Friday, January 30, 2009

Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales, Chile

Caption, ¨This was the best of three attempts. You can see the storm coming in the upper right.¨

I see a pattern developing in my bike traveling; I need at least a day of rest and recuperation for every day I spend on the bike. I never intended for this to be a purely biking endeavor, rather I wanted to travel and use the bike as the mode of transport. It turns out that if you are traveling by bike that it becomes the main part of your experience. It cuts down on contact time with other travelers and that for me is the most entertaining, eye-opening part of the travel experience. Hearing other viewpoints and what people sacrificed in order to travel or how it is important to them or what they do or their family, so on and so forth, are the things I daydream about in the years to come, and not the statistics or fact that I biked 250km against the wind with 1,500 meters of incline in three days. You can keep your stats.

I tried biking with team 'Personality Plus' from Switzerland but that did not jive for either party so I left Punta Arenas, alone again, with my mind in a haze. The haze was part confusion and part meditative. The former being why am I going to battle the elements of cold and wind again, and the later the natural birth of the unique state to endure those elements.
Caption, ¨This was called ´Monument to the wind´. Interestingly enough these giant metal structures did not move in the wind, but their presence was at least an acknowledgement to me that the locals admit it is a windy place.¨

Starting the day I had every intention to bike 50 or 60km, a short day, and find a place to camp in the wilderness. The headwinds proved to be consistent but relatively light so I was able to fight fight fight until I got the tipping point of being able to reach the next town, only 100km away. At km 85 the wind turned on all its fury and I was left dry crying the remaining 15km to reach the campsite and water in Villa Telhuenin, which took 2.5 hours. I wanted to stop along the way but there was no shelter from the wind for miles- only a flat prairie with little desert shrubs and sickly wind slapped flowers with arched backs desperately clinging to the thin soil, like me desperately clinging to my bike.
Caption, ¨This photo is not for you but a memory photo for me, and how I felt in this exact moment. Really I should delete it as to not remember.¨

Believe it or not there is another solo Swiss German biker setting up camp when I arrive. We chatted for a bit while propping up our tents and making food. We compared notes and observations of the day´s ride, none of which were very profound. ¨Last 15 km were tough.¨ Agreed. And then nothing more. The guy is 35, an independent carpenter with no girlfriend or kids, and as mentioned, also a Swiss German.
¨I have noticed some big differences between the Swiss if they are from the Italian, French or German part,¨ I threw out the comment to see if he would even care.
¨How so?¨ was the curious response.
¨Well, if you meet a biker from Switzerland 9 times out of 10 it will be from the German part. The Swiss Italians cannot be bothered with the inconvenience and do not see the point, and even more so for the Swiss French who are connoisseurs of fine wines, fine food and fine living. That most certainly excludes a lifestyle of bike touring. The Swiss Germans are the only ones organized or stubborn enough to bike tour, and they love it. I think more than any other country, or so it seems,¨ I explained.
Like a well-made Swiss German machine his mechanical reply is, ¨I would have to agree with your observations.¨
What?! Did he just say that? This is surreal.
The conversation then mainly went into biking and camping gear pros and cons. Keep it factual. My mind started to wander and think about the ´types´ that bike tour, at least those that bike tour alone. They are strange. Are they biking from something or trying to prove something or perhaps a little of both? I guess the same can be said for all solo artists like the extreme hiker or mountaineer. What is that wild look in their eye that drives them? And come to think of it, are not I one of them as well? I like to think I am not one of them because I would prefer to bike with someone else, but then I cannot stand the company of what I deem ´incompatibles´ and that puts me right back into the same group I just mentioned.
The Swiss German recoils into his own shell of a world and I get the impression he would rather eat, and bike alone the next day. I am right.

Briskness hung in the blue air of a long overdue sunset while I greedily ate dinner. In the process I nearly ate the tips of my fingers off. ¨Food me,¨ is the most profound thing I can think at the moment. Your jaw muscles cramp and give out before your stomach gets full. The legs are like unappreciative children- taking, taking without a thought except being satisfied. Try as I might to feed them and do my best, just like a parent, it is like throwing pubic hairs on a fire- they go up in smoke before they even hit the flames.

My brain has turned into cycling putty. Does the brain need stimuli from its surroundings to create thoughts? Perhaps I am happy like a Buddhist is happy. All thoughts are blown clear, in one ear and out the other. Happy like a clueless monk. Not sad cause you need a thought to be sad. Happiness a default state from a lack of thoughts? Perhaps. Ignorance is bliss, and this landscape is bliss inducing.

Morning. Dew and a grumbling stomach. The Swiss German has already packed camp and split.

Shadows of showers approach and I hop back in the saddle to try and outrun the weather. Rain means lighter wind, but then again, you are getting wet. From a squinty grimace I can see an abandoned farm house about 500 meters on the other side of a barb-wired fence keeping sheep and ostriches from becoming road kill. Each of the four bags were removed from my bike and I threw my bike over the fence, only getting one sensitive underarm caught in the barb wire. The animals scattered as I approached the empty hut with broken windows and I cautiously scanned for any guard dogs. None seen. Although there is a lock on the door it is only for appearance and I am able to get inside and take a respite from the weather and cook up a warm spaghetti meal for myself, and then take a one hour nap on my blue roll out foam while listening to my iPod on my little battery powered speakers. I am in squatter heaven. All it takes is a little trespassing to feel so free free free! I slept like a baby with mononucleosis, and upon waking the clouds had dissipated. Voila! I considered staying the night in this wind and water proof miracle of modern engineering- never had shelter been so appreciated.

I decided to take advantage of the good weather and pushed onward. Good choice. 30 min later it is raining again and I am looking for a place to set up camp, in the rain. That is always fun.
I pulled up to 90km for the day and found another great spot under some trees in a field of sheep, again, just a barb-wired fence jump away. My wind and rain tree block I had picked from the roadside also happened to be the best spot for the sheep to take cover. They scattered as I approached and I was left to find a sheep poop heaven of a camp ground. Along the route I have seen sign-posts warning of mine fields (you want to make sure NOT to hop those fences and camp there!) left over from the cold war between Chile and Argentina in the late 70's. Now I am in a different minefield of sorts, a sheep shit mine field. I cleared a place and put down the tarp and read in my tent under the pitter patter of rain droplets collecting and dropping from the tree above. Nature's drum solo played all night accompanied by the ¨blahahahah, blahahahaah¨ of the woolly clad singers. At times I do enjoy this parsimonious existence. In the morning, like the fog in my eyes, the countryside looked like gorillas in the mist. Goose bumps wont do, I had pterodactyl bumps.
Caption, ¨Sheep shit mine field.¨

The always predictably unpredictable weather continued. The wind subsided and I flew through the countryside like a horse freed from pulling a wagon. 26km in one hour. I stopped to refuel and unload. The well water I have been drinking gives me stomach cramps with period-like bloating (ladies, you know what I am talking about). My movements are profound as they are poetic and I imagine a tracker being mistaken for an existence of a Shetland pony in the area. These are not your feeble ´ribbon´ India traveling breed of movements. These make you want to light a pipe, nestle one hand under your elbow and ponder with a confidently tilted head.

