? Did your instructor ever indicate that holding a solid object to your head cutting out 50% of your peripheral vision discussing why your boss continues to be a prick might in some way cause a problem? Well, in case they didn’t, I’m here to say “THIS IS A DANGEROUS PRACTICE. STOP IT.” You have two choices which may be much safer for you and others. Choice 1: Pull over, finish your conversation and then get back on the road. You really wont loose that much time. Choice 2: Get a headset. I know they are terribly expensive (about $10 US), but they may just make you look smarter/powerful/savvy/modern. Also, a headset could help disguise some of your singing as intelligent conversation.
A convenient segue to choice #1 involves pulling over to talk on the phone. Back in the old days when people were on road trips they would drive for hours until the bladder was ready to explode then pull over into a rest stop and conduct a few pieces of business. Aside from stretching, purchasing cheese whiz crackers and bladder relief, we would also call ahead from a pay phone. Pay phones are quaint devices that allow people to punch in numbers and then talk into a clunky piece of plastic to people far away over thin copper wire. I hate to say it, but there are no longer pay phones at rest stops – at least none of the rest stops that I visited. I guess since everyone except for me has a cell phone there is no longer a need for this and I am just going to have to step up and join the modern age. It is amazing how cellular communications has made our lives so much more convenient. But I guess the whole thing is not quite ready to come out of the oven.

Back in the old days (the same era as the pay phones), motels used to employ a very sophisticated system consisting of two neon signs, electricity and a switch. One of the signs said “Vacancy” and was always on. The other sign, strategically placed above or before the first said “No” and was controlled by the switch inside the hotel. This was a very crude and ineffective way of informing travelers of the availability of rooms at said motel. If there were no rooms available, the motel clerk would use the switch to turn on the “No” sign to indicate there are No Vacancies. Thank goodness we no longer use this ridiculous method. Instead, now that we are able to send messages magically around the world or to the parking lot, the neon No sign has gone the way of the codpiece. In the new world this is how it works. Get off the highway, pull up to the motel, get our of your car, wake up the clerk at the motel, ask them if they have any vacancies. Repeat this process as many times as it takes to find a motel clerk who does not have a neon “No” sign glowing somewhere in their head. Good luck – start early.

After four hours of looking for a hotel I found a lovely resort right on the off ramp which will rent rooms and girls by the hour or for the full night. Stockton, CA – what a beautiful improvement we humans have made to this desperate plot of random land. Ok, maybe I’m a little over the top. I had been driving for 17.5 hours. It was 4am. I was tired. I had been through Weed in a snow storm. Weed, CA sucks at night in the snow while driving with no lines on the road. Jack and John should have never talked about it.

While we are on the subject of California…I believe I may have found a fantastic idea. In Vancouver there exists a dire and irreversible problem which will be cleverly concealed for the 2010 Olympics. You see, back when Vancouver BC was being designed the city planners started by rolling up a good batch of that famous BC bud, sitting down with a blank piece of paper and drawing creative lines all over. Then, they replicated these lines in asphalt and called them “roads”. Other than a few intersections, there is no such thing as a turning lane, hence, all drivers are committed to driving exclusively in the right hand lane for fear that someone in front of them will want to turn left, which would understandably ruin anyone’s day since they may miss the light. This creates a vermiform parade of drivers (yup, like that new word), clogging up the flow in right lanes all over the city. So what does this have to do with California?
Well, in the desert between Stockton and Los Angeles, including the oasis known as Buttonwillow outside Bakersfield, there is exactly the opposite phenomenon. Regardless of how slow you may like to drive, it is imperative that all drivers must stay in the left hand lane at all times. I believe this is to combat the possible problem that someone else may want to drive even slower than oneself. The only three reasons I can see for anyone getting in the right hand lane is to a) pass someone on the right, b) prevent someone from passing you on the right or c) you have some bizarre understanding of the phrase “Keep right except to pass”. [sort of like “Alternate Merge”, but that’s a east coast thing]
So here is my idea. Drivers from California should mate with drivers from Vancouver. This may produce offspring who will be willing drive in either lane. At first I was thrilled with my new solution. However, after a few hours staring at the ass of a big fat gas-guzzling SUV, I realized there may be a small problem. These genetically advanced pups may, in fact, have a penchant for driving in the middle of the highway. Ok, my idea sucks. Never mind. Next time I’m going through Idaho.

