Tag Archives: travelers tales

Version 0.93 (First U.S. Journal, but Nothing Really to Write)

07/31/19

First journal from the U.S. in some time. It’ll probably be a short one as I’m needing to meet a friend in about an hour and it’s a 35-40 minute bike ride. Life since returning to the States hasn’t been quite as shocking as I thought it might. I’ve just realized my financial situation is not nearly as sound as I thought it was though, so the expectedly higher prices are in a sense more stressful than they would be. The weather is a huge improvement though. It’s no surprise so many people want to live on the California coast.

Anyway, my thoughts are running away from me like usual. Nothing journal-related. Just streamers of kites streaming off in the wind, fluttering and snapping, then breaking, carried off.

I’m at this great cafe. Had an espresso. Talked to a girl about Vietnam. A dude walks out and asks me about my camera lens. So we talk for a second and exchange Instagrams. Seems like it’s probably so easy to network out here. He does editorial work. Maybe he’ll like what he sees. I dunno. Probably should get rolling. Not really accomplishing much sitting here writing about nothing

Version 0.33 (We all Love old Things)

02-15-19

I’m back in Albany after my two nights on the Bibbulmun. Right now being a curious tourist; one pretending to excellent taste, and also one who seems to think he has much more money to spend than in truth he does. I’m at Liberté, at the London Hotel—a beautiful place that I wish I had the scratch to stay at, but at least I can justify (sort of) paying a visit to its little bar on the ground floor.

I’m sitting at a wee little table by the door, sipping a White Negroni, and trying to photograph the bartender surreptitiously as she shakes and pours cocktails while the battery in my camera dies. Tonight is Blues and Booze Tuesday. For some reason I was thinking live music, but I’m perfectly happy with recordings. I have an excellent drink and that accursed hiking pack is no longer on my back. I’m only here because of the fabulous couple I met the first two days at the hostel. One of them recommended it to me, and it sounded like the sort of place that would be right up my alley.

It is.

It’s old and time-worn, with a sort of faded, washed out quality to it, like a forgotten polaroid found at the bottom of a desk drawer that you one day decided to rummage through.

It’s beautiful.

And it’s a bit of an anachronism.

The chairs glow in some places with the sheen of their original polish, but in others are dull and lusterless. There are cool posters pasted up all over the walls, kept company by a handful of mirrors and various other knick-knacks, antiques, and framed photographs old and new. The flat-screen tv is well out of place though, and the wall mounted air conditioner is too modern in appearance. A part of the ceiling has fallen away revealing the wooden planks which the plaster would have been applied to, but those are painted over white to match the ceiling rather than being patched.

A chandelier is suspended above the small bar in the center of the room where the drinks are poured and around which all of this revolves—all of us satellites, our eyes and ears trained on the goings on right behind that bar, right beneath that chandelier which, casting its not-so-bright sphere of light, illuminates the treasures for which we came; but the posters, and the knick-knacks, and the antiques, and the pictures old and new are watching too, like all the framed portraits of past Hogwarts’ head masters in Dumbledore’s office—until we finish our drinks, and maybe our food, pay our tabs, and trickle out the door slowly, unlike space debris flung off the orbit of a rotating star, and maybe, once we all go our separate ways, some of us wander along the streetlighted streets thinking to ourselves how beautiful this world is, and in particular this one little space on the planet where Albany is located, and how wonderful it is that that old hotel still stands there, and the bar inside of it.

Version 0.32 (Picking Sand out of my Tent)

02-04-19

Late morning. Sick of my tent being full of sand I pulled everything out of it and piled it on the picnic table, unstaked the tent, turned it inside out and shook as much of the sand out of it as I could, then set it up facing into the wind, as opposed to perpendicular to it, because I was weary of one side being permanently bowed in by the wind that blows incessantly. Now, of course, both sides are.*

I’m putting myself through some kind of torture out here. Heaven only knows why. Well, no, that’s not true. It’s to save a bit of money, and to see this beautiful coast (which is beautiful, but once it’s been seen and explored, even just a small part, then what?), “to see Australia”, to be on an “adventure.” Is this an adventure? If it is it does not speak particularly highly of it. The wind is incessant. My tent I’ve disliked for some time for its inefficient size (volume relative to it’s shape)—though perhaps it’s just too small for my preference—and because I don’t have a multitude more stakes to pin down the sides, for now when I’m inside it I feel as though I’m being beat about the head by a flock of birds, it’s so constantly flapping about. Sunlight has been inconsistent, and the temperature is so that because of the wind if the sun is obscured I need a jacket, but otherwise not, so that I am always too hot or too cool, or putting my jacket on or taking it off. If I lie down in my tent to escape the wind it becomes too hot when the sun comes out (not to mention the previously mentioned issues with the slouch of the tent walls), like lying in a greenhouse. And I’m camped at a site called Sand Patch, so naturally there is sand all throughout the tent again. Now, is this an adventure, or is it simply living in discomfort simply to save a bit of money? I think I’m heading elsewhere, or back to Perth in a day or two.