Lighter and hopped up on chocolate I sang at the top of my lungs until I gasped for air while pumping as hard as I could. I thought the chain would break or my wheels would dissolve into gummy bears. The downhill joy of arriving into Puerto Natales had me yelping like a wolf with its nuts in a rat trap. Pure animalistic joy and a smile that I could feel giving me permanent wrinkles. Arriving in Puerto Natales damp and rainbows burned in my cornea I had finished another leg of a journey that has no end point.

Caption, ¨One of the many rainbows. Sometimes you see something amazing and you cannot muster the ganas to stop the flow of biking to take the photo to remember the moment. This time I did even though it was the least spectacular.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Where does the time go?

It was another pointless test of endurance on a 50 hour bus ride departing from my ´home´ in Buenos Aires for a return to the saddle starting in Ushuaia and heading North without a destination. The 50 hours passed uneventfully where I read, listened to music while watching the seemingly endless treeless Patagonia tundra passing, and fell in love with an Italian for an hour while sitting next to a Chilean lady breastfeeding her 2 year old child every 10 minutes. The kids was asking for ´teta´, meaning tit.

Caption: ¨Ushuaia, the southern most city in the world, so they say.¨
Caption: ¨Good wine, great steaks and better conversations. New found friends from Wales and Bulgaria.¨

I would take breaks from my all consuming book, Mysteries by Knut Hamsun, to watch the happiest animals playing I have ever seen. Horses were bucking and chasing each other like kids playing tag in nature´s yawning expanses. Lamas and big fluffy sheep were bumping and bounding over each other while curious foxes darted across the road. The land gets flatter, more windy, and the days longer the farther south we get until we finally arrive at the bottom of South America in a town called Ushuaia on the island of Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire).

Caption, ¨An hour before the storm.¨

After taking a month break from riding I was anxious to get going so instead of trekking in the National Park of Tierra del Fuego I opted to purchase 4 days worth of food and hit the road going north immediately. It was a good choice. I left and right away within the first 50km a storm rolled in and I took cover next to a lake appropriately named Lago Escondido (Hidden Lake). I found a path and maneuvered my bike on foot down to the waterfront with a curious excitement in my belly. It was pure wilderness camping on the bank of a unpopulated lake. It was the perfect spot. Alone. I mean really alone. I cooked up a pasta, took some clean water from the lake that was once a clear blue glacier, and then saw the storm come in. The wind and rain battered my little tent with me in it for 24 hours straight. Great, is this what biking Patagonia is going to be like? The wind gusts gave birth to Wizard of Oz dreams of fly spinning up into the air. I read, and ate, and slept, and read, and ate, and slept. When I finally poked my head outside the tent the surrounding hills were covered in a layer of powder sugar snow. Is this summertime?

Caption, ¨An hour later once the storm rolled in. Looks and felt foreboding.¨

I continued onward until I made it to Tolhuin situated on the banks of the Lago Fagnano. This is where the wind starts and really does not stop until you get 500 km North. The winds get up to 120kph and create 3 meter waves (9 foot) in the lake from the wind swell. It is really not so much a gust as a constant blast of wind, like sticking your head out a car doing 60 mph. Now try to ride your bike in that with full luggage bags that act as open umbrellas towed behind you. Luckily there was a camp ground with wind breaks set up so your tent does not blow away.

The wind blows and blows, and blows your body heat away, then blows your moisture out of your skin and eyeballs, and eventually blows your patience away. I continued North. Wait, did I mention that most of the people bike WITH the wind, going South, not like me, going North right into the headwind? It doubles the travel time and takes 3x the effort and energy. At first I thought, ¨Well, against the wind, how bad can it be?¨ Let me tell you, far worse than one imagines.

As I was saying, I continued North to Rio Grande and did some more wilderness camping along the way in a field filled with sheep and guanacos (lamas). These curious creatures would come check me out then get frightened and scamper off. Birds flew into my tree area protected from the wind and chirped away while I read my book and jotted down some notes basking in the sun under my cowboy hat. This was a truly peaceful spot, and I think the fox I saw agreed with me too. Thoughts flew around my head along with the birds. Is the experience about enduring or to give you a new appreciation of creature comforts you have once the experience is over? At this moment the experience is the enjoyable part. I have comfort, food, water, time, and great weather- from my protected spot, in a good warm mood, I can hear the invisible hand of the wind pass over the tree tops and it sounds like a roller coaster made of cotton candy passing- but only 48 hours ago I was just surviving to get out of an uncomfortable situation. Then a quote from my book Mysteries makes me laugh out loud, ¨The world maintains that no rational man or woman would have chosen this way of life - therefore it is madness.¨ I guess so. It makes me realize that I am strange, even for strangers in strange lands. A ´list´ of items to check off in life does not exist for me, rather I have whims. Yes, I agree, the word whim is as flimsy as it sounds but somehow it has gotten me this far.
Caption,¨Direccion Obligatoria. Ya, sometimes it feels that way in life.¨

Caption, ¨Whimsical camping.¨

The next morning I get up yet again without the sound of an alarm clock. A breakfast of dried fruits, nuts, oats and chocolate fill up the gas tank for 2 hours of pedaling before the next gas stop. Exactly 2 hours later the last of the trees were behind me and the wind began punishing me for everything I did in my life and my last life and my future lives. A constant 40kph headwind was being grounded against by my two steeds and Falcor, my thighs and my bike respectively, while tucked into a ball and wind tears arched down my cheeks. It was a grueling ride and once I got to Rio Grande I checked into a hostel to recuperate and think about what the hell I was doing in Patagonia battling these winds. Talking to the local I was griping about the strong wind and he says, ¨Strong Wind?¨ with a hearty chuckle. ¨This is a breeze!,¨ and he continued to laugh.
¨Oh, jesus and baby jesus,¨ I thought. No way. This is bad.
The trees in Patagonia are bent over and wind blown to one side, as crooked as my back will be after this experience.

Caption, ¨I was thinking, why would anyone live here? I still am wondering.¨

Rio Grande is a wind scorched forlorn shack-filled shit box designed with all the love and personality that only a gas company could urban plan, its only industry besides sport trout fishing.

