Tag Archives: travel blogging

Version 0.54 (Satisfaction for Now)

04/17/19

Oh, my! It has been ages! (it is always ages these days.) Hopefully I will journal more now that I have no friends.

I am in Bangkok. This is unexpected because I had absolutely no plans to visit Thailand (well, that’s not true, obviously, but I had planned to do so in a different manner than I have—due to a holiday in Vietnam on the weekend of my visa expiration I was unable to book a bus to Laos, so a flight to Bangkok from Da Nang suggested itself as a prudent Plan B.).

I’m staying at a cheap hostel a few miles outside of the city center, away from anywhere tourists would visit and most expats would live. I’m doing this mainly because the hostel is near a cafe, Lonely Barista, the owner of which I’ve been following for at least two years on Instagram (yes, strangely, the owner’s Instagram and not the cafe’s Instagram).

So, what are my plans? Currently I do not have any. Just a few ideas. 1) Find a cheap bicyle and ride south to Kuala Lumpur, 2) work exchange at a hostel for a month, 3) walk and hitchhike south, or, 4) take a train.

In truth I have very little of interest to write here. Nothing since my last journal has left itself on me, has affected me or struck me in such a way that I feel I must put it on paper in order to explore it more deeply. I no longer wonder why I’m traveling, for it is merely living, and I do not wonder why I am alive, I accept that I am and find as much joy as possible in the being so; joy in joy, joy in sadness, joy in frustration, joy in anger, joy in pain, but joy in all things. I no longer wonder how will I get from this place to that place, or which place should I go next because all places are great places, so no matter where I go I know it is the best place for me then, and no matter how I get there it will have been the right way to get there.

I am excited for the future. I am content with the present. And I look back with happiness and satisfaction on my past. There is no better place for me to be.

October 29, 2016, Nearing Algodones Dunes

Just passed a citrus grove a bit back. Lemon trees or orange trees, some date palms around: this lone green spot in a landscape of tan, brown, sand, taupe. How queer and lush and so removed from its environment it seems.

This is what humans do when they feel foreign to the land, the environment in which they find themselves; they transform it into a place that is familiar and comfortable to them, hospitable to their needs, instead of appreciating, respecting it for what it is. In effect a judgement is made, and that judgment is usually that the land has no value, because we all want things that produce for us, and if the land doesn’t do that, well, we can’t for some reason see that the value of the land is in its uniqueness, that it is valuable simply as it is because IT IS, and so by claiming that it has no inherent value we are actually devaluing the very real value that it does have in being what it is in order that we may turn it into a machine, basically, that churns out things that we say are valuable (namely goods to be sold for cash, because in the world of humans very little is more valuable than money).

Coming up on the Algodones dunes now. The name implying what it is: a vast tract of sand…. Just sand. Mounds and mounds that go on for such great distances. I can see them from this hill I am driving along. It’s a beach that stretches out into nothing but more beach rolling, rolling along like great ocean swells. It’s, it’s an incredible sight. Mountain peaks in the distance. It does remind me a bit of Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, but I think this is on a vaster scale, though the mountains aren’t nearly so terrific and awe-inspiring.

Sort of a martian landscape, but up ahead it looks like there is a convoy of RV’s camped out in the desert. A common thing for retirees to come down and escape the cold winters, but I could be wrong. I can’t exactly tell what these are from here as its a good distance.

They’re trailers. Part of these dunes are used as a recreational area. The highway splits the area into two parts, left is the wilderness which I’ll be able to access further down, and to the right is the recreational area. Lots of people with ATV’s, dune buggies, lifted pickup trucks, etc. tearing around out there. It’s basically one big party, especially along the highway where everyone is camped out. There’s a party going on out in the desert too. Just a different kind of party. One fueled by adrenaline and gasoline. It’s not what I came for, but I’m interested….

80 – At the Congress, Still in the Desert

Staying at the Congress in Tucson tonight. Built in 1913 it still retains the charm of that era while being ever so slightly updated for this current century (wifi, a/c, and modernized, though small, bathrooms). Tonight it’s a lively place, and all dressed up for Halloween, people walking around with booze in their hands, a band playing in the concert room somewhere, and, judging by the menu, good food. At the reception counter a small, glass case displays candy and cigarettes. It’s only lacking chewing tobacco and a selection of handguns and knives to round the showcase out.

