Sunday, August 09, 2009


there's a girl in here somewhere

it'll take a bit to get to that

and it's filled with things i can't forget even though i've already begun to and that's the explanation of why if i die in the next however many seconds you'll see that my nails are chewed to their cuticles, beyond their cuticles, hell, i’m even chewing my fingers, bleeding, blood everywhere, good lord i’m leaking all over the place

fingernails should grow more quickly anyway

there's just so much, ~too much~ even

it's time to dive....into the deep

but first let me re-establish myself as your hero:

ok, you're right, this guy is the ~real~ hero

it was sick green, not blue not black not gray not no other hue other than invalided green and when the sun that had just crested the gawdawful bleak and unbroken horizon was immediately swallowed by the clouds that green got more diseased and i was ill with it and i knew i knew and before it even began i'd experienced it which made the actuality (which was more actual in my head, actually) of the experience that much more dreadful (and fantastic) and the thing was it wasn't just the clouds but the moon, yes, yes, the moon too eclipsefully swallowed the star we call the sun and that's when it went, the hue changing so painstakingly slow it made you want chew off the very tip of your tongue, from green to black and then back to green again and at first it was only drips and it was enough to give you hope that it would stay that way but hope is a waste of time and there were flash cubes in the sky and buddha was beating his bass drum and the winds from everywhere all at once and i watched the filth rinse off me in rivulets and some of it pooled on my big toe nail and i kept pedaling past all those pulled over parked cars until the puddles were up to my pedals and i couldn't go nowhere (and with everywhere to go) and i said hell and kept going anyhow until i found an old man tucked away in a cinder block shack and he had a stove in the corner and i said - tea? - and he said - yes - and waved me in and i stayed there for who knows how long and who cares how long because all life is is a stopwatch ticking and tocking until the alarm of death deafens you and then it's too late and when you're covered in a monsoon and wind-whipped leaves are plastered on your knees, those ticks and tocks don't matter because you've got a cup of hot tea in your hand and as you sip it, the tea, which really is god, lets you know your esophagus and stomach exist because you can feel it coatingly trace these organs as it enamels them with a warmth that is nothing other than sacrosanct

it's all about the tea kids, and ~that's tea~ jimmy, ~~that's tea!~~:

but hell kids, that was only a couple days ago, and what's happened since then, and good god what's happened in my 8 months in india ~before~ then, and what's happened in now my over four years on the goldblessed road ~before then~, shizznit, lord, johnny rockets, it overwhelms me and i must and gotta remember it all and i bleed and can't forget that one night in albania either where i slept in that family's house but the father (understandably so, with two gorgeous daughters) was skeptical about me and was sure to show me that he slept with a dagger and then that one evening sound asleep and the 2am bosnian-herzegovinian military discovery of me in what i'd thought and hoped was an abandoned shack or that motocycle slamming into me and scooting off or that girl in canada way back in 2005 (but that's a different girl than the one i promised you in the first sentence) or that time i imagined so vividly my very own death such that ~i died~ but was resurrected and given another shot which i’m shooting now….ready….aim….aw hell, it’s a blank

i can't forget this stuff....when you forget something, it never happened even though nothing really happens anyhow but it doubly doesn't happen when you forget it so you gotta remember it all....and i mean ~all~ or you fail and you die and you ~will die~ but the question is : will you fail?

and that man who equalizes me on his motorcycle and says - come to my home, come eat, come drink tea, spend the night - and we stop and i says - it's ok for me to spend the night? - and he says - yes man, come on! - and i say - yes! yes! - and sun stroke had almost gotten me anyhow and we go on a gawdawful 2 mile off-road diversion with me bogging down in that loose indian desert sand that'll swallow you whole and never spit you back out and my hope and joy fades away but then there are fans and food and juice and everything and i dump buckets of water over my head and he tells me to take a nap and i gladly obey and fill my heart with the fact that there is goodness, there ~really is~ goodness in this world, and just as i'm entering that world i wish i would never leave there's a knock at my door and it's him with a plate of chilled papaya but a mouth set in seriousness and he tells me to sit down and eat and then he tells me to pack up and leave and i don't know what the hell is going on and it turns out his father says i can't sleep there because of the police and i hate myself for how furious i was (though i kept my furiousness to myself (i hope)) because by now it's entirely too late to be cycling and i've already unpacked and my heart was set on a home-cooked meal and now it's all gone to hell and to hell with everything and everyone and especially to hell with life (and to hell with me, too) but i'm being kicked out, given the boot, and so i take my punches (low and to the kidneys no less) and go because what the hell else can i do and so i'm back bogged in the dam sand with fist shaking and going and going and darker and darker and cursing and cursing and trying desperately to tell myself - now hIrSch, what's happened here is an undeserved act of kindness has fallen through and it shouldn't have happened in the first place so the fact that it isn't happening is exactly how it should have happened in the first place, so let it go - but i hold on tight despite voices of the inner-me and i find a hotel under construction and the guys say i can sleep there and good lord good lord how tired i am and at some point in the middle of the night i am awoken by a prod in my ribs and there stands a goldblessed triumvirate of flashlights and uniforms and hands holding poised canes and lord let this be a dream (everything is) but it's not and i am accused of being a pakistani terrorist by these military macho men and there i am, shirtless and sweating and beard and three-quarters still asleep and forcing a smile, telling them i am from america and come in peace and they're asking me questions twice in a row and i'm answering them three times that , despite my attractive beard, i am ~not~ from pakistan and i just keep saying america and america (and wonder if that's even any better) and the only problem is that none of them speak english and none of me speak hindi and i guess it was my million dollar charm because they finally surrendered and let me be without a beating and thank god for that because those canes looked mean enough and doubly so being held above me by bodies adorned in all sorts of military garb and mouths that didn't just utter unintelligible words but also expectorated unbrushed teeth spit all the hell over me

then that pack of motorcycles that swarmed and surrounded me and each with three or four helmetless passengers and swerving and yelling hello and laughing and then they were gone and thirty minutes went wherever they go and i (and you) was (were) that much closer to my (your) death and now i see a pack of pedestrians on the road and i slow my ship down and there in the hot baking desert sand i see not yellow and orange but a dark, sanguine red and it's just a trickle and then a stream and then a pool and next to the pool with no lifeguard was a dead man, a passenger on one of those motorcycles, and the thing of it was the position of his left arm as he was lying there on his back, his life now over, his regrets unredeemed, his sadness never relieved, and god how that left arm was so straight and parallel to his body and right up against his ear too as if he were raising his arm begging the teacher to let him say just one more thing, just one more thing, but the teacher didn't care and just kept on teaching just like these people didn't care but were under obligation to assign guilt to something or someone and just like no one any where cares about anything because here was this dead man and here were all these alive people and they'd all eat dinner that night and on all the endless nights until they themselves died and after they died there will be other new people who will keep on eating dinner and meanwhile there are people who are dying all over the place and i know i know there are people too who will cry but even those people who cry will dry their eyes and also eat dinner and so that's all life really is, death and dinner (and tv)

oh god, this man, jeez, good lord, he told me i could stay the night with him in his little christian ashram, hence jesus, and the thing was, i was trying to be kind and give thanks, and so i gave him some cookies to eat with his tea, and he said no, and i thought he was just trying to be polite, so i insisted, and he said no, no, again, and i wanted him to know that i really wanted him to have the cookies so i put them in his hand, basically, i shoved them down his throat saying - eat the dern cookies! - and then this woman shows up and is aghast and she says - no, no! diabetes, diabetes! - and good god the sins i have committed with the best of intentions, but still, forgive me, have mercy upon this weary soul, i am sorry, so sorry

and also too i was cycling through this crowd in a market maybe 4 months ago and then i see this crowd ebbing and flowing and gawking and gasping and out of this crowd pops four men and each of these four men is holding one piece of wood and on top of this piece of wood is an old dead man with a gray beard and his mouth looks as if he'd just seen a ghost and maybe it was his own as it exited his body and began to wander a life of its own (where will your ghost go?) and he was old enough to assume that his own mother and father were already dead and so maybe someone, needing to say something as the situation demanded it, said something like - well, he's with them now, they're all together now and at peace - and those in the nearby vicinity, upon hearing such, probably, as the situation also demanded, nodded and said something like - umm-hmm - and it all sounds nice and it sort of makes you want to hug yourself and even feel a little happy and hopeful to think of it that way but i've only got one question and the question is this - is that ~really~ how it all works?

here is how fishing works, first the men make the net

then they put the net in water and they pull it up and they get

a bunch of fish that die and then they lay them out and people buy them and after you buy them

a nice man will clean them and then you can go digest their flesh

but it's not all death and dying it's also nakedness like in this nice house where i'd been invited to stay in estonia and i lived in the wide-open basement and there was a tv and i am guilty of watching knight rider reruns and the woman who owned the place was beautiful and she had a young russian boyfriend and there was also a kid in there somewhere and one morning i had to go to the toilet and hell if in this mansion of a house there was only one toilet and it was up a gawdawful two flights of stairs and so upwards i crept and opened the unlocked door and what a way to wake up because there was the woman, standing there, without a stitch of clothing on above her waist and i, after perhaps too long of a delay, turned my head and closed my eyes and backed away and apologized entirely too much (while hoping for one more glance) but hell, did i really do anything wrong?, i mean, the door was unlocked and we were all sharing this commode and so i didn't feel so bad but it still made life a little awkward and then a day or two later i was down in my basement in my holey underwear doing yoga and i was in a boy scout knot of a contortion and down the stairs comes the lady lugging laundry and there i am (there was no door to my quarters) and now she's closing her eyes and dropping socks and apologizing profusely and hell i wondered why those stairs didn't have a creak in them or something like all good stairs do so i could have had a warning and i didn't give a dern about her seeing me but still, it added to the general awkwardness of everything and so then on almost my last morning in this brothel i was heading, once again, for the toilet and this time the door was ~open~ so i knew i was safe and i go barging in and jiminy crickets if the golddern russian boyfriend isn't standing there naked as the day he exited his mother and he's shaving and i startle him and hell if he doesn't nick himself and there i am apologizing profusely again and he already didn't like me too much as i'm sure his girlfriend had told him about my glimpse and, really, they were all great people but it was a relief just to get the hell out of there with all that unproductive nakedness and before i left that nice lady gave me a dark chocolate bar

it's the darndest thing, i'm sitting here typing and i just had this great reminiscence but damitall if i didn't immediately forget what i was going to write and it's right here on the side of my tongue (and i taste it too) but i can't get at it and i'll just have to leave this cursor to blink's happening kids, it's been happening since i swam into the egg, but now it's ~really~ happening : i'm getting older and this is just one example and the other example is when i went over to this mirror and i was making faces to pass the time and i smiled and hell if all these lines didn't radiate out from my eyes and criminy where did they all come from? and all these dreams of immortality are quickly fading but it's just as well because to be honest forever is a dern long time and i'm already starting to get a little bored

and on that day when i attained the ultimate verisimilitude, which i will share with you within this very sentence, this woman happened to be walking by, and i thought about approaching her with my revelation, putting one arm around her shoulder and widely and wildly gesturing with the other, and telling her - the universal truth is this: "look around, look at everything, and despite the sheer infiniteness of everything, ~every~thing~ can ~only be~ one of three things : 1. it is dead 2. it is dying 3. it never was alive" - but i didn't tell her, and that's why i am telling you

and then there was latvia and that girl i promised

i's gonna start writin a little different too but it ain't matter 'cause ain't no one readin this anyhow regardless

how's we gonna kick this off, i mean, do i start with naked and being whipped with steamed sage leaves or with that bracelet she made late that night before and gave me the morning i done left or standing on the roof of that crumbly thirty-story concrete building and having her say, "sometimes -...- too many times -...- i've thought of jumping" or

or maybe i should start with the end where she had that ticket to budapest and there i was in budapest and i says to her -

but methinks i'll start with apples

because there i was in the middle of latvia with my back against that tree and apples all around me and i had me a loaf of bread i'd found in an dumpster and i also had me some (slightly) spoiled milk i'd found in a dumpster and now here i was eatin me apples off the ground and sipping sour milk and chompin blue bread and smilin like a clam and it was sunny but the leaves didn't let it be sunny on me and that was how i liked it and that's why i done chose that tree in the first place

and i was readin a book too, i think it had something to do with god, but really it was a dime store romance and i was gettin a little hot despite them shady leaves and also wishin i had me more dimes if you know what i mean - hup hup!

and so i ate to my fill and then a little more just for good measure and with a distended belly i packed all me stuff up and did what i do

and then i smelled somethin dee-lish-us and i followed the smell and it landed me at a bread factory and i rapped on the window with a dirty knuckle and an old sad lady seen me and she come out and i asks for some bread in a language she cain't understand but she figures it out and disappears and reappears with a loaf of the darkest whole wheat bread you can imagine, i mean to say it was almost black, hell it ~was~ black, and she hand it to me and i try to hand her some coins and she tells me not to pay in a language i cain't understand but i figures it out and so i don't and am thankful and she's smilin and i'm smilin and some other people are smilin and then i'm leavin and leavin's the only thing i'm good at and so i do it well and even give a look back with a wave and more smilin and people like that and if people give me bread, well jimmy, i'll do what they like

and then i wonders if all this smilin i'm doing is for real or just habitual and then i remember nothin's real, not even that bread or that sour milk dat's now turnin' my stomach

and then this car be waiting behind me to safely pass and it ain't revvin or honkin or nothin and i'm glad for it and then it be safe to pass and that car passes

and lord al~mighty~, when it do, when it do, i looks down to me left and i see somethin i ain't seen much and it's a palm and it got four fingers and it got a thumb too and it be goin back and forth and it attached to an arm which is attached to a body and on the head of that body is the face of this girl, an paragon really, and she gorgeous, whoa me she gorgeous, and she look at me and she smile and i get that feeling like i got when i was readin the naughty section of that dime store romance but i tell meself to steady out and so i says - steady now, hIrSch, steady now

this woman made me idly, you pronounce it "id-lee", below below, you will see a better picture of it with the chutney that goes with it, it is delicious, but the word in and of itself is magical, idly, say it, idly, repeat it, idly idly, it becomes a mantra, just keep saying it, over and over, and all your troubles will disappear

and then that blonde hair be gone and them eyes of hers is on something else and then there i am and it's just me and i says - beelzebub! - but it gone now and nothin ever lasts anyway so this all just followin the natural order of things but still, i says - whoa! - once again anyhow

and then about sixty minutes went wherever they go (and i remembers when i was just a wee little lad of nine and i's layin in me bed and i seen the clock go from 6:36 to 6:37 and i says to meself how on this, that 14th day of may, i'll never have that minute again and it gone forever and would i remember it (i did and do) and everything just go away and then i see 6:38 and i got sore in me belly and plagued with a sedulous despondency and restlessness that i ain't been able to shake to this very day so many years later)

and so them sixty minutes gone and strike me dead if i'm lyin but that girl i done did see one hour ago is standin on da side of da road and she wavin and smilin and i bllink real hard and she still there and so i say me a silent prayer for things i ain't should be prayin for (but i be prayin ~hard~ for them anyway)

god forgive me

i went to this place, it's called auroville, it's a place where people from all over the world come to live as one big gigantic loving peaceful community, everyone was so happy, it made me a little sick, and they told me that if i wanted to find god, i needed to go into this capsule, but that since i wasn't a "member", i would have to come back on a tuesday at 10am and that i'd have to pay to enter, and i told them to please tell god that i was very sorry, but that tuesday at 10am wasn't good for me and i was running short on cash anyhow and that i'd have to take a rain check

