'STARS IN OUR EYES — TRUE STORIES'
—excerpt from 'Jungle Fantasy':
Ernesto was still shaking his head, sadly now. “The people here is…evil. They make up crazy things. All the people here is like that. They try to hurt people. It’s very bad. They make lies.”
“Yes, for themselves. It’s very evil.”
“But I saw you go in that house.”
“About an hour ago.”
“That must’ve been my brother. He look just like me—same size. He knows her.”
I studied his sincere face. “I don’t believe you, Ernesto. I don’t believe anybody here.”
I shook my head in bewilderment. He seemed so sincere, yet I felt any moment he’d go back across the street. “I’m so confused,” I lay back staring at the ceiling. We were silent.
“Why did you write those things to me?”
. . . . . . .
—excerpt from 'Starving Artist':
Who knew illegal u-turns were so hardcore? With my police escort, I drove the few blocks to my place, where all three of us then went upstairs and entered my humble abode. The two uniformed authorities with their guns and big black shoes dominated the space almost comically (almost) as I internally debated whether to surrender my last few bucks (I had exactly sixty) or to inquire about my options. Sadly, Esmé wasn’t home to front me some cash.
“I only have sixty dollars to my name right now,” I told the fuzz, who found this plausible in light of the non-existent furnishings. “I don’t think I should part with all of it.”
“Well, what are you gonna do?”
“What are my options?” Maybe they’d settle for half now and half at the turn of the century.
“You can spend a night in jail…”
“Can’t I just pay this a little later?”
“It already is a little later and you haven’t paid it.”
'EXPEDITION COSTA RICA'
With a serious face, Orlando requested a word with me. I was wearying of trying to follow him and his commands—with no information as to where we were going, who our guides were, or whether there was any overall plan. But I accompanied him to a secluded bush to talk. We were so radically different that even our most innocent attempts at working together could clash. Now he wanted a promise that everything was going to be smooth sailing, that I would do whatever he said no matter what. I told him I couldn’t make that promise.
He had no tolerance for this attitude and mentioned having one of the boys guide me to Vesta from whence I could jump a ride with a Standard Fruit Company truck back to civilization. I said I’d prefer staying with the group until Alto Relibo, supposedly two days from here. (Alto Relibo, at the top of the Relibo River, was the home of the Locandila Tribe.)
Orlando's talk of sending me out was a ploy; he actually wanted me to stay. When calm, he frequently reaffirmed that the success of the expedition, in relation to the 'Western World,' hinged on the four gringos getting through it.
. . . . . . .
There were fifteen of us tonight, a solid group with good cooperation and a sense of unity. It was a toasty feeling, coming in out of the rain after a mudslide day of many sensations, to just sit by the fire and drink hot tea made from lime leaves Orlando had picked. This, we hoped, would be the core group to continue the journey.
. . . . . . . .
Ironically, it was turning out that we learned more about the Indians and their lives by traveling through their jungle and experiencing their battles with nature than we did by standing around watching them watching us in their huts. The hiking was what brought us closer to them. And, as far as they were concerned, the fact that we’d appeared here at all, in their remote village, could only mean we’d climbed for days through rain and mud and camped in the jungle…that we were strong.
'I DID INHALE—MEMOIR OF A HIPPIE CHICK'
Our route took us way up into the peaks where I lost all sense of direction and just braced both arms against the dashboard as we careened around hairpin turns. Louis, this starlight charioteer, had found roads that wound around the Alps like balls of yarn, and he seemed to relish terrifying me. Then, as our ears popped, and with no warning, he lit into a chauvinistic tirade against hippies and women—female hitch-hikers in particular. He ranted on, all the while doing a mad tango with the steering wheel. He didn't seem to care about our lives, but had grave concerns about women trying to get equal rights. 'Who do you think you are,' he asked, 'hitching alone through Switzerland? We don't like that. And you won't have a very nice time in this country if you think you can hitch-hike wherever you please. You're a hippie, aren't you? And you think you can do whatever you want! You American hippies come over here and travel through and never even learn our language.
"I'm not a hippie. I'm a person traveling from one place to another. You shouldn't have offered me a ride if you don't approve of me."
"You should be married, and you should travel with your husband if you want to go somewhere. It's very bad for Swiss young people to see people like you....they get bad ideas about trying to change their lives. They get bad ideas about sex, too, when they see young women like you traveling alone. You're not even married, but you still have sex with men, don't you? I know you do. All young people like you have sex whenever they please with whoever they want." The background music was getting eerie. 'You believe in free love, don't you?"
. . . . . . . . .
The Santa Fe Chief was a fast train that whistled steamily into Albuquerque from Denver and back. Still hooked on trains, I’d had my eye on The Chief for a while. Supposedly its route through the Rockies was breathtaking. Riding the freights, I thought, would make a man of me. And Anna was game. One Saturday morning we decided the day had come. We bundled up, though the March weather was mild, and thumbed out to the railyard.