I left after two nights rest from Rio Grande with a Swiss German couple that had just started their trip that is scheduled to last 2 years all the way up to Alaska. And I do mean ´scheduled´ in the way that only a Swiss German could plan it with GPS, laptop, personally designed biking shirts, and an alternator that can charge all their electronic devices from the motion of the wheels. It is a classic case where technology trumps common sense. They have spent a small fortune with every outdoor/biking gadget ever invented and have managed to pack their entire house, including, I think, a kitchen sink and their couch with them. They have too much shit. The bike frames look like a paper clip about to buckle under the strain. I love getting behind them and watching them ride these two sloppy drunk cows down the road struggling against the wind. While they are both ´in shape´ they are still getting used to the weight and the long days in the saddle. It makes me realize that I am in now fit and can ride, although before I did not notice it. I rode in the front of them to break the intense headwind, but they still could not keep up and told me, ¨You take off like a rocket!¨
¨No, you just have too much shit,¨ I tell them, but it is a little bit of both that is true. I call out, ¨Ok, lets take a rest for food and water. It´s been about two hours.¨
The Swiss German reply was,¨It will be two hours at 8:17¨.
I am not joking. He said 8:17: We had to ride until 8:17 to stop even though I called out a rest at 8:10.

Caption,¨The sloppy drunk overloaded Swiss German water buffalos before the crash. End of pavement.¨

It is the first time since I started in Sept that I have biked with company. There are positive and negatives. In general company is nice, but then again we are talking about all the spontaneity and exciting conversation of a sweet, but dorky Swiss German couple that has the same sense of humor as a Whiffle ball bat, wait, that is not fair to the Whiffle ball bat, a bicycle pump.
There are often outbursts of Swiss German words coming from either one of the couple as if they hit their thumb with a hammer or they forgot one of their massive bags at a stop 100km behind, or their tent is on fire, but nope; it is usually about something like, ¨Where did I put that sausage?¨ Meanwhile I have sprung to my feet ready to attend to a tragedy.

Two Italian men bikers approach us and we exchange pleasantries. They continue on and the Swiss German couple remarks, ¨They were so typically Italian.¨ HA! I thought, I am sure they thought the same about you two, and come to think about it, me too, being American.

Caption, ¨Shelter.¨

Our days started earlier now because the winds pick up at 9am and are strong until 6pm, but it is light out until nearly 11pm so we can always ride in the evenings too. The Swiss Germans, who when unpacked look as if grenades have gone off in their bags, need 2 hours to get prepared in the morning. I tell them to wake me up half way through packing, and we leave at 6am each morning. By 8am the winds hit and by 10am the winds reach up to 70 or 90 kph and make traveling impossible. We would take refuge in a river gully, or behind a shed, and make pasta and read while being baked in the sun cause there is no shade now, not until you reach the city. With a mild headwind we can still make 15kph an hour but with wind it drops down to about 4kph and that is with every ounce of force you have in your body. The wind blasting past your ears is deafening and really annoying (again, picture head out the window on the freeway). It is so bad that I put in ear plugs and I can hear my deep breathing and pounding heart. This cannot be good for you. We still manage to average 50 to 60km a day by riding in the mornings and evenings.

Caption, ¨All trees have blown away. Flat flat flat.¨

We are riding on ´ripio´, or dirt/pebble roads. I tell the couple to watch out cause the load they are carrying can be a little dangerous and make a tire slide out. Less than an hour later the guy does a full shoulder face plant at 20kph into the ground with his feet locked into the pedals. A pure pancake slap to the ground, and skid. Ouchie. I almost ran over his head but managed to stop. He was banged up but luckily no broken collar bone or arm. I was expecting the worse from how he fell. As graceful as a giraffe on ice skates.

Caption, ¨Look at that proud smile. I thought he was done for.¨

Once in a while we pass people biking south and they are chipper as can be with big smiles painted on their faces. We are dug into WW I bunkers waiting for a respite to continue the drudgery. It is a relatively fun free experience. My hands are so wind chapped and used from setting up camp and tinkering with the bike that they have started to crack in the folds making them painful to move. No showers. The filth is caked on. Hair is heavy and oiled. We continue to ride. We wake up and it is 4 C degrees, and with wind chill it goes down to -5 C degrees.

My notes from my journal are short and sweet. ¨Tierra del Fuego can kiss my ass!¨ I have also had a spate of strange nightmares that I wont go into at the moment. You get the idea, it´s a constant torment. I realize that a day without wind or rain in Patagonia does not exist and I will have to deal with that reality. I justify everything by hoping this wind will get me over my hatred of wind. I have always disliked wind since I was a kid, so in comparison, after this trip of a month battling against the wind, nothing will seem windy ever again. I will be old and my kids will be able to say, ¨We know, we know...when you were in Patagonia, now that was windy. This is nothing...¨.

On the bright side I have never been so happy for a windless moment. Ever. It´s so nice it makes you believe in God. The countryside, with innocent puffy white clouds seemingly impervious to the winds, is postcard perfect and puts bubbles in your blood when the beauty catches you off-guard.

Caption, ¨Blood bubbles.¨

Slow days of fast wind. My moods swing with the weather. The couple wants to go slowly, but I want to get out of the elements and on the last day I push myself 85km in headwinds to make the boat from Porvenir to Punta Arenas where a hot shower and a windproof bed awaits. The couple wants to take it easy, and that is fine. With my new found freedom I took off like a ferret released from a cage. I put on music and smiled and sweat the whole way to the boat. It was liberating.

Caption, ¨Dinner.¨

I am now ´a free man´ again and resting in Punta Arenas for 4 nights. I am leaving tomorrow alone, and would have left this morning but the bike shops were closed yesterday, Sunday. So instead I leave Tuesday morning to battle more wind all the way to Puerto Natales (250km) where I will be meeting up with Amy, my friend from Madrid, to continue biking together. Much welcome company.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

B.A. Travel Romance Revisited

I remember holding in my hands Grandma´s stiff wrinkled finger when I was no more than 5 or 6 years old. Leaning over, she was showing me a thorn from a rose bush buried in her skin from when she had fallen a year ago. It was just now working its way to the surface. With the other hand she pointed to the bushes in the backyard and told me to go play, have fun, but be careful of the thorns. Thorns. Splinters. Splinters of the past. Sometimes they get so deep under the skin and you cannot get them out. Three quick long years have passed since the last time I saw Maggi here in Buenos Aires. The weather and the women are exactly the same as before; hot. But why am I here again? I make it a rule not to revisit places unless it is for a good reason. Am I retracing steps to make sure I did not miss anything? Does time change soured relations into good ones?