and there she is and there my brake pads are a-screechin and there we is and she say, she say this, and oh lord if that latvian accent wouldn't make you fall in love with every goldblessed thing on this earth and she say this - you wanna come to my place, have a rest, get some food, maybe take a sauna? - and i say inwardsly, just to meself - prayer works! it do, even if it for naughty things, it still do! - and then i says outwardsly, to her and me both - but you ain't even know me - and then she say she know enough and so i asks where we goin and she says about six miles some of which be on da dirt roads and i says how can i find her and she says to follow and i says i too slow and so she says, god that accent, she says - ok, everywhere you needs to turn i'll leave you some sort of marker - and i says - what kind? how will i know? - god i'm losing my cool and she says i'll know it when i see it and my heart be racin and i say but how will i be certain and she say not to worry but i'm frantic with all this ambiguity and i says - what if i miss one and we don't meet up? - and she says if that what happens then it was never meant to happen and then she gone and i be pedalin my heart out looking for any and every thing on the side of da road telling myself - focus now, hIrSch, focus now - and then i looks down to me right and i see a blinking red light on top of a sheet of paper with a bicycle drawn on it and she wrote "turn here" and it's her first note to me and i smell it because that's what they do in the movies and then i right angled me handlebars and now me heart really racin and i'm on me way - yahoo! - and now i'm on the dirt and there be roads goin every which way but only one of them every which way's had an arrow or a smiley face or whatever carved into it with a stick and - yes man, yes! - me imagination is helium-ing away from me and then these dogs just about maul me and thank god for strong chains and i look down and, in the dirt, it say "put yer bicycle here" and i do and the next thing you know i in a cabin and she in dat same cabin and she got a tray and on dat tray are apples and pears and a pot of tea and homemade honey and two mugs and she live on a farm here with her grandparents and all this stuff come from here and they ain't use no pesticides and she young, oh, she young (but not arrestable young) and i ain't know what to do (though i got me plenty of ideas) and i realize my foot is tappin

so anyhows we has a nice little snack and then she say - you wanna go on a walk? - and i says o' course and offs we go into the forest behind the farm and the thing is she ain't got no shoes on and the other thing is she ain't really walkin she sorta glides and hops and skips and flips and floats and her feets is all muddy but she don't care and nor do i and the smell of wet pine and god i wish i had confidence

and then we gets to this little house and there be a statue of a face of a man and she tells me this where a poet used to live and do his writing and how he needed to be all alone and all the hell away from everyone and i says - yes, yessss - and how they was gonna make it a museum or something but that it'd been delayed and so there we were and i goes up to the door and turn the handle and in i go and she scared and says - don't go in there - but i go in there and tell her to come on and she obliges and there we is, just the two of us, and here this man's desk and window and bed and alls his stuff like he was gonna come back but he ain't gonna come back cause he dead and once you dead it's game over no matter how many more quarters you insert

there is, no matter where you are, something to be written

and so then i feels bad like i'm intruding on this poet's life, on his privacy and solitude, and if there's one thing i respect and demand the same respect in return it's of privacy and so i says - we better leave - realizing she was right in the first place having never wanted to come in and so i hate myself because i know how it is when you want to be alone and cain't be and there ain't no worse feelin than that and there i was disrupting the very thing which i crave, i.e. to be left the hell alone, but then i starts to realize that i ain't really want to be left alone by this girl, her name kayla by the way

i was the hell alone here, and it was nice, and kayla was wherever she is, unless, in the meantime of all this, she has died

and so we get to walkin back to her farm taking a different path and gettin a little lost and not givin a dern and talkin like we's known each other for years and suddenly me guard goes up because it all feels too right which means it must be and gotta be wrong but i tell myself to hell with myself but as i watch her bounce barefootedly alls around i tells meself - hIrSch, somehow you's gonna screw this up kid, i ain't know how now, but i know it gonna happen...- and so it's just a matter of time and watching myself and seein how exactly it'll happen cause i'm sure it will and then i tells meself to hell with meself again but i knew it was gonna be true it was simply a matter of how

we gets back to the farm and the sun sure weren't gettin any higher and so then it's agreed upon that it's sauna time (hot dog!) and i gets real nervous in me belly because i ain't know nuthin about saunas and i mean her grandparents is right there and is we all goin in together? and is we all gonna be neked together? and i get a little sick just thinkin of it all and of course you's know what i'm hopin could happen but how on earth could that happen with her grandparents right there and i don't know what to do so i just wait and then the most gawdawful announcement you's could ever imagine is announced and it so gawdawful i pretend not even to hear it after it's made and it gotta be made again until, with a gulp, i reluctantly acknowledge it and stand up and i thinks good lord almighty who put this jelly in me knees and help-me-save-me-deliver-me-sanctify-me-do-something-to-me

and the gawdawful proclamation to which i's referrin went somethin like this:

"boy's first!"

and so i looked over at the grandpappy and the grandpappy looked at me and i said, to meself - hell's bells - and the thing was he ain't speak a lick of my language and i ain't speak a lick of his and now we was about to sauna together and how could i refuse and kayla tell me just to do what he do and all i could see were catastrophes and disasters but that grandpappy got up and started walkin and motioned for me to follow em and i fell in step behind him and felt like i's bein led to the electric chair and out we went to the sauna house where he'd done lit a fire earlier and by now the thing was pumpin hot and smokin like hell and i's a whimperin too

so we both walk in the house and he take off his jacket and he take off his shirt and he take off his pants and he take off his socks and then i wondered but i ain't wondered long cause the whole kit and kaboodle done come off that man and there he stood and there he was and

now i don't care how gay one is or how gay one isn't (ain't we all just a little gay?) but when someone near you be neked you cain't but help yourself but to steal a little glance and anyone that disagree with me here be a liar and you know it and so the glance was stolen and it was a real quick one and hell here i was about to get neked in front of a man who might one day be me grandpappy-in-law

and the hell of it was i wondered how these latvinians felt about a little somethin because when the revealing of me that was about to take place had become a full-on revelation this man too was gonna steal a glance and he was gonna notice somethin, or maybe i should say ~not~ notice somethin - and the thing is i's circumcised and i ain't know if that a problem and once that glance was stolen i knew he'd be nice enough not to do or say anything but i wondered if he'd go back to the house and tell his wife and kayla something like - now that boy, it's the darndest thing, but you wouldn't believe that boy's...... - and i'd be sittin there none the wiser just hearing syllables and imaginin the worst and then they'd all three look at me crotchwards and sort of smile or giggle or somethin and what was i to do but just sit there and take it or maybe say somethin like - but it prevents disease and infections, it's biblical! - in some feeble attempt to justify that my foreskin ain't so forthcomin

and all this, added to the steam leakin out the bottom of that door made me dizzy and woozy and there a naked old man standin in front of me and it was my turn to drop me drawers and i says to hell with meself and my drawers dropped and there i is, all of me, every gold dern inch of me, and he nods and goes off and gets to takin him a cold shower and then i take a cold shower and when i step out i hope, if he stole another glance, that he realizes how ~cold~ that shower was (like ice, i'm tellin ya, like liquid ice) cause everything was contracting and ebbing and, well, shriveling

but it's fair game cause we both shriveled

then he opens the gates of hell itself and goes in and then i goes in and we both in and we both neked and he sittin with his elbows on his knees and head hangin down and so that's how i sit too and we both sweatin something fierce and he worried it was too hot for me but i say no and so then he makes it hotter and lordy lordy almighty i ain't think i ever been that hot in all me years but it feel good, real dern good, and them unfortunate effects of the ice shower has done worn off and i'm feelin and lookin like a dandy and i start to thinkin how this ain't all so bad after all and i'm even ~enjoyin~ meself and it ain't no big deal nothing and why's i so worried bout it and that's when ol grandpappy suddenly stands up and and sign languages me to lay down and i be thinkin what the hell? but he's motioning and it's obvious what he wants me to do and i ain't want to do it but what the hell else can i do? so i do it and there i is sweatin and red hot lyin on me stomach and this old man be standin over me and it got all the makin's of a real, real, real immoral movie

so then this man he bended over and reached down and grabbed somethin and it was a bundle of sage leaves that'd been soakin' in a pot and he started flickin em like a whip in the air and, truth be told, it smelled awful nice and then he plunged em into a bucket of boilin water and i starts to thinkin - what the hell he doin? - and i consider a mild protest to this whole fiasco but the next thing i know them leaves ain't whippin the air but they's whipping my back and my neck and my scalp and my arse and me legs and me calves and even me achilles heel and it sting like the dickens and luckily i'm face down and he cain't see me wincin like a sissy and biting at me cheeks but i means to tell ya that's exactly what i's a doin, wincin like a sissy, and it was dolorous but somehow dolorously delightful and then it was finished and my whole entire body stung but it stung good and the sweat was poring out me pores and i could feel every toxin inside me cascading out and i knew my liver had to be squeaky clean and my colon too and now i's worried i'd have to do the same to him and how was i to know what to do but that turned out to be the least of me concerns

because, like givin a command to a dog, he motioned for me to roll over

and hell i wanted to bark and growl and bear me teeth and i almost drew the line right then and there cause the last thing i needed to be doin was a lyin or a layin on me ~back~ with no clothes on because there i'd be and would i park it to the left or swing it on over to the right or tuck the golddern thing in the middle? and what if he started whippin ~there~ cause without no cap as a result of that infant incision i's likely to be permanently mutilated and adulterated but this ol' grandpappy wasn't havin none of my hesitation, and, truth be told, i's afraid and so i did as he said and now there i was with stomach (and everything else to boot) to the ceiling and any questions he mighta had about stolen glances were answered and the whipping began on my chest and it went lower from there and i braced for impact and dug my fingernails in the wood and ground my molars and squinched up me toes as hard as they'd squinch and now we was sub-belly button and the leaves were ready for one last whip and the next whip would be ~it~ and hells to the bells to the trombones ~this was it~ but the leaves ain't come up from me belly, no, they stayed on me skin and that wise man sorta dragged that sage clump across the essence of me and i uncurled me toes and exhaled dioxides of deliverance (and also felt that somehow my cycling celibacy had right then and there ended) and the whippin started up again but on me thighs and shins and down to me little piggys and then it was over and i rolled over and back up into a seating position trying to maintain a little dignity and that ol' grandpappy was smilin' and quite pleased with himself and i didn't know whether to shake his hand or give him a hug or ask for one more or what so instead i just put me elbows on me knees and hung my head low and looked ~down there~ and said - it gonna be allright my boy, it gonna be allright - and i also said - and i'd like to thank you for not deciding to stand up during the whole episode - because hell what a heap of embarrassment that woulda been, but sometimes a man ain't got no control i tell ya, no control at all

this guy ain't got my problems

and as always all that worryin for nothin but the thing about worryin is that when you doin it you ain't know it for nothin and it's only after you done all the worryin that you realize it for nothin so the thing is if you ain't worry then perhaps it would be for somethin and because you never know methinks it more useful to worry and have it be for nothin than to not worry and have to hope that you needn'ta worried for the outcome to be nothin and so that's why i always worry and fret and agonize and wince

it was over, that grandpappy and me we boths took us a cold cold shower and sat outside underneath them stars and that moon and we was both fully clothed now so i felt more comfortable and then we went back to that little house and the smell of a good home cooked meal knocked me over and kayla asks me, she say - how was it? - and i say - mighty fine! - and then she look at her grandpappy and they start jibberin in their language and the grandma well she join in too and johnny rockets if they ain't all jabberin away and the grandpappy is tellin some tale and they's all a laughin and i wonder about having some skin re-added down there and/or if i should answer some of these "enlargement" emails i keep on a gettin but regardless of any of that i feel ashamed but i ain't said nothin because what could i have said and maybe they was just tellin some good latvinian jokes or something anyhow

and then it be lady's turn at the sauna and they comes back and then it's a feast and it's all this fresh natural stuff exactly like i like (except for the potato cakes which are just drippin with oil and i can't bear to eat one knowing the havoc that'll wreak on me bowels and i politely decline them but i seen the disappointment in that old woman's face and i hated myself) and we's sippin tea and honey and eatin bread with homemade jam and this boiled wheat concoction and i'm stuffin myself silly and it's gettin late but i ain't tired because i gots alots on me mind about why i done met this girl and why she invited me to her home and why her grandparents be so nice to me and this girl, this girl, my oh my this girl, and i'm so dern ugly and so why me?

and i also start worryin how i'm gonna die and how i knows i gots a disease inside me that's eating me away and dissolving my duodenum and i know that my death will be slow and arduous and i'll waste away under stiff white sheets and humming fluorescent lights with all sorts of gawdawful tubes and beeps and blinking red lights and soap operas and flowers on the window sill intended to make me happy (but they die too) and people will come in and stand over me as i lay helplessly and haplessly and uselessly in bed and they will smile and desperately try to think of things to say to fill the silence now that i turned off my soap operas and when they think i ain't lookin they'll try to steal a glance at their wristwatch and eventually they'll say somethin like they's gotsta to go and really they ain't got nowhere to go but the truth of it all is they just want to get the hell out because the smell of death is on me and it stinks with unknown rancidity and there ain't be nothing worse than the redolence of human rot and when it all comes down to it, even thoughs they tryin to be nice and kind and dutiful by comin to see me they doin it partly (and maybe mainly) out of a sense of obligation to god or their conscience or something like that, so to avoid all this when i feel death a-comin and i'm sure of it and if i ain't been blessed enough to die instantly in some tragic (and glorious) calamity then what i'm gonna do (and i mean it) is i gonna just start walkin and the direction i choose will be the direction i go and i just gonna keep walkin and driftin and ploddin and wanderin and trudgin on and then i'll collapse and where i lay is where i'll die and what's left of me will wither away and give all them ants a good feast after the buzzards done had their way and no one will know what happened to me or where i went or nothin and all this be part of the grand master plan because the only thing i'll carry with me when i go off to die will be me journals and what gonna happen is that someone will discover all my writins and ramblins and nonsense and they will take it to hollywood and make a movie out of my life and i will be posthumously famous and exalted and loved by teenage girls and this movie will take that aforementioned all-male sauna scene a little too far so as to be risqué and more marketable and the best part of the movie is that when it ends it will fade to black and then ~just~ as everybody stands up and spills all the popcorn kernels and stranded m&m's from their laps and before all them names start scrollin on by, there will be a paragraph written in a white all lower case font that says somethins to the effect of - hIrSch disappeared on (such and such a date) and has never been seen or heard from since - and it'll give everyone the shudders and that will cloud my legacy with a veil of sweet mystery which always helps because then people will look for me and claim to have seen me here and there (and i'll be here and there too!) and websites will go up about me and the king of spain will write a book about our times together (trying to make a dime, the bastard!) and hopefully someone will make a bronze statue of me and i just hope they get the dam beard right and they ain't put no smile on me face

now that little bird you see will tell you everything you need to know about life ~and~ death and all the inbetweens but only if you pay that man who is pointing to god, and if you pay that man pointing to god, he will throw out some cards and that bird'll pick one up in it's mouth and your fate, your destiny, and your demise will no longer be unknown

now night was gettin on and so her grandparents was ready to retire and i cain't remember if told yas or not but i had me own little cabin in this farm compound and kayla and i went down there, just the two of us now, and she brought some music and we was a-listenin and a-talkin and then and then and then