It was a bit confusing with freight trains all over the place. 'Let’s look for some bums,' I suggested. 'They’ll have the beat.' Jack Kerouac or somebody had led me to believe that railyards were bursting with unshaven hobos who played guitars and knew the freight schedules by heart. But we didn’t see anybody, just shiny tracks everywhere and segments of directionless trains. We were only interested in The Chief—riding with new Oldsmobiles to Los Angeles had no appeal—but didn’t know where to surreptitiously await its awesome arrival. But it was bound to come soon.
"You look lost," said a voice behind us. It was a uniformed person.
"Whatcha lookin’ for?" he was friendly enough.
"The Chief," I said. Didn’t want to sound new to the game.
'SOME SWAMIS ARE FAT'
I'm coming to terms with the fact that less is truly more. The second mango, the second bowl of cereal, the second anything—even smelling a rose the second time—isn't as good as the first. So keep moving on to the next experience. You can smell a rose each day and each day it will smell beautiful. But if you stand there sniffing it, the pleasure fades fast. Why? Because it's what it is, it's not more than it is. Too much of anything—pizza, walking, even yoga—won't work. Too much love? Yes, everyone knows that's exhausting. When you have too much of anything it becomes something else. So we have to stay willing to let go and move to the next experience. Trusting that we can't keep today or this sensation. It's only what it is now; it can't continue and stay the same.
. . . . .
I seem to get further off track by the hour. I've now denounced about five friends, my job, my vegetarianism, love, and a five-year commitment to no sugar. Solvency's next on my list. Meanwhile I'm hopelessly seeking some spiritual thread running through this weave. It's a mess.
"It's humorous to stay up all night writing about getting up early," commented my friend Jordan.
I wish it was humorous. Which brings me back to fun, what I really think the quest should be for. God and purpose couldn't be this dry, this flat, this elusive.
So I don't know where to take this from here… 'Something different from my current reality' is pretty much all I have left. (Ironic that what I don't have is all I have.) As another friend, Tom Omara said, "There's only time for rejoicing now. We've done all the rest."
. . . . . . . .
Three years ago, Aunt Doris (an older family friend), balked when I told her I was dating a lifeguard. "Honey, re-e-ally, a lifeguard?" She envisioned the kiddie pool at Motel 6, would never witness Clay's prowess in a crushing set of granite waves.
"Very comforting to swim with," I replied. "And he saves people for a living."
Aunt Doris would prefer someone in a suit, not of the bathing or birthday variety. Who did she have in mind for me, I wondered, a lawyer, a producer? But asking would be provocative—we all have unlikely things in mind for others. Still, it's challenging conversing with people who have no inkling of your reality.
SILENCE OF ISLANDS — Poems
There ís a little office
where you get your poetic license
every state has one
a government agency
but you have to be tipped off,
you can't Google the location
And you have to crawl there
have to arrive with bloody hands and knees
have to be in tears
your clothes filthy
But if you show up
on a certain day
like the 11th or the 21st of each month
And there's a password
to punch in
But there's an element of sheer luck
when you tap it in
Hopefully the door clicks open
because even though you crawled there
on your hands and knees
you have to deserve it . . .
(continued in the book!)
. . . . . .
Drink deep from sorrow's well
once or twice in this life
to be humbled
to draw from pain, as it ebbs
It's okay to be sad
it's beautiful to feel
go into the deepest corner
of your heart
where you almost never go
to love deeply is to be free
willing to hurt
unable not to love
It's honest to need
Drink deep from sorrow's well
once or twice in this life
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
MY NEXT BOOK !! (coming in 2021)
'NICARAGUA STORY — BACK ROADS OF THE CONTRA WAR'
After Michel, Sedonia, and I had been sitting at the table talking for about an hour, Sedonia hesitated, then said, "But I have a deep conflict…." She paused before continuing. An open person, she could readily confide, but hesitated now as though this conflict perhaps shouldn’t be disclosed…or must be conveyed delicately. "I believe in God," she began, her eyes supporting it, "deeply. I have total faith in God…" Again she paused, "but sometimes it seems progressive not to be so poor."
I had really hoped her conflict would be something I’d already worked on myself. But I just looked at her and shook my head, "Sedonia, I have the exact same conflict."
We shook our heads together. How do you better yourself and your life without leaving the less fortunate behind? How do you escape the ‘hoarding’ aspect of bettering your life materially? If you believe in God, how can you not share when people are suffering on all sides?
"What does your husband think?" I asked after another silence. (I liked this woman so much.)
"Look, he’s a doctor and I’m a biologist. We could make a lot of money in another country. A lot of money…. But…only the rats abandon the boat. We’re not rats, we’re humans."
. . . . . . . . . .
“Twenty-three years old," he dropped his head.
Laurie and I couldn’t finish our food, and just sat there. This feeling of sorrow-once-removed is so commonplace here but you don’t get used to it—the horror always theirs, never yours. You’re sick, thankful, confused, and guilty all at once. But, most of all, as hard as you try to climb into their eyes or their hearts, you can’t know the pain. And as you fight to feel it more, they fight not to.
We walked with Florita toward the church. Her little terrier, Conga, couldn’t be convinced to stay home though Florita knew his happy demeanor was at odds with tragic service they’d be attending.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
~ join email list (on 'contacts' tab) for advance access to new books ~