Monday, July 03, 2006


first things first : hello

he must have been intelligent. clever. most like him are. they know what they’re doing. they have incredible patience. they’re good at it. and that's why they do it. he’d probably been watching me for a while. waiting, waiting. with all the time in the world. unknown eyes on an oblivious me. maybe it wouldn’t be me. but certainly someone. it was, after all, only 4am.

this is how i get high

i’ve kept a journal for quite some time now. daily. sometimes minutely. i guess some would say obsessively compulsively. but i say devotedly and with a passion. it’s as if it’s a habit. a therapeutic one. to say all the things i wished i’d said. and retract the things i wish i hadn’t. to record what i ate for a snack in the afternoon. whatever i feel like. all for me. not for you. my own little world. ink and paper.

another night, another home

i mean, i was standing there in a daze, numb from my ankles down, with seemingly non-existent fingertips. it was maybe 20 degrees out. i had that lack of sleep dizziness spinning me. holding my handlebars, which were perhaps the only things keeping me upright. amazed at the seeming chosen insomnia of those around me.

sometimes, it all gets a little squirrely

wherever i go, the journal is usually close. whether it’s the actual thing or some scraps of paper in my back pocket with hurriedly jotted down scribbles for later expounding. to save paper and money, i would usually write two lines of my font for every one line in the journal. it was a crowded muddle of squiggles and scratches and occasional exclamation points, sometimes many. and the thing is, no one could have deciphered a word of it. other than me of course. my journal is my friend when no one else is around. which, especially these days, is often.

so all this white. i hitched on a ship to antarctica. it´s been cold.

somewhere near me, a lady kept repeating the name of a hot drink she was selling. over and over and over. with the same intonation and rhythm. it was as if she were singing. perhaps a soothing personal mantra. finally, as if she were a siren, i couldn’t resist. but i didn’t die on her island. instead, i bought a drink and used it to warm my hands. it tasted like cinnamon.

looks like intel has some divine competition

for this bicycle trip, because i find that my pen often doesn’t keep up, i decided to invest in a little keyboard with a small screen. simple. nothing flashy. exactly what i wanted. i used it often and mainly for developing stories that popped into my head as the wheels spun beneath me. it gave me the ability to work a little, go back and add or delete and perfect; or at least try to. i remember the comfort i felt whenever i hit save. posterity’s sake.

it´s all straight forward

i needed sleep. i shouldn’t really have even been where i was. i mean, it all could have been avoided. different choices. but you don’t think like that pre-facto. you just try to make happen what needs to happen. i remember the lack of bushes and trees and thus needing to pay $0.13 to urinate. so i paid $0.13 and felt better as one does after such things.

when death finds me, i hope it´s something like this

my journals of the past are located in memphis, tennessee. in a box that locks. that water cannot enter. that fire cannot burn. that no one can get in. except me. occasionally, i would open this box. indiscriminately select one. open it up wherever my fingers parted the pages. and begin reading. usually, i would laugh. not because i had written anything funny. a different kind of laugh.

i didn´t laugh at all here. i felt any sound would start a slide of that left wall of sand.

there were things i needed to do, and the small backpack on my back was hindering me. kept getting in the way. so; why wouldn’t i?; i took it off and put it next to me so i could get done what i needed to do. tell me how or why that doesn’t or wouldn’t make sense. so i set it down. right next to me. i turned my back on it, something i only needed to do for a maximum of ten seconds. nine seconds less that maximum, i heard sprinting footsteps approaching. eight seconds less that maximum, i heard a disconcerting ruffle and sprinting footsteps departing. i turned around and looked down only to find an empty space where my backpack should have been. i looked up to see a blur of a man running off with it. and in that very brief moment of indecision, when decisions are made, i could perceive my pulse in throbs of black.

on this night, during my pitch black pees, i managed to lodge no less than six cacti in my feet

i remember, some years ago, i was catching up in my journal on a friday night. i had been exceptionally busy during the week with school and hadn’t been able to maintain my beloved daily ritual. this disappointed me. anyhow, i was in my tent. it was cold. i had my headlamp on. and the thing was, what i was writing for monday could have been written for wednesday or tuesday or xday. it was all the same. ok, minor and trivial variations. but really the same. all the same. so i put the cap on my pen. i turned my headlamp off. i went to sleep. not simply dreaming of a change, but knowing i would make one. and i did.

sometimes what is blurry suddenly becomes clear and you act

i chased him until i got to a maze of hallways and stairs and doors. i frantically asked the few people who were around at 4:15am if they had seen anyone. i pursued the direction of every pointed pointer finger. all dead ends. but i kept hunting. until a finger indicated the guy had jumped into a cab and sped off. it was over. i lost. time to evaluate.

fresh water, a tree, some dry ground...what else does one need?