now that next mornin i was due to leave but leavin was the absolute last dern thing i wanted to do and we had our breakfast and i was prayin to everything i knew they'd ask me to stay another day but they didn't and then i was thinkin that maybe they was hopin ~i'd ask~ to stay another day but i done felt it to rude to up and ask and so when that last drop of tea rolled down me throat i said something like - well, i ~guess~ i best be goin now - and sayin that was my last chance to them to say - why ain't ya stay the day? - but they ain't said it and the grandmammy weighed me down with jams and honey and bread and all sortsa concoctions and then they gave me about ten pounds of apples and then kayla told me to come up to her room and i did and she said she couldn't sleep last night and (did i tell ya she's an artist?) she drew me a picture and made me a bracelet ~and~ she told me of a town some days bike ride away and gave me directions and told me to knock on a door in that town and give the hand that answered it a note that's she'd written on my behalf and that i could stay there and that she'd be comin there in several days herself and we could meet up there and continue whatever it was that was happenin and then she put that bracelet on me wrist and hell i ain't had nothin for her and i left feelin good because i felt like someone in this world mighta takin a likin to me and i'd certainly takin a likin to her and because i was weak back, oh i was weak, because back then i still thought that people needed other people and so, now don't quote me on this, but i was actually a little bit happy (but i knew 'twouldn't last and it didn't)

and so there me was back on me bike thinkin and wonderin why and relivin moments and i eventually gots to that town and knocked on the door and put the note that kayla gave me in the hand that opened the door and waited while he read all them funny lookin letters and then he looked at me and nodded and smiled and said come on it and he showed me a litle place where i could lay my head and god bless me if it didn't have a door that i could close and leave this world and enter my yoga and be naked and in the end, and i mean this, in the end, all i ask of anyone on this planet is just one very simple thing and that's to leave me the hell alone, except for kayla of course, but she wasn't there....yet

and then there's a knockin and it's kayla's brother of all people and what a kind fellow he is and he says - what's ya doin'? - and i says - not a thing - and he says - you wanna go dig a hungarian movie? - and i says yes i do and we start walkin and there's this big international film festival on and it's all happenin and the streets is alive with people goin every which way eatin and laughin and jumpin and skippin and i'm in love with it all and we wait in a helluva line but we gets our tickets and sit in soft cushy seats and the lights go dim and we watch us this great film about how them gymnasts we all see on tv go through hell and back again when they is training at the oh so tender age of like 7 and it was sort of a documentary and it made me feel sad but it's good to feel sad and afterwards the director got up and his jeans was dirty and his shirt was old and worn and his left shoe had a hole in it and he had on black-rimmed glasses and he fielded questions and he was an artist and i wished i was too

well i thanked kayla's brother and we would meet tomorrow and i went back and boiled up some of that wheat stuff and i threw in some apples and a hint of salt and ate and went to sleep thinkin how tomorrow i'd see kayla again and how i was actually lookin forward to a tomorrow (for once) and it felt kinda nice to be doin so and this worried me to no end

my salt may have come from here

and the mornin' came and the yoga went too and then i started helpin all these people prepare for a big festival they's a gettin ready for and it was all these peta folks wanting to protect the animals and we was stuffin' bags to hand out with some informations in them and i felt guilty for knowin' in the back of me mind that i like to drink milk and eat yogurt and cain't afford all that soy stuff with all its fancy schmancy labels and little paragraphs that you read how nothin was harmed or hurted or maimed or killed in the making of any of it but what about that little bean, i mean, maybe it feel pain on some different level?

perhaps the rice in these fields feels pain, how can we know? how can we know anything?

and there we all was, people who i didn't know who the hell they were but it didn't matter because we was all stuffin these bags and they all talkin their vernacular dialect and i love my non-comprehension and silence and i'm just a machine stuffin what i been told to stuff where i been told to stuff it

and then kayla walk in the door and i was stuffed

and the story of this girl of course goes on and on (and on) and of course of course concludes but a man needs to have some things he keeps to himself and so i'll simply say that she didn't jump off that thirty foot building we climbed to the top of in the latvian sunset (and i didn't jump neither) and yes, yes she bought a ticket for a rendezvous with me in hungary, budapest, but i, and god of all the regrets i have, i told her, no, please don't come and don't ask me why the hell why because i ain't know and i hate myself and she didn't come and i left and went and since then the bracelet has broken and fallen off in bulgaria and greece and i repaired it and then it broke again in kazakhstan and i repaired it and then it fell off again somewhere and wherever that somewhere is is where that bracelet is and it's gone forever as everything ultimately will be and would have been and that's why there's no point in anything we do and it's good we didn't meet up in budapest (how glorious it is to lie to oneself) because, you see, because she woulda come and i woulda noticed a heretofore unnoticed imperfection and it's all i woulda seen and then that would have been that, i woulda had my excuse to never be with her because i'd a realized she ain't perfect, because, you see, at that moment when i told her not to come to budapest, she was still perfect, it wasn't ruined, everything was magnificent, and when you try to continue something like that, it's only a set-up for a splendid let-down and i've been let-down too many times and so by retreating within myself and closing all my doors and allowing the cobwebs to take over and strangle me, i saved myself a helluvalot of heartache and all makes perfect sense

are you reading this kayla? are you?

that monk wrapped in red whose eye i caught before i left his monastery and he spoke english and said - why ain't you sleep here? - and i says - hup hup! - and so i's living at this monastery and eating with the young buddhas in training and feasting on their food and drinking their tea and they all say - but you need a bed, we'll bring you a bed! - and i says - alls i want is the hard, unforgiving cold is suffering....buddha says so! - and they laugh but i'm dead serious and i was in this area of india/tibet/china/nebulous and my permit only had a couple days left on it and i's talking with this monk and he says - why ain't you come to my house, to my boyhood monastery, there gonna be a big festival there, come, stay with me, worry about nothing - and i says - hup hup! - and this means i gotta ride back to where i'd just come from and go back to bureaucracy and put soap in my armpits and smile real pretty and apply for ~another~ golddern permit but i do it and, on the journey, cross over the highest mountain pass road in the world and a helluva road it was, and down the other side back to a town and i get the slip of paper and meet up with the monk and how many monks and a hIrSch can fit into one of the smallest cars you ever seen in the world?, well, it ain't matter cause we squeezed it in and took off towards tibet and all the hell up we went to the ~third~ highest mountain pass road in the world and that poor poor engine wheezing and sputtering and us pushing and jamming rocks under the tires and hell we made it because with buddha on our side, how could we not? and then we got to the military check point and that man said - no! - and he ain't speak english so that monk took up my case and showed the permit and my passport and visa and everything and they went forth and back and it was like watching a tennis match without knowing a thing about tennis and finally, exasperated all to hell, that military man yielded and away we went laughing and saying how ain't nothin gonna stop us and i was as close to tibet as you can get

do you see the prayer wheel? do you see that old pilgrim? do you see that old woman with the faith of a pillar? do you see the tea? do you see that big monk? do you see that little monk? do you see buddha? buddha is me! i'm buddha!

and there we was at his family's home surrounded by these peaks that ain't scarred by rich folks' homes or no dam ski lifts and his throat-cancered mother and forever-smiling father and tea made from salty yak butter and balls of barley and all those monks and their masks and their dancing and prayers and drums and cymbals and chants and their allowance of me to be a part of it all and i'll never understand religion but i finally understand that that's just what religion is, an attempt at understanding things that cannot be understood, and if we'd all just take a deep breath, admit this, and not worry about it so much, there wouldn't be so much finger pointin in this goldderned world and no one would be saying how they was right and them was wrong and let's kill all the wrong folks to show them we right

and i've said it before and i'll say it again here (and again somewhere else, i'm sure) but all i want from this world is to be left the hell alone and for peace and quiet and solitude and a good book and some paper and a pen and bananas and a small splintery wooden spoon and some milk and something crunchy and just a little salty and if i'm lucky some dates to chew on too and that's all i want and one morning i was desperately looking for just that and every gold blessed place you go in india and you think you're alone, all you gotta do is count to point 5 (0.5), and someone is going to pop out from somewhere and make you say hell and mandate a moving on and that's what was happening until i finally spotted a lonely shack in the distance and i says to myself - the world be derned, i'm taking my break there - but when i got there it didn't feel right and there was an old mangy mutt i knew wouldn't leave me alone (it's always something) and the only place in the shade was covered with that mongrel's defecatory remnants and i hated it all as i so often do and so while i turned my bike i heard ~and felt~ a gawdawful sound of a noise and a pang and wondered what in the hell it was but was too hungry and world-weary to care until i realized i ~couldn't move~ my bike and so i craned my neck and gave everything a look over and criminy if my golddern trailer hadn't broken, i mean to say that one of the steel arms that connects the trailer to my bike had snapped all to hell right in half and lord i told myself i should just quit and stop and throw in the white towel and go home and get in the fetal position and suck my thumb and whimper and ask for cold wash cloths from my mother and forget about this whole foolish bike ride of a life (such a crybaby, me) and i was exhaling with closed eyes aimed towards a maybe heaven and then opening them (real slowly) hoping i'd been mistaken but there it was, a piece of unbreakable steel cleanly broken right in golddern half and so i said (to meself, to that flea sack of a hound, and also to god) - ok, now? - and so i did the only thing a man can do and that's to return to the road, the only place for man to be, and i stuck out my thumb without a doubt that i'd never get a ride and less than two minutes later a huge empty truck screeched to a halt and through gestures we all got on the same page and they seemed to know what to do and where to go and they says - hop in! - and i says - yes! - and so there the three of us are crammed all to hell in this cab and i was on my way 20 miles ~back~ the very same identical sad way i'd just come, back to a relatively big village where i prayed there'd be a man with a welding torch and lord those truckers ~moved~ and honked and passed on curves and chewed tobacco and spit and said god knows what to all those young girls in saris and i was just holding on for dear sweet life and then we stopped and they said it was time for breakfast and that seemed to take about 17 hours (though it was 10 minutes max, but when something else is on my mind, everything always ~seems~ like 17 hours) and back to the road and we were racing and slaloming through the cows finally reaching that same dern town i'd ridden through two hours ago and that man i bought my bananas from was still selling bananas and that woman at the well was still washing clothes and that man without a home or a lick to eat was still homeless and starving and everything is the same no matter if you're in kentucky or india and then these truckers spin the wheel and turn off into this grassy muddy horrible field and i don't know what the hell's going on because i've got to find someone with a welding torch but we go bouncing along and then we just stop and get out and wrangle my bicycle and trailer down to the ground and who knows what the hell but i've learned in india you don't ask you just do it and keep doing it and something will somehow come up and now we're walking in this field through herds of ornery sheep and fresh cow patties that they adroitly avoid and i somehow never notice until it's easing up over the cusp of my sandals and settling into my toenails and then sure enough in the back of nowhere, india, here's a sad old man ~with a welding torch~ and no goggles or facemask to speak of and sparks spewing and he's working on a dinosaur of a car and when he sees me he completely forgets what he's doing and almost welds his ankle right off and i show him what needs to be done and he motions that he can do it and i have my doubts but ignore them and i says to meself - here go nothing, kiddo - and he fires it up and kicks a goat and spits to his left and fires it up stronger and shakes his head no and i swallow my heart and he's doing all sorts of things the purpose of which i don't understand nor do i care to and then he douses the whole getup in cold water that instantly vaporizes to a cloud of steam and it's like i'm in heaven looking at god as that welding man comes back into focus and he's smiling and i check out the mend and it looks good enough but i'm still scared (i'm always scared) and sad for it but i load it up and give it a test run and it's holding and i know in 5 minutes it'll break but that's five more minutes i'll have on the road and there's really nowhere else to be and i ask him - how much? - and i'm ready to be fleeced but he says - it's free! - and touches his heart and i won't hear of it and insist on giving him a fair price and so finally he says - ok, 20 rupees ($0.40 usd) - and the crowd that has amassed amongst us agrees this is fair and i can't believe it and i take off and say to hell with riding those 20 miles back to where it broke so i thumb it again and god bless india i get my lift (though it takes forever to get but one must ~never~ lose faith in the road) and i get back to where i was, to where i had been, to where that mongrel still is (as with everything, we end where we begin) and i hit the road and wouldn't you know it if that weld held and everything was fine and, as with everything in life, the immediacy of the crisis had passed as everything passes and now everything was ok as everything will always be ok if you just ride it out and let it pass and i was laughing at the world but really and mostly at myself

power cuts, the plague of india, all of the sudden, no power for hours, no one really knows why, it's a mystery, i took up the cause, i searched low and high and down in the ditches, and i found this man and the reason for it all

now i cain't tell a hitching story without telling this compendious concise and curt scanty saga :

now i hadn't seen billy in almost two years, and so when he walked in the room at 3am i jumped up from a restless sleep to give him a big hug but we both agreed to keep it quiet and save it for later because sleep was vital and so we both talked for hours and soon enough it was dawn and we were both drunk with sleeplessness and it was time to go because it's always time to go

now billy was and is a true friend and we'd spent time together in the jungles where only certain types of bonds can bind two people together and he'd told me he was going to fly to wherever i was and meet me and i told him to tell me when and i'd let him know where i would be and, not that i specifically doubted billy but i just doubted people meeting me in general, because so many people had talked about it but "this or that" had come up and it never happened but with billy it ~happened~ and when i saw him open that door at 3am the first thing i said was - hell, ~you came!~ - and he said - yup! -

we'd agreed i'd park my bike wherever i was and that we'd thumb it on a road to somewhere, wherever where turned out to be, and i got out my maps and showed him a pretty nice where and billy was excited but i told him that this where was a long long way away but he was all in and it'd been a long while since i'd hitched and i couldn't wait to be back out on that road because there really is no better way to travel even though most people are scared of it because all you ever read in the paper about it is how so-and-so was killed but for every so-and-so there are thousands of success stories of spectacular rides to everywhere but that's not news because it doesn't make someone stop stirring the spaghetti sauce and that's all news is these days, stuff that makes you stop stirring the spaghetti sauce

speaking of stopping things, there was a big argument going on about this fish, you can see remnants of it with the two fingers that are still pointing, anyhow, i hate arguments, there's enough hate in this world already, so, pretending i had no idea what was going on, i, very touristically, asked to take a photo of the fish, hoping to bring peace, and so i took a photo, and smiled goofily, and walked on, and when i looked back, there was no more argument, but the fish was still dead

so here it was dawn and when i came back from the toilet good ol' lil billy was resting his eyelids so i ballet danced around the room like the ballerina i always wished i were and though in truth i was itching with the rash of the road to get gone, the last thing i'd ever want to do is disturb someone's sleep, especially billy's, so i quietly pranced around and soon enough, good ol' billy began to stir and i said - come on boy, hup hup!, let's get it going kid! - and he smiled and scratched at his shoulders

we caught up some more full of untold stories and plenty of time to tell them all (and make up some too) and billy is somewhat of a philosopher and he brought me a book that could double as a brick for a house and i hated that he brought it because, and i jump in and out of this, but i was in one of my everything-comes-from-thyself phases and it was such a phase where i wanted nothing to do with such pedantics because i just know that somehow i will unintentionally (though secretly ~in~tentionally) regurgitate what i'd read and there i'd be trying to pass it off as an original thought and the thought of being exposed as a phony, which is certainly an appropriate adjective for me, sort of makes my stomach ache and anyhow, i think i may have hurt billy's feelings when i told him all this after he'd lugged it across two continents but i felt i must be honest because there's just something about billy that demands honesty and when i thought he was about to cry he tossed it on the bed and said - well, i'm saving it for you regardless 'cause you gotta read this book and someday you ~will~ read this book and you'll know why - and he was smiling and it all passed

i was reading this book, it was about alaska, it was sent to me here in india by someone i met in san francisco, then we lived together but separately on some dots in the ocean, then she left before me and i never said goodbye to her which is exactly how it should have been, and now she lives in alaska, and as i was reading i looked up and said, is this alaska?, and then i said, no, this is india, and then i said, but what does it matter?

