Wednesday, November 16, 2005

permanenceofrelevance

the machine gun toting officer stared sternly and motioned for me to follow him.

it was just a toll booth station, and i´m just some fool on a bike, so what the problem was or could be was beyond me. but of course i followed. i mean, he´s got a gun. and i have nail-clippers. so we went all the way around the surrounding buildings, back towards these thick bushes. and i´m thinking...ok, good, i know how to ask for a cigarette, but bloody hell if my vocabulary isn´t lacking when it comes to the word blindfold. i don´t and have never smoked, but i´d love to see what all the fuss is about. and i´d hate to actually see the bullet approach my soon to not be beating heart. i don´t like guns, i really don´t, and i especially don´t like it when people with guns use them as some sort of secondary pointer finger. but i´m glad, that for this guy at least, happiness wasn´t a warm gun. because, and it took me quite a while to understand this, he had to have me pass around all these mulberry bushes so that these new computer sensors they had wouldn´t count me as a toll-requiring vehicle and thus cause some poor cashier to come up short. and so, i was on my way.

the mexicans have the moustache down. of this, there is no doubt. but if i were better at spanish, i would tell them that they need to free themselves from the oppression of razors and morning rituals. to let it all go. to say yes, it´s ok. to grow the most magnificent of things: the beard.


and speaking of spanish, not speaking it indeed proved difficult in mexico. i was essentially a three-year-old that could point and grunt. in some ways, it was kind of fun.

now that´s a heavy load. and those are some strong women. but that is their life. and they seemed happy, though perhaps miserable. and so it goes.

an anxiously expectant man outside an already knocked on door which eventually opens to reveal a woman with a smile that she couldn’t conceal if she wanted to, and the ensuing embrace was so real, so passionate, that it, i am not ashamed to say, caused an ache in my heart.

i was surprised that it took this long, but it finally happened. i was run off the road. the culprit? a drunk mexican? no. some hip youngsters trying to show me who´s boss? no. one of the infamous mighty buses spewing out vaporized cancer? nope. a pack of mangy mutts? bingo. they came from nowhere, and in the hectic fumble for my dog spray (which incidentally, once i had it in my grip, wouldn´t spray) and my furious effort to outrun these mongrels, i was off into the thankfully not deep ditch. and thus more vulnerable than ever as the thick mexican bush drew me to a halt. so i reacted and my first impulse was to derangedly bark back. and it worked. and it made me feel powerful. the feeling some, i imagine, get from owning a gun. it is surprising to me how many people that believe in christianity own guns. because how can this be with such statements like, you shall not kill; love thy enemy; turn the other cheek? but again, it´s been said before, i drastically oversimplify things so i´m sure i´m wrong though i can´t see how. maybe you will help me?

now that´s a school bus.

my first day in guatemala, and these two nice chaps insisted on adding to my collection of flags. viva guatemala. and yes, i don´t have an american flag because i prefer not to be target practice.sticking to the mountains of mexico proved to be precisely what i was looking for. sparse traffic. incredible views. and some stiff, stiff climbs. if you don´t think a road can climb continuously for over 50km (and in an all day rain nonetheless), then come to mexico and see for yourself. of course, the consequence of such a clamber is a brake-breaking descent. upon reaching the valley, i could barely move my fingers. but i did have time to stop by the street vendor who squeezed four oranges for me, and that hit the spot. but something was missing. probably the artificial colorings and flavorings and preservatives. i miss that stuff. below you will see my rear brakes. i trust my life to them which is interesting when you really think about it.

every now and again, even jesus (it´s just his likeness, don´t worry) and his followers need a bath.

as these buses pass me, i see that most people are asleep or have their shades drawn, and i was thinking maybe it´s that most people don´t want to know where they are, but rather, are content to simply know where they´re going. but me, i like to know where i am because you never know what you are going to see that will inspire a thought or rekindle a memory. like when i saw this ice cream wrapper and remembered being seven and hearing the ice cream man coming down my street and in my haste to grab some quarters and get outside before i missed him, i slammed my finger in the door and cleanly removed my fingernail and, pain and tears notwithstanding, the stink of it was i never even got a popsicle.

he didn´t get a popsicle either, but he did get a smoke, and the other man got his money, and the transaction was complete.