I’m sipping a Negroni, sitting in the reception at a tall counter away from the bar, while observing a woman who has recently staggered into the room and sprawled herself across a nearby sofa. Has been there ten minutes or so. Can’t for the life of me figure out for what or why. I consider striking up a conversation, but I have this here book that I’m reading (a very enjoyable one, I should add), and the light is really quite dim, and from twenty feet away I’m finding it hard to determine if she’s attractive or not, or how old she might be, or if she’s even coherent to carry a conversation. And now, while writing this, she’s roused herself and meandered back outside to the patio. For another drink, perhaps? (They are cheap enough.) Frankly, I don’t think she’s in need of an additional drink unless it’s water or coffee. I’m reading a Henry Miller which, as I stated, I’m quite enjoying, and so it seems a good thing indeed that I did not approach this woman. I think she’s having a fine enough night on her own, and I am have a fine enough night on my own.

The light in here is dim and warm and multi-colored, and my drink is cherry-red and the bit of neon that’s reflecting off the dark, polished wood surfaces of the bar is also glowing in my drink like there’s a festival taking place somewhere within, and the bitterness of the Campari coupled with the sharpness of gin and sweetness of vermouth is like a tonic as it trickles down my throat. I can’t think that there could be a better place for me, or anyone else for that matter, to be than right here, right now.

Soon after this woman leaves, a family walks into the lobby. Two ebullient little girls climbing all over the furniture, and a punk kid in his teens—studded denim vest and a Dwarves patch across the back. Trucker hat. Father in a plaid flannel and a cowboy hat. No boots unfortunately, and certainly no spurs. Mother’s drinking a glass of red wine. Why wine? I don’t know. I suppose she likes red wine. Strange, though. I can’t see anyone drinking wine in a place like this. Cocktails are about all that makes any sense here, and at $6 for some very high quality stuff should be the only thing that anyone is drinking (the bartender knows what he’s doing).

Before officially coming to Tucson, and by “officially” I mean not driving through, I drove down to Nogales today. It’s a border town most well known for the cross-border murder of an innocent teen, Jose Antonia Elena Rodriguez. What’s most interesting about the incident is that the border patrol guard was actually indicted on charges for the killing. it was the first time in the history of the country that had happened. I wanted to photograph the wall for my project, and I wanted to go to the spot where the murder occurred. I dictated some thoughts into my phone while walking away. I may post that up separately, later.

The drive down was somewhat shit though, because I was pretty much ready to just be in Tucson, and didn’t feel like essentially taking a four hour detour, however, the southeastern Arizona landscape is a magnificent place. Quite different from southwest/southcentral Arizona, which seems a desiccated, crippled beast to me, though no less able to lash out and kill if it so wishes. No, the southeast is almost lush in comparison. The hills and mountains inviting and majestic, not terrifyingly ruinous like some strange and frightening monster preserved in the rock, alive and biding its time, waiting for its moment to rise again with gnashing teeth and slashing claws. These mountains are friendly. They look like they harbor life, and are not preserves of death. They invite one in, and give what they can. Yet… still, I cross over dry river beds; the Santa Cruz, for example, is no longer a river but just an arroyo. Presumably it’s been bled dry to irrigate crops grown in a desert because that’s a thing happening, but I can not say that I know.

Mexico, looking across the border, peering through the gaps in the fortifications (to keep those dastardly Mexicans out!) looks to be a marvelous landscape. Almost makes me want to drop everything I’m doing and drive on in.

And a single woman out of a group of six begins laughing: unstoppable, clear as a bell, like a song in a musical. Quite lovely the way it jets upward like a geyser, and when she gets going how it bounds along like a big, happy dog, tongue hanging from its mouth and swept back. Mexico: the land of enchantment! Oh, wait, that’s NEW Mexico’s slogan. Nonetheless!