it was time for the daunting task of going to purchase our food for the trip and there we were, me and billy, from the jungled isles of the pacific to patagonia, with the two elapsed years between us suddenly vaporized to nothingness and it was like we were almost holding hands while lovingly arguing over which flavor of jelly we should get

but now was no time to hold hands -...- it was time to walk

there are all different methods of hitching and i've given them all my best thumb, but billy here, he was a virgin and it was his first time so i was sensitive to his needs and took things slowly and gently and i explained that we should just walk until we got out of the city center where traffic was gong this way and that way and every which way and there was no way to tell who was ~going~ and once we got out of the city we could easily see who was in it for the long-haul and that's what we were looking for, the long-haul, and with the deference of an innocent child, billy agreed and i loved him for it

so we walked and held out our thumbs and got battered by those patagonian winds but we were fresh and free and nothing was ahead of us other than the open road and the excitement and madness of it all was setting in and nothing could break us and before we knew it we were in a garbage truck for a little ride out to the dump and what an awful smelly and entirely too short of a ride it was but it did set us up even better because now we were further out of town and it's like i've always said, you ~never~ refuse a ride in your direction so we took it and felt even better for it because now we were not only on the road but on the move, the best of all possible combos

the road in india is full of surprises, i stayed ahead of this fella, were i behind him, i would have had an obstacle course of feculence to slalom through, and, frankly, i have enough on my mind already

so there we were at the dump and we started walking a little and then something peculiar happened, in fact, a first for me and what a first it turned out to be because a car passed us without even the hesitation of a brake tap and off it went and then about a kilometer up the road it came to a halting stop and did a wild u-turn and started barreling right for us and i got a little uneasy and imagined body tackling billy out of the way and sacrificing myself but billy was so happy saying - look! look! it's coming back just for us! - that i decided to just let him revel in the moment and as it turns out being happy was right (for once) because this car's occupants apologized for passing us as if they had sinned and were seeking forgiveness and i said - hail mary! - and then they told us to get in the back of their covered utility truck with all sorts of wires and circuits and electrocuting devices and i was sitting on top of an old tv and billy was nestled in a corner and we were off for the best kind of ride, in the back of the truck where you ain't gotta talk to no one and you ain't gotta listen neither, you just ride and go and get more and more road behind you, and they'd said they'd take us all the way to the border with chile and i said - billy my boy, billy, now listen to me and listen to me well - and then i said - yes! yes! -

but then because i am unfortunately myself, i got scared because it was all going too smoothly which let me know it would somehow come crashing down on us in the end

but we got that ride all the way to the border and it was the end of the line for them and still barely the beginning for us and into the office we went and got all the stamps we could ever want in our passports and stepped over a line somewhere and left argentina behind and crossed the threshold of chile and then we took a short break and got some food because lord it really is hard to eat when you're on the road hitching because you're never ~really sure~ if you have 15 minutes or 2 hours left of riding time and you don't want to be shoved out on the road with half a sandwich you may accidentally drop and also you can't just start opening bags and getting cracker crumbs all over the place so we grabbed a bite and while we did there was absolutely no traffic going by and this can be looked at two ways and the first way is : good, we didn't miss any potential rides and the second way is : bad, there ~are no~ potential rides, but billy didn't notice one way or the other, god bless him, and how i wish i could not notice things too, so i just let him keep on enjoying his snacks and then i said - well, we better start thumbing it - but then billy announces that he had to poop and oh what horrible tragic timing it was because ~right~ when he closed that door and latched it behind him and got everything going, wouldn't you know it if a car pulled up with some young hipsters that i am certain would have given us the ride we needed and though i was sick about missing this ride i couldn't bear to interrupt billy's bowels because really there's nothing worse, and the hipsters hopped off and though i shouldn't have ever told billy about the timing of his poop coinciding with the hipster ride, i did (and felt evil and awful) and i wished i hadn't because he became sullen but after some moments i said - don't sweat it billy, we all have to poop - but that didn't make him nor me feel any better about anything

yes, pooping is a universal human activity, one i enjoy immensely, but not so much amidst an audience, even an aundience of only one, but on this very morning, this apparition of a man refused to depart, so i did the deed right in front of him, and then, because he was now a part of my life, i took his picture, and words were never spoken between us

well we waited and waited and waited and those big rigs were just blowing us by and you can't blame them (though i did) and billy and i were just sitting there on our packs jumping up every time something came by and i looked over at billy and saw looks of concern and i knew he had something to say and was working up the nerve so i just sat there and waited and soon enough he started in on about maybe trying to take a bus rather than hitch and this ripped me apart real good because we had already set and agreed upon the rules for this trip and besides i didn't have the money for such luxuries and now i was cursing all the luck we'd been having because i could tell billy was dependent on that luck rather than grateful for it and he hadn't developed the patience for it and hitchhiking is waiting somewhere in the driving cold rain and snow combo with nothing coming or going and chattering teeth and untold depths of depression and then five hours of pure suffering later a car stops and is going exactly where you wanted to go and the heat's on full blast and he says - i got this pack of cookies i don't want, you hungry? - and you're set and the key to it all is patience and admittedly patience is something i lack but somehow, with hitchhiking, i could wait a gold blessed forever because i know, eventually, i'll be going on that road and making my way to where i need to be, wherever i decide that place is

so i told billy to just take it easy and steady out and he sort of did but i could still see a wrinkle in his brow and there was nothing i could do and oh these lonely roads, these lonely roads and the two of us sitting around at this dusty border station just wanting to move and not see it anymore and then a car crested the endless horizon broken only by sheep and i says - billy! billy! now ~maybe~ this is it! but only maybe now, only maybe - and there it was, a ~station wagon~ and we could only see two people inside and we looked at each other and shared an anxious hope and licked our lips at the potentiality but i told billy to just calm down and play it cool but really i was telling myself and the car stopped and it was a young'ish man and woman and, out of the corner of my mouth, i said - now cool it billy, let's just smile and wave and say hello and let them go inside and do what they gotta do with border control, we can't rush this, we can't force it kid - and they smiled back and then finally the guy came back out but my heart sank because he looked all harried and rushed and annoyed and i knew it wasn't the right time but i was boiling inside and despite myself and my warnings to billy i asked him anyway and i says - could me and my friend billy here, ahem, could we get a ride? - and the thing was, he needed a document out of his car and he couldn't find it in his disaster of a glove compartment and so he was frustrated and the last thing he needed was a question from a bum but still i asked and, understandably given the circumstances, he kind of blew me off but i could have swore he said - yes, ok, yeah, just wait - and then ran back inside with a sheet of paper and when it was just me and billy again, i said - billy, billy, what'd he say? - and billy said - i think he said yes! - and then ~i~ said - yes! yes! he must have said yes! - but something in me wasn't sure but i didn't let billy see that something in me because he was pure joy and i couldn't bear to ruin it

they came out and i sort of one-shouldered my big backpack and billy and i smiled real wide and toothy and by god the man waved us in and lord the woman with him was cute and there was oodles of room in this wagon but he never said where we should put our packs and if there're two things you don't do when the whole hitch is getting initiated it's that you don't start shoving your stuff wherever the hell because most people are orderly and everything has its place and position and you don't want to go screwing that up and the other thing you don't do is start asking a bunch of questions to cluster the whole thing up with confusion so billy and i got in and lapped our gawdawfully heavy packs and we could barely breathe and my left ankle was contorted all to hell but we did what we had to do to and got the doors shut and that man shifted into drive and i couldn't give a dam anymore about my left ankle and right when i stopped giving a dam the man looks over his shoulder and says - why don't you put your packs in the back? - and billy and i toss them over the seat and the wind is on our faces and a ribbon of road is stretched out before us and i says - that's our road billy, that's ~our road~ - and then billy says - sorry for wanting the bus... -

this is my road, it is lonely, i would have it no other way, at least that's what i keep telling myself

the shared conversation amongst us all started slowly but once it got a little momentum everything got much more comfortable and so the first stage of the hitch was over and billy and i had established ourselves as first-class passengers and we all settled in for the ride and then they got out some tea in a thermos and shared it with us and any lingering doubts i may have had no longer lingered after that because that shared tea meant billy and i were set

the only hovering question was that we weren't really sure where the hell this couple was even going and they had mentioned some places that were on our way but neither lil' billy nor myself could figure out their final and ultimate destination and we occasionally whispered about it in the backseat and then we decided it didn't matter because we were on the move and the guy was absolutely killing it on this dirt road just beating down on his car and they didn't care and we didn't care and what can be better than universal apathy?

aww, but hell if they didn't suddenly start in on a real serious talk up there in the front seat and there was some disagreement and even the fringes of an argument and i swallowed hard and the voices were increasing in volume and i got a little nervous in my belly because we were in the middle of the patagonian grass/wastelands and if we got dumped out here we'd be in a heap of hurt and billy looked over at me for reassurance so i kind of patted him on the knee and curled my thumb and pointer finger into a circle while spreading out the rest of my fingers and gave him a wink and a nod and that set him at ease but something was up and i knew it couldn't be good

expect the worst; you'll never be disappointed

what the deal was was that we had to take a ferry to cross the magellan strait but by the time we got to the ferry it would be closed so it was the end of the line for tonight and we needed to stop and sleep and get the very first morning ferry and that was the subject of their discussion and if i had to guess the guy was saying that he could goose it and get there by ten (when the ferry closed) but the lady was exhausted and wanted to spend the night in a hotel with all the amenities but they were muffling their voices such that i could only catch bits and pieces and they had, reluctantly for the guy i'm sure, decided on the latter

so this posed a peculiar position for me and billy because what the heck were we gonna do with both of us dirtbagging it with a couple dollars budgeted for each day and there was no way in high heavens we could ever even think of getting some hotel (well, billy could, but not me) and plus, what in tarnation was going to happen tomorrow morning and was this it and what the hell and i had a million questions and started to sweat

but we kept on moving and then they pulled into this little pueblo where i had actually ridden my bike weeks before and i recognized everything, and, more importantly and thank god for my disease of being unable to forget because i remembered a little shack just outside the town where i was almost certain no one would be which meant it was a place where billy and i could pass the night in peace and free freedom

and now's when it was time to get a plan in order so that we could all know what the hell was going on and so i said - sooo, you're going to get a hotel for the night? - and they said yes and so i said, well, i think billy and i will sleep just outside of town but it would be awfully nice and good of you if we could all meet up again tomorrow morning and catch that ferry.... - i had no idea what they would say to this unprecedented overnight hitch proposal but billy and i got the answer we wanted and we felt like con-men but not really and they went to their hotel and we told them we'd meet them at 8am sharp the next morning and off billy and i went to find that shack

it was pitch black and billy was following real close, i think he may be afraid of the dark, but i wouldn't let him use his flashlight because the last thing we needed was to draw unneeded attention to ourselves and screw up what was looking to be an ideal situation and i told him i knew what i was doing though, truth be told, i started thinking maybe i had just imagined the dam shack to be here and that actually it was somewhere else but jiminy crickets when i saw it right where i knew it had to be out their in the distance looking as dark and dismal as ever and i said - billy, we're home! - and we went inside and there wasn't a soul (unless rats have souls) but the two of ours in there and we cooked up some soup and pasta (billy didn't cook the noodles correctly but i said nothing) and ate some chocolate and started hooting and hollering and remembering how the chips were down on our hitch and here we were half way across chile and we had a guaranteed ride for tomorrow and what could be better than all of that and hell this sad shack too and a full stomach and i said - so do you see now billy? do you see? do you ~get it~? - and he said - yes man! i got it! - and we brushed our teeth under the stars and fell asleep

the sun came up with no conclusions and i had none myself but i knew we had a ride to catch so i hurried billy up and he's gawdawful slow in the mornings but i knew that we should get back to that hotel parking lot early because who the hell knew, maybe ~they'd~ gotten up early and were going to opt for an early start and they had no obligation to us and if we weren't there the ride would be gone and there are always other rides but this one was on and hot and if we missed it because we were lazy well hell, what a loss it would be and so i told billy - hey man, come on, let's go, better us be out there waiting on them, you know? - and he grunted and groaned and we finally took to our feet back to the hotel parking lot

those are my feet, the outer ones, they're not dirty, they're just "india'ed"

and it wasn't five minutes that we waited before they popped out with their bags and started packing up and i felt real bad when they said they paid $100 for a room and a dinner when billy and i had only spent about $0.80 but i kept that to myself and the man went back inside to straighten everything out and the woman was organizing the luggage and then something happened and that was that the guy's shaving cream can had exploded from the cold and went everywhere including the seat of his girlfriend's pants and gold bless it all to tarnation if billy, in all good faith, didn't try to let her know by pointing to it and attempting to brush it away with his hand and there it was, billy pointing at the girl's rear, the girl contorting her body to see what billy was pointing at, and just then good god the guy walks out and sees this scene and billy is as innocent as an angel but it sure don't look that way, it looks like he's trying to goose her, and i thought for sure we'd lose our ride right then and there and the guy had a look of - what the hell?! - on his face and just as i was about to step in and attempt to defuse the situation, he realizes what has happened and there's one of those brief and incredibly uncomfortable moments where every one is frozen and speechless wondering what the hell is going to happen next and what happens is this man lets out a thundering laugh (from deep in his belly) and then i laugh and then billy and the girl laugh and we're all laughing and soon enough we're all shuffling into the car and still laughing and i'm just thinking that i hope the laughter continues until the key is turned and we're on our way and it does and we're off

but at the end of the laugh, and i hated to do it, but i had to get a little serious and tell billy to start thinking a little more because he really could have blown it for us back there and i also thought how if this guy would just grow a dam beard none of it would have happened and why aren't there more beards, i mean, do you ~enjoy~ shaving every goldblessed morning?

that ferry took us straight across the strait of magellan and that water churned behind us in a mad turbulence and you could feel the spray on your cheeks and the ocean is not the road but maybe it's the next best thing because you can ~go~ on the ocean too and lord it's an enormous thing and when you try to think how everything works with the sky and the ocean and how deep and full of life it is and it keeps to its place despite all our spinning and revolving and then these chunks of land we walk on and then the stars and everything that goes on forever and there isn't any point in thinking about it because none of it makes sense and so you just look around and dig the dolphins and alls you can do is thank god for it all, for everything, for billy, for yourself, for the station wagon, for beards, but most of all for the road

and it was then i learned how much billy liked boats and hell if he didn't kept asking to meet "a real sailor" but i had to tell him to pipe down

yes, billy liked boats, billy liked sailors, billy likes me, and billy likes you, and billy, these boats are for you buddy billy my boy, god i miss you, enjoy your time in nigeria

back to the road, solid ground, mother earth, dirt, oceans behind us, in front of us, to our sides, and probably even above us too

and fifteen minutes later the guy eases to the slowest stop you could imagine and i look at billy and billy looks at me and the girl is looking at the guy and no one knows what's going on until the guy says - diablo! outta gas! -

so now the four of us are on the side of the road trying to figure out what the hell to do next and it's just us and the tumbleweeds and the wind and the guy tells us to look for something to use as a funnel and a hose and i find a plastic bottle that we cut into a funnel but we never found a hose and after about an hour of standing around looking at each other and scratching our feet in the sand and constantly watching the road for something, ~anything~, sure enough, a truck stops and the guy, with his mouth, siphons enough gas out of the truck into the station wagon to get us to the next town and he gives the truck driver a wad of bills and we're off again, thank god, thank gas

we filled 'er up at the next town where these folks whom must have been sent by the hand of god herself insisted on treating us to lunch and i hated myself more than ever when i had to monkey it all up by refusing, albeit politely, his offers of beer and meat and cigarettes but billy took the beer for the team and it seemed that to make up for my lack of participation that this man had another and another and another and i could tell his lips were tingling and he crunched up his last can, threw it to the wind, and said - tiempo para salir! - and so it was time to go and we went

it's better to buy it in white styrofam wrapped in clear plastic...