Wandering the streets I find myself happy to be back in civilization because it is familiar and offers a degree of anonymity but then I get this creeping feeling up my spine. Looking around I see responsible people hustling to work, buying groceries for the family and driving nice cars. In a nutshell, sensible and the opposite of me. Being in a dusty backpacker town in Ecuador or Colombia you have the weak pretense of ´exploring´, but here in a real city you are long haired loafer.

Maggi is one of these responsible city dwellers and absorbs me effortlessly into her life´s routine. She houses me and goes to work with regular hours leaving me this strange isolated life outside the hostel world. I soak up the solitude and immerse myself in reading, writing emails and dancing naked in front of mirrors. It´s nice to have a home on the road and take a break from the meet and greet sessions and the unsettling electric bustle of the hostel circuit.

South of the equator and it is a humid summertime Christmas and New Year. The first round of socializing is with the family for the ever-so-delicate and awkward traveler´s Christmas Story, in Spanish. The family is cautiously happy to see me revisit their daughter and sister. Lets say there was less gusto seen in their faces than the first time I blew through town. Obviously they know the story will be much like the last time I was here- a friendly visit and a departure leaving their loved one sadder than before I was there.

At least I can speak with them in Spanish on this visit and get to know them on a different level. The father translates for a living and is fluent in English so we indulge in side conversations. The younger gay brother knows 4 words in English- funny enough they happen to be ¨blow job¨ and ¨cum shot¨- so we were able to get to know each other on this trip much better than before. Most of Christmas Eve I spent nursing a glass of Sprite attentively listening to a 6 way conversation about people I have never met and trying to wrap my head around this new Argentinian accent. Maggi would reach out to touch my knee, check on me and ask if I was bored because I was not speaking. I was fine, but completely lost. I did what I always do in these situations- find the outcast of the group, someone who is equally as lost as I am, and start a conversation with them. You can always count on Grandma.
Caption, ¨Brother with 4 word English vocabulary, on the right. Other brother with his Penelope Cruz looking girlfriend. Damn you Argentina!¨

Grandma is 91 years old and frighteningly sharp. Her son came over with a filled glass in each hand, ¨Mom, do you want wine or Coca-Cola?¨
¨Wine,¨ she says. ¨Which one is the wine?¨
¨They are both wine, mother.¨
¨Well give me both then,¨ laughing at her own cleverness. She was sweet and reminded me of my own grandmother, and like her, she had lived a great life and each laugh was a laugh in the face of death cheated. Ready to go, but enjoying each extra moment. You are defenseless talking to a woman like this and you sit back to soak up the knowledge and emanating light. Maggi´s Grandma spoke sentences in English, German, French, and Italian to test my language skills. I failed miserably, of course. When you are that old you are allowed to show off like that. She recounted stories of her childhood of how the siblings went off to Europe to learn languages, ¨The boys would learn German and the girls French or English. The journey to Europe took 19 days; this was in the 1920´s, you know.¨ Argentina, or I guess I should say Buenos Aires, has always considered itself connected with Europe even though it is geographically connected with the rest of Latin America. Argentina has a deep disdain for its neighbors and will take a trip to Europe thousands of kilometers away rather than step foot in a place like Bolivia or Ecuador. I enjoy talking to the idealistic Argentinian Marxist as much as the racist Grandma. Both fascinate me, although I do not agree with either of them, but neither offends me with their polarized views because they are products of their environments. Are not we all?

Later I rejoin the group conversation when the rhythm has slowed down from the initial excitement of seeing each other and now I am able to keep pace and contribute. No questions are asked about my life or my stupid biking mission and I know why; Maggi has briefed them beforehand. My story, and reputation, has preceded me. I feel as if the frosty reception received earlier in the night has begun to melt and they begrudgingly accept Maggí´s judgment in allowing me back in her life, if even for a short period, and they do the same.

Maggi is great. She lets me be me by spending the day reading, writing, cooking and listening to music. It goes well with her temperament since she needs the first 8 hours of the day to wake up, thus allowing us to do our separate things. Each day we have a deep talk and an intimate moment. We see the craziness within each of us, laugh and bask in it, and proceed with realistic happiness and one foot cautiously covering the break.
Caption, ¨Maggi.¨

The next gathering is a family affair along with Maggí´s friends for New Year´s. New Year is a strange time of year. The expectations of what you will be doing when the clock strikes midnight mixed with the resolutions and sadness of hoping for a new year.

Maggi´s friends, like the family, is less excited to see me, and for a mix of confusing reasons so am I.

Like a scientist taking a random sample at different times in the same location for a study I notice that the couples that were couples three years ago are still together and the single ones are still single and searching. Could that be a coincidence? Then I think about me traveling 3 years ago as well, and what my friends were doing three years ago, and nearly all of them are doing the same thing. Does time move that fast, or that slow? Does that show the true paths, or path of least resistance, of each of those people? Am I ´doomed´ to continue my world meanderings like a scrap of paper in the wind?

I was being paranoid and the friends all warmed up to me with cold drinks. Genuine hugs and smiles were shared amongst playing catch up on each others lives. I was amazed on how much you can remember about a group of people met for a short period of time so long ago. I already know the over-dramatic sigh and look from the corner of the eye of Sebastian to his girlfriend, the curious way Nati ashes her cigarette, and the smell of Maggi´s neck. The older I get the more I perceive that each day is important, and each interaction with people and your surroundings leaves its mark, forever. Nostalgic brain slivers and heart splinters.

Getting up to fill my glass I run into another Grandma. She pulls out a chair for me and slaps the cushion for me to take a seat. She wants to know where I have been and where I am going. She is another treasure chest full of memories and iridescence. Her thin lips moved and her eyes danced as she told me where to go in Patagonia, the languages she speaks, and crossword puzzles she does. ¨If you want strong legs then you bike, if you want a strong mind then you do crossword puzzles.¨ And she is right. Speaking with her gave me that fleeting sentiment to take care of yourself, just in case you live that long. She stood up from her chair and with a flair for dramatics she looked down on me, ¨Guess how old I am?¨
Hmm, these kinds of questions I hate, ¨55?¨
¨Ha! Higher!¨
¨65?¨ A head shake, ¨75?¨, a prouder head shake, ¨82?¨, not yet, ¨87?¨.
¨Ok, now you have gone to far. 85,¨ and she stood there with her chin up and looking off to nowhere in particular to let me study her. I was looking at a triumphant 4 year old child pleased with itself while receiving praise from the parents for not wetting the bed the night before, not an 85 year old woman with a life time worth of living. I wanted to give her a big hug. She was too adorable. It is the big circle of life before our very eyes, from child to adult to child again.
Caption, ¨Maggi´s dad celebrating New Year´s like a real Argentinian man- cig in one hand and a gun that sounded like a goddamn hand cannon. In blue is his novia from Paraguay and next to her, one of the lovely grandmas who was up until 4am chatting the night away.¨