if i had the ability, which i do but i´ll probably never pursue this, to write music, i think i would write a duet for a snare drum and a flute. because, it would be what it would be, and it would undeniably be music and it would be a bit uncomfortable. this is exactly the way i like to write. like this:
the graceful woman, with her hand sewn prismatic shawl, faintly hid her face, which showed the unfortunate transition between youth and middle age, from my glance.
yet this was a metamorphosis she was unwilling to battle which both indicated her confidence and increased my attraction. with her eyes, she conveyed a passive and almost welcome endorsement of this inevitable evolution. my smile was acquiesced, and it was only then that i noticed the bulge at her waist. she would be a mother, though perhaps already was, soon. i wondered who he was, if he loved her as much as i could, if he was even still around. all of this, though undeterring my speculation, was none of my business. surely she was smiling at someone behind me, and i was misjudging the bearing of her gaze. but the empty alley behind confirmed such a proposition as preposterous. i also, after a moment, questioned how if she were murdered, it could be prosecuted as a double homicide, yet, if she were to choose to abort the baby, if you consider the fetus as such while still wallowing in the womb, then, under u.s. law, there was no murder, and, following, no possible prosecution. and then i ate some yoghurt which was a bit sour as it had expired some time ago.

these are some mayan ruins. and that? oh, that´s my head.

it´s difficult to match such a smile, and no, her eyes aren´t closed. i wonder if the smile is still there when there are no sales? i like to think so, but i also like to delude myself.the thing about me that i was thinking about the other day is that if there is a bowl of fruit, let´s say bananas, i will always choose the one that looks to be in the worst condition to eat first, because, the way i figure it, if i choose the one in best condition, than the one in worst condition will only continue to whither and degenerate in the duration between my consumption of the better one and my consumption of it. so what does this mean? does this indicate some significant and fundamental yet hidden personal philosophy? that´s not rhetorical. if you have been paying attention, you would know that i would first eat the bananas on the right.
i have an apology to make to everyone and anyone that read my last blog. as i´m sure you noticed, there was a glaring grammatical goof-up. the sentence was, ¨if i were them, i would stare at me too.¨ you may be thinking the problem is the subject-verb agreement with ¨i¨and ¨were.¨ no, this is legit as this is a conditional clause. the problem lies with the word ¨them.¨ it should be ¨they,¨ which is in the nominative case, not in the objective like ¨them.¨ it must be nominative because ¨were¨ is a linking verb. so on behalf of not only myself, but also all of the (usually) hardworking employees here at iFiTiStoBeiTiSuPtOmE, please accept my recantation. and, well, let´s just say there might be a ¨shuffling¨ of some of my staff members, as i have a very low tolerance for non-proffesionalism.

it´s a sad day in whoville when you can´t ride your bike in the local grocery store.

one evening, while looking for a place to sleep, it was very windy. i did not want to set up my tent because, like i said, it was very windy. so i wasn´t sure what i´d do. and then i found this place. and then i was sure what i would do.

does anything have permanent relevance? the song, the supposed anthem of a generation, forgotten in a matter of months. the best selling, must read book, a year later collecting dust on a library shelf, being sold for a nickel on ebay. death, especially the immediacy of it, incredibly tragic, yet life moves on, and grief seemingly fades simply because seconds click away, and perhaps dissolves to oblivion. so what is there that tomorrow, will have always mattered, matters, and always will matter? eternal significance? what? god? but i can´t define god (which both doesn´t bother me and, perhaps egregiously, increases my belief), and i haven´t been satisfied with any attempt that has met my ears. ok, ok, yes, my life matters, the love i have for my family and friends matters, matters poignantly...but this ¨mattering¨ must be qualified as being only to me. and someday, hopefully in a infinitely distant future, i will die, so this to me mattering is also temporal. and you see, that´s where i´m stuck. is permanence of relevance just a myth?

the frequency of women´s undergarments on the side of the road has become both unignorable and depressing. have i been missing something all these years?

i met another girl. from australia. that accent just kills me. and so, from the encouragement i´ve received from all 3 of you (2 not including me) who have read these blogs about my previous failed attempts with women, i decided to change it up this time. rather than beat around the bush, when i introduced myself to her, i engaged in several activities. first of all, after i said my name, i sort of pointed at her while simultaneously winking, waving my head from side to side (quite fluidly), and clicking my tongue. i thought i was money, you know? i mean, i´ve seen movies and that stuff is money. but i didn´t stop there. i wanted a guarantee with this girl. so i brought out the big guns and went for it. i mean, it was probably unnecessary and all seeing as i was already so money, but i have a tendency to take things to the extreme. so i told her she completed me and that if i died that second, it wouldn´t matter because i had lived a thousand lives the moment i saw her, and i capped this off by saying ¨i don´t play games and i ain´t no playa.¨ but i didn´t just say this. i kind of rapped it, you know, be box style, i´m talking vintage run dmc stuff. i also kind of had all my fingers spread apart and i was waving my arms up and down and around my body. it was so money. if you had been there, you probably would have screamed money, seriously. this is how money it was. if this isn´t money, there is no such thing as money: i was feeling pretty solid at this point. and so, after all these theatrics, there was this gadawfully awkward moment of silence, and she said something like whatever, and walked, quite briskly, away from me. maybe it was cultural though, because, i mean, she was from australia and all. or maybe it was the beard? i´m shaving tonight.

