Archive for February, 2010

After nursing my broken personality back to normal and getting a good 6 hours of sleep, we hopped in the water taxi to begin our journey to the Pacific side of things.  Oh yeah, I did finally get some hot sauce that morning before we left Bocas, too — a place called lili’s was happy to sell me some of their “Killin’ Me Man” sauce (tag line: “It Hot like a Caribbean”), a habanero/sweet pepper-y type thing, with a hint of mustard seed to it.  I love the smell of habs in the morning…. smells like… victory…

We grabbed another bottle of rum (it is somewhat inexplicably half as expensive in Panama as it is in Costa Rica, despite the fact that it’s from Nicaragua – taxes, I can only assume) and began a day of sitting in vehicles. The border crossing was painless and quick, and a mere 8 hours or so later, we were back in San Jose.  It was only when we reached the flea-bag hostel that I realized I had apparently made a crucial mistake in my earlier, seemingly well-deserved victory, which was to not check the hot sauce bottles to make sure they were tightly sealed — indeed, all 4 were not (who the hell sells hot suce with loose caps?  does it expand or something?), and suddenly most of my clothes were a little saucy… but on the bright side, most of the underwear remained un-sullied.  So I had that going for me.  Which was nice.
San Jose leaves something to be desired in terms of… well, water and trees and animals and peace and quiet and everything else you might come to Costa Rica for, but we were forced to stay the night, just long enough to hop a 6am bus to the Nicoya Peninsula, another somewhat touristy area and basically Mecca for surfers in Central America.  A very nice guy named Sonny who we met in Panama (he was on his visa run — you have to leave the country for 72 hours every 3 months to renew it) owns an amazing hotel with some villas and a restaurant here called Gumbo Limbo, and his Italian business partner makes the most amazing pesto, with basil grown from seeds his mother brought from Genoa, with the first truly great cheese I’ve eaten in a month.  Santa Teresa itself is… well, different.  Everyone has an amazing tan, 6-pack abs and biceps.  At 6’5″ and a buck-eighty-five, I am by far the most out of shape person here.  I’ve got very little upper body (hey, I’m a cyclist — we’re all below the waist) but by these standards, I am meek and feeble, someone you might find begging for change in Calcutta or something.  The beach here is incredibly nice, and covered, absolutely dominated, by surfers.  I met a Spanish woman in Bocas who had lived here for 3 months and her comment was “it’s all surfing there, just surf surf surf surf surf” and now I can see what she was talking about.  Well okay!  Lets try surfing!  The first day we were content to simply watch, swim and throw ourselves about the waves.  We grabbed dinner at Sonny’s place and got to sleep early…
…and I had a dream about surfing.  Actually, I’ve been dreaming a lot here, pretty much every night, very vivid, somewhat lucid dreams.  I had my first nightmare in over a decade while in Cahuita.  I’ve been dreaming about everyday stuff, about bizarre occurrences, about all sorts of oddness.  But on this night, I dreamed I went out surfing.  I was all alone, not a person in sight, and I strapped the leash onto my right ankle, paddled out, sat there for a second, and just stood up on the first wave.  First try.  A real natural.  I carved up and down like all those guys with 6-pack abs, and I was loving it.  I woke up smiling and eager.  The first bloody try!  (if you surf, you should be laughing pretty hard by this point).  I was like the Tiger Woods of surfing, except without all the practice and hard work and dedication and loose women.  Well, I guess I was more like the Amy Winehouse of surfing..
Obviously, I did not stand up on the first try.