Now the Aunt wants a go at me and waves me over. She is sitting in a corner flanked by her husband and Maggi´s step mother from Paraguay. Like most conversations of the evening we have to start with the topic of languages. ¨So you have an Italian passport? Do you speak Italian?¨ she asks me.
¨Nope,¨ slightly ashamed but we are speaking in Spanish.
¨Oh,¨ shaking her head, ¨this is horrrrrrrible.¨
¨I know. Thank you,¨ is all I can muster to say but I really want to do is give her a compliment on her voice. It´s deep and sexy. Well sexy if you think sounding like a man with vocal chords bathed in whiskey and hickory smoked with Marlboros for 40 years is sexy. She should opt for the more natural sounding robotic voice box replacement surgery so as to not scare the children.
¨I speak Italian,¨ of course she does.
The meek husband adds to the conversation for the first time, ¨The most common error Argentinians make is believing that they can speak Italian.¨ I love this guy. Unfortunately it is the last time I hear his voice until goodbyes at the end of the night. The Aunt goes on a vicious monologue. ¨Well my grandmother was from Milan...¨ she goes on speak about 6 grandparents in all (huh?) and she speaks each of their languages, carried in the blood I suppose, from each different country. She goes on rambling about languages for the next 15 minutes throwing in an English word here and there just to show me she speaks fluently, which she does not.
She made the mistake of leaving a slight pause to catch her breath in her pontificating and I was able to ask Maggi´s step-mom a question to include someone else in the conversation, ¨So I know they speak a different language there in Paraguay.¨
She replies, ¨Yes, it´s Guaraní¨
And then wouldn´t you know, the Aunt is an expert on Paraguay and Guaraní too! Never mind the lady who was born there and speaks the language. This speech was a tactless and clueless masterpiece. ¨Oh yes, I know all about Guaraní since I had three servants from Paraguay. This was back when I had my other husband. When I had money.¨ The husband gets up and walks away while she continues digging the hole she is quite comfortable sitting in, ¨You see, I am from the city but I am not like the city folk. It´s as if I am provincial. I speak to everyone, even to all my servants, which is why I know about Guaraní. And I would treat them all very well. Well except one who stole from me. I had to throw her out. And I threw her out with the police, I did. The funny thing about Guaraní is soup means tortilla. I did not know this so I had my servant make a ´soup´ for my guests and out comes this embarrassing thing. I told her no, that will not do. You have to make a proper soup. She returned later with another soup but it was like no soup I had seen before....¨ and on and on she went until Maggi´s step mom got up as well and left me alone with this raspy woman who knows everything except for the fact she is annoying. I see Maggi sitting on the couch laughing and talking to her friends. I am trapped in a whirlpool and there is no way to gracefully exit. Maggí calls out, ¨Come here, you need to meet my friend,¨ and I excused myself from the table. Saved.

Back on the white leather couch with the 30 year old ´kids´ they are all laughing. ¨You got caught by my Aunt. We were enjoying you suffer from here,¨ now everyone is taking enjoyment from my pain. Ha Ha.
Lying, ¨Ya, well I could have taken another two hours.¨
The whole group in disbelief, ¨No, no, it´s not true!¨
Maggi chimes in, ¨Ya, it´s true. He is like an Anthropologist. He is doing research.¨ This makes me laugh. It´s funny to see how others see you.

Sebastian turns to me, ¨Lets speak English. I want to practice my English.¨ This is always entertaining. Everyone in the group has studied English for at least 7 years but only 2 of them can really speak. Usually conversations start awkwardly with phrases like, ¨What do you want to talk ABOUT?¨ But this time it starts differently. Sebastian´s girlfriend can hardly put a sentence together so he turns to her and says, ¨Your sphincter is too loose.¨ Then he turns to me and gives me the sly wink that only a genius can do. Sebastian is one of those rare characters you meet once in a blue moon. Blessed with a giant presence; he is as intelligent as he is compassionate. He is likable with no effort.
Caption: ¨Sebastian, on the right.¨

With the impetus of just finishing an endless round of toasting with RedBull and champagne I am rife with giggles while Sebastian is on his feet acting out his story of constipation on his last road trip. I was laughing so hard that I forgot I was hearing the story in Spanish. It was one of those times when you realize you are in the moment and that realization makes the bubble pop on the magic. Like the biggest lies of all time, ¨I love you¨ and ¨I am so happy right now¨, both are better never said leaving the lips. They are moments that can only be felt and not said. The act of putting crude and coarse words to such beautiful ephemeral feelings separates you from the act and ruins it.
I really should have made a New Year´s resolution to quit moralizing. I hear it is harder than nicotine to kick.

With the holiday festivities behind I find myself daydreaming on a bus in the city, listening to music and looking out the window thinking of the fireworks that accompanied both Christmas and New Years. It was like Baghdad. After the 113 hour bus ride I notice city rides are so short you get interrupted by arriving at your destination just as you get lost in a thought.
The bus pulls away and I am walking the streets in autopilot to a park. Staring down I try to grasp at that aborted thought but it´s lost forever with the bus fumes. A hopeless feeling, like a scrap of paper with an important number blowing out of your hands and off the balcony on the 11th story. Lost thoughts, lost memories. Maybe that is why I am back here in Buenos Aires. To revisit lost memories. Memories buried in the skin that would never be triggered if you did not retrace your steps. Sad to think of memories that will never return. Nostalgia lost.

The buses´ pneumatic hiss and hiss and hiss bite my ears like snakes hugging the gutters up and down the streets. The svelte women of B.A. pass by me with a runway determination but I know that aloof look is fueled by a sour feeling from smoking cigarettes on an empty stomach. These women will only look at you if you have another girl in hand, and that makes me smile. My heart swells with something like joy. I come across an old friend; a wooden bench where I spent past afternoons losing myself. Like looking into a mirror for the first time in 3 years I see the changes in the bench, the changes in me. Sitting down with a creak, nostalgia grabs me by the throat.
Things are familiarly different. The lacquer has worn off and some of the wooden slats are cracked. Running my hands over the back of the bench absentmindedly I watch the rollerbladers and joggers stopping for their smoke breaks. ¨Ouch! Dammit.¨ A splinter in my finger. I shift in my seat and hear my heart creak. Digging at the sliver I cannot reach. Love weary and false kisses.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hazards of Gleaning in a Gay Paradise

Sometimes you wake up with the right mix of having escaped a hang over, a cup of strong coffee coursing through your veins, listening to a perfect melody from a quality stereo system as a gust of warm wind hits your smiling teeth while overlooking a polluted city from a balcony and you feel as if you have made some right decisions in the world and that life is worth living well.
Caption, ¨Two weeks here and I did not get tired of this view.¨

It´s funny how you can fill yourself up with fake self importance by just borrowing someone else´s material possessions.