So, since I’ve been alluding, but haven’t actually asked the question, I’ll ask, what is adventure anyway? I think yesterday was a bit of an adventure—I left the hostel a bit after ten with sufficient water, and bought some simple food at the IGA. Then I began walking: two hours of leaving town along the road eventually to a bike trail which took me to another smaller, quieter road that at its end was Albany’s wind farm: 18 giant turbines atop the sandy hills that fall off like cliffs to the ocean some three hundred feet below. Around this area is a boardwalk loop that also diverges into the Bibbulmun Track and a long set of stairs that runs down to the beach

It was at the wind farm that I stopped and had a PBJ and some trail mix, and thought about what it was that I wanted to do. At the start of the hike I thought that I might walk a length of the Bibbulmun to the next town over, Denmark. This hike out from Albany was a test run to see how that might feel. How do I feel simply hiking out of town to the Bibbulmun? If I was comfortable with this, then I would either continue on toward Denmark, or would camp at the nearest campsite and continue the next day. Obviously my feelings have been made clear, and we see that my mind has been made up about going back. But to me, that first day at least was worth it. It makes a good bit of sense to escape the routine of life by doing something so not routine, but my life currently is hardly routine to begin with. So, this extra day, to just save some money, is simply stupid. Of course, if the weather was better and I didn’t have a caffeine headache, and the wind wasn’t so obnoxious I might feel differently. But it’s not. It is what it is. And I am what I am, which is a fool. But I’m learning more about myself all the time. I’m stretching, reaching into realms that I have not before. Certainly it will leave some mark or impression on me, within me. But do I have the talent to leave anything of my travels behind?

 

*editing this now, two months, nearly to the day, since first writing this in my journal I realize I probably should have turned the tent so the door faced the wind, rather than the rear of the tent, as it is a triangle-shaped funnel, the front door obviously being the widest part, but then there would be the issue of so much more sand blowing into the tent, so I guess the solution boils down to pick your poison…. ah, well….

Version 0.21

01-10-19

Distracted by too many gadgets, and things in the gadgets, and things in the things in the gadgets. There is a red light beaming from my forehead, like a third eye to see through the dark. Red because it glows dimly and is difficult to see from a distance, but I can see by it to read and write just fine. This is ideal because I’m camped behind a fence bordering houses in a neighborhood and it’s not so late (nine pm) and I’d rather not be seen.

I stayed with an extremely Louisianan couple last night in Sulphur. That day was mentally taxing and long, as days with headwinds in the range of 15-25 mph are, and I missed my estimated day’s distance by twenty miles or so. Remembered in the nick of time that their was a Warmshowers host in the area, texted her and she sent her boyfriend out to scoop me up in the dark, around 6 pm. Good thing too because I discovered after texting her that I had lost my bottle of stove fuel, God knows where and when, so that had I camped I would have had a cold, miserable, unsatisfying dnner of two bananas and a Clifbar.

These two were a fascinating yet at the same time utterly boring couple. I’m still not entirely sure what to make of them. When Jay picked me up I told him I was planning on pitching my tent somewhere around the Rec Center in Mossville (where he picked me up the next town over from Sulphur) if they were unavailable, but he told me that could have potentially been bad had I had to go through with it because there were “blacks” living all around, and there had been murders at that Rec Center several times over the years. I was naturally somewhat taken aback by the brazeness of the statement, as I think many might be. Later there was another incident at a gas station where we tried to break a sixer of beer and the Indian attendant at the counter (there’s a stereotype for you) refused to break it and Jay stormed out annoyed then went on this rather uneducated, conspiratorial rant about Arabs (which Indians are not, of course), how this one fellow could have sold him the two beers and put the rest in ice but didn’t because he was too lazy, which then led to the statements that they’re (Indians, Arabs, I don’t know, but it’s interesting how to the ignorant that whole part of the world just gets grouped together like all the peoples and the whole of the population is all the same culture) going to buy up all the gas stations in the country and stop selling gas to Americans which would somehow shut the country down, or some sort of cockeyed, outlandish, nonsensical horseshit. It was clear that he had no clue what he was talking about, but was simply flailing about mentally, attempting to make sense of something frustrating him, changes in the country, or perhaps in his own state, city, or community, that he doesn’t understand and is unable to grapple and reconcile with (like, probably, hundreds of thousands of other Americans).