some might think, ¨oh, you keep a journal, well isn’t that nice.¨ these are the people that don’t understand. it’s a record of one’s life. it’s an opus. staccatos of smiles. allegros of agony. encores of ecstasy. tempos of torture. harmonies of happiness. pentatonics of pain. it’s all there. in ink. in words. it’s yours. it’s perfect. and it will be there when all that is left of you is


i was standing on a street corner. alone. i was still looking, knowingly fruitlessly, left and right and all around. because, i mean, you know - maybe. just maybe. and then, not wanting to assess actuality, i began to consider what i would have done had i caught him. would i have hit him? i’ve never hit anyone. so i played out various scenarios in my head. and that kept me occupied. but only for a few brief moments.

a token macchu picchu shot

i had several short stories i had begun, yet to finish, is anything ever finished?, on my mini computer. some of them would have developed. some of them i would have deleted myself, in disgust. i also had jotted down numerous ideas and settings i wished to explore. i knew i would always have these things. i even backed them up with a memory card that could conveniently be stored inside the mini-computer. i’ll admit it. i loved using the thing. i loved having it. not so much for it, but for what i could do with it.

these are my feet on reeds which comprise an island that was constructed by hand and floats in the middle of lake titicaca on the border of peru and bolivia

i wouldn’t have hit him. i really don’t think i could hit anyone. i try to imagine doing just that right now. i try to imagine an angry grimace on my face. forming a clenched fist. and letting it fly at some guy’s face. i could never do it. i don't think this makes me a coward. do you? regardless, i knew i needed to fully consider what had just happened. and when i did this, a hollowness rose up in my chest and i felt a storm in my heart. and for some reason, rather than dwell on this event that had just taken place, i was thinking how nice it would be to have someone in my life. to have someone to give a flower to. and how i didn’t have that.

someday, i hope to have that

it’s not that important anyway. i mean, what significance does what i was thinking on february 11th as i was cycling through colombia have? what does it really matter? the feelings, the emotions, the events. it’s the past. it’s done. it’s over. move on. and those stories i was working on never would have amounted to anything anyway. they were the sort of things you start with no intention of anything beyond that. i wasn’t concerned about any of it. i didn’t care. i felt relieved to be relieved of these things. big deal. who cares?

me. i do. immensely.

the damage: passport. money. hydration backpack. helmet. thermafleece shirt. multi-tool for bike. a water bottle that had been with me since canada. my mini-computer with the brilliantly backed up memory card still inside of it. oh yeah, and my journal.

are you sure your children are safe?

at this point i wanted to scream. not for the sake of making a loud noise that would somehow and for some reason supposedly symbolize my anger. but for the thief to hear me. i wanted to shout out that i’d give him anything he wanted in addition to what he’d already taken. literally anything. more money. credit cards. the clothes on my back. my left kidney. everything. if he’d just give me the journal and the memory card. keep the mini-computer. i didn’t care. just give me the journal and the card. please. dear god, please. just let me have those two things. i also wished i could rewind life for just a couple minutes and do it all over again. but even when blowing out candles, wishing is useless.

no, no, no. it´s not antarctica. all this white you´ve seen are the salt flats of bolivia. all of it. pure salt. the thing is, i´m more of a pepper fan myself.

but i didn´t scream. i turned around. pulled my jacket tighter. and walked to a bus station. and got on a bus. to the capital of bolivia. to la paz.

look! look what i found!

the u.s. embassy was enormous. seeing an american flag was strangely comforting. everything was sterile. the flowers smelled like soap. i could have licked the sidewalk. a security guard informed me it would be between thirty minutes and an hour before the embassy opened. i would have to wait. so i took a seat on the stairs. i was immediately and inhospitably informed that sitting on the stairs was not permitted. so i stood up and walked to a tree, a good 30 feet from the embassy. another security guard approached and advised me that waiting was not allowed on the same side of the street as the embassy, you need to cross the street and wait over there, he said. and so i did.

it´s a needle. really. it is.

when the embassy appeared to be opened, i made eye contact with the guard. i sort of lifted up my arms hoping that the gesture would designate my inquiry as to whether i could now re-cross the street back to the embassy. he indicated that, yes, i could do this. and so i did.

to get into the embassy, i needed to speak to a receptionist. she was surrounded by bullet-proof glass. we had to talk via telephone. i felt like one of us was in jail. but i wasn´t sure who.

how do i get myself into these tight situations?

she told me i needed to pick up another telephone, located behind me, and dial an extension she had given me. so i did that. the voice on the phone told me that i could now enter the embassy. and so i did.

immediately upon entry, i was asked for my passport, which i of course did not have. but then my name flashed up on a computer screen, and after all the metal detectors and a confiscation of a couple things, i was in.