I am drinking in Buenos Aires from bird´s eye view in a gay paradise. My friend from three years ago on my last visit in BA is house sitting her gay uncle´s apt while he is away for the holidays. He doesn´t get back from Mexico until the second week of January with his younger hunky lover. You can glean how the relationship works without straining the brain; one is a 58 year old doctor and the other is the 35 year old massage therapist with well chiseled abs. I am sure it is a two-way street but the home, flow of toys, and it turns out even his job, is tied to the doctor.

When I crossed the threshold and first stepped foot in this place I immediately became dizzy. A waft of herbs and spices from other lands and a kaleidoscope of sparkles and colors lifted me off the ground. ¨What the hell is this?¨ was all I could say.

I had to investigate this place.

I set off sauntering into the dining room and I felt as if I had been transported back to a rich merchant´s house in the time of pre-eruption Pompeii, Italy in 78 A.D.. White walls? Not a single spot of white in the house. No respite. This dining room is a 4 walled mural painted with life-sized characters and two views into an imaginary past. One wall is crafted to create the illusion of looking out into a courtyard with a fountain in a foyer and on the other a peak down a medieval Italian cobblestone road lined with red-roofed houses. Coming from the IKEA generation I have never seen such a finely made dining table; two types of wood thicker than the width of my palm and lacquered to a mirrored finish. I can easily imagine a megalomaniac noble sitting at the head of the table munching on a turkey leg and waving a jester in with the his free hand for entertainment.
Caption, ¨The owner would probably be peeved that I did not straighten the candles before taking these pictures.¨

I back pedaled away with awe slowly from the illusory noble wiping grease from his cheeks and entered the living room. The walls are all painted an Egyptian orange (even the smallest detail of painting the air conditioner mounted on the wall was not overlooked) to set the backdrop for the overwhelming collection of antiques he has gathered on his world travels. It is clear that these items have been purchased on the black market. It´s a splendid collection well kept in glass cases and, of course, proper mood lighting. Most of the items are masks and clay pots from pre-colonial Latin America, but there is also intricate silver work, items from Africa and Asia and the Middle-East.
Caption, ¨This represents only a small portion of the items on display- not to mention, just like the Guggenheim, only 10% of his collection is visible at any one time. The rest is in storage.¨
Caption, ¨I noticed a running theme throughout the house; Horses.¨

Mythical and realistic horse statues from all civilizations in pewter, clay, ceramic, paintings are found in each nook and cranny. I look down and I see I am standing on a full-sized zebra skin rug complete with tail. Seriously. What the shit. I am lifting my feet up as if I stepped in dog poop and an equally disgusted look on my face. Over my shoulder I notice the door has been painted over to blend with the surrounding wall in a giant MerHorse- half fish and half horse with it´s front hooves replaced by little fish fins.
Caption, ¨Mer-horse, or do you spell that Merhorse? Notice the door handle.¨

This is all too much. I took a seat on what looks like a handwoven artisan couch to keep my head from spinning while on my feet. The coffee table is cluttered with silver-dipped candlesticks that weigh more than a new born baby, a king´s crown made of bronze and topped with a cross, intricately ornamental and completely non-functional ruby encrusted eggs on little stands, a chalice, and it goes without staying since this is a gay man´s house, lots and lots of candles. Everywhere. The coffee table itself is a work of art worthy of an Art History doctorate thesis- it looks as though it took 2 Muslims their entire life to carve the wood into such an ornate lattice work and now it is a functional part of a living room on which to rest a coffee cup.
Caption, ¨The view from the couch.¨

You could buy another house with the items filling this apt. The cleaning lady from Paraguay says one thing to us before leaving the apt, ¨How can you sleep here?¨ If it´s possible there is too much culture. The walls and furniture pulse with the dead heartbeats from times past. Each item has it´s own history and when the house is quiet you can hear the faint murmuring of the stories and memories told by each relic in their native tongue. Souls from different civilizations bump into each other in the dark. My friend could not sleep for the first two nights she spent here alone.

There is no escaping the ambiance. From the couch I can hear the calls of endangered birds from the zoo the apt overlooks. The balcony is alive with green vegetation. Griping the guardrail and looking down 11 floors I can see a lion walking amongst the trees. It´s a green oasis in the middle of the city for blocks and blocks since the zoo meets up with the largest expanse of parks in all of this sweaty seething city of 13 million. You feel above all the madness, isolated in a tree house in the amazon looking down on the jungle below.
Caption, ¨The zoo down below.¨
Caption, ¨My feet got accustomed to the glass spiral staircase. Now I simply cannot imagine exposing my feet to the horrors of carpeted, or god forbid, wooden stairs.
Up the glass spiral staircase I head to the master suite. Along the way I pass what looks to be the hatch on Noah´s Ark bolted to the ceiling with more mood lighting and the pets of the house: a snake, a ferret, and the best kept salt fish tank I have ever seen in a house. The palatial master bedroom has two wood columns flanking each side of the bed covered in gold lamé duvet and tasseled pillows. In my head I imagine the Pope and Elton John coming for a visit and looking at each other saying, ¨You know, it´s just a little too fabulous, don´t you think?¨

The uncle is a ´foodie´ and the place is filled with fine wines, cook books, herbs, spices such as: Pink Hawaiian Sea Salt, Jamaican Pepper, Coffee Merlot Chocolate Sauce, Moroccan Harissa Paste, Cape Malay Babotic, Swazi Mama Mama Ibalulekile Hot Sauce from Ukua Africa, Sun-dried Apricot and Raisin Chutney just to name a few and more in French and Italian. The soaps in the bathroom sounded equally as appetizing: Botanical Shower Body Mousse with Pink Grapefruit and Cucumber detoxifying and purifying with a stringent grapefruit peel and toning cucumber fruit extract AND Botanical Shower Body Mousse with Olive, Almond and Myrtle moisturizing and revitalizing with olive oil, oil leaf, sweet almond oil and myrtle. Coming from a backpackers mentality where my luxury items are AAA batteries and pistachios I find I am left with a tickling feeling, a giddiness brought about by the gay extravagance. The uncle must be the Truman Capote of his gay circle of friends in Buenos Aires. Imagine the parties and costumes this place has seen over the years. That spine chilling creepy scene in The Shining comes to mind when a guy in a full bear costume giving a blow job suddenly stops, and looks down the hall (The zoom-in is what really makes your elbows tingle ). Furthering my suspicions, at the moment there is a gay couple (friends of the uncle) from Miami staying in another room here along with us. They had a visitor, a tall drink of water, come over late and spend the night. Those gay guys know how to have an unapologetic good time.
Caption, ¨Marble countertop to hold the spices from around the world. All joking aside, this kitchen does make you a better chef.¨