i think my most vivid mexican memory will come from a small town where i stopped to watch life and think about mine. this watching and thinking was interrupted when a boy touched me on the elbow and said, ¨senor.¨ then he pointed to an aged woman who was, with an outstretched arm, looking at me. i approached her and soon realized she was requesting help in crossing the street. what struck me as odd was her selection of myself. in the town´s plaza, where multitudes meandered about, why me? not that i hesitated for one second, but i couldn´t help but question her election of me, twice as tall, sweaty, stinky, the village´s temporary alien.
as i embraced her hand, i felt a frailty that frightened me. and her initial movements, stupendously slow, indicated that what to me, and god how i take this for granted, is a simple task, would be anything but with her. the step from the curb to the street was a fifteen second, thirty centimeter descent that had me holding her with both of my hands and praying that i would not fail in my task. once the curb was successfully negotiated, i felt a sweat on my brow because we not only had a gnarled cobblestone street to cross, but also an additional curb on the other side. she was so weak, so deliberate about every movement, her instability was indicated by muscle contractions in her fingers which were felt by mine. traffic thankfully halted. it was a silent traverse, she was engulfed with her gait, i was inept in spanish. the ascent up to the sidewalk was epic and victorious. her journey was over, mine has not even reached the half-way point. and the moment our hands unclasped, i was never as thankful for my ease of mobility. someday that ease will be gone. what is loose now will be stiff. what is effortless now will involve pain. and i can honestly say that i dread that day, whenever it may come, but for now, my slowly fading delusions of invincibility and imaginations of immortality dominate, and the inevitable reality of that future is still seemingly a lifetime, perhaps several, away.

a crisp morning, no clouds to be seen, still, a perfect temperature. i watched the world wake up from my saddle, as the condensation that covered everything slowly vaporized. of note was the lack of any vehicles on the road. because this was to my advantage, questions of why, which i usually obsess about, did not bother me now. ignorant (the easiest kind of) acceptance. and then i noticed patches of excited mexicans lining the road. most of them clapped for me. or waved. or cheered. i was confused, very, and this confusion increased as the number of people did the same. and finally, as a foreign blood flushed my veins, i considered the possibility. no...it couldn´t be! already international? impossible. but the more kilometers that flowed under my tires, the more people there were, and the more foreigners i saw, and the more convinced i became. it´s finally happened, i thought. it´s caught on. the revolution´s begun! iFitiStObEiTiSuPtOmE iStobE!! and in only a matter of months? i never imagined! the world has noticed. the indubitable truth has smacked them in the face, they are awake, they are alive, tHeY bEleiVe!!! they are tracking my progress, they know where i am, they are following me, soon the streets will be stacked with myriads of multitudes, i won´t be able to ride anymore, this bike ride is over?, canada to the middle of mexico?, but i want to keep riding, i´ll have to hire riot police, a bicycle task force, that won´t be too bad, i can even draft off them, but how much will that cost?, that doesn´t matter anymore because i´m going to be rich!, people will want to say they saw me, will katie couric want to interview me?, we´ll have to find a time that works for both of us, i´ll sort that out later but whatever will i wear?, will she wear a sombrero to show how culturally sensitive she is?, am i on the cover of a magazine?, i wonder which one...., am i on a billboard?, i hope they airbrushed it and made me beautiful and muscular, are there internet sites claiming that i am not what i claim to be?, do my fans think i´ve sold out?, oh crap, not that!, i didn´t want it to get like this, but i must be so huge now, it´s beyond my control, out of my hands, the faithful will realize that, surely they will, but now i´ll have money, i think i need to buy things now, bigger is better, at least that´s what i´ve learned from commercials, and now that i´m renowned who i date or don´t or might be dating will be more important than earthquakes in kashmir and hurricanes in central america, but the sweet thing is that now girls might actually want to date me!, this is great, i´ll confess i always knew this would happen but never imagined it would be so soon, even though i want this, i must pretend to shun my celebrity, that´s what they all do, that´s how to be cool about it, i will allege that i don´t want to do interviews while scheduling them on the side, i will say no to photo shoots but i will secretly pose behind closed doors, i like to pose, see:who will do my make-up?, and i´ve got to do something with my hair, and i just hope i can pull it all off and that the masses will still believe in me?.... and then the real questions started to hit me. are all the wal-marts gone?, are they not flushing their toilets every time?, has the 17% of our landfills that are filled with disposable diapers decreased to 10%?, are more people recycling?, are less bombs being dropped on eight year old children in the name of peace?, is food being eaten by mouths and not by dumpsters? are recyclables being recyled?, are open windows and less clothes replacing air-conditioning, are warm jackets and thick socks replacing heating? and then, as it always bloody does, reality returned. interestingly in the form of blue lights and a cop who commanded me, though nicely, to get off the road for the supposedly world renowned pan-am car race from southern mexico to laredo, texas. and so, from the stadium of a road-side ditch, i watched cars at sickening speeds turn and twist their way up the mountains. but for an hour i was that hallucinated hero. i went from fool-on-a-bike with two measly comments on his blog, to the king of the world, back to the fool. but at least i got 45 minutes more of fame, though imagined, than most. maybe next time fella....maybe next time.