...that way you really don't know

i kept my eye on our driver and i was a little concerned because he started getting real tired and his

eyes were drooping and his girl was already out cold and there was billy next to me buzzing a little bit himself and i was the only one in the world who knew what the hell was going on and that we were all going to die so i took matters into my own hands because they're the only ones i got and i started engaging the driver in dreadful small talk which killed me because i hate it but at least it kept his dam eyes open but eventually i ran out of things to say and billy was snoring and i nudged him awake and i says - billy, now focus and listen billy, i think our driver is blitzed, and - and right then he swerved into oncoming traffic and the guy he almost rammed head on at umpteen hundred kilometers per hour starts honking all to hell (as he should have) and our driver languorously flips him off as if it's ~his~ fault that we almost killed his entire family and now billy is wide awake and the timing was perfect because not a kilometer later the guy slams on the brakes and yanks the wheel to the right and we screech to a halt and all the dust and pebbles and gravel go flying off ahead of us and he tells us that this is where they turn but that we gotta keep going straight; our ride is over, and i'm actually glad

we all mumble some goodbyes and of course billy and i are incredibly thankful for the hundreds of miles this guy and his girl have carried us and we shake hands several times and finally they're on their way and we're not and so there billy and i were back on the side of the road with packs on our backs and hope in our hearts and thumbs pointing the way we wished to go and not a dam car in sight

we walked for a little while and then sat down for a while and then walked a little more and then sat down again and decided to set up a target to throw pebbles at and i let billy win at this game which helped take his mind of all the rides we weren't getting even though we'd interrupt the game every time a car passed, which was not often at all, but when it happened it was all that mattered in the world, and then a huge double decker bus full of rich detergent-smelling tourists stopped and i couldn't believe it and the guy told us to jump in...but....that we'd have to pay however much he said and so we politely thanked him and let him get on his way even though billy wanted to pay because he was losing his patience for the road and i knew it broke billy's heart to see that monster of a bus become only a speck, until, that is, we met alexander

alexander stopped a good bit beyond us so we shouldered our packs and made a run for it but then i told billy - whoa boy, easy now - and we slowed our trot because alexander was pissing in front of his car and he held up a hand and said - just give me one moment here fellas - and when he wrapped up he eagerly shook our hands with that very same hand he had just pissed with and we piled in his little coupe and we were off at ferocious, red-lining speeds as alexander explained he needed to get to his mother's before dark because his car had no lights and we told him where we needed to get off and he said he'd drop us and then he went into his whole sad life story and god bless poor lonely alexander and all his troubles and woes and i listened and looked out the window and saw people off in the distance and i knew that everyone in this world has a story and how can we ever know it all? and then for the next little while there was a glorious silence but alexander kept turning his wrist to check his watch and kept spinning the dial for a non-existent radio station and he did this so repeatedly and often it was enough to drive me mad but we had our ride so i kept quiet and alexander was quiet and billy was quiet and soon billy and i were dumped off on a desolate dirt road that led to where we needed to go and now it was just a matter of getting there

and so we walked and walked and walked and watched the sun get lower and lower and who knew if we were going to get a ride on this dusty road and where we were going to sleep and hungry and thirsty too and then billy starts talking up a storm about this dam movie he'd seen and i swear he tells me the whole plot and dialogue and is quoting it and painting the storylines and telling me exactly what happens next all the way up to the very ending and he says - i told you all that because i was thinking it and i know you'll probably never see the movie anyway - and wouldn't you know it if in buenos aires, months later, i found a bargain cinema and the only dam movie playing was the one billy had already explained in agonizing detail but i said what the hell and watched it anyway and the thing was, ~every~thing that happened was ~exactly~ as billy had said and it was like i was sitting in that theater but i was really back on the road with billy in the middle of nowhere, patagonia (which is already a nowhere in and of itself) and when it ended just as billy had said it would i walked out and said - dam billy! you really ruined that show for me kid! - but i wasn't sore at him for it

and then a bus, this one smaller and gloriously empty, came by and i said - no, billy, no - but it stopped and the driver told us to jump on board - for free! - he says and so we did and he was lonely (everyone is) and so we cheered him up with our tales from the road and he took us to a little town where we thanked him and we found a small shop to buy some bread and heard about a man named raul, pronounced ra-hule, and we were given a hand drawn map on how to find him and we followed that map and knocked on a door and inquired and had no idea what to expect which is how life should be

just like i had no idea i'd look over and see jesus, you see him?, walking on the water

a great commotion erupted inside the house and billy and i just standing on the doorstep in our own little movie waiting to see what happens next and out steps a man with a thick mustache curved on the ends and a booming voice to boot and if you ever in your life imagined a man from chile, well then, you've already seen raul and he nodded us to follow him and we did and we got in his truck and threw our packs in the back and were off to who the hell knows where, his silence and indifference was admirable, and we stop at this barracks-like looking place and a man came out and raul said a few words to him and all he said to us was - ok - and then raul left (never to be seen again) and that other man waved us in and the next thing billy and i knew was that we had a roof and a piping pot-bellied stove to cook our food on top of and a toilet and a place on the floor to call home and we didn't really know exactly where we were, but we didn't give a dam because we were where we never had been which meant we were on our way to somewhere

soon enough a helluva horde of folks started filing in and we started meeting other people who slept there too and they didn't act at all surprised to meet us and that's what i love about latin america is how everything doesn't have to be such a goldblessed big deal and they carried on with their business and we carried on with ours and it's not like they weren't friendly or nice, it was just that they didn't fuss over us which was a relief and soon enough these boys, you could tell they'd been working all day and would do the same tomorrow and all their tomorrows and you also knew that when they had a day off they spent it on boozing and finding girls and playing cards and telling stories full of lies and anyhow, soon enough, they shuffled off to their quarters to fall down, weary boned and exhausted, on their hard, cruel beds

but one guy stayed behind in the room with me and billy and lord he started stoking up the fire in that pot-bellied stove and that thing was roaring and glowing red like a sumabritch and even though it was freezing outside, billy and i were down to short sleeves and sweating and we were in hell and we even said so but it was a good hell because there was a tv and this lonely guy turned it on and billy and i were both watching with half an eye and eating our supper of burnt noodles (billy's fault, he didn't stir) when what to our wondering eyes might appear but, in the middle of this seemingly innocuous "news" show, a dozen ladies took the stage, each with a walking cane in hand, and did a fabulous little number dancing around and swinging those canes every which way, but the canes weren't the only things swinging all around because each and every one of these poor girls didn't have a stitch of clothing on above their waists and well, truth be told, it was nice for billy and i to see some boobies (and this lone ranger of a guy with us was in a trance licking his lips)

those aren't boobies, they're feet

when the boobies were over, the guy, with a satisfied grin, turned off the tv and said goodnight and we took his cue and went to sleep ourselves, all our minds full of naughty thoughts but it was good to be getting some sleep because we still had a good distance to hitch in the morning and the earlier the start, the better because every second that goes by is wasted time no matter what you are doing because there is always something else you ~could~ be doing that you're not

and just like this parrot told me, i ~should~ be spending my time watching satellite tv and keeping up with the sitcoms

dang it all to high heavens if billy wasn't feeling very well in the morning

so before trying to get a lift out to the seemingly forever away torres del paine national park, our destination in all this madness, we had to wait for some stores to open to get him some medicine and he swallowed it down and we both prayed it would work and it seemed to because within about a half an hour his spirits were up and we were out on the road, where everyone should be, where i should be now, where you should be now, and with our thumbs back out and hope back in our hearts wouldn't you know it if some yachties from england didn't immediately pick us up and tell us they'd take us "all the way" which were words i was happy to hear seeing as the sun was getting up there and billy and i'd counted on this as a full day of walking on the trails and we still hadn't even got there and i couldn't care but he was the one with an airplane ticket and a date and time burning a hole in his pocket

it's good to have nothing in your pockets

and in the back seat we got out our hiking maps and started doing calculations (calculations we would repeat innumerable times such that it became a seemingly hourly ritual) and it always went something like - ok, so it's tuesday and you have to be on a plane by wednesday and so that gives us eight nights and if we count on two full days of hitching that gives us six days of hiking and a total of (whatever it was) kilometers to cover so, dividing, we must walk (whatever it was) kilometers a day and no less and i think we could traverse this glacier and cut off at least (whatever it was) kilometers and that would give us a little pad of time in case.... - and lord how many times we did this and re-crunched the numbers and it got to be a joke

hell if these yachties weren't also "photographers" and they, it seemed, stopped every 100 meters to take a picture of this or that and all i wanted to do was just get there but i could tell it was going to take forever and it did but i have to say i was glad to be in the car when it started sleeting and snowing and blowing with that patagonian fury but these things were only preludes of what was to come

eternities later we got to the ranger station and said goodbye to our yachties in what was now a cold, windy rain and we paid a ridiculous amount of money for our permits and god bless billy and the fact that he had a job and that the money he just handed over would be replaced and i wondered what that was like because i don't know what it's like and would like to know, minus the having to work part of it

by now it was late afternoon and we needed to eat and it was raining anyway so we sat under an overhang in front of the public toilets and ignored the smell and ate our lunch and watched people go in and out and they always looked a little happier coming out and they always looked at us with a slanted suspicious eye like we were videotaping them and putting them on the internet or something and it was still drizzling but at this point i insisted we get our move on and billy wasn't too happy about my insistence but he complied and while we were packing up we heard some people from the united states of north america complaining that their bus, which was due at 2, had not arrived seeing as it was 3 or 4 and i heard them say how this would "never happen in america" and i thought to meself how they're in america, just the southern part of it, but it wasn't worth calling them dingbats over even though i would have liked to and there are alot of things in my mind that i'd like to do or say but i never have the courage

finally, packs on backs, feet in shoes, shoes in mud....~~moving~~....

now a word about my shoes and actually i didn't have shoes and billy brought me some from the states - now hIrSch, here are the shoes you wanted, and i forgot to get them really, so on my layover in miami i went ripping downtown in a cab and found these at a salvation army and i know that it's not exactly what you wanted but.... - and hell if they weren't the biggest clown shoes you could ever imagine and i felt like a fool in the dam things and, in reality, hated them, but loved billy for bringing them but i could tell they were going to rub me raw

hell if the rain and the wind and the diabolic weather in patagonia didn't pick up and start treating us like boxing bags and then, after barely walking a couple of miles, we came upon this nice big shelter with picnic tables and everything and even though we both knew this would cost us in the long run, we decided to stay the night but not before we got out our maps and went into the whole rigmarole of a calculation of everything again and each time we did this it seemed we had more and more kilometers to cover each day but it was indeed a nice shelter and we each claimed a picnic table as our bed and sat around and read our books and talked of the past and the future and watched these bright yellow birds land on these bright yellow flowers right in front of our faces and it was a beautiful thing to see and i'm glad we took the time to see it and one other guy came by and billy and i were worried he'd want to sleep in the shelter too but he was walking the opposite way and was heading out to the ranger station and just took a little break and thank god for that because the last thing we needed was to start having to talk and "introduce" ourselves and go through the fiasco of all that after we'd been doing exactly that for the past three days on the road

now the next morning we woke up early and i told billy - now billy, no farting around today, today we ~move~ - and thankfully the meds had worked and he was feeling better and he concurred and that's what we did : walk, and it was sunny and warm and nice and those mountains barely had a grip on those hanging glaciers and billy and i talked and talked and now he's married and he told me about those things and then we came across the first "designated" place to stay on this trail and it had all these tent sights and cabins and even a cooking hut and was swarming with people and the charges to stay at these "designated" places were outrageous and that's why i told billy we were going to have to be stealth about where we slept because if the rangers saw us in a "non-designated" place, we might be in for it but on that particular day we indeed stopped to make use of the cooking hut because they had stoves you could use for free and we needed to save our fuel, and, actually, as billy cooked up our noodles i took stock of our food situation and realized we were going to be hungry and so i looked for a way around this and my eyes led me to a trash can where i found all sorts of goodies including an entire loaf of bread, and, in addition, there was a "freebie" shelf where people put food they didn't want or need anymore and lord there was some great stuff that was soon no longer "freebie" because i swept those shelves clean and it was all in my rucksack and while billy, who insisted on being chief cook, cooked up some more burnt noodles i just sort of watched all these gringos go about their business and marveled at how much they talked and laughed and always smiling and how happy they seemed to be and it all made me sad because it seemed that none of them knew the joy of silence or of sadness and there was this one girl in the hut who sat alone at the end of a bench and she had her porridge and her book and her world and herself and god how she read that book and didn't even look as her spoon dove into the porridge and emerged with a heap that she keenly and effortlessly without spilling a dollop moved to her mouth and i loved her deeply and sadly but said nothing to her because, had i, it would have ruined the very thing i loved

we crunched through our noodles and i knew billy knew he had screwed up again and so i didn't reinforce it by pointing out the obvious and we hoisted our packs and left and it was halloween that day and we decided we would be halloween ninjas and attack other hikers but we never ended up attacking anyone though we told elaborate stories of how we were ~just about to~ and then we discussed our favorite childhood halloween costumes and i forget what billy's was but mine was when i was elliot, the main character from the movie e.t. and the thing was i really loved that movie and so one year on my little bike my mom attached a milk crate and made a little mini-e.t. that i put inside the milk crate, just like the movie, and i dressed up exactly how elliot did when it was halloween in the movie and my parents even got permission for me to bring my bike to school for the halloween parade and i was the envy of every kid at my elementary school because i got to ride my bike ~in~ the school and all the kids longed to be me but they weren't me and that was one of the happiest times i was me in my life and us talking about halloween like this made me long for a tootsie roll or pack of skittles or at least a mini-snickers and pillow-case sacks and doorbells and cavities and glowing jack-o-lanterns and the people who weren't home who left out bowls full of candy with a note that said "please only take one piece" (the schmucks!) and i longed for it all and i can also remember the first year my parents told me i was "too old" to trick-or-treat anymore and i remember how that felt and what a foreshadow that was in the bigger picture of live and growing up in that the longer you live, the less fun life becomes and i couldn't (and still can't) understand why fun has to lessen and so i decided to refuse to let it happen to me and that's why i'm still playing on my bike even though i no longer have the mini e.t. (and, really, i'm miserable anyhow)

now one of the saddest things in the world happened when billy and i were having a snack and there was this little bird that kept flying around us real close such that you could tell it'd been habituated to humans and i felt very very sorry for that bird, but for billy it was just the opposite, he loved that little bird and when the bird landed at his feet he started trying to feed it some of his cookie crumbs and i watched and held my tongue as long as i could and finally i couldn't and i said -billy, you really shouldn't be feeding that bird you know....that's human food....and.....what'll happen is that bird will become dependent on humans for food and then come winter when there aren't any humans coming up here, it'll die - and as soon as i said it i hated myself because the joy in billy's face disappeared and i ruined it all for him and i thought to myself how i should really keep my mouth shut more often and what the hell's the difference if the dern bird dies anyhow (it'll die anyway), and even though the joy was gone billy still kept feeding that sad little bird and i was glad he did even though i knew he was sort of doing it just to prove a point to me : that he was going to do what he was going to do (as he should) and we never spoke again of that bird and i wonder if it died that winter and if it did i hate to think of it because freezing and starving to death ain't no way for a bird (or a man) to go

