Thursday, April 23, 2009

And at the Center of the Web Lies a Pickle

Lately on long bus trips I have spent too much time thinking. This is not a surprise.
But I never thought I would be the kind of person to ask these questions so literally. Such as, hey, fuck: what is the best way to live a life?

I think I maybe have an answer, but you might not like it. It's kind of simple.
It doesn't require more time in a university, and it doesn't involve me writing a book.
But perhaps the answer is: a deli.

Think: have you ever spread grainy mustard on a good piece of bread or made a vinaigrette that, in turn, made your day? I could do that. I think so. Repeatedly. In My Deli, I could play music. There would be pickles, and lovely little things.

Some kind of business that sells little things that contribute to something generally good - I'm not sure what - and yet cannot be included in the industry of Selling Stuff that No One Needs That Clutters Houses and Minds and Lives. A bakery. A cheese shop. A soup shop. A taco cart where there are no other taco carts. A hardware store. I don't know.

You eat a sandwich, it goes into you. That's it. My mom will tell you one of her favorite meals was eaten in a parking lot on Hillhurst, and it was a pibil taco and a root beer.

I am a cell in the tourism industry.
I used to be a cell in the health care industry, although that certainly didn't feel like an industry. That just felt like high cortisol levels, ridiculousness, some off-color humor and the crunchy sound the brain makes when it tries to think in a manner that could aid someone's survival. It felt good too though, it felt useful. That was never in question. I could do that again, for a while.

And now I bounce around between borders and it's fun, don't get me wrong, and I've never been happier in some ways, and I'm glad to not be visiting morgues and I'm glad to be out of the North and it's Ways, but it's frivolous and I don't know who I'm helping.
I mean I'm helping a German go from Palenque to Merida, OK.
I'm helping confused Britishers understand the difference between arrachera and cerdo, horchata and jamaica, and to the Canadiasn that chicken is pollo, not po-lo, ok?
Maybe I stand in line with someone and translate for them at the bank. Calculate tip. Make small talk and repeat the same stories. Tell them a little (because I really only know a little) about the places through which I am leading. If I help in any other ways, I don't know what they are.

And you could say that running a deli might not really focus that any better - who am I helping by selling thinly sliced salami?
But at least a deli would let me interact with a wider spectrum of people, instead of just the sick, or just travelers. The sick, well, they couldn't help it, chaos and all, that's how we met each other.
But travelers (including myself) are people of luxury, though most would never admit it. I think the very possibility that you can travel in these places, where the people of those places will never travel themselves, makes you one of the idle rich.
It's ok! Don't feel guilty. Just know that this is true.
Know that it is true that the Mayan baby over there will never grow up to wander through the halls of the Louvre and marvel at the quaint beauty of the French countryside, or eat street food in Bangkok then go back to the hostel to shoot the shit and have that Hostel Conversation with a bunch of red-faced Aussies. I wish it weren't so. What would that even look like? And why is it funny to even think about, a busload of Mayans being dropped off at the Eiffel to take pictures. It is funny because it is highly improbable, because it points to an invisible shittiness that feels FUBAR. That is a jacked thing that I can't fix. Some people think tourism can level the economic field for the poor. I've thought long and hard about it. I have thought, yes, tourism will always be there, it's jacked and its not going away, so how can I make it the *least* jacked? If I could find a solution to ethical travel, I wouldn't berate myself so much for being involved in this industry. I too lazy to do the math.

But then other times, I wonder if people are meant to stay where they were born. This might have worked out better for the world and its people if say, Columbus had stayed at home and been a bankrupt business man and sucked it up. Imagine! Modern day, there would be no Cancun, there would be no factories in China where toddlers sew "Guatemalan" sweaters for conscientious backpackers and group travelers to buy in the highlands of K'iche.

So maybe I stay at home (wherever that is), and travel moreso via my deli goods (Iranian pickles!)than by bus, and heal people with pastrami. Maybe I will one day stand behind a counter full of those pickled things, play good music, make big salads, have a baby or something, drink wine, be a good person, and go to sleep.