a 1am (edited to keep this pg) conversation in a hostel, that, despite earplugs, i couldn´t ignore:

dude, why are you back so early?
i´m tired mate.
but i left you alone in the room with her so you could hook up dude!
sorry, i´m tired.
dude, what happened? something happened. what happened?
shut up mate, i want to sleep.
dude, you´re high. are you high? what happened? tell me!
nothing happened, let it go!
i can´t believe i set you up and you´re not with her right now. if you didn´t want to hook up, why didn´t you leave? because if i were with her mate, oh mate, if i were with her right now....

and this is the typical traveler or backpacker or whatever you wish to call them that i encounter. and it disappoints me greatly. because, to me, it seems nothing more than a promenade to various places around the world to get drunk and have casual sex. both of which hold zero appeal for me. but the sweet thing about this and about life is that they probably can´t relate to a bike ride from canada to wherever. and regardless of understanding or not, the world spins.

i loved her with all my heart, until she went the way of the devil and fell for a clown. goodbye my love, goodbye.
cold hard facts. i am in quetzaltenango, guatemala. i am learning spanish. i am paying $100 per week for a private room, 21 meals, and 25 hours of one on one language instruction.

this is double my normal budget. one has to splurge every now and again. i have ridden almost 10,000 km. i have very little, no, i have no pity for people with hangovers. from here i will follow the incredible mountain and mayan scenery of guatemala. i will then cycle the pacific coast of el salvador. squeak through honduras. and i can´t wait for nicaragua. if you are walking on a road and speaking with me and a loud vehicle is approaching, please, for courtesy´s sake, pause your locution, because the subsequent hubbub prevents adequate audibility and i hate it when i have to ask for a repeat. i know where i will sleep every night for the next while. i miss the uncertainty and finding that perfect spot. i am white. people beg for money. i purchased a pair of running shoes for less than $3. it was hard to find ones with no leather. this is how i spend my mornings. on foot. exploring with the cadence of a jog. with a stone in hand for all the bloody hounds. this is the first time in my life where i am going to school and learning things that are directly and immediately applicable to my life. what a concept. my spanish improves daily. a homeless man is high and it´s 10am on a tuesday. there are many guns. i don´t like guns. roosters wake me up and i don´t mind. you can buy milk in a bag here. i like to buy milk in a bag. lights go out, water doesn´t run, but life goes on and no one is suing everyone. the mentality of this place, like so many, is that tomorrow may be better than today so let´s wait and see. you may say that´s what keeping these countries behind. i say it´s what´s keeping them ahead.



goodnight gIrgIb, goodnight. and i love you too, gIrgIb, i love you too.


are your calendars marked? if not, be sure not to forget that 25 november is international buy nothing day. it´s a day, it´s a challenge. could everyone in the world, for just one day, for just 86,400 seconds, not buy anything? is it possible? or are we so addicted that the word that lies nineteen words to the left of this asterisk * must be proceeded by the suffix im-? if you think this is silly, then that´s fine, don´t worry about it, carry on. but maybe if you´re thinking how easy this should be and that you want to be a part of it, go for it. maybe you can tell your friends about it. maybe maybe maybe. whatever whatever whatever. as with everything, it´s a volitional choice, or as i like to say, iTiSuPtOyoU!




14 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!??!?!?! Good blog.