Surfing… is… just… incredibly hard.  Probably the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do.  It’s not like biking, or climbing, where you’re fighting gravity and wind and whatever surface you’re traversing, or snowboarding and sking, where you’re fighting terrain and physics, or team sports, where you’re fighting players with superior skill to yours — no, you’re fighting something much, much more bad-ass, something that’s been smashing at the earth and at humans and at vessels and at whatever else tries to be in it or near it, forever.  The God Damn Ocean.  At least, that’s what I was calling it that morning…

Paddling out is, in itself, quite challenging — and it’s not like I was going out very far to start learning, but staying in the shallow break, just the leftovers of waves that broke another 15 yards out or so.  You’ll paddle, paddle, paddle, then get smashed by something kinda big, then paddle a bit more, dive under a smaller wave (this takes a while to get a hang of), then paddle some more, then realize you really haven’t gotten anywhere.  A lot of learning is, indeed, just getting smashed to bits, and trying again, and getting pushed off, and shaking your head and hopping back on, and getting smashed to bits again.  It’s sort of like love, I suppose…
The first 30 minutes felt like 4 hours.  Paddling out and getting smashed is not just physically taxing, but mentally draining… the ocean becomes this huge, living thing, and sometimes, caught in a wave, the board yanking at your ankle, you can almost hear her whispering… “screeeeew youuuuuuu, niiiiiich!  fuuuuuck youuuuuuu…” and then you pop back up, sinuses full of salt, the leash all tangled around your legs like some sick nautical death trap, and you wonder how all those guys further out seem to do this so effortlessly, just popping underneath the big waves and covering so much more ocean, then effortlessly, effortlessly standing up, and riding these barrels, and bailing wherever they feel like it but rarely falling off inadvertently… all the 6-packs and biceps suddenly make sense — what, you think they get abs like that by eatin’ a bunch of pesto or something?
After finding a spot that was mostly just whitewater break, I started trying to get my stand on.  I had watched a ton of people in the days previous, kind of studying their technique for getting up — it’s not so much the physical action of shifting your weight on your front hand to lift your front leg up, but just timing the whole motion correctly — paddling in, with the wave, until the break just barely passes under the fins, then making that shift, lifting with both arms, almost a little hop to it, hopefully getting your rear foot about where it should be.  Again, more tossing about — I was on this tremendously huge longboard (a very newbie board) with alot of weight to it… the board itself was actually quite stable, but my lanky ass was not.  Four or five tries in, I actually get up, knees still bent, just for a second (well, it felt like 5 seconds), but the board shifts right a bit, and the break knocks it out from underneath me. 10 tries.  15 tries.  25.  I can get on my feet sometimes, but I can’t really “stand up” — that is, my knees will not straighten out without making my whole frame — which is more and more resembling burnt cookie-dough — lose balance and fall off.  After about an hour of this (felt like alot more), I walk in, totally broken, arms about to fall off.  No one there to witness my shame but me — an odd parallel to the dream, I suppose.  I had rented this damn board for 24 hours, and after the first 60 minutes I already suck.  Maybe I should have a good sit, I thought.  I dropped the board off for safe storage and the little guy running the place smiled pretty big.
“You do okay?” he asked.
“Yeah, great.  Here, grab this for a bit — I gotta go puke up some saltwater, maybe try to regain feeling in my elbows and scrotum.”
I went out the next morning, too, but the waves were breaking too fast, and a bit too close to shore.  I talked to folks, trying to get a better idea of how to navigate the break, asking stupid questions, and tried out a lighter board.  On day 4 of what I began calling ‘Operation Lanky Yankee’, I went out at about 2pm, at low tide, and it was real small and gentle, just perfect for learning… I found I could paddle out further, stand up easier, stay up longer, and stay out longer — my 2 hour rental actually felt shorter than 2 hours.  It wasn’t like I was carving around at all, or even taking any waves that could be considered “waves” — I mean, alot of it is just breakwater, but I was a hell of alot more comfortable, and managed to stand up “proper” a good five or six times, ride that little break slowly, right into the shallow, and jump back on, smiling and paddling…
So great it is to try new things, even if I suck at them!  I walked in from that water with this weird little mental note building in my head of all the things I want to try… and it turns out most of them are really quite boring, or at least in contrast to surfing.   I would like to build furniture.  I would like to learn yoga.  I would like to take EMT courses.  I would like to speak at least one more language fluently, ultimately several languages to some degree.  I would like to grow vegetables (I’ve never gardened, and even my house plants have a higher mortality rate than lepers in Malakai).  Someday, I think I want to be a high-school shop teacher.
And someday, I wanna live somewhere with waves.