[This rant has been brought to you by: too much time off]
[That is a Kool Aid pickle, if you were wondering]

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mojo Wire on the Ebb Tide

My dad had his coronary arteries manipulated, fabricated and fiddled with, and he came out of surgery a sea creature.
They just don't tell you these things.
"I've just been flayed like a salmon."
"Cut me some slack, guys, I was pryed open like a clam."
Clam Salmon Hank.
And he was - split from stem to stern.
Who knew there was so much sea in the operating room.
The ventilator rises and falls, it's tidelike, and the suction circuit shoots out blood in waves, but that's all.

He is making raspberry jello. I am ripping bits of music from the ether and emptying the dishwasher. We walked in the rain to Yoshi's Sushi and Noodle. We discovered Yoshi's Sushi and Noodle is no more. Today his doctor mentioned Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner when we were talking about opiates. Sometimes he is tired and weak and vulnerable like a fish belly; but then he's talking about boats, wanting to eat barbecue, or oranges and quoting Omar, over the stove: Surely do.

In the nighttime at the hospital, a grouper's head tried to have a conversation with him. Dad said he knew what was going on, but didn't panic because he knew it was all part of the game.
He saw the nursing station morph into a crusty mariner's bar. He said he watched the floor 'with a high index of suspicion', for the floor had become wave. I saw him ask a nurse what the current thought was on Tylenol with codeine versus a Panavision lens.

I was looking through some pictures. I'm putting up this one, since BB King looks like a fish. It came down the Mojo Wire into my dad's camera. Coincidence?

I didn't know what else to write about today. So I just wrote this.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Do The Muertos

Do The Muertos
Originally uploaded by Sarah Lebo
I have yet to receive the gift of jazz appreciation. Miles Davis still lives behind a locked door for me. But death-jazz - now that I can dig. Watch, and savor.

Friday, March 13, 2009

First Post Since 2008, And It's This:

Faked you out. You thought I wrote something!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Que Onda, Mae?

October has always been my favorite month. Especially in LA.
Burnt pumpkin, cold winds, etc.
But I left Los Angeles, missing out on burning pumpkins in exchange for say, a more transient thing. So on the 18th at 2:30 AM I flew out over Catalina Island and floated down into San Jose to start my hobo training.
A glimpse:
San Jose aka Chepe, Costa Rica: pineapple breakfasts; clockwork downpours; Bar Chavelona (a mysterious 80's relic complete with pink and purple neon and black formica wraparound bar - the bartender gifted us with Chavelona glasses as souvenirs, the very same kind gas stations and McDonald's used to give away for free, ultimately reconfirming said 80's theme); Bar Chicharronera, full of Chepe hipsters,with the strangest and most wonderful film version of 'Alice' in Wonderland playing in the background -a Kansan, a Canuck and a Tico at my side.

From San Jose went microtripping to La Fortuna: heard the volcano speak while walking through the forest; it was just like an Ent. Town humid, full of rafting guides playing pool and a disco disco disco.
Then to Monteverde, cold and magic. Kicked out of training early in order to get to Mexico City by land. So then San Jose from Monteverde, plane to Guatemala City, microbus to Antigua,shuttle to San Cristobal de Las Casas, 11 hours away, an overnight bus to Oaxaca, another 12 hours. Oaxaca oaxaca oaxaca. Dia de los Muertos, squash blossom quesadillas, a drag show, El Panteon, rum dancing rum.
Oaxaca to Puebla. Puebla to Oaxaca. Oaxaca to San Cristobal de Las Casas: San Juan Chamula and the brain-staining images of its flickering candle-spewn church, the smell of copal, oranges and pine needles, coke bottles in the candlelight, a wave of whispers in Tzotil; Zinacantan, tortillas; Sumidero canyon, yellow iguana, crocodile; Agua Azul, Misol-Ha; Palenque and it's hippies with topknots, panpipes, fire dancers, pizza and jungly goodness; now to Merida. I wait for cenotes!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008