Thursday, October 30, 2014
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Tecate. Mexico/United States Border
So many days have been spent flying over the country side like a pair of sparrows going south for the winter. As many of us, we cheat the hard times and do as the animals. We have come to look for America - Central America that is - with outdated maps, an unmarked day planner, an empty journal and vast horizons. Just like a pair of sparrows we base our direction on passing songs of places afar. A ballad was sung of Baja and its’ sweeping landscapes where shrubby mountain rolls into the sea. And then there was the full choir of praises for the sapphire blue waters of the South Pacific Coast of Mexico. Michael and I have chosen the latter.
The sun rises from the left and sets to the right, and nights are troublesome for driving on the blind serpentine roads that hug tight to dry crumbling ridges blanketing Mexico south of San Diego. Juggernaut freight carriers don’t mind nicking a motorcyclist to get around one another, and no one signals these power moves, so Michael is in constant adrenaline high, eyes wide and bloodshot behind his driving goggles. I’ve felt my heart leap in my throat countless times when he plays chicken with those assholes. I hit the back of his helmet and scream at him to slow down, but he doesn’t mind. My nose has been running for four days. I think it’s the stress.
We’ve found it’s easier to pull over and sleep under the stars with a few blankets once our side of the Earth rolls away from the sun. The roadside hotels are eerily vacant, and I feel hair raising silent stares through their empty windows. I’d rather have an open fire and an open sky to sleep under.
So far Mexico has mostly been populated by Michael and me. And all of the months we have traveled together from Montreal have left us little to say to each other. I have heard his joke about the mushroom who walks into a bar and is asked to leave so many times I swear he tells it in his sleep. Somehow my annoyance is my fault.
“I know Michael…The mushroom asks ‘Why? I am a fungi!”
My annoyance might truly come from the half-an-inch of dust, dirt, and dead bugs that cake the statuesque vision of Michael and I on the road. “We are in a desert landscape. What more would you expect?” Michael chides me. Still, I don’t have enough scarves to tie around my face. At some point the side facing my mouth is just as dirty as the side caked with Mexico.
The maps are folded and zipped into my jacket pocket as we ride. I pull them out to give direction less and less. South of the Tecate the maps become blissfully blank. Nothing but a small snaking road due South and the white nothingness I interpret to be mountain, valley, dry riverbeds and mysteries to be unfolded. Nothing signifies the villages we pass through. We have no idea if it will be the last one before a stretch of wide desert.
The white blanks on the maps we have left behind are a new form of keeping track of what has been. I am filling the spaces with interpretive sketches of what I saw there and what happened to us when we visited. Michael in his leather cutting the dust like a Hells Angel and me holding tight with a scarf around my mouth, looking into a colorful sunset with my yellow sunglasses takes up a third of the first page. There isn’t much to work with. My old boss at the Clerk of Courts in Montreal would expect no less of me. My map in a practical sense is shit.
Last night I drew the trio of perro chained to a roadside restaurant at the start of a village. And when I say restaurant I mean Mexican restaurant - a street vendor with polo on a stick and beans and rice. The trio howled into the evening sky, overtaking the broken cave-man conversation I had with the old man.
Two sticks of boneless bird dressed with chili and lime and all of the beans and rice for later.
With all of the pointing and grunting we bought the old man out. And as we got back onto Bohemia, a tan little beast whined at Michael to share his meat with him. Michael being Michael, he took a huge juicy bite of it, swallowed and spit at the hound. To my astonishment, the hound leapt into the air and snatched that skewer out of Michael’s hand and zipped away fast enough to eat the whole thing before Michael could kick him. The old man was livid and probably cursed every swear word under the moon as we sped off.
Much further down the road, as the dark took us, I felt a queer bubbling in my stomach and tapped Michael’s helmet till he slowed down enough for me to spew my dinner across the pavement. The hills just off of the road offered some cover for the night, and we went as far in as we could before I could no longer handle the jarring bumps of the strewn rocks. Michael gathered brush and twigs for a fire and I unraveled the sleeping blankets with clammy hands.
Over a crackling fire, he muttered something about paying Karma, which I rejected because it was his debt to the old man and his dog that needed to be paid, not mine. I wasn’t the asshole. He chided me for assuming knowledge of how the universe works and had me wrap up in his blanket as well to stop the chills. I laid my head on his knee and watched the flames lick the sky while the coyote howled and roamed the hills around us. Michael howled back, and I tried to sit up to see them but he had me down with a hand on my shoulder.
“You need to rest Lone Wolf.”
“I do what I want to Coyote.”
“Not when you might puke on my blanket.”
I had to laugh. With gentle hands, he stroked my hair and forehead till the red embers cooled and my fever finally broke. We slept holding each other out of comfort and care, and though my slumber was broken and short, I felt him wake up now and then to check on me, and that made me feel all of the more rested.