78 – When I Should be Camping, but…

I stayed in Brawley the night that I left L.A., at a charming place run by an Indian gentleman: The Desert Inn. Only $40, immaculately clean, and with a mattress and pillows fit for a king. But besides all that, the guy stood with me a bit in the lobby —a tiny, fluorescent-lit, square room with a counter and desk; some maps and brochures—and listened to me speak about my trip, and then he told me about the road trips he’s taken his family on, and about his employer—the owner of the establishment. This man has been trying to sell the joint for years, decades even. I haven’t the slightest idea where he lives (I don’t think Mr. P knows either), though I don’t suppose it’s in town, or anywhere near it for that matter. Presumably he only works when his employee is away on vacation. Mr. P gets one month of vacation per year worked. He works around the clock, seven days a week. If he works two years without a break he gets two months off, and so on. At first glance the deal sounds alright, until one considers that with a regular two days off a week over the course of a year he would have acquired more time off that way than through his current deal. On the other hand, the job is obviously not terribly demanding, he gets to spend plenty of time with his family, and has the opportunity to leave for an entire month to do with that time as he will (in his case take the family on road trips around the country—they traveled over 11,000 miles last year on one excursion!—thus earning his children an excellent education beyond that of their general schooling). Clearly he feels any positives outweigh the negatives, and so it is an opportunity not to be passed up.

During the course of our conversation he made some recommendations, unnecessarily, of things to do in the area, places to visit, etc. He seemed to have no sense of direction though, pointing me towards a town north, from where I came, when I said I was going east, and then telling me the dunes I planned to visit were out of my way despite that they flanked both sides of the highway I would take out of town. Besides all that nonsense, it was a joy chatting and getting a feel for the town and this man’s life. The whole room smelled of Indian cooking, and at one point his son, of perhaps eight or nine years, came out from the door beyond and hung sheepishly on his father’s arm, alternating looking at the ground and up at his father.

When I left Los Angeles I had every intention in the world to visit Joshua Tree, though mainly just to run, but the gloomy, overcast weather put a damper on any enthusiasm I might have had the night before (always when I am most enthusiastic about running). It also didn’t help at all that I spent almost two hours at Go Get ‘Em Tiger when I had only planned to grab an espresso and maybe a snack to go. And yet, despite regularly disappointing myself by lingering over small joys in potential neglect of other planned events, and also in regards to my constantly fluctuating enthusiasm for running, much good always seems to come my way. No decision ever seems to matter.

So, having bypassed Joshua tree, I stopped near the Salton Sea at a medjool date farm instead (this is a region that produces a huge number of these sweets), adjacent to a fascinating, mountainous pile of boulders a city block long, a number of which were covered in graffiti, resulting in some pleasing photographs. Tucked in amongst these boulders, at one end of this ant hill, was a memorial to someone, complete with rows of candles and a statue of the Virgin Mary draped in rosaries, her head split in half and the piece of rebar poking up through her neck like the figure of a spinal column. I was only about an hour or so north of Brawley at this point, and the sun was dropping below the mountains to the west lighting up the sky in that direction like a fire cracker; and eastward the still, mirror-like surface of the Salton Sea—a sliver of silvery-blue glass lodged in a landscape of golden sand—clouds slowly scudding across the sky. One disappointment always seems to beget a joy. Why even bother to be disappointed at all? Knowing this you would think I would feel accordingly, and yet….

64

Wednesday 06/08

Saw a cafe in the town of San Luis, CO (the oldest town in the state, according to a sign) so mistakenly decided it was a good time to stop on my way north to Frisco. The espresso machine is a beautiful, lever actuated, single-group, copper and brass piece, with an eagle perched on top. The espresso itself, however, is very bad—much too long for a single basket, thin, watery and bitter. Who knows how old the coffee is.

Driving is proving to be strange, and slightly unsettling. Obviously it feels like less of an adventure, but I’m a bit worried that the engine is going to blow up or something. I shouldn’t, of course, but the car is nearly twenty years old, even though it does seem to be really well cared for and the man I bought it from was enormously cool and, I felt, trustworthy. Anyway, I’m really eager to get to Frisco, which I think, along with my concern for the $1500 car, is part of the foundation for my general feelings of unease. That a mutual friend of ours is going to be in town this evening is also encouraging me to slow down and stop for little (not that one notices much to slow down for when zooming passed everything at such speed).

San Luis seems a rather dismal town. Nothing happening. Couple cars parked. Barber shop and a market across the street. Gas station on the opposite corner. The owner/employee here at the cafe seems utterly bored, and was absolutely disinterested in helping me. The abundance of grey sky overhead is not encouraging of any sort of joyfulness either.