i prefer to be in places like this

walking through the garden to the actual embassy itself, i had a knot in my stomach. here i was. in bolivia. with no passport. with no photo id whatsoever. all i had was a handful of photocopies. looking at them, i laughed. any kid with photoshop and ten minutes could have cut and pasted this together. but it was all i had. so i approached the window they told me to and tried, with much effort, to assert an air of confidence. the lady asked for a photo id. sorry. she asked for originals of the copies that i had. sorry. please wait, she said. she needed to talk to someone ¨higher up.¨ that made me feel lower down. the moments she was away passed slowly. very slowly. during which, i imagined all sorts of worst case scenarios, as i sometimes tend to do.

then she came back.

look out for llamas

amazingly, she said the copies i had were enough. i existed once again. that felt nice. i could pick my special ¨emergency¨ passport up in a couple days, she said. at the special price of $97. on my cycling budget, that’s over two weeks.

walking away from the embassy, i bought a hot drink off the street. my first swallow was one of those swallows that goes down very slowly. i could feel it coating my insides. and for some reason, i felt a little better about everything.

i also passed a guy selling protractors. that was his entire inventory. how often, in a lifetime, does one purchase a protractor? but what do i know? i´ve never taken a business class in my life. and i´ve seen him since, seemingly selling. so he must have the right angle.

i just told you to look out. or kick. no, no, i didn´t kick. i think she just wanted a smell.

i feel like six months of my life were stolen. six months of cycling from costa rica to bolivia. all the things about the journey i didn´t invest my memory in because they had been recorded. that´s the thing about a journal. despite the things you may even want to, it never lets you forget. but now those things will be forgotten. unless i can remember them.

hope. you gotta have it. that´s what people say. and so i do have it. why? because in my journal and on the little screen of my mini-computer, i had written, in both spanish and english, that if either of these two things were ever found, to please send them to my home address. i also promised a reward. and so, whenever i am next near my mailbox, i will be opening it daily. with hope. and perhaps like a fool.

mary had a...

but i can´t let this one unfortunate event get me down. must remember the sea of kindness i have encountered on this trip. must return my pen to paper. must start sleeping again. must keep doing what it is i do, which is, specifically, ride my bike.

and once i figure out which way is up, that´s exactly what i´ll do


Blogger R3dcurlz said...

I have a similar journal. I feel your pain. Good for you for making the most of it. {:-)

Sunday, July 02, 2006  
Anonymous Gayle said...

Oh Robert, I'm so sorry to hear about your stuff being stolen. You dad told me about it. Makes my heart sad for you. And again, another wonderful glimpse into your beautiful world.

By the way, I bought a new camera, and your dad tried to "steal" it from me...LOL!! It was funny, he tried, but no luck.

Can't wait to read the next blog. Take care and be careful!!

Monday, July 03, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So sorry to read about your journal! But you made it into a wonderful story. Keep safe.

Monday, July 03, 2006  
Anonymous Ted said...

Thank you for yet another fantastic blog with excellent photos, special effects for some photos, and outstanding narrative. Sorry about the losses, but you're obviously a survivor and will make the best of it! Best wishes for your continuing travels.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hirsch, I'm sorry about your journals. I felt your pain through your story. Great writing. You still have those memories, which you can write down as you remember them, and you have this blog, and your pictures, and letters/emails that you sent to friends over the 6 months. And souveniers like those interesting bread figures tell a story. I'm sorry about the loss, but just remember how remarkable the mind is. You haven't lost all of the contents of the journal, just all of the work you put into it.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006  
Anonymous Basil said...

My condolences. I lost (or had stolen, not sure, I was half asleep) a diary that I was keeping when I first came to Mexico. What I would give to be able to read through that again...

But you know what they say, silver lining and all that. After all this travelling that you've done, I'm sure that you of all people know how true that is.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006  
Blogger Corrinek said...

That really sucks, Hirsch. I remember keeping a journal in Vanuatu because I felt like I had to do so, not because I loved it like you so obviously do (if I could trade my journal with yours, I would). I will send good thoughts towards whoever stole your backpack in the hopes that they will send your journal and mini-computer back one day, and karma (though not nearly restored) will be on its way to being back in balance.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Send $1,000,000 to me and the problem will disappear. guaranteed.


Friday, July 07, 2006  
Anonymous Taylor said...

Aw, weak man! Getting things stolen sucks big wan. I hope you can remember some of the things you wrote down, your writings are always enlightening and help put things in perspective. Let's hope this is the last time it happens.


Sunday, July 09, 2006  
Blogger powstash said...

It's very likely that I enjoyed this post more than any other. Are you asking yourself "What's next yet?" as you near the end of the continent or are you still focusing on pedaling each mile for now and the "What's next" will take care of itself.

Thanks for the post and the pics.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am overwhelmed by your physical
ability to 'push on'! I would still be in the dirt...Sorry about your stuff - maybe it means you will be rewarded in another way, in another place, another time...?
Coco Brush / PCT & PCV mom

Saturday, August 19, 2006  

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