And now as Michael snores into the morning mist catching up on lost sleep, I have a moment to actually write, not only draw what has happened since we left San Fran. But true to duty, in a blank space near the top of the map, I sketched out the sharp feathers of our fire reaching into a star studded sky. And on the slopes of the hills I penciled in a coyote dancing in the flames, and in the sliver of the crescent moon - a lone wolf.
In the North leaves may be falling, but here is a never-ending summer and White Man’s paradise. Hot, sticky tequila courses through my veins, rising as steam from my browned skin. My nerves have finally settled, and a large purple bruise is blossoming over my upper right arm. I am not happy, but I have had worse. Here I am, wrapped in a white linen tunic that falls just past my hips, perched in a window bathed in the flashing strobe lights that signal what awaits us in the bay.
The casitas is a wreck. Dirty plates, old wrappers and Michael’s belongings are strewn across the tan tile. I’ve taken a breather from collecting my things from around the pallet Henry set up for Michael when we moved into his hotel room. My head is spinning, but I haven’t written for weeks and Michael is down at the lobby settling the deal, so I don’t have much time.
Since our arrival here I’ve never seen so many Speedos or tan white people in my life. The holiday life is a stark difference from life on the road. My face is clean, my golden tangles are brushed out, and cabana boys serve me pina coladas at the resort pool at Villa Vera where the Kennedy’s frequented only five years ago. My bill is usually picked up by wealthy gray foxes by siesta time.
When I am alone I ride Henry’s bike to the inner city and visit the bull fights. Or else I look for a prime place to watch the Mexican marching bands while sipping a cola. The broken, dusty streets are full of nickel-and-diming panderers who haunt my steps - some of them shirtless children. “Uno Bracelet! For your Madre! No? Then you tour of Frank Sinatra’s favorite spot?” I’ve taken to ignoring them, however underfoot they can be.
The city didn’t take long to know. We settled first for a musky group hostel just off of the main drag downtown where we slept in rows of ten on massive bunk beds. There was no such thing as sound sleep when the whole building shook from incessant snores. So I started gate crashing the upper crust private beach Condesa and its’ swanky bungalows in my coral bikini and sun hat while Michael gambled in the dive bars - until two weeks ago when I met Henry and we moved out.
I had set my purpose that night to find a woman for Michael out of entertainment. I made him comb his hair and shave. He looked smart in his khaki shorts and white button up, like he belonged in Mallorca. At his request, we went to some of his favorite places. Los Flamingos was packed with foreign men who had the same agenda, so our stay was brief. The beach zone bars were teaming with beautiful dark skinned women who flipped their skirts up when they danced. A margarita and a few conversations proved that Michael already knew them, and that they are exactly the kind of women I am steering him away from. He deserves to have a woman he doesn’t have to pay to bed.
The Palladium at Las Brisas is always hot, so we dodged the beggars and entered the huge pleasure dome perched high on the cliff. With a wall of windows 160 feet wide and 30 feet tall with views of the entire bay, I had the perfect visage to seek out Michael’s type. The dance floor, ringed by banquettes, cantilevers out over the cliff so that dapper gringos in button-down shirts and leather shoes and their women in form-fitting tank tops and short skirts appear to be dancing in the sky.
Through the glass, leaning on the outside bar overlooking La Perla cove, I spied a shapely woman with long dark ringlets that framed her curves pleasantly sipping a martini in a way that suggested availability. Michael was in a polite conversation with a man painted silver wearing an Aztec headdress whom was on break from entertaining the dance floor. I excused us for a smoke break and guided us to the deck only to find the woman had disappeared.
A spray of fireworks guided my eyes to the edge of the terrace where a group had gathered, chattering excitedly. A glimpse of dark ringlets among them had me pulling Michael to see what the spectacle was. The woman was looking down the cliff to deep tidal pool where a faint light shone up from the water. On a closer look it was torch light being carried by a man swimming toward the far cliff. To my astonishment the man hoisted himself onto the rock wall and began climbing at a steady pace, holding the torch still in his left hand.
Forgetting my purpose I asked the woman who it was scaling the cliff. To which she replied, “Henry, my date.” I quickly redirected my intentions, and introduced myself and Michael, still placing Michael in between us. Henry had only reached the top of the cliff when we all cheered him into the most stunning free dive. Slicing the water, he was still under when the torch came falling right toward where he just disappeared. The woman’s breath caught and her martini slipped from her hand right as the torch hit the surface. But she didn’t see Henry resurface victoriously unharmed because her martini glass was perfectly caught in Michael’s grasp, and her eyes where fixed on his charming grin.
By the end of the night, after dancing breathless with the handsome young Henry to ease his bruised ego from the sight of Michael and his date flirting in a dark corner, we had his invitation to stay at his casita up the hill at La Brisas. Henry is a lawyer for a hedge fund in England on an extended vacation after just trading a behemoth of a deal. He brought money to blow but no friends to blow it on.