That particular facet of this chunk of land (waves all year round) seems to be what brought most people here… you’ll walk to the internet cafe, or the corner store, or a restaurant, at 4pm, and the place will just be locked up, closed, deserted… ’cause everyone is out surfing.  No note on the door that’s all “sorry dudes, waves are too good today — will re-open at low tide” but yeah, it’ll be pretty obvious if you walk a block to the beach and look out at hundreds, just hundreds of people out there, carving, or paddling, or sitting, waiting for the right position on the right swell….  Swell!  What a great name for swell!

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Later that day (on Saturday), Ty and I went for a taco — not a particularly common item here.  The hole-in-the-wall taco place wasn’t serving tacos that day, though, so we settled for the only thing they offered us — roasted chicken with rice, beans and salad, a bit of a staple meal.  The hot sauce was really good and served in unlabeled flasks — homemade, but she wouldn’t sell me any (argh!).  There was a TV on in this particular hole-in-the-wall, and we caught glimpses of other Carnivalés going on in Panama — one in Panama City, one in a place called Las Tablas that even had a huge gay pride parade going on, etc.  They were, in a word, huge… much more like what you’d see from Rio, just thousands and thousands of people… traffic backed up for miles, big parade-like floats, things like that.  We determined that we were at more of a block party than a Carnivalé, at least compared to what we were seeing.  Screw you, television.

Still, it was a great night.  We grabbed a bottle of Flor de Caña and some limes

and got in the spirit.  Later on, there was a sort of parade of drum troupes, very Caribbean, not a djembe in sight, with dancers up front doing choreographed marches down the street.  Most of the drums were mounted to these awesome home-made contraptions of bamboo and twine that were impressively well constructed, so that the whole troupe’s rig could be dragged down the street by people in front of the drummers.  The guy next to me explained that the last troupe to roll through was from Bastimentos, the island next door to us, where we had hit up a beach earlier (Red Frog beach — probably the most pristine beach I’ve ever seen) but had not yet spent much time exploring.  The troupe was great, with a lot more of an afro-beat vibe than the previous ones.  We wandered around for a few hours, seein’ the sights and dancing about in the street…

The next morning, though, as we woke to the same blaring, 130bpm auto-tuned dancehall (auto-tune needs to die.  Seriously.), we were pretty ready to find someplace different, somewhere nice and quiet.  Bastimentos?  Sure.  Whatever.  We hopped in a water taxi around noon, and started wandering around a village (I am, as I write this, still rather ignorant on the specifics of this island).  I was in kind of a bitchy mood that morning due to several failures I suffered before we left Isla Colón — I was behind on correspondence and writing, struggling over whether to buy a ticket back to Asia for the near future or go home and get a job, I still hadn’t bought any damn hot sauce, and I was on an empty stomach filled mostly with whatever is left over after a night of rum, dancing and meat-on-a-stick (let’s be fair – my diet here has been – ahem – somewhat atrocious).  Ever travel with someone in a bitchy mood?  Someone who is on-edge and not good with dealing with curve-balls?  It totally sucks, and I hate them.  I was that dude today.
The vibe here was just completely opposite; there are no roads, just a pathway a bit larger than 2 bike lanes.  No motors except for the boats.  They don’t speak Spanish here either; it’s a Caribbean tongue I think was called ‘wally wally” (I am certain I’m not spelling or even pronouncing this right but can’t find any info online about it).  Overall it was totally soothing and awesome, but I was too busy bein’ a dick.  We found a restaurant, sat down and ordered — one mixed seafood plate and a large pizza.  She wouldn’t make me eggs, bacon and toast, despite the fact that there was a “Bacon Egg Lettuce Tomato Sandwich” on the menu, and for a moment I thought about going all Five Easy Pieces on her ass, but hey, veggie pizza sounds good too.  I inexplicably get a beer (stuff is pretty much water here anyway).  45 minutes pass. “Soon”, says the waitress at our perturbed expressions as she asks if we’d like another drink.  We start joking around, “Maybe they have to go catch the fish first!”  “Perhaps they’re getting the pizza from another island?”  Good humored, we are, my mood is improving with the promise of sustenance, despite the delay.  Another 45 minutes pass, during which several tables that arrived after us had come and gone.  It’s no longer funny.  Near the 2 hour mark we get up to leave.
“Where you going?  Pizza is in the oven…”
Oh well shit, if it only took 2 hours to get to the oven I guess I’ll stay!
“How much longer?”
“20 minutes.” (ever work in a pizza kitchen?)