Caption, ¨Those are real Versace glasses, and real ugly. I think I saw one of these on the floor next to the bed in that Shining scene.¨

One of the great reasons of traveling, number 413, are the stories you come across. Nothing is how you first see it and everything has a story just beneath the surface. As cliché as that sounds this is a fine example. It is so easy to dismiss the apt as a gay whim and see the stereotypical rich old man with the gold digging younger and more attractive trophy just as I did when I assessed the situation. Over the days talking to my friend I slowly find out more of the uncle´s story. All of his 5 brothers and sisters died of cancer, one of those being my friend´s mother. Watching all of his immediate family dying at a young age he has made a conscious effort to live life to the fullest and pursue his pleasures to the fullest- and he has many- wine, food, world traveling, art collecting, and men. It is money spent but spent well. Wealth enjoyed. It makes you wonder who is using who? Really it is a symbiotic relationship with the two. Both of their needs are met and they are together as long as the both are happy, and when the wave of happiness finally breaks then they will both move on.

It´s easy to judge but I have not lived through the same pain as he has. The whole reason he is on holidays through Christmas and New Years each year is as much to see the world as it is not to be home and feel the pain of his missing family here in Buenos Aires. My friend, who finds the house equally ostentatious and curiously comical, tells me this story with caring eyes. Although she has not traveled the world she understands it and has compassion in a much more profound way than myself from losing her mother when she was 7 and her brother a few years later. It´s a profoundness I am not sure I want to know yet know it awaits.

Still looking out from the balcony of gay paradise, while sipping my morning coffee amongst the whispering souls, I think about all the chaos in the world swirling about. How one could be been born in another situation in another country with other parents or none at all. It´s hard to not infer stories from what you superfically see. Putting people in neat little categories and placing them on an organized shelf is how I make sense of this holy pandemonium in the world so it is a little more managable for my small brain.
Caption, ¨Not many people have so many scepters as to necessitate a ´scepter rack´, he does.¨

Caption, ¨What a decadent wine stopper. It´s giant red ruby.¨

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The 113 hour bu-bu-bu-bus ride

I will tell you right now that I am going to hell and that is the only reason I can share this story.

After the little bike ride of three months I had only made it through Colombia and Ecuador. There is a two month window to navigate the trails of Patagonia in Southern Chile and Argentina when the paths are clear of snow and warm. Since I am a fair weather traveler and have no desire to freeze my ass off I had to take the marathon bus ride from Ecuador all the way to Buenos Aires. It is half the price and besides, airplanes are cheating since it is like stepping into a carpeted time machine- enter a door, wait a few hours, out a door and you are there. You do not feel as if you traveled. Well, after 113 hours on the bus, wow, did I feel like I had traveled- I had traveled all the way to the very edge of my nerve endings and patience.

Luckily, or so I thought at the time, I met a Scandinavian girl, lets call her Scandi, that was idiotic enough like myself to attempt this trip to see some friends for the holidays. Ok, cool. Companionship on will be nice and we can endure the pain together in graceful sarcastic self'-depreciating conversations the whole way there. Didn´t happen.

We were equally enthralled that the other was going, but there was no fiber of my being that thought there would be anything more happening than being travel companions. She is sweeter than sweet, so much so that she has an overenthusiastic laugh born out of an innate social awkwardness and uncomfotableness with herself that she uses like a period at the end of each sentence...but that includes sentences she says and I say or anyone else says. I hardly noticed at the time since we met over drinks in a loud cafe in Cuzco that she had a slight stutter in English, but being 30 years old it seemed as though she had worked on it to a point where she had it under control. This laugh however was not in control and the more boisterious it became the faker it felt.

Day 1 and 2: 7 hour bus ride from Cuzco, Ecuador to Guayaquil, Ecuador and then a new 26 hour bus to Lima, Peru.
Ok, I am feeling good during the first 34 hours. Scandi has been learning Spanish off and on for the last 10 years and she only wants to speak in Spanish for the entire journey. Ok, fair enough. I am very patient and fill in all the missing vocabulary as she tells these long winded stories, well, not stories since ¨story¨ would imply there would be some sort of a point, but more descriptions of things, anything, that had happened in her life. The added bonus for me is that her stuttering is in full bloom in Spanish because it is her 6th language and it naturally takes more effort for her. That´s a good philosophical question actually- Would you trade the ability to speak 6 languages for a stutter? Hmmm, me either.

Caption, ¨This is the desolate martian landscape somewhere either in Peru or Chile. I could have cared less where I was. If only there was a camera for smells. Scratch and sniff pictures perhaps.¨

Day 3 and 4 and 5: We take a night to sleep in a cheesy Chinese hotel next to the bus station in Lima, Peru. Framed posters line the hallways of groups of girls in bikinis painting a wall sexually intertwined in a ladder with paint smeared bottoms pointing at you called ¨California Girls¨, another one of rock climbers nearly nude but covered in a climbing ropes and harnesses again with butts out calling you named¨Hard Climbing¨. There were more gems too. They made me smile each time I went up and down the stairs though.

We needed to rest before the 60 hour bus to Santiago, Chile.

Caption, ¨One of the two pictures I took in the week of traveling. Lets say I was un-inspired.¨

This bus proved to be the breaking point. Scandi suggested word games, in Spanish of course, to pass the time on the bus. After she took 10 painfully slow Spanish stuttering minutes to explain the rules my brain shut down. She finished the rules, or so I imagine because she stopped talking because I could not follow her train of thought with the 20 second gaps between some of the words. It requires such a huge amount of attention and patience to follow her stories and that reserve was used up on the first 37 hours of the bus ride. Within these 37 hours I honed in on the fact that the trouble words always started with the letter ¨b¨ or ¨d¨ and I knew when one was coming up and would be silently impressed when she found a work around to avoid a stuttering stumbling block word. I simply said, ¨Ok,¨ when she finished the rules and I did not say anything. In fact, I did not say anything for the next 48 hours. If I were to say anything at all it would inspire a heartly laugh that at this point sent electric shocks of wide-eyed exasperation from my tingling ass up my now scoliosis plauged spine. I was spent and needed alone ´me´ time to recharge. She got the hint after 24 hours and even she stopped talking and I could enjoy sweet sweet silence in this bus from fuqing hell. Well, not quite sweet sweet silence. An Ecuadorian Neanderthal with a crooked 5 toothed smile in the front of the bus insisted on putting her favorite music on at all hours of the morning and afternoon and night with no volume control. Volume set to FULL with a speaker, very luckily, positioned right above my head. I think they use this technique to torture POW´s in war camps to get them to snap and tell them military secrets. I was ready to snap. Music of this ear ringing volume seemed important in all of Latin America to preent any thought whatsoever. I continued my frothing silence.