and so we walked and talked and muted and laughed and reminisced and had some of the most splendid and ghastly weather you can imagine and one evening when the weather'd worked up another fury, we crammed and contorted ourselves under the overhang of a little under-construction cabin and it was beating down rain and we were just barely staying dry and nearby was one of those "designated" camping places full of people with all their money and you could hear music and most of them were in the big common room and we could hear their reverie which made our sad cases even more melancholy and we weren't really talking until i said - hell, kid, let's just go in there and ~pretend~ that we're guests there, who'll know? - and so we humped our packs and ran and slipped in and sat down and no one said nothing and lord how happy we were with that warm fire blazing and radiating heat and i'd already spotted a girl and fallen in love and i pointed her out to billy and the reason i loved her was because of her tank-topped shoulders and i love shoulders and so that's what we called her, "shoulders" and he kept telling me - come on man, go talk to shoulders! talk to her! - but i couldn't and knew i wouldn't because, really, i just prefer to fall in love and then let it go at that, and billy was just so happy i wish you could have seen him and he wanted so badly to stay there for the night but the thing was we'd already agreed to camp every night to save money (money! egad! how i hate it! (and even worse, how it ~controls~ me!)) but i know he wanted to renege on this given the circumstances and we discussed it and he even said that he'd jump on top of the table and tell the room full of all these yuppies and daddy's money's how i was riding my bike around the world and then he'd take off his grubby cap and pass it around and see if we had enough and he's the type that would have done it too but he didn't and instead he went out to his pack and got this little chess board he'd been carrying and we played and while we were playing we were secretly discussing how playing chess implied we were intellectuals and how people must have been thinking how we read the "right" books and things like that and we laughed at the scam of it all and decided to furrow our brows with each move like we'd studied all the ancient russian techniques and he whipped me (i let him win) and then people started asking if they could play chess and we kindly and foolishly said yes and handed it over and next thing we knew everyone wanted to play chess and i told billy we should have rented the thing out to make some wages and we both snapped our fingers at the missed opportunity and darkness and rain was falling and we had to get going to wherever we were going to camp that night (something, in this deluge, we were both dreading) and so we had to stop some fellas right in the middle of their game and they weren't so happy about it but what could we do and we humped our packs again and god old billy was frowning and we stepped back into the cold and the wet and the snow and the zephyr and took to our feet

i'll be the first to admit that my tent was a little (alot) better than billy's but that's only because the tent i'd had delivered to him in the states to bring with him was missing a pole and i'd told him a million times on email to check the dam thing ~before~ he came and he'd reply - yes, ok, will do - and when he arrived i says - did you check it? - and he says - naw - and i says - what the hell? - and so we checked it and that pole was missing (that could have, incidentally, easily been replaced) and i says - well, you may be sorry - and here he was, sorry as could be, because we had to pitch in a hell of a place and our tents tottered and trembled all night and the next morning when i saw little billy unzip his tent his eyes were wild with lack of sleep and i says - how'd you sleep? - and he just grunted and scratched at his belly and alls the time i was thinking - he shoulda checked the dam thing like i told him -

now as i've said billy and i'd spent time in the jungles together and we'd been as high as you can go with another comrade of ours who was unfortunately missing in action on this trip though i'd already met up with this other hearty soul twice in peru and billy and i talked alot about those jungle days and that mountain climb we'd done and lord how we missed the tropics because it gets in your blood and it never gets out and once you've been in a jungle with three men in a two-man tent you have a certain bond, one that can never be broken nor spoken about in public and deep down billy and i loved each other and so did this other bedfellow and one day the three of us are going to meet up again somewhere, maybe mongolia or michigan or something, and we're going to start walking and when it's time to sleep, the one in charge of the tent is going to say, with just the right amount of sheepish apolgetic-ness, - whoops! i only brought a two-man tent... - and the other two of us are going to pretend to be mad as hell and we'll curse and spit but really, in the end, we'll all be fighting over who gets middle

billy and i decided to do a side hike to see these "famous" three rock towers and lord it was a sludge in the sometimes waist deep snow and i knew one of us was going to die and i just hoped it was me and we got to the top and froze and took pictures and enjoyed the view and the hike down was even more treacherous and the whole time i imagined my death and mainly i thought about ~exactly~ what kind of expression that mortician would put on my face because whatever that expression was would be what i looked like until those worms and vermin finally hollowed out my skull and isn't it a shame how one will never see one's own skull?

but i didn't die and neither did billy

we passed a gawdawful camping place and said forget it because it was just a bunch of snowy mud puddles reeking of human secretions and we decided to go on and find something else and while going on we met this young rookie boyfriend/girlfriend duo and they'd just started and were clean as whistles and you could tell the girl was sorry she'd ever begun as they had just entered the slop of it all that they would be in for the next week and they saw us and asked about the very camping spots we'd just passed up and they says - was it nice? - and i looked at billy and billy looked at me and i could tell he wasn't going to say nothing and so i says - well, it was 'ok' - and i think they knew but what else could i say? and i felt sorry for those two and wondered about them until enough time had passed to erase the experience from my mind until this recent resurrection, some three years later, as i'm lying here on my bed in india (sweating, parenthetically, like a banshee)

and we found a beautiful dry place to camp in the pines and this was to be our last night in the mountains and god how my feet smelled like rotten fish all wet and cooped up inside those hellish shoes billy brought me and also we were cutting it tight ~very tight~ with time to hitch back to where we'd begun (we must all end where we begin) and how on earth were we gonna get billy to his plane but there was nothing to do but put our trust in the road and if there's one thing i trust, it's the road, and all the while, billy, unaware of all the complexities and logistics of all that was ahead of us, slowly but surely burnt our noodles for that evening's supper

and on our way back to the road that next morning we started encountering some ritzy hotels and i was in their dumpsters fishing out bread and apples but billy wouldn't eat any of it which made me sad but also glad because it was more for me and my empty stomach that somehow can never feel full and i know i must have a disease and wonder what exactly it is and how much longer it will take before it eats me from the inside out

we got back to that ranger station where those yachties had dropped us off so many days ago and now our thumbs were out for the opposite direction and this is when we really needed something to happen as billy's deadline seemed to be inching entirely too close and wouldn't you know it, there was barely ~any~ traffic and the few cars that did come by were either loaded all to hell or didn't want nothing of us and who could blame them but my little billy started getting real impatient and talking about cutoff times and how we ~had~ to get a bus and and i told him - easy, billy, steady now - and finally he started meditating and was ok and then we got a short little nothing ride but at least it was a ride and we got going and the two of us felt much better about things because we were back on the road and we had moved

and then we were stuck again and i was reminding billy of all the times we'd been stuck before and then how before we knew it we were unstuck and this soothed him long enough for a big old truck to come to a bellowing halt and it was, seemingly, empty in its humungous flatbed but what seemed empty was actually goat and pig fecal discharge and this truck had just delivered a bunch of animals and the driver told us to hop in and, well, the first rule of the road is that you never pass up a ride so we jumped on in and hit it and we nestled down in the thankfully dried out effusion and i even fell asleep and billy, golddern him, billy decided to wake me up by throwing shee-it chunks at me and at first i was furious having been having a nice little dream and even more furious about the means of the wake-up call but then the absurdity of everything hit us both and we laughed until it hurt and then kept at it until we were sick and then we got to an intersection and that was the end of this ride and so now we were at a crossroads with everywhere leading to nowhere and the sun was getting low and i knew if we had to sleep here we'd probably miss billy's plane but if we could ~just get~ to the next village we'd be doing allright but i didn't tell billy this because he was already worried enough

and hell how it hallows out your heart when you're hitching and there ain't no cars coming by and not even any cars coming the opposite way which wouldn't help you anyway but just to see a car ~going~ fills you with a little more hope and so we sat and waited and watched the earth slowly devour the sun and billy was sitting on his pack and picking up pebbles and throwing them at nothing and inside, deep down, my soul was crying for him

and finally he says - i'm never going to make my plane - and i looked at him and i said - now billy, don't say that, don't say that, we got plenty of time (we didn't) and something's bound to happen, now just take 'er easy, steady now - and he looked at me and knew i was just saying things to please him but i think it helped and then we both saw some headlights ~way~ off in the distance and i says - look billy, ~there's our ride!~ - and we were both drunk on the prospect and we straightened our beards and gave our faces a rub and i said - smile big now, smile big - and then we both realized that behind those headlights was a big rig 18-wheeler gigantic truck and that it would never stop for two scrubby bums and it killed us both but we kept our hope alive because, at that moment, it's all we had and our thumbs were out and we were waving and jumping and that truck passed us right by as if we didn't even exist leaving sand in our teeth and we looked at each other and then we looked at our toes and then we heard a gawdawful hubbub of gears and metal-on-metal and everything all at once and we looked up to see that truck ~stopping~ and i said - run, billy, run now! - and we sprinted to that truck and inside the cab was a lonely man and he said - get in - and we did and that man gunned it and we kicked man, all the way to the next golddern city where neither of us ever expected to get to and it was a helluva long ride, the best kind, and i hated billy because he was in the backseat all lounged out and could sleep and i was in the front with this fella and was therefore obliged to talk and tell stories and, even worse, ~listen~ to stories and all i wanted to do was close my eyes but in the world of hitching, you gotta keep things amiable because at any moment you can get kicked out and, at this point, that was the last thing we needed and so in the middle of the night we start approaching the city lights and i tell billy we gotta get dropped off ~before~ the city or we're going to end up having to get a hotel or something and so i tell that driver to drop us off ~here~ and he says - here? - and i says - yep - and he doesn't believe it and that city's getting uncomfortably close and finally i tell him - stop here! now! - and he does and realizes we're maniacs and we thank him and jump out on the fringes and it's only then that we both realize what a hell of a wind is blowing and we're in the wastelands and there isn't nowhere to hide and sleep and to be perfectly honest, things weren't looking too good and i was delirious with lack of slumber

dig those trucks and the road they are on! good god, those trucks in chile, in india, everywhere...everywhere just like god! and i'm everywhere too...just like god!

but then i spotted a house off in the distance and it didn't look like anyone was home or had been home for a long time and i pointed it out to billy and off we went only to see it was surrounded by a 10-foot unclimbable razor blade topped fence and we both fell into states of dejection until i saw something i hoped indeed was true and it is and there's a burrow hole going ~under~ this fence and before i get all our hopes up again i check it out and verify its doableness and then i says - billy, billy come here! - and we take off our packs and shimmy our bodies into and out of that hole and then shuttle the packs and we're in and happy as little kids with shiny new pennies and now we wonder if we'll be able to get ~into~ this house and out of the wind and we're tippy-toeing real quietly so as not to draw attention to ourselves and we check the doors but hell if it's not all locked up but there is a garage that's, as i like to say, open for business, and as we go in, real quiet like little hamsters, lord we frighten all to hell two enormous owls and they come flying right at us and it's just like a scene straight out of a horror movie where everything was quite and fine and all the sudden everything is berserk and feathers and cursing and yelping and billy and i whimper out of fright and startle and make such a racket that i know the police are already on their way and they'll make us pick up soap but then silence returns and dust settles and only a few feathers are floating and i see billy and he's out of breath with fear and i said - you allright there little billy? - and he says he is and so we finally find a place blocked from the wind where we can bed down for the night, or i should say morning because by now it's already 2 a.m. and we are both, now believe me when i say this, we are both ~beat~

god the places i sleep...and how on this night ~i prayed~ that no hindus would want to pray in this temple because i'd taken the whole golddern thing over, vishnu forgive me

i'm up super early because my body won't let me sleep when i know there is something to be done and what still has to be done is a hitch of some 400 gawdawful miles and borders and boats and our backs are against the wall with one of the worst things there are in life : a deadline

and i see little billy so peacefully sleeping there and it twists up my gall bladder to do it but i have to and i nudge him awake and he smacks his chops and squints his eyes and scratches at his scalp and i fear he's going to curse me but he smiles and says - good morning - and i tell him we should get our move on

we walk into town and find out the most absolute worst possible news there could ever be : billy's flight has somehow mysteriously been re-scheduled and it's now leaving almost an entire day earlier and it doesn't make sense but he calls and verifies it and it's true and there is simply no way to get back in time and i know it but don't mention it right away because there's already enough of a crisis in the air and we spend, well ~he spends~ the next couple hours on the phone trying to make sense of it all and more importantly trying to change his ticket because he too now realizes there ain't no way in hell we'll get back in time and i even check on buses for him and even bus'ing it won't work and at this point things weren't looking good for my boy billy and he was pulling at his hair and his face was all flushed and god how useless i was just standing there occasionally saying - easy now, steady out -

and so i let him be and found a park bench and i watched a blind lady walk by and i was amazed and then i saw a little child crying over something and it was heart-wrenching the way his mother consoled him and then i saw parents who kept telling their children not to stare at me (while they themselves stared at me) and then, i couldn't believe it, i saw alexander, the same guy who'd given us a hitch after he finished pissing in front of his car and that was over a week ago and we acknowledged each other and exchanged a few pleasantries and sadly realized we had nothing in common other than that ride and accordingly parted ways

and billy emerged wild-eyed from that phone booth and you could tell stress was in his blood and it's a shame how peaceful it can be when you're walking in the mountains but as soon as you return to what we humans have defined as "what life is", that peace is no longer there and is replaced with things that narrow our arteries, weaken our hearts, and loosen our bowels

he said - i got good news and bad news - and he went on to tell me that he'd been able to change his ticket and how now we had enough time, god willing, to get back via our thumbs but the bad news was that it had cost him an elbow and a knee but he said he might be able to get some of the money back when he got to the states and filed a formal written complaint and anyhow, it was all over now and we celebrated the good news and tried to forget the bad news by having a nice pilgrims' lunch in the park where we doubled up on delicious "chocolate confessions" ice cream bars, my treat, and following lunch billy had to do some toenail surgery because his feet were all shot to hell and one toenail was so bent and crooked and gawdawful it was digging into his skin and he was bleeding all over and everywhere and frightening small children and while he was doing this i had to interrupt him, because this dog came trotting by and my lord i said - billy, will you look at ~that~! - and with bloodied hands he looked up and we looked at each other and laughed because, now i mean to tell you, that dog had a package the size of connecticut and it was swinging like a pendulum for all the world to see

then we started to hitch again and it was slow, slow going and i was telling billy how one must remember that every ride is an undeserved act of kindness and no one is under obligation and even when you see a truck go by with an open bed full of the nothing of emptiness and you curse him for not stopping it is you who is in the wrong, not he (but you still curse him anyway)

i wasn't cursing nothing when i saw this's my favorite 4-letter word

and then a bus stopped for us and billy made a run for it and i said - no, no billy, they'll want to charge us - but billy pleaded - well let me at least see! - and i admired his naivety and rookie zeal but i knew better until he yells - it's free! it's free! - at which i took off in full sprint and jumped in and i said to meself - sunabritch! - and we took off and the gear shifter was covered with a pink furry thing and the driver was drinking beer until he noticed me noticing and showed me it was non-alcoholic "near" beer (which i still have my doubts about) and there were stenciled swirls of spray-painted naked women all over the interior and billy and i looked at them all and billy said - hey, remember that night with the tv and the boobies? - and i said - yes, billy, yes, and i'll never forget it neither - and the two of us were happy again because of nakedness and because we were ~moving~

well we got dropped off and entered the doldrums of desisting stillness ~again~ and then here comes a car and i says - look billy! maybe it'll stop! - but i look at billy and he don't look so good and i say - billy, what's a matter? - and turns out billy's feeling sick again and we're near a village and he wants to go see if there's a doctor and right after he says that the car i'd seen ~stops~ and asks - you boys need a lift or what? - and there i am looking at the ride with my pulse pulsing for it and looking at billy with my heart breaking and i says - billy, what're we gonna do kid? - and he says he needs a doctor and so the ride rides on without us and we start walking to this village and for a few moments i hate billy until i realize i don't have any timetable or nothing but it's just that when i'm on the road sometimes i get this mad fever for ~going~ and poor billy is sick and i can see it in his walk and so i hate myself for those few moments of my hatred of billy but actually i hate myself for alot longer than just a few moments as i reflect on all my sins and trespasses and i start to say an "our father" until i forget the words