“Umm, no.  Wrong answer.  Bye.”

She comped our drinks (which was honestly pretty nice of her) and we walked.

I was that dude.  Me.  Asshole with a broken stomach and nerves of glass, no semblance of a relationship with the peaceful surroundings, undeserved aire of urgency.  I hate this me.

We walked into the next restaurant we saw, also on the water, a one-man place called Roots. Ty asked how long to get food (generally not a good introduction) and he shrugged with a half-puzzled, half-pissed look on his face: “quick.”  Good enough.  We ordered; in 2 minutes we had drinks, in 3 minutes we had silver and hot sauce, in 4 minutes we had food.  You can probably guess what it was: chicken, rice, beans and salad.  I considered getting seconds.  Oh yeah, the hot sauce was GREAT!  “Where can I buy this!?”, I ask, after we give him cliff notes on our 2-hour wait (“2 hours?  Shit man…”)

“I make it sometimes.  You here a couple days?”
“Nah, just tonight I think…”
He makes a gesture, not even a gesture really, just a mild, squinting facial expression, whilst looking away, with this little click to his lips, that says all it needs to.  I start scheming for a way to get him to sell me a bottle, even half a bottle.  I walk up to pay.
“Can I buy a bottle of this?”  There are maybe 6-8 mostly full bottles behind him, they’re so close, I can almost reach them…
“I no have no more.”
“I’ll give you $5.  Even for a half bottle.”  (the meal was $4)
“I say I no have no more” is what his mouth said, but his eyes said “What the fuck is wrong with you?  It’s hot sauce.  Get over it.”
a swing and a miss… I’m batting .000 on this whole hot-sauce thing, and while it’s not like it’s, ya know, important… well, I don’t like admitting defeat.  When I’m working on a bike or a car or a computer or a faucet or whatever, defeat is unacceptable.  Not gonna happen.  I will wrestle your bike for a day to get that fucking bottom bracket out.  I’ll fight your computer for 15 hours, after quoting you $20, out of principle.  I have spent literally days working out the 6 corroded, half-stripped reverse-torx headed bolts that connect an E36’s drive shaft to it’s differential (it was worth it).  I once owned a ’68 Rambler, and that shit will teach you the limits of not giving up — it was a good hour or so a day to keep that god-awful 232 running.  I ain’t about to lose to a damn thing.  I think it might be a matter of principle seeping into desire…  oh, the agony of not getting any hot sauce!
We found a place to stay, on the water, in a guesthouse run by a man named “the Jaguar” — a totally great character with a smile seemingly permanently mounted to his jaw.  He was alot of fun — a little while after arriving, he said “I’ll play you a song!” and went and fetched his keyboard and amp.  After warming up for a bit, he disappeared for a second, returned with a nail and a rock, and pounded it in to the deck below his table so that it protruded about 5 inches.  This puzzled me, until he grabbed some PVC piping and a 90 degree elbow, and fashioned himself a mic stand through a hole in the table, ‘anchoring’ itself on the nail, with a gateway for the mic cable crudely cut into the top section.  Such ingenuity!  I guess I would have been more impressed with bamboo and bike spokes (you can do ANYTHING with a spoke) but it was pretty nifty nonetheless…
He started to play.  The song was an original Jaguar, and as far as I can tell, it was about finding a woman to bear his mother a grandchild.  I can’t explain why — maybe it was just the contrast to the music on Bocas — but it was just fuckin’ great.  At least, until the power went out on the whole island, cutting the song a bit short.  “A Capella!  A Capella!” yelled Ellie… but he wasn’t going for it.  He explained that he wrote it for his brother.  “He no have no wife”, he said.  So, it’s a first-person narrative written third-person then convincingly sung first-person.  Makes sense I guess.
We spent the rest of the day chilling.  Played some rummy 500, drank some Old Milwaukee out of ironic novelty (hey look, I’m a hipster! LOOKATMEDAMNIT!) and smoked too many cigs.  Then crashed early for the next day of traversing the region: the goal was Bastimentos -> water taxi to Isla Colón -> water taxi to Almirante -> taxi to Changuinola -> bus to the boarder -> hop back on bus in Sixola -> 6 hour bus to San Jose… and that was day one of two…