But for the past two weeks things have been heating up at the casita between Michael and Henry. Despite his deep pockets, the women prefer Michael to Henry, and as I am not interested in being anyone’s woman, my presence is another form of frustration for him. All of the sex in Acapulco cannot satisfy Henry’s need for conquest. He is an obsesser and a collector in the worst ways. Lately he has taken to asking me every day to be his girlfriend even whilst dating other women. He only wants me because I don’t’ want him as anything more than a good time. But as a proud man, he will not ask us to leave, instead he picks on Michael.
Henry says to Michael “men drink tequila, not cervaza.” Or he will encourage Michael to gamble in hopes of embarrassing him in front of the women. Mostly he will make a big show of paying for the table. But Michael will just dance with the band or do an Elvis impression and the ladies swoon.
Tonight took the cake. In the haze at El Torino’s in the heart of Alcapuclo City, we clunk shots of tequila with a pair of Americans over a game of poker. The mariachi were overwhelming a table next to us and Henry was late, so I went to the bar to talk to Eduardo the bartender about finding work. He told me I needed a work visa to get a job at an establishment, but there were other means of making money if I needed someone to show me the ropes. I declined.
At the table Michael and gringos were all drunk and getting along famously, talking animatedly and making grand gestures. It had me curious. And as I danced over to join them, my arm was yanked and I was pulled to face Henry’s angry face. His breath reeked of tequila and he could barely stand.
“Who was that twat you were talking to? Are’you zleeping with him too?”
“Talks to me woman!”
He shook me till I was seeing stars. Michael’s hands appeared from nowhere and locked around Henry’s neck. He yanked him back and I flew from Henry’s grasp into the mariachi band. The whole establishment was watching when the gringos and Michael jumped Henry all at once. They knocked over chairs and glasses and patrons flew out of the way. Henry was unconscious when they lay him outside in the parking lot, and Michael and I were in a bust as to what to do. The Americans offered us an arrangement.
Now as I look around the messy casita, taking in the warm salty air from the bay, I loathe packing my life into my suitcase again. I wonder how much Michael will get for Bohemia. As much as it pains him to let her go, we will not need a motorcycle on a boat.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
|Springer Mountain, GA|
|North Carolina-Georgia Line|
|US19-Nantahala River, NC|
|Fontana Dam, NC|
|TN32-Davenport Gap, TN|
The Appalachian Trail in The Great Smokey Mountains National Park, and I packed too much food and not the right water filter. Cousins from California and Florida finally living the backcountry dream. Goldilocks and The Red Fox. I flew into Atlanta and met my cousin Sandra there as she drove from Florida to the Springer Mt border.
I used an alcohol burning stove to boil water and simmer food. For six days and five nights, for food I packed-
Five cups of organic Oatmeal mixed with chia seeds, raw cacao, macca, brown sugar, bee pollen and Himalayan sea salt.
English Breakfast Tea
Two organic nut and fruit bars per day
Organic Nut Mix
Vitamin C electrolyte mix for a water bottle
Organic rice pilaf of Cajun or garden veggie variety with a dollop of whipped butter
The rice pilaf is very filling, and I was rarely able to finish a bag, hence the overpacking.
Starting at Springer Mt, the Southern launch off of The Appalachian Trail, we started strong, gaining elevation slowly and blazing by lakes and hills. This is where The Hunger Games was shot, District 12 to be exact, coal country. After a week here we hitched a ride back with another hiker to gather the car and drive past Cherokee to Clingman's Dome NC.
We parked at Newfound Gap and hiked at a leisurely pace to the shelters at Icewater Spring, Peck's Corner, Tri-Corner Gap, Crosby's Knob, and Davenport Gap. Originally we ordered a shuttle to get us from the Davenport Gap Trail Head on the last day, but we met another hiker who offered us a ride to our car at Newfound Gap and saved us $100. Thank God there was cell service with AT&T on the Northside of the ridge so that we could cancel the van and get a refund.
The best 'extra' item I could suggest to bring is a hammock. This made my nights comfortable and secluded from the roaring snores coming from the shelters.
My water filter is a 2 liter base camp bag with a gravity fed hose on the end that I was using as a camel back. It has a fold and clip top that would not stay sealed. I learned the hard way to keep that water filter in the Dry Bag by day, and store my food in the Dry Bag by night to contain the scent of food from bears. Clothes and sleeping bag were drenched. I had to wear long johns, a sleeping bag liner, and long johns that all belonged to other people who were kind enough to lend them on a night when it was 38 degrees out.
The final day of hiking it rained all morning. We took a path south of the A.T., Low Gap Trail, to a river with gorgeous water falls.
Mountains speak to eachother in echoes, and each step up the ridge is sweat for penance and breath for prana.