now these nuns know every word to the "our father" by their virgin hearts and they also know how to heist a bike

and wouldn't you know it we found a clinic and i felt like billy's mama translating all his ailments into spanish for him and he was sitting on that sad, sad cot without a shirt on and looking so weak and frail and i could tell the doctor really had no ideas but he gave billy some meds and i patted billy on the shoulder and told him it was going to be allright and he'd be feeling better in a few hours and we walked back to our intersection and as if god was smiling upon little billy a huge gigantic a/c super-clean monster of a bus stopped for us and it was absolutely empty minus the driver and, god was still smiling, the driver said he wasn't going to charge us a peso, and we jumped in and billy was even smiling too and billy was god and i was happy for his drugs and even suggested he take some more and we got dropped off about a mile or so before the logistical part of the hitch : the same old sad crossing of the magellan strait by boat

of course it was already getting late and i was wondering if we weren't already stuck and if we were already stuck, tomorrow was going to be tight in getting back in time; billy had already missed his crazily rescheduled original plane and we both thanked god he'd been able to change it

at the ferry station is an epic line of cars and they were all lined up for the last ferry and it was simple to see that about only half of those cars were going to get on despite their rev'ving and forward inching impatience and so i says to billy - we ~gotta~ get on that boat tonight! - and he agrees and i tell him to wait and that i'll go sweet talk some drivers into helping us out

now here's where the story gets a little unbelievable but it's the truth and billy swears to it

this woman also swears to it

but the banana man says i am embellishing

i'm looking for a ride and then i see a woman i recognize and she's as beautiful as when i'd first seen her before she was recognizable but now that she was recognizable she was doubly beautiful and she recognized me too (and i was doubly ugly) and this lady was a lady i met when i was desperate for a place to sleep one night about two weeks ago only a couple of nights before meeting up with billy and i'd, purely by chance, stopped at her farm house asking permission to camp in her fields and instead of the fields she gave me an entire house to sleep in, just for me, and she was so nice and had a kid hiding in her apron and i remember i cleaned the house she gave me just because she was so nice and i was so happy that night and here she was again, in line for the same ferry that we hoped to hop on

so i explain how i'd parked my bike and gone hitching to torres del paine national park with my friend little billy and how now i was heading back and then i peeked in her car and even though it was filled to the gills i explained how we were looking for a ride and she, as if she couldn't remember herself, looked behind her and said - we wish we could give you a ride but we have no room - and i said thanks anyway and i said thanks again for letting me sleep in her extra house and then she said - wait a minute - and she got out of the car and told me to follow her (i would have followed her anyway, god the love affairs i have in my mind....) and we go to this pickup truck with an empty bed and my mouth goes dry with hope and she goes back and forth in spanish with the driver and comes back and says - you and billy can ride in here, it's still a long way to my farm house, but this man will take you there and you are welcome to sleep where you slept before, i'll leave some lights on, don't worry about knocking at our house or anything, we'll be asleep, but the door to your house will be open and you can have another night's rest - and i jump up and bow to her and tell her she's the most wonderful lady there is and the guy in the truck who's been recruited for all of this doesn't really know what the hell is going on but he's saying - ok, yes, come on then, ok - and then like a clap of thunder i hear all these engines start to roar and they're getting ready to load this last ferry and we've got a ride but the problem is we is just me because hell if i can't find billy anywhere and i'm yelling - billy! billy! where are you boy?! - and finally i see him milling about mindlessly and i, as if my life and his life and even ~your~ life depended on it, i wave him over and say - get over here kid, now! - and he doesn't know what's going on and we're running to the pickup and hop in and, out of breath, i tell him i'll explain later but just to be quiet and not to vomit or we're going to lose this dam hook-up and on we rolled to that big old boat and god bless little billy and his sickly body and we get to the other side of the strait and god bless that man in the pick up because he stopped and walked back and asked us if we minded if he drove fast and i says - let's push! - and he laughs and god he had a lead foot and he gunned it and the sky was purple with little stars making their grand appearances though they were always there and it was dern cold and billy and i pulled out our mummy sleeping bags and zipped them up and laid on our backs and all that was showing of our bodies were our little faces and after a little while i looked over and billy was out cold and i thanked god for blessing him and i thanked god for the ride and i thanked god for beautiful women and i thanked god for everything i could think of until my own eyelids started ever-so-slowly lowering but not before i look out and see a place where i'd slept when i'd been here on my bike, and i say - hey billy! you see that shanty over there, i slept there man! i slept there! i did yoga in that field and stood on my head and then slept in that shack! think of it, if we could rewind time for two-and-a-half weeks, i'd be right where i am now, it's like i haven't really gone anywhere though really i've gone everywhere but i'm back to being right here! billy! billy! - but billy was out and probably wouldn't care if he were in but there i was, criss-crossing the southern american continent and going every which way but ultimately i knew i had no direction

and the next thing i know we were stopped on the side of the road and that man was shaking my shoulder and he says - we're here! - and i look out and see the farmhouse and i get billy up and we leap out and we can tell this man wants to get where he's going and besides it's already after midnight and the three of us are spent and our eyes are puffy with want of sleep

sure enough, just as i was told, the house is lit up and unlocked and has a fire going which makes it triply good and we go in and billy can't believe it and i tell him all my life stories i can think of while i take the role of chief cook (and don't burn the noodles) and i whip up a nice big pot of everything we haven't already eaten and it's a meal and a half and our stomachs are ready and there's even tea but poor billy takes 2 or 3 bites and says that's it and i realize how sick he is and feel guilty for scarfing the rest as he beds down and i read for a while because i hate sleeping anyhow, it's such a waste of time but i eventually surrender

i'm up before dawn doing my yoga and standing on my head and watching billy breathe in and out and seeing that he doesn't look well and even though i don't want to, i finally wake the poor kid up because we still have one more hitch to go and his plane leaves in about 16 hours and that's plenty of time, but in the world of hitching it's always wise to err on the side of being too early

and so we get up and pack up and clean up and get out to the road and, ask billy if you think i'm lying, but it's one of the strongest winds of our lives and our 35-pound packs resting in the gravel are blowing and rolling all around and we can lean into that wind to almost 60 degrees without fear of falling and we even made some movies of the whole thing and even though it was a helluva way to start the day, it was a blessing because for a few brief moments billy forgot he was sick and we were having fun and a few brief moments is all it ended up taking for us to get a wild ride, our ~last~ ride, on a truck with a kid and his beautiful latino girl in the front and a cargo full of scrap wood and metal pipes and all sorts of what'sit's and gizmos all haphazard to hell in the back and billy and i tossed our packs in and lashed them down tight and next thing i knew billy had nestled down in that hodgepodge of a mishmash and i says - ain't you gonna get in the cab with us? - and he says - naw - and so i squeeze in sitting real close, maybe even closer than i needed to, to that chilean beauty and we took off and the kid who didn't realize or didn't care how close i was getting to his girl was a real nice kid and real polite and offered me cigarettes and even a shot of booze and he took us all the gold blessed way back to the very front door of the very hostel where billy and i'd met so so so long ago and billy jumped down off that truck and we got our packs and thanked that truck and i thanked god for making beautiful girls like that and i realized how lonely i was (and am and always will be)

and billy and i opened the door to the hostel and the nice lady had, as promised, saved us a room and we collapsed and took off all our clothes and lathered up in soap and rinsed off and purified ourselves and i came out feeling like a million bucks and billy came out feeling better and that evening, we even went to the movie house and watched a horrible american movie that afterwards we both agreed we should have left in the middle of, and then billy fell into bed and a fever came over him and so i went and got poor little billy some more medicine for his plane ride that i could tell he was dreading and at 3am i tucked little billy into a cab, we said our goodbyes, and i watched him go until the only light i could see was the light of the moon which is only a reflection anyway

all told, we hitched some 1,750 miles and it was only afterwards that i calculated it because beforehand it's never good to know such daunting facts because it can get you down and when you're on the road, and we were indeed on the road, it's never good to be down and there were times when we were down and that's inevitable but those times passed and there were times when we were high and that's inevitable too but those times passed and there were times when we talked of god and those times passed and there were times when we felt sick and well and hungry and full and all those times passed too and what i mean to say is that everything passes and that it's only the immediacy of anything that gives it any importance and what you must, what you ~have to~ realize is that everything passes, the best and the worst and the neutral, it all passes and it's all forgotten and erased and disappears and it may resurface but the resurfacing passes too and it's just a matter of waiting and allowing everything to pass

that's all life is

until life, too, passes

everything is empty

three minutes may not sound like a long time and in the grand scheme of things (if there is a grand scheme (which there isn't)), it isn't, but if you close your eyes for 180 seconds and imagine for that each of those seconds you are down in the ditches of the road in northern norway and you and your bicycle have been blown off the road by a relentless devil-driven cross-wind and your bike is laying on its side, in complete surrender, and for the entirety of those three gawdawful minutes the ~only~ thing you are trying to do is just to pick up your bike off the ground but you can't do it until you finally do it and trust me those three minutes were long enough and i wasn't even cursing but rather i was ~inventing curses~ and i was on my way to the north cape (lord knows why), but there was no way i was getting there and i had no food and i was ~beat~ man, i mean ~beat~, and so at the next little village that had been blown all to pieces i didn't know what to do because i couldn't afford hotels but thank the lord i've developed an eye for finding places to sleep and my eye was prowling around and i saw this warehouse sort of something off in the distance and it looked like the door was cocked and wasn't no one around so i yanked and tugged my get-up over to it imprecating the invisible power of wind and the abandoned warehouse turned out to be this electronic control tower sort of thing that looked just enough run down that no one would bother me and still ain't no one around so i hauled all my crap into it and jumped in and, out of breath but good god out of the wind too, i looked around and it looked perfect and i said hell and then i started fidgeting around and even pressed some of the buttons i saw and then i realized that the place still had power because some red lights went on and i heard something whirring and i said hell again because i imagined all these scenarios where, 6 miles away or something, i had just turned on or off something vital and that people may be dying because of me and my curious fingers but i didn't worry too much because i was hungry and wind-blown and even if people were dying because of my fingers, they would have died anyway at some point so what difference did it really make? and so then i snuck out and went to a grocery store but the astronomical prices sent me reeling so i went ~behind~ the grocery store where there was a huge garbage truck and they were just getting ready to throw away a load, and i mean hundreds of pounds of food and so i said - now wait a minute here fellers - and for that minute they waited i had no less than 8 pounds of bananas, 5 pounds of cheese, 10 loaves of bread, 7 pounds of apples, 13 pounds of tomatoes, 20 dark chocolate bars, 7 liters of yogurt, 12 boxes of cereal, and ungodly amounts of cookies and crackers and peanuts and so then i says - carry on! - and i saw so much good wholesome food being dumped i felt sick but my arms were shaking trying to carry my bags full of food and now i was scared to death at how conspicuous i was with all this grub and all this beard but i was licking my chops at the prospect of it all and i managed to sneak back in that control tower and slammed the door and poked my little eyes above the window and ain't nobody coming and so then i just laid out my little yoga pad and laid on my back and let it all sink in and then i opened my book and then i opened my mouth and i stuffed myself silly and the next morning the winds had died but i was alive and i left all that food in there with a note that asked whomever might find the food to please leave some for my return and i rode up to that hell of a north cape and got rained on and winded on and sunned on and everything'ed on and i remember i cried some too getting there because i was listening to "charlie brown's christmas" on my little music player and some of those songs are real sad for me because they remind me of my family that i love because we always play that cd on christmas morning and i was so far away and i just wanted to be with them and so i was crying a little bit feeling sad and despondent and a bit like a dern sissy and then i just about got to the cape and i see some toll booths and they want ~$30 a head~ just so i can put my foot on the northern most point in europe and to hell with that so i say shizzzznit and started to u-turn it hating money more than i always do and then i hear the guy saying - hey, hey you, come here - and so i do another u-turn back to him and he says - where ya goin? - and i say - back down - and he says but you ain't seen the cape and i says - i ain't got the cash - and he says - but it's free for cyclists! - and i ain't never kissed a man but i almost did right then and i had a great time and i remember they had this free movie you could watch and i went twice mainly because the chairs were so soft and the room so dark and the music lulled me to sleep both times and i felt bad because i filled that little theater with my stink but sometimes there isn't anything you can do and one family gave me a pack of crackers and it really was a beautiful place and then i rode back down to my electrical control tower and was station commander again for a couple nights each evening seeing what the dumpster would provide for that night's dinner (and i ate like a king and actually contemplated living there forever)

this is how i drop it all down and kick it all back with my books and my journals and i eat my crumbs and wish the world away

and that ~other~ monk, that monk and i, we finished our sad little suppers and he says - let's go drink tea - and i didn't protest and we went and the stars were coming out and and we were sitting at this little uneven creaky wooden table and we were sipping and finally started talking and everything came up but really it was all about buddha and the need to transcend suffering and how easy it is once you get on with it and stop thinking about it and the need to rid oneself, to empty oneself of all possessions of all things of everything you can think of and even then trying to find one more thing to toss behind and never look at again because once it's gone it's not that you realize the meaninglessness of it, it's that you ~absolutely and effortlessly forget you ever had it or loved it or thought you needed it~ and you empty yourself of all this so that ~you, yourself~ are empty too and by being empty, the buddha, which is god, which is me, which is you, which is also every living thing that ever lived, lives, or will live, the buddha, in the now emptiness of you, will be ~full~ and so, because you are empty of all things, you will now have ~every~thing and i was saying - yes! yes! - and the saddest part was that i knew i could never do it and i looked at his cell phone and i looked at my journal and our clothes and our sandals and our cups of tea and the table and the chairs and the sad light bulb above our heads and i thought of the cinder-block room i'd return to and the cement floor i'd sleep on and the sleeping bag i'd put around myself and the cup of water that would be at my side and all the things all the things all the things and i sadly walked back to my sleeping quarters in the monastery looking at that statue of buddha sitting there like he does and that expression, that irreproducible expression, on his face and i confided to buddha or maybe it was just to myself or maybe it was to god or maybe it was to you, i confided all my doubts and fears and assurances of failures and laid my head down on the cold hard floor beneath the unforgiving stars and moon that was yet to reflect a light that was not its own

and the thing is that god i hate money and i've seen how it can crumble people and i hate it and how it can dominate lives and i hate it and how people can nervously watch their dividends rise and fall while not being able to do a dam thing about it but bite their nails until they bleed and then they bite some more but what i ~really~ hate is that the only thing keeping this life of mine going is ~exactly~ what i hate; money; and i spend it every single solitary day and multiple times and even though i can try to comfort myself about how little i spend, the fact is that i spend and i'm no different from ~anyone~ else in this regard and every time i reach into my pocket to spend it i feel ill, i mean it, i really do feel ill, and one day i thought i'd give it all away to some kid or some nice middle-aged woman and what a good riddance that would be and i'd just live with my hands out and i'd be hungry many days but there's nothing wrong with hunger because one will never learn more about oneself than when one is hungry and desperate and i'd just have my hands out and hope and i'd do a sweep of all the fruit and vegetable markets after they'd closed and compete with the cows for the leftovers and eat around the rottenness and i'd get sick but i'd get well too and i'd just live like that hour by hour, never knowing what would come next, and what freedom that would be and what detachment from everything and what enlightenment i'd attain and parinirvana would be mine and i'd be living in it, not dead in it, and then people would come to me seeking the truth, and the truth i wouldn't give them, i couldn't give them, because i'd be so deep into it i wouldn't even know the difference but we are all vassals and slaves and helots to money and ~things~ and how can one not be? god i'd love to know how