keep on keepin’ on, and don’t be a dick about it….

dip, dip, dive
so-so-cialize
clean out ya ears 
open ya eyes
~MC Quincy, as transcribed by the RZA

Hola de Bocas del Toros,

Things I see as I sit on this terrace, overlooking Carnivale on Isla Colon in Bocas:  smiles.   bikes of various styles, mostly with flashy rattle-can paint jobs and home-made racks or surfboard carriers hanging off the back or side. bald tires.  street food that is unconditionally delicious, sold by cart or bicycle: meat on a stick.  empanadas.  milensa pollo sandwiches.  2 year old kids who can dance better than most white people.  skateboards.  lots of beautiful, happy people.  braids, dreads, naps, fades.  speakers and PAs cranked so loud that the amps fade and crackle on the peaks (this is the normal volume setting here, no matter the crowd or music played).  a big-rig tanker, with ‘INFLAMABLE’ painted on every side of the tank, spraying a crowd of 70 or so dancing people with (what I hope is) water.  hips, ohgodlookatallthehips!  talking, laughing, dancing, drinking, eating.  the occasional cat-call, sometimes though the PA.  convenience stores with stacks, huge stacks as tall as me, of cases of beer, and Red Bull, and fifths of booze vac-sealed with quarts of juice, half-obstructing every single aisle.  whole families, little kids wrastlin’ on the grass, lots of kids overall.  smiles.
From what I’ve gathered from the locals (so friendly, and patient with communication), there’s a Carnivale in four or five cities in Panama (the biggest being Panama City, of course) but this one is a destination for alot of the Northern Panamanians  because… well, it’s on an island (a bit of a party island anyway), and it’s pretty cheap to get to.  I guess in East Madison we’re quite spoiled; we get a block party pretty much every two weeks for the whole summer… you can tell it’s pretty condensed into Carnivale; it lasts 5 days or so, and hoy es Sabado — the main event…. the music on the street went till 2am or so last night (try THAT shit in Madison) and started back up around 10am… but the clubs rocked till 6am.  I got up with the music (our hotel is about 110 yards from the main stage — guess which way the speakers are pointed?) and right now it’s 4:03pm, and the crowd is really getting going.  The stage mixes back and forth, from live Mambo, Caribbean and Roots bands, to these DJs who must have either ADD or good drugs, ’cause there’s a cut every minute or two, and nothing is under 120bpm.  It’s pretty fun.  It’s nowhere near Rio, or even other cities in Panama, but it’s got a good vibe….
Maybe the most foreign thing about being down in all this is that it’s not really foreign at all…

