76 tons of sand and an empty cup of rum

Posted: February 13, 2010 in Uncategorized

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…


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