I thought these peculiar ideas coming from a guy who travelled the world with his father in the merchant marines for many years (favorite countries being Sweden and Brazil (Recife, specifically, in Brazil). These comments, though, contrast sharply with his desire to take his most kind lady friend out to Colorado, then to New Mexico to explore the lands of the Apache and Navajo Indians. He practically glowed talking about this, and it was clear to me that he has an admiration and esteem for the natives of this land. Being there and listening to him speak I could hear it in his voice. Racism, it seems, is not nearly as cut and dry a topic as many people like to think it is, but this was the first time in my life that I had witnessed this sort of polarity of it within one person.

After arriving to home for the night Jay was kind enough to cook up, in his words “a real cajun meal” which in this case meant rice and two kinds of deer and pork sausage. One was storebought. The other was made from a deer his son had slain. Not sure where the pork was from in that one. I’m not quite sure where the “cajun” comes from in this respect either, unless he just meant “cheap.” Maybe it’s cajun because the sausage was a bit spicy. Really the meal just struck me as extremely simple and rustic. And honestly not all that good even setting aside the fact that I prefer to stay away from meat if at all possible. Still, it was better than the sausage, egg and cheese biscuits he brought back from Burger King the following morning for breakfast. His girlfriend, Rebecca, however, whose WarmShowers account it is that I contacted was the most welcoming lady, giving me a hug upon our introduction and treating me as a respected and honored guest. For a time she did bookkeeping for a bike shop in the area, but after a change of ownership she was let go. She doesn’t need to work though, and said she wasn’t at all upset about being let go, actually expected it, and very nearly welcomed it if it was for the benefit of the new owner. Currently she’s been scavenging lumber, nails and various other useful raw stuffs as materials for creative projects—benches for a friend’s outdoor wedding at the moment, but has other ideas which she is formulating projects around. For the last fourteen years she’s been volunteering her time with an organization that handles taxes for destitute and poverty stricken people. She says she does taxes for three to four hundred people a year. An astounding number. That was the task she had set herself at when I arrived—re-certification, actually, so that she could continue her philanthropy. Her home is full of knick-knacks and memorabilia. Family photos primarily. Remembrances. Pictures of her dead husband. A photograph of a family dog who had died a few years back. Christmas lights strung over and across everything. The small Christmas tree still up, decorated, standing on a table beside the television that is always always on so that I feel I’d go brain dead if I was to be there for too long. Eventually chit-chat got tiresome, and I was tired as well, and being as nothing much else was happening I went off to my bedroom where I could hear through the walls and the door the television blaring in it’s brainless stupid way.

Version 0.19

01-06-19

Another day.

Another day spent questioning what I am doing, or, rather, why I am doing. Most of this stemming from thoughts abut the self-guided tour of the TABASCO facility: of was it worth the money ($5, which is very little, really) on a Sunday when no one is there working, and so the bottling plant, which is where I would see any activity, is just a large room with a lot of inert machinery, instead of a place humming, alive with employees applying themselves to whatever tasks are tasked them. You might say it’s like going to see an opera on a day that it’s not being performed, and paying for a ticket anyway, and going to your seat and sitting for two or three hours. Well, the theater it’s being performed in might be beautiful, but what’s the point of rustling up the price of a ticket to sit amongst the old bones, to stare up at that sternum and ribs vaulting over you like a cage just to look out on an empty black? It’s the musicians and actors, the set design and props that put flesh on the skeleton, that are the blood and the heart and the lungs that give it life, that enable it to move one to tears or make him laugh uproariously or gasp in astonishment. That’s what people go to the opera for. Not to stare at a skeleton, no matter how old or fascinating it might be! Leave that to the archaeologists and historians to sweep away the dust from the bones, and inform you on just which date it was born and how old it was when it died…

