Friday, March 23, 2007


catching you up while i myself catch up. garfield in arabic is a trip.

i. anecdote...or...the plucked contact

the only thing that would be fictional about the following story and subsequently following photo would be to say that it were fictional. before leaving for morocco, i spent some days in brooklyn with a friend of mine, whose name is the king of spain. he’s gone back to school and is taking a modern art photography course. he needed an incredibly handsome, buff, and deftly tan subject to shoot; so naturally, he chose me (nb, he never offered to pay me, something i’m still a little sore on). he asked me to take off my shirt (don’t worry, this doesn’t get weird), and to extend both of my arms; on the right of which he placed one chicken and on the left of which he placed two. apertures were adjusted, f-stops decided upon, and shutters clicked. then, the chicken closest to my head on the right, in an amazing feat of agility, swung it’s beak directly onto, thank the lord not into, my right eye. out popped my contact, and it landed, dangling precariously on my right cheek. by the time the king of spain or i realized what had happened, the chicken swung again and nipped that contact and swallowed it down. the photo shoot terminated instantly, both of us on hands and knees and in chicken shite, searching for a contact that was not to be found, unless we cared to perform a dissection, something i am not proud to admit i did consider.

ii. satan and poop

with a belly full of resurrected parasites and a head full of ache and fevers and these strange twinkley mirrors, my legs kept moving because that’s what i do and so that’s what they did. the sky was turning red, i was turning red, everything was turning red, the sand was levitating, and i deliriously questioned if this were reality, but