I think all of my 5 senses were abused in some way shape or form on this trip. We were positioned right next to the toilet on this second class bus, and what a treat that was! MMMmmm, how can I describe this ¨flavor¨, this joyful dancing of odors on my palette for 60 hours so you can fully understand? Most scents your body gets accustomed to and they are not as strong after the initial shock, but no, each breath was like being hit right in the facial region with a 2x4 covered in rusty nails. Utterly shocking. Just imagine sitting inside of a shaking Porta-Potty used in those outdoor festivals, sloshingly filled to the brim, for 60 hours and you will start to understand my situation.

The odor/stutter/music combo along with my spine piercing my left kidney from trying to sit and sleep was making me really hate the bus, the Scandi girl, and eventually myself. No one was safe from my bitter wrath of mental insults in my fragile mental state.

I realize that my annoyance with Scandi´s stuttering has nothing to do with her and everything to do with me. My personal theory is anytime someone is getting on your nerves it is because something that is bothering you and not the external stimuli. Most of the time the personality traits you most hate about yourself annoys you when you see them exhibited in other people. So the more annoyed I was at Scandi, the more I knew I was actually annoyed with myself, for whatever reason, and that made me even more annoyed cause it was my fault and I ended up being even more annoyed with Scandi. Another example of this just happened today in Buenos Aires. I met two American Peace Core volunteers just ¨released from service¨ in their early to mid twenties. Their resume building experience rubs me the wrong way along with their need to save the world with an egotistical slant. They are better people than me, this is clear, but for some reason I cannot stand them. My only conclusion is the American attributes I see in them and detest in myself. Well, it turns out I met one of there co-volunteers in the Buenos Aires bus station. He flagged me down because he saw my bike loaded with bags and saw it as a ´sign´ that he had to talk to me because he was leaving on his own biking adventure, of course, to raise 100,000 dollars to save a Paraguayan rain forest (I am not making this shit up). So the natural question he presents me is what am I riding for? ¨Nothing. Just felt like going on a bike ride,¨ I innocently confess.
¨Ya, that´s great.¨ was his disappointed reply. ¨And why are you taking the bus?¨
¨Oh, I am no purist. I took the bus to bike in Patagonia in the summer. I figured sponsorships would hold me back from cheating,¨ was my only half-joking reply.
The American half of him was disappointed from my lack of vision and purity of the mission and my American half was detesting his idealistic eager eyes ready to save the world. ¨Here is my business card (business cards?! for biking) printed on 100% recyclable paper with vegetable based ink. Make sure you tell every one you meet about it,¨ was his over enthusiastic good bye.

Day 6 and 7: Once we got to Santiago, Chile we had to take another night to sleep horizontal. I started to think about experiments on mice. If you took these poor creatures and put them in a cardboard box continuously shaking and blasting loud bad Latin music for 6 days and then took them out of the box and analyzed their behavior I am sure you would find they were an unhappy lot compared to the ´control´ group. They would be frazzled and probably eating their neighbors ears off or something along those lines, but since we are civilized humans we can´t eat off each others ears so we deal with it in our own ways. I shut down into a silent coma with red dry open eyes staring out the window thinking of better days and the stutterer stutters approximately 50x worse than normal.

Only 20 hours on the Santiago to Buenos Aires, Argentina leg. That is nothing. HAha, I can do anything after the Porta-Potty assault on the senses journey. Here is a journal entry so you have an idea of my mental state at that moment on the last 20 hours:
¨Will you allow me the pleasure to cry? To ride my dream in the skies with pterodactyls showing teeth with rabid joy thundering down smoking mountains of Martian sunlight. A bear paw tickles my ribs as I laugh uncontrollably sitting on the handlebars of a blind man´s bike down a spiral staircase of butterfly cocoons. I wish I could transport myself to give everyone I know a hug of blue-eyed fearless happiness. The head tingling of life is all rushing up now, like a shaken bottle of champagne opened at altitude. Bubbles of foamy wide mouth open delight are streaming showers of ice, cocaine and rainbows. Love jumped up from the corner and inflated itself to a big red elephant balloon squeezing me in warm squeaky giggles. Warm squeaky giggles of pissing sprinkles in the air and eyes and silver lined mouths of reborn extinct genius unicorns. Blond bats sing honey harmonies filled with basement thoughts and the scent of dead flowers in already empty holiday room.¨

Who needs acid when you have 113 hour bus rides? It is amazing how environment, comfort really, can affect your mood. The whole range from inspiration or desperation and depression. Ah, travel is my drug of choice at the moment. People often ask, why the bus ride, why not just fly? Experience is my answer, even above being a cheap bastard. Same answer for the bike ride. Experience.

I understand why people work and have nice cozy houses and big safe cars, but for me I want these damn experiences. At the moment, and yes it can change, I do not want that Saran Wrap security to keep safely away from living. I welcome the aging and the wrinkles that come from experience. Shit, I earned them. I question a long life lived with a youthful face on elders. To all the professional non-smokers (as Bill Hicks says, non-smokers die everyday) that slide through life on transparent plastic purchased entertainment and well planned investments, I have decided to invest in myself.

Opportunity cost you say? Yes, I 100% agree. You have lost lots of opportunity. No time to waste. Start wasting on yourself until you have the weight of family and responsibility on your head and the party is over, or turn gay and keep that party going forever. People planning for events of a future that does not exist- of future fathers that have never lived outside a classroom or a cubicle- what sort of parent are you going to be? Train your kid to become one of those that sits collecting interest of the sweat of others compounding quarterly. Can I be a liver? One of those that truly lives. Live like you will die tomorrow and plan like you will live forever...impossible, maybe? We are the people we wanted to know and we are the places we wanted to go.

Enough of this idealistic egoistic American rant from just another angle...

I made it to Bu-bu-bu-buenos Aires.