Chirag

Wednesday, November 16, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Toth here...gosh Hirsch listing to your rants makes my head hurt. Get off the guns already...there is no conflict between being a Christian and owning firearms. Needing to defend ones self doesn't mean that you can't still love thy neighbor. Christ calls us to be lights to the world not pacifist that are taken advantage of by every evil force. The old saying holds true, God created man, Sam Colt made them equals. The poor surf in the middle ages or the lone homesteading family wasn't more holy because they couldn't defend themselves when bad people came a knocking...I give up. Rob, you may choose to live the pacifist life, but don't talk down to those of us that choose to maintain the ability to defend themselves aginst evil...

I notice that you have a Canadian flag and a Mexican flag on your bike, but no stars and stripes...hmmm...I suppose that your making your loyalities well known.

I liked the last report better...more experiences and less preaching...and BTW thanks for the note on the international buy nothing day...I'll be sure to go and buy a couple hunderd rounds of ammunition at Wal-Mart in your honor.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005  
Anonymous Sam U. said...

Hirsh:
I read the whole thing! Which sucked more, 50k uphill in the rain in Guatamala, or the same 50k running in Vanuatu?
I wish I had a bike to ride instead of just walking, I would have an extra hour every week to read your blogs.
Keep on truckin'!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005  
Blogger R3dcurlz said...

I've missed you! And my vicarious life through you. Soooooo, funny it brought me to tears. I love it!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005  
Anonymous ScottyD said...

Hey hIrSch. The image of you barking at dogs will stay with me for a while, maybe you could mix it up into your rap routine while you're freestylin'
Whatever banana philosophy you have, I share, and the same with toilet paper. On the radio a little bit ago they talked about how toilet paper runs out, so some places have installed two rolls, but then those two would run down at the same time. It's the same diea though, you take your paper from the roll that has less, not the one with more which I guess is what people do anyway. Vaguely on the same topic, I'm always bothered (and appreciative in the reverse) when I'm sharing a meal or picnic or whatever with someone, and because of some dietary allergies, I canonly eat a few things, and they eat some of them and then complain of how stuffed they are, and I am left hungry with food left which will otherwise go to waste but will make me sick if I eat it.
PS I'm red-green colour-blind and I really find it hard to read the red writing

Wednesday, November 16, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, one other thing kiddish... "earthquakes in kashmir and hurricanes in central america..." Don't forget that there were thousands of lives affected (if not devastated) by the hurricanes in the US here at home. Some were our close friends too. I've noticed you have made no mention or given any of your thoughts for those people. Please do not forget about them. I wish you good luck and safety on the remainder of your travels.

Chirag

Wednesday, November 16, 2005  
Anonymous brent said...

Classic hirsch getting pummeled with the mutts...very entertaining and Rickyesk. Classic Toth tresponse to the guns comments. I am very, very disappointed that you include an amazing waterfall with no mention of the river, potential for kayaking, etc...poor, Hirsch.

B-rent

Wednesday, November 16, 2005  
Anonymous sean said...

The only thing I gathered from your post is that you dislike guns, the US, and all established societies. Oh, and you always choose the blackest bananas. Stick to riding your bike and leave out the cracked philosophy. And yes, as previously mentioned, there is alot of suffering in the USA as well. Don't forget where that high dollar bike came from.

Thursday, November 17, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The beautiful waterfall is in Chiapas. If I'm not mistaken its right off the road connecting Palenque and San Cristobal. The name of the river I dont recall.

Another sensitive, enlightning account of your trip so far.
Looking forward to the next. It has to be some of the best travel writing I've read in a long time.

The question is not, Why does he not carry an American flag?, but why do so many Americans pretend to be Canadians while abroad and carry a Canadian flag.

They embarrassed or ashamed about something?? AFRAID???

pathebikeguy

Thursday, November 17, 2005  
Anonymous Ted said...

Another fantastic chapter! Awesome photos! Descriptive and provocative narrative! You've almost outdone yourself. Glad you weren't injured in your canine encounter. Keep these blogs coming!

Thursday, November 17, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

POKEMON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, November 17, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

aaron says :
i believe the high dollar bike came from canada?
and i believe those that read closely learned that hirsch doesnt have a flag because he doesnt want to be target practice.
and there is plenty of righteousness in this world that we can all share it.
you are a good man charlie brown.

Friday, November 18, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dig the school bus. how about a 'photo essay' blog so we don't have to listen to all that bs?

no nudes of the author please. others are fine however.

got georgia on my mind...

Saturday, November 19, 2005  
Anonymous craig said...

hirSch,
wonderful pictures and thoughts. I'm glad you share them, and they will be even more rewarding to yourself a few years down the road when your joints are stiffer and your strenght has waned, and your mind has lost its youthful elasticity to keep up with time. Hope your Spanish is coming as fast as Marc's. Cuidate mucho y que Dios te bendiga.
craig

Saturday, December 03, 2005  

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