heads bumpin’ back, thinkin’ bout shit; yeah I like it…..
Every place on the water here (bars, clubs, hotels, everything) in literally ON the water — constructed on stilts, or maybe even just floating there.  You’ll look down while taking a shower in your hostel and realize that you can see the damn ocean though the drain… which is a hell of a lot more ocean than I’m used to seeing through my shower’s drain, so maybe the novelty just hasn’t worn off yet.  There’s a bar we were at last night till 3am or so called Barco Hundido (a bit of a play on words) where as you walk in, you cross a series of bridges and paths to the main bar area, which is built on a solid platform over the water.  That then opens up to a little ‘lagoon’ in the water where there’s a sunken ship.  More pier-like structures and raft-type platforms link around the ship and a ways past it to make a seating area.  I dunno if this is even legal in the US, but it is SO frickin’ cool…. by the end of the platforms, you’re a good 40 or so feet off the shore, and it’s lit thoughtfully enough that you can see alot of fish and such (a sweet sign in the lagoon part reads: “SWIM at your OWN RISK!  everything CUT you!”)
The zoning laws are probably pretty great here… we were chatting with a bar/restaurant owner yesterday who said he got the lot we were standing on “because no one wanted it; they thought it was too small.  I could only build to here,” and he slaps his hand on the bar in front of me (I’m sitting on the front porch, which is about as big as the bar itself) “but I figured I could build a porch to the street, and shit, most people sit on the porch anyway.”  I gave him a somewhat puzzled look; like, isn’t the porch technically “building”?  Or part of the building?  He smiled and nodded with a sort of half-shake to his head… George has a PhD and worked for years for the Smithsonian, doing archeological research around Central America (born in Calgary, did his post-doctorate at KU Lawrence).  He was wearing a dirty apron and a GnR bandanna, and during our chat he was re-summoned to the kitchen to cook hamburgers and falafel.  He seemed really happy.  A few minutes later he ran back to where I was sitting and reached under the bar in front of me.  “Forgot my beer!”  Then he ran back to the kitchen, cerveza en mano.  
I could write whole essays on how what I’ve seen in other countries makes me laugh and cry with the kind of regulation and bullshit small business owners go though in the states… although it probably belongs nowhere near this particular transmission.  You know what that meat-on-a-stick guy does with my $1.50?  He feeds his family.  Maybe puts some of it away.  Or to put it even less eloquently than I would, as Ray Smuckles once said, People want to eat some fuckin’ dinner and have some fuckin’ money! What the fuck do you THINK gettin’ up in the morning is all about?
Oh yeah, George made a really good plate of falafel.
hasta luego…

 