I’d love to share the rest of my thoughts that pooped into my head during my 28 hour drive, but I’ve promised to not write about that, so I will end this entry on this final comment. By the time I hit the 49th parallel, I had come up with a dozen reasons to be back in BC. By the time I made it to Oregon, the list had grown to 100. By the time I crossed the mountains north of LA my list of reasons why I want to return to Canada had grown to 1000. Granted, over 900 of them were duplicates, but I think they are still valid. Despite all the grief and guff I give and receive about the place, I miss you Canada. There is no doubt I will return and in the meantime, I thank you for the friends you provide, the beer you brew and sometimes useful lessons I learned there.

My next stop is a secret and if you see me I will adamantly declare myself a doppelganger and speak in a thick Austrian accent to prove it.

Yes – I meant to say Kink and I meant to say pooped. The rest are just spelling errors. Good night, Gracie.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

a rough day at the fishing hole

Did you know that the online dictionary lists “vermiform” as a synonym for “useless”? Is this some kind of joke played by a bunch of frustrated fishermen?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

last nights in BC

This blog has gotten off to a bit of a choppy start. Anyone who doesn’t know what’s going on with me will certainly find the first few entries somewhat manic. I suppose that is one of the prices for having a vivid imagination; my thoughts run a strange course sometimes. So as an attempt to reel this in so that it might be at least slightly understandable, I will try to explain what is going on.

It is one of my last nights in Vancouver, BC. I came here nearly three years ago as a work transfer from my long-time home of Brooklyn, NY. My little cedar cabin in the woods is now empty. The toys, props and other sundries of my home turned to boxes and have been carted away. All that remains are my plants, an overwhelming number of unopened envelopes and expired checks, and those items that will be my principle personal effects for who knows how long. The envelopes I’ll open and burn. The checks, I’ll try to get re-issued. My personal effects will need some serious adjustment since I was completely pie-eyed when I packed that part of the house (Steve helped – thanks, Steve). My plants, each will be given to a friend with specific intent, no instructions and a deepness of love they may never realize I have for them (both the plants and the friends - there are brown leaves on both, I guess).

The city I leave without much fuss. Vancouver is a very beautiful city. The standard of living is excellent. The people are very friendly. Some of them have driver’s licenses. None of them can drive. They savor this frustrating combination by driving extra slow.
My Mini and I look forward to that last pokey drive down Granville before we hit the highway for a 1600 mile trip to the southwest U.S., the beginning of a trip I originally planned back in July 2003.

I was supposed to get fired. I was supposed to spend a few months camping in the southwest, then head down the coast through Central and South America, then over to India, up to Nepal, Tibet, maybe Mongolia and then across towards Europe and back home to NYC. I didn’t get fired. I never made it to any of those places. However, I never abandoned the plan over those three years. I simply put it on hold. A month ago, I guess I hit that pause button and put things back into motion.

For several reasons I have decided to do this adventure a little out of order and probably in segments. While I could go south, I think heading to Southeast Asia would be a better training ground for me. It is inexpensive and very different than anything I have ever experienced. A brief stay in Arizona to get some logistics taken care of precedes my departure for Bangkok in April. I plan to travel in Southeast Asia until August and then return to North America. After that, I am heading north back into BC for some camping and visits. From there my plans get a little foggy. If the money is still holding out, which it should, I will head down the west coast through Central and South America, diverting over to Argentina and then possibly all the way to the southern tip.

So the big question: Why am I doing this? My whole life I have dreamed of being a writer. In some ways I have achieved this and in other ways I have only dreamed.
About five years ago I had a conversation that may have been one of the most life changing exchanges I’ve ever had. It really wasn’t much of a big deal, but sometimes a message shows up and it has a tremendous impact. On this particular occasion, an artist friend who I had met only a few times interrupted me as I droned on about some work-related drivel I was spewing. She looked at me with her very dark, stern and piercing eyes and said, “You know, everything you say seems to conflict with your nature.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, you go on and on about computers and work and corporate issues,” she spoke with an almost clinical tone. “But, you’re an artist at heart. It may be fine for now to do what you are doing, but someday you are going to wake up very old and find that you have run out of time.”
Her words sank in so deep, so quickly that I don’t think I will ever be able to forget them.