The oldest town in Colorado. It evokes the sentiments of an old, a very old man or woman, decrepit, miserable, misanthropic, who’s lived too long and is really quite ready and willing to pass on. “Let me die already!” it seems to be saying. That’s how it feels sitting in this potentially cozy cafe. Potentially cozy. Maybe with a barista who cared, who wanted to be here, and with smiling people to serve instead of just the vacant air and the dull throb of a heart tired and worn out wanting to give up for the pointlessness of it all. The couch looks comfortable, the tables and chairs are okay, there’s art on the walls and shelves full of books. There’s just no LIFE. No music. Dead quiet. It doesn’t matter how many books you have on a shelf, or how comfortable the couch looks, or how good (or bad) the art hanging on your walls is, if there’s no heartbeat there’s no life. It’s like trying to dress up a cadaver. No matter how fine the clothes the cadaver’s still a cadaver. There’s no reanimating that. And that’s exactly what this experience is like: it’s like having a cup of coffee in a morgue, only less sterile. Deadman’s Reach Coffee. Fitting.

62

Monday 06/06

With a knee injury (or, any injury for that matter) one has essentially two choices to make: abandon the trip and go home, or adjust things accordingly. I am adjusting accordingly. Thankfully, cars here in New Mexico are fairly cheap, and I have enough money in my account to cover the cost of one and its assorted peripherals. So, yes, adventure by Subaru Legacy Outback. It doesn’t sound terribly adventurous, and it’s certainly not nearly as physically demanding as cycling, but who’s to say what an adventure is or isn’t anyway? Besides, I may end up run/walking the west coast from Seattle to Berkeley, but that, at the moment, is neither here nor there.

The car, despite cutting into my “budget” (which can be solved by selling it later), makes me more mobile, and gives me greater flexibility and range of travel. I’ll be able to camp out of it and go on hikes, visit monuments, parks and forests I would not have otherwise. I’m actually quite excited, though that could just be wanting to get on the road after having been stuck in Taos and Santa Fe for the last two weeks. Just so long as it doesn’t break down!

Additionally, I’m going to spend some time around Breckenridge, Co (Frisco, specifically) where a friend lives, so who knows what I’ll see on my way to and from there. And then there’s the whole west coast, and house-sitting in Berkeley, and I’m really getting ahead of myself.

61

I want to write something about the house I’ve been staying in, or at—my first few nights were spent in my tent—but I don’t know where to begin….

It is a largish property, at least in comparison to the house which is a squat, adobe, two room affair, usually dim inside, with wooden rafters supporting a ceiling slanting up at five or ten degrees from the south wall where there is a series of small rectangular windows, to the north wall where there are none but within which a set of double doors is installed.

Much of the property is bounded by cottonwoods and other native deciduous trees. Most of the lawn is sandy, dry and hard-packed, covered in a patchwork of different, unmown grasses, like an old tattered sweater with many holes in it. There is an apple orchard on one corner of the property which has been neglected so much so that the apple trees planted there are hardly leafing and will need a fair bit of care if they are ever to produce fruit in their lifetime. On the more wild, southern portion of the property which borders her neighbor’s yard where a few horses wander, the grasses and weeds grow more thickly, taller, and greater in number. Amongst all of this are large, sandy cones of course granules, like grains of salt that have agglomerated together with the help of a bit of water, about twelve inches high and in the shape of perhaps a cubist breast or a bra worn by Madonna in the 80’s, and fire ants scurrying in and out and all around them.

Near the clothesline where I camped for a couple nights is a mound of firewood that had been clearly dumped and forgotten. On the porch by the entrance to the house is a neat row stacked waist high. A rain catchment basin is situated at a lower corner of the house, gutters directed into it. From the stack of firewood where I’m standing writing all this I can see scattered about all over the yard are piles of dried cut twigs and plant detritus, an empty plastic bucket, gallon water jugs (also empty), dog bowls and flowerpots, an old Radio Flyer full of sticks and torn up weeds, two plastic trash bags filled (with weeds, presumably) and knotted off… Mainly it gives the appearance that a rather confused and disorganized person was in the middle of yard work before being summoned off somewhere with no time to organize or clean up.

The air is cool and almost always filled with the song of crickets, doves, magpies, the occasional chatter and drumming of a woodpecker, and the buzz of a fly or two. I’ve just spotted a Western Tanager (a first!) and some sort of flycatcher. A truck rumbles down the dirt drive, and a neighbor’s cat, two in fact, are on the prowl along the treeline bordering the lawn, one seated on a downed log peering at me with that disinterested, disregarding look that cats are so expert at, while I stand here writing this. The air is clear. It is always clear. Rain was forecast for today, but never materialized.