[Later]
I was interrupted mid-thought for dinner with my hosts, and now I’m back a different person. The way they talk, these two! And their life experiences! Their knowledge and feeling for the South, but Louisiana in particular, is a beautiful, admirable thing. It’s like finding a pearl hidden amongst all the junk and trash and sediment of the road, or on the banks of some garbage-strewn bayou. It shines with the light of a thousand suns, and its flame is fanned by all of these crazy yet simple contraptions that have been collected and refurbished so that they work and shine like they are new, and are placed just so on the shelves and tables like so many trophies and pictures of loved ones smiling down at one affectionately. “Would you like to go on a bicycle ride around town? We can eat at such and such a place and you can take a tour of Shadows. It’ll be fun and easy. New Iberia is small so it won’t take much time at all, and there’s a lovely city park just the other side of The Teche. Or how about some open-water fishing? I can tell you the fish like to congregate around the oil rigs out there in the gulf. If you get hungry again Kathy’ll make you some of that delicious shrimp gumbo. NO tomatoes in gumbo, and the stock is made from boiled shrimp heads like it should be. And you know why Louisiana has such a French character, or at least it used to, well the English who were busy settling Canada and the northern United States didn’t like these French mongrels and kicked ’em out and they somehow ended up in Spain and later a deal was cut whereupon the Spanish shipped ’em into the swamps of Louisisana and then you got cajun cooking. If you need some salt to season anything just head on over to these places called “islands.” They’re not really islands, but just look it as they’re large mounds surrounded by swampland, but these mounds are solid, subterranean mountains of salt forced up out of the earth like a pimple. If you go to Avery Island you can get yourself some TABASCO sauce and pray at the buddha all together. The camelias might be just beginning to bloom too. And when you’re done all that just come back to the house and we’ll feed you some more and we’ll give you a history of Mardi Gras, how it’s a Catholic event, Fat Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday and all, and you can look at these pictures in the creole cookbook of how the holiday is celebrated out in the country because it is far different from what they do in New Orleans.”

So, now I am relaxed and happy with a full belly and WILL be taking a tour of Shadows tomorrow and getting a Po’ Boy and eating at Victor’s Cafeteria, and God knows what else. The bike trip. Ah, the bike trip. I’m less concerned about that now. What comes, comes. I’m just here to record the experience.

Version 0.17

01-02-19

Fair Grinds Coffeehouse, Mid-City, New Orleans

On the back patio. Birds chirping. A fine, wet day. Wet, but no rain. At least not now.

Voices from over the fence. Through the gate people whooshing to and fro, and waiters in white linen aprons carrying boxes to the cafe across the street; children’s toys, and bicycles and tricycles interspersed with the potted plants and the dog bowls filled with water which the birds drink from. From inside the cafe comes the muffled noise of conversation and people jabbing away at their laptops. And I’m out here sopping this all up like a sponge, sipping my okay coffee, nibbling my decent muffin, and feeling strongly nostalgic for my early days of cafe culture back in Annapolis before I, and much of the world, discovered that coffee could be as good as an excellent bottle of wine or a great cocktail, that with care the most extraordinary flavors could be coaxed out of that little seed. Those days for me weren’t so care-free—I was broke and in debt at the time, working jobs that barely paid me enough to live on and pay the minimum amount necessary on my credit card statements to keep from getting charged those absurd fees that do so well to keep people in financial manacles (as if being poor and in debt isn’t enough)—but it introduced me to a life, a culture that has shaped my life and acts now as a key on a map advising where to go. And I’m eternally grateful for that.

I like this little cafe with its mediocre coffee and pretty-tasty baked goods. There’s not much care that goes into the technique of the making of the drinks and food here, but in the right place where exists the right atmosphere that doesn’t matter. This is a coffeeshop for the everyman. People of all stripes, all lifestyles, all walks of life are of course welcome here, and do come here, but it’s the common, average Joe who is most familiar to this place, as well as the many varied inhabitants of the neighborhood and any visitors passing through. It is like a great river which winding, winding, winding back on itself becomes a great pool that all the plants and the animals may water themselves at. It is a home, a destination, and a stopover point during migration. It draws all to its fecundating nexus with its mystical energies. Some stay for hours, some drift in for only a moment, but when they all leave they are better off than when they arrived. And now they know on their next migration, when the next chapter of their life is set to commence, they may stop here and begin the long process, or continue that process, of mutation, evolution, growth (caterpillar to butterfly.)