Now, I embark on making sure that if I do ever wake up very old and out of time I will at least be able to say that I tried. I’m not sure what will become of this. Perhaps it will be no more than a really long holiday. Ideally, it will be the start of something more. Or maybe it will just be some mediocre notes from another frustrated idiot trying to find what has been right there in front of him all along.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Packing up scraps from one night in a bar

A random girl once handed me a small blue piece of square paper in a bar. On one side, glitter was glued around the edges. On the other side, a quote from Bob Dylan.

He not busy being born is busy dying.

This is one of the scraps of paper I tuck neatly into the Ziplock bag full of random phone numbers and epiphany stained cocktail napkins. This is one of the scraps of paper I lug from one coast to another, from the sea to the mountains to the desert. This is one of the scraps of paper that make me wonder why I own anything at all.
I have begun the process of bucketing the items of my life into neatly cataloged boxes, bags and cases. Some may never be opened again, some in a year or so. Then there are the special boxes; the "I have to find one of those suit-jobs" is a box I dread. The, "yes, there are still funds available and I need winter travel clothes" is a box I love.

I carry on, wrapping solid pieces of wood in clean white paper. I am a strange manifestation of Santa Clause to myself.

Monday, March 06, 2006

'You can't just be a free spirit.'

Gertrude was the first one to say this to me. Over the years, many others told me the same thing. Each time, I resented it. I refused to accept it. Certainly, society could not completely snuff the flame of an independent spirit. Certainly, the brave and determined could still find a way in this world without sacrificing their dreams. The free spirit can live in this world and the next and I refuse to accept anyone's discouragement on the subject.

"No. I will. You'll see." That was also the first time I stood up to her. I was upset that she tried to dash my childhood dreams. But Gertrude had influence. She was, after all, everything the imagination could conjure. To the young boy, she was the double edged knife which is life - the balance between yes and no, right and wrong, smart and stupid, the sea and the land. For the sister, she was all the manifestations of fantasy; Santa Claus and Easter bunnies, a handmaiden for the princess, a silly notion with daddy teasing us all. To the wife, Gertrude could be nothing other than the threatening trollop. But to me, the young child, she was the voice of wisdom, the oracle of all things seen and unseen. Gertrude determined whether we moved or not. She was everything the imagination could conjure.

Down below, my father sweated over the giant diesel engine, the hot Bahamas sun baked the white deck as three children and wife waited to turn a key or push a button. Down below, with dad, Gertrude whispered to me once again, 'You can't just be a free spirit.'

"You just watch me." I moved away from the hatch and made my way to the bow of the boat, getting as far away from her and her sabotage as I could.

I still have my battles with Gertrude, but now we are both much better at the game.
'I am so tired of this corporate hype. Tired of arrogant little people frothing at the mouth for their next million dollar deal. Tired of ugly golf shirts smattered with ugly logos. Someone, get me out of here' - approx 8 weeks ago.

Working at Initech had lost it appeal. The glamour, the prestige, the bounty of rewards and recognition had somehow become tarnished over time. I no longer tingled all over at the prospect of an early morning conference calll. The tossing about of words and acronyms like ROI, EOD, MBO, RFP and especially the word 'webinar' left a sulphuric taste on my tongue that no volume of beer or scotch would wash away. Suffice to say, my heart and head were no longer in the game.

I had become numb, complacent, dead. Was it just Initech, or had my enthusiasm for the entire corporate world also died? Or was it only in a deep, deep coma? I wonder if I will wake from these slumbers and find a satisfactory filler to occupy this hollow in my heart. Will I find a desire to once again walk down those anonymous rows of cubicle farms? Will I ever endure another freezing cold convention center, clapping enthusiastically over powerpoint presentations and comic skits performed by sales executives? Will I ever again sit in a conference room equipped with whiteboards and projectors discussing my "attitude problem"? Will I be presented with yet another etched plastic trophy while my colleagues clap wildly for no other reason to make noise and assure themselves they have not expired? Everything is so uncertain.

If there is one thing of which I am certain it is that I am lousy at predicting the future. Sometimes I am equally bad at shaping the future. Years have gone by where my dreams have been shoved to the side because of the certain security a more conservative path would provide. These were years of groundwork, adjustment, triumph and success. They were, early on, quite satisfactory - sometimes even exhillerating. But towards the end, the suppression of my dreams made me ashamed; afraid I would someday die without ever mustering that small amount of courage it takes to at least try to follow my heart. I found a little grit, a little money, and a little hope and chose to leave Initech before I abandoned all hopes of resuscitating that little boy who grew up to be me.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


Tomorrow, I begin my conjuring and recapitulations.