Hola amigos,

I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve rapped at ya, or written a travel letter or even anything of merit and interest… but here we are.
Two years since I’ve left North America, since I’ve been able to afford to travel (save yer pennies, kids — it pays), since the last journey (I did spend a weekend in Vancouver, which taught me that you should never, ever go somewhere that awesome for just a weekend).  Time seems to pass faster and faster all the time; comfort, friends, and the joy of labor sooth me over quite effectively — my purpose in those two years was to work, stack paper, push, build, move, plan, plot, scheme, and just be… home.  Home is… community, and support, and family, and work, and fun, and A-bars on the lake (or the bike path behind Mickies), and late-night bike rides, and first-name-basis, and all the rad bros and sisters I have the pleasure of calling my friends and family.  Home is good.
But I’m hungry — constantly hungry.  Hearing the tales of others, sometimes just vacations, sometimes journeys, sometimes epic, inconceivable ventures (Charlie Brigham’s bike tour is particularly inspiring) makes me want to run, buy that one-way, and struggle, and relax, ebb and flow, savor it all, all of it, suck the marrow out of the bones of it all…
Sometimes, it takes baby-steps.  Indecisiveness is a harsh mistress, and one of my worst traits… arguments and counter-arguments can run my head asunder, and commitment is not a value I take lightly (see: college transcript).  I’ve been in a damn whirlwind of indecision since winter… back to Asia?  Nepal, Tibet and India?  Australia/NZ?  Epic road-trip through NA?  Bike?  Feet?  One-way?  Round-trip?  Bros?  Solo?  I suck at making decisions.  Luckily, winter in Wisconsin is also a harsh mistress, full of snow (which I love) and unemployment (which I hate) and cold (meh).  Baby-steps…  What’s that, Ace?  you need to move to Arkansas next week?  I’m in.  AND you wanna buy me a plane ticket to California?  Sweet!  I love Cali!  What’s that, Ellie and Ty?  You wanna go to Costa Rica for a while?  10 days?  No, I don’t think that’s enough time.  Better do a month — we’ll make it a thing.  A THING, for chrissakes!  Yes.  Let’s do a thing…
Costa Rica.  Heard alot about it.  Hablo muy poco espanol… no matter.  Now that I’ve been here for a week, I see that, like SE Asia, you really just need to pack your brain.  You could get by here with zero Spanish, but it sure helps.  I find myself learning the same 100 or so words wherever I go, and damn, compared to Mandarin, Spanish is frickin’ easy (not to claim that I actually retained 100 words of Mandarin… but that’s another problem altogether).  Sometimes I just sound like Peggy Hill.  It’s okay.
Obviously, it’s totally beautiful here (although I’ll spare you the self-indulgent descriptions of 80 degrees and black-sand beaches — I always kind of hate it when travel emails/blogs turn into the whole “EVERYTHING’S GREAT LIFE IS PERFECT YOU CAN’T BELIEVE HOW MUCH FUN WE’RE HAVING” vibe for the sake of itself).  We spent a week cruising the Caribbean side, down through Cahuita and Puerto Viejo, both small-ish beach towns.  Tourism is pretty huge here, and it kind of brings me back to whole “vacation vs. journey” internal struggle… it’s kind of hard to feel like a “real” traveler when you’re taking the tourist routes through the tourist towns, seeing the same folk along the way.  It’s a little intensified by the size of the place; the whole country is basically the width of Milwaukee to Dodgeville or so, and especially with my Spanish being so pathetic, it’s a bit harder to get off the beaten track.  Still, like anything else, you get back what you put in, and if you put in negativity and feelings of manufactured landscapes, manufactured experiences… well, you see where I’m going with this.  Sometimes ya just gotta shut the fuck up, quit thinking so much, go jump in the ocean, and…. smile.  It’s great to see the world, even if it’s through soft-focus, as a tourist, just some random gringo…
Is it epic?  Not really…. but it’s a start, and I’ll be damned if it ain’t gorgeous and friendly.  And it fuels my hunger more than quenching it; talking with others in hostels who’ve traveled to places I’ve not yet been puts a lot of notes in my notebook and a glazed, lusty look in my eye.  Still, I’ve been sending out several resumes every week (writing cover letters on the beach: totally the way to job hunt) thus truly completing the circle of indecisiveness… I’ll admit it; I really miss working.  Maybe I’ll get lucky and stumble across something like
WANTED: somewhat witty, well-spoken traveler with a strong head, good personality and at least some tolerance for Europeans to write embarrassing stories, parables and anecdotes of no redeeming academic merit, and non-important, esoteric observations and opinions, for no reason whatsoever but to amuse his friends and the general public.  Ability to drink a massive amount (without negative mental recourse) a plus — the acerbic, sarcastic cynicism and writing mannerisms that accompany it are important, not to mention it’s social value as a catalyst for fun/trouble.  Must be able and willing to get into shifty and troublesome situations simply for the sake of it (see previous sentence); typing skills helpful but not required.  Tall lanky guys will be given preferential treatment due to their ability to amuse the locals by not fitting on/in anything and constantly hitting their heads on shit.  Must be able to make a decent plate of Bolognase & garlic bread for under $3 per plate using the worst-equipped kitchen imaginable and ingredients of questionable quality and origin.  Ability to assess the human condition, or anything else serious, in only a vague, pedantic style of writing also not an issue — our readers prefer to hear about things like your weird affinity for shiny rayon shirts, maybe some stuff about boobs.  Meager travel stipend and beer allowance; zero growth potential.
“Operator, get me the head-guy at the New York Times.  His name?  oh I dunno… probably like ‘Charles Robert Hughes IV’ or something… hello?  Operator?” 
eh.  a guy can dream…
More soon, from Panama…