this is me in 36 years, barefoot, shirtless, a skirt, a nice white beard, a little plate where people can put whatever the hell they want to put on it, and i hope they leave it empty, so that i can suffer, so that i can feel everything acutely, so that i can transcend it all, so that i can lift myself above it all, awww nevermind anyway

and i kept pausing, not stopping, just pausing, and pumping because i needed a place to sleep and when one needs a place to sleep there is no time to stop and my gold blessed back tire was going flat and i couldn't be bothered to halt my horse and properly fix the sad, slow leak and finally i was stuck, like so many million times before and times surely to come, with darkness already casting its long lonely shadows upon me and wall-to-wall-to-wall people and nowhere to go and so that's when i stopped just to feel sorry for myself and listen to that psssssst of my back tire and wonder once again why this world is out to get me and then i hear a language i love and it's english and it says - where you going? - and i says - you speak english? - and he says yeah and tells me i can sleep at his uncle's place and i want to embrace him and tickle his ribs because the world is so kind and lovely and forgiving but i hold back and we get off on a helluva detour and then sure enough after a lost count number of turns we're at his uncle's and everyone wants to see me and talk to me and take my picture but there is only one thing on my mind and that's fixing my back tire and that's the task at hand and everything else can go to hell and it should only take ten minutes anyway and so before anything else can be done or even thought about or considered, that task must be completed and it was simple enough until i started getting into it and realized that somehow, god knows how, but somehow, the place where my wheel fits onto the bike had gotten bent to heaven and back again and who knows why and who cares because it was a fact i was faced with and i couldn't get the dam wheel out and i yanked and tugged and sweated and spat and we all yanked and tugged and now i was working in the headlights of a tractor and why lord why do you choose me for these things? and i am the chosen one and that dam wheel was stuck and wasn't budging and finally we got this sad old piece of metal from god knows where and they were telling me to pry the wheel out and i thought how i knew i was going to break something and get stuck here forever and die and then the wife comes out with tea but this is not time for tea, this is no time for anything other than to get the dam wheel out and get a patch on the dam tube and then and only then can i start even considering to even think of other things and by now there's a crowd and i hate them all and love them too and i realize this wheel ~ain't~ gonna budge so i wedge that piece of metal in and using leverage and fulcrums and torque applied over a distance, i finally force, with a gawdawful sound that made me gulp, the dam wheel out and lord what a sigh of relief it is and they all cheer and i celebrate nothing because there's still a task at hand and i take the dam tire off and find the dam leak on the dam tube and patch it up and everyone staring and don't they have anything to do? but god bless them all i loved them and back on the tire went and i could sense it was almost done now but i hadn't even thought it through because what won't come off, also, won't go back on and that's exactly what happened because that dam wheel wouldn't go back in and suchly there was no way to properly pry the thing in and at least an hour'd gone by and i was sweating and elbow deep in black grease and the wife tells the english speaker to tell me the tea's getting cold and i can't be bothered and also i feel diarrhea brewing and that's all i need and so i remove my brakes and my rear chain shifter and everything's all over the place sadly sparkling in the tractors flickering beams and i start banging on that dam wheel to just ~go in, to go home~ but it ain't listening and so a man appears with a file and we start to file off shards of metal to make space for the dam wheel and i know that my bike won't even roll anymore after all this surgery and i'm crying and weeping inside and wondering why i'm so persecuted and what'd i ever do (the real question being : what'd i ever ~not~ do) and we file some more and try again and nope and more filing and what i'm sure are vital shards of metal are lying all around our feet and everything is everywhere and everyone just sucking up my oxygen and i accidentally kick a screw and it goes rolling off and lands right in a dam cow patty and finally the dam wheel goes back in and i re-attach everything and now my gears won't shift so i have to work on that and everybody, as they have been for over two hours now, everybody's saying - just wait til tomorrow, fix it tomorrow - but no way, hell no, no can do pardner, because there's a task at hand and until that task is competed there is nothing else in this world that matters or exists and by now that diarrhea’s not only brewing it's starting to gurgle and burgle and erupt and i hold back the flood gates because i can sense all this soon coming together and finally i can hit all my gears and my brakes work (kinda) and the tube is holding its air as it should and the tire is nice and firm to the touch and i'm exultant and everyone is bored out of their mind but i didn't make them watch me so i have no pity and the lady now is saying - tea, tea, tea! - and i say - toilet! - dear god, toilet! and they show it to me and as soon as i assume the squat it all comes out in one ferocious backwards burp and i check to be sure my spleen didn't come out and it didn't and i clean myself and my unfortunately aimed splatter and i emerge from the toilet victorious as a viking and at least ten pounds lighter and by now the crowd has dispersed (was it the smell? or the sound? both?) and it's just me and the family and i drink the tea that the lady has so sadly re-boiled and i hate myself for not drinking it earlier and i even go so far as to apologize for my one-track-mindedness and wonder if they hate me for it but as it turns out the father actually admires me for it and tells me how if it were an indian, now these are his words so don't go calling me a racist, but he tells me if it were an indian with the same bike issues that the indian would just have waited until tomorrow which would become a month which would become never which would become rust and thrown in a ditch somewhere for time to take it over but he says, and he's talking to his kids now, he says how americans get things done and take care of things immediately and that's why we're better than them (and by now i'm red in the face with shame) and i try to explain that (thank god) not all americans are like me and that we got plenty of lazy ones too and how you can't classify people by where they come from that you can only classify people by the kind of people they are and how no one is better than anyone else but that we're all just people waiting to die but he won't have none of it and is praising me and america and meanwhile his wife is whipping up more tea and chapatti and rice and vegetables and dhal and we have a helluva feast and i end up staying with them for three nights because i got quite ill from wormy water and went to a pharmacy and got de-wormer pills perhaps intended for horses but they worked well enough and before i left that kind uncle of a man gave me a miniature glass globe and told me to discover the world and i said ok and then he said wait and got on the phone and when we rode through the nearest village together (him on motorcycle and me furiously trying to keep up) there were newspaper reporters and photographers and so many cups of tea i was sick again, but it was a good sick

and new mexico on my last day on the open road in the united states of north america and i was riding with a dear old friend of mine, god bless him, and i don't know why he's still my friend and maybe it's only because our history's are entwined but he is my friend and i'm thankful and now he's even married and has a house in nashville and anyway he'd had enough of riding with me and more importantly had a respectable job to get back to anyhow and i'd already stayed with him for a week up in albuquerque where i ate all his cereal and drank all his orange juice and he had a nice home there too and we slept outside in his backyard almost every night and watched the stars and shared memories and hopeful futures of looming question marks and he needed to get back to that life and a buddy of his had driven down to las cruces, new mexico to pick him up but not before we all went to an all you can eat pizza buffet where i balled on pizza and i balled on pasta and i balled on salad and even balled on brownies and then they all left and it was just me and i kept on balling along and reading a few more pages of my book and balling some more and then looked up and see those employees whispering to their manager and looking at me and i took my cue and went to the pay phone near the toilet and called my father and told him tomorrow night i'd be sleeping in mexico and he was happy for my sake but sad for himself and the fact i was so far away from him and he told me to be careful and that he loved me and then i got the hell out of that pizza joint before they tried to charge me double (though they should have charged me quintuple) and i was on the road, alone again, sometimes looking back over my shoulder to see if my old buddy was still struggling to keep up, but he wasn't, he was gone, everything was gone, and i was all alone on the road again and sick with acidic pizza burps riding through a gawdawful stretch of asphalt right at sunset and both sides of the road lined by muddy irrigated fields of pecan trees and not a goldderned place to call home for the night and now it's dark and all the dam cars are honking at me and cursing in spanish and english and a mixture of everything in between but there was ~nowhere~ to drop it for the night and so i finally got the nerve to ask at a house and it was pitch black and as i rattled the rusty gate trying to open it 13 dogs came barreling and barking and bearing teeth right at me and i jumped back and closed the gate just in time and less than 30 seconds later there was a search light in my face and a man behind it and my pupils were pinholes and i says, - well -, i yells over the racket of all them dern hounds - now sir, i ain't tryin to cause no problems and i'm real real sorry to be botherin' ya, but i needs me a place to put me tent and i'll be gone in the morning and i'm a bit desperate to tells the truth and i was wondering if you knew of a place... - and there was just silence on his part and i impatiently waited it out and them dern dogs just going wild with madness and then he says - not here - and them mutts keep a howlin' and the search light goes off and the man goes back to the sad blue-grey flicker of his tv (his best friend, all of our best friends) and i go back to the road and start walking my bike in the dam ditches and finally get to a school and a gate has been angelically left ajar and i go in and can't care about my tent or anything and i just lay it out right there hidden in the shadows of a doorway and there aren't any security guards as far as i can tell but if there are, well then, let them shoot me, let them fill my body with bullets, because at that moment i couldn't have cared less (though i was sad for my family, imagining them somehow getting the news) and just as i'm about to go dead to the world (the only way to be to the world) i see skunks and i say to hell with them too and i even go so far as to ~ask them, even kindly requesting it~ to spray me down and knock me out but they go about their business in the gutters chasing each other for sex and babies and so i toss and turn and count sheep and try to remember the ~exact and precise~ floor plan of my childhood home and how many faucets there were and i beat the sun up and i beat it out of there because there are already students and teachers arriving and the last thing i need is a call to the police and in two hours i ride right over that border without anyone bothering to ask me why or who or what the hell or when and once i'm in, i mean ~really in~ where the water is filthy and the cactus are blooming and the smell of piss is everywhere, i yell "hola me-hee-ko!" and that's all the spanish i know at that point and some days later i stop at a hostel and foolishly sleep on the roof to save a dime and i say foolishly because there was a big national championship in football that night and the town where i was won the dam thing and the whole place went berserkly mad with a fever i'd never seen before and they were up all night yelling and pissing and drinking and shooting fireworks and hootin' and hollerin' and howlin' at the moon (and at the chicas) and i wasn't sleeping for nothing and the next morning some tourists are talking about their "tourist cards" expiring and i ask what the hell they're talking about and they tell me and i tell them i don't have a "tourist card" and they say i should but i say i ain't gonna worry because i'll be in guatemala soon enough anyhow but then they says i gotta show this card to even be allowed to ~leave~ mexico and i says to myself, hell, and i meet someone else and he says, yep, them tourists is right, and so i spend the whole dadgum day shuttling around from one bureaucratic office to the other, and getting lost during every shuffle, and at one point they want to fine me and impose all sorts of penalties but i finally find a sympathetic woman who must also have a fool for a son and she knows i have a mother somewhere and she charges me what i should have been charged anyhow and i finally get the dam card (this world is based on paper) and get back on my way realizing what a rookie i am and how little i know and this all took place over 4 years ago and i can't believe the duration until i really start thinking about things and then i believe it because so much has happened, it's always happening, and it always will, as long as i never stop, which i don't plan to so things are looking good

this home for a night was also looking good, can you see how the world was leaving me the hell alone? thank you world, thank you

and i try to remember how i even started all of this, what made me want to even do any of this foolish life-wasting in the first place and i can remember living under leaves and surrounded by bamboo walls and jungle and ocean and banana trees and tacked up on that bamboo was a world map and i thought to myself how it might be nice to ride to peru but it was just a stupid thought i knew would never happen and who rides their bike to peru anyhow but it seems like the next thing i know there i was ~in peru~ eating black beans and rice and wondering how the hell i got there because everything is a blur until you have a chance to look back and see how p led to q and then you start wondering how you're going to get to r and then i was in bolivia and then argentina and then chile and then new york city and then morocco and then then then and now here i am in the desert town of pushkar, india, just me and the hindus, and the right very now moment of it all in my precious darling splendid never-want-to-leave it sad little filthy $2 hotel room where there are two beds and i am lying on one of them completely naked and 98% of the time i am in this room i am naked and the 2% is simply the amount of time it takes for me to get naked and oh my, oh my, this wonderful fan that spins above me and evaporates my sweat and there is a picture on the wall of three people in the hills and two of them hold hands and i look at it for inspiration and the floor is marble and cool to the touch and sometimes i lay on it and there is a mirror where i look at my sad, worn-out little body and the walls are full of handprints, some my own, and the sheets used to be cleaner and a stick of incense burns next to me and there's a raised marble platform flanked by two peach-colored columns supporting an archway and this little platform is dawned with a nice little rug and this is where i do my morning and evening and whenever-i-feel-like-it yoga, naked, right next to three windows where a busy street bustles below, and on this perfect little insence stick littered yoga platform, tiled paintings of shiva and ganesh watch over me as they watch over you and the world and when i'm, naked, in that downward dog position, and my mind goes back to the beginning of all of this, i think of everything at once, and it's all a cyclone swirl of nameless faces and punctured tires and sweat and frostbite and hate and love and suffering and thirst and endless days of grey and tears and singing and joylessness and ice cream dripping off my elbows and guns pointed at me (and then the same hands shortly thereafter offering me chocolate) and kids with stones (and thanfully bad aim) and cameras in my face and endless cups of tea and a kid with a broken bicycle chain in panama that i didn't stop to help fix and no matter how hard i try i'll never be able to forget the one thing that i wished never had happened but it did happen and i think of it every day and nothing makes me sadder

if you're sad, here are some flowers and even a flower man, and they will make you happy (if not, you can always go get some pills)

but let's not end on a sad note, a note of memory, especially since the past doesn't even exist and the future is ours to compose even though the future isn't real either because how can it be?

these three windows are my portals to life and this room is a cave and it's all my own and sometimes i'll peek out over the curtains and no matter when i do i see a woman in a fluorescent sari or a man holding a cup of tea or a cow lifting its tail and heaving out a patty or a ragged child pulling at any passerby begging for a rupee or a man peddling his what'sit's and who'sit's and all the smells too swirled into one and a bell ringing somewhere for something and music coming from every little identical store and an old man who says - yo haa! - at regular intervals and who knows why the hell why he says it but he's always saying it and now i even find myself saying it - yo haa! - and also the other old man in his pink tank-top and his cart of peanuts that he potters around with this way and that way every single day and i've watched him for hours and only seen him make one sale and when it gets too unbearably hot i, still naked, go stand under a spigot and soak myself in water and then lay stomach up, arms perpendicular to body, spread eagle, kind of like that davinci guy, and i let sweet evaporation take over and usually fall asleep until i'm awoken by some sort of ruckus or by my own fever and need to write everything as i'm doing now at this very instant and it'll never be enough and it'll never be finished because how can it be? because in a few moments i'm going to get up and pee and as i'm walking to to the toilet i won't be writing and so those moments of life will be missed and therefore this is incomplete, as nothing is complete, and what i am attempting to do is a failure like all well-intentioned endeavors and i just turned my head left and saw the bananas i have for dinner and also the chapattis and i smiled and now i'm looking at this monitor again and going blind and telling myself to get the hell up from this bed and take a walk or ~something~ and stop all this peeping out from behind curtains and observing life from my windows but it's too nice to be fanned and to be naked and to be hidden behind a door that only i hold the key to and when i do leave, which is seldom, i always walk straight and fast to where i need to go and haggle for a price and get my little devices then i walk straight and fast right back to where i've come and lock the door and remove my clothes and i disappear from this world at will and, frankly, nothing ever felt better than doing just that, and so here i am, in a hotel room that i don't know when (or if) i'll ever leave and it's my castle and i am the king and if i only had me a queen and i wonder where kayla is?

kid, there's an un-well-kept secret that over a billion people know...

...and that secret is that....

...india, yes! hup hup! yes!, india is ~the~ place...

...and, logically following, when it's all over, when my last penny spent, when my last tire holey (holy) beyond repair...

...when everything, as it must, comes to an end...

...i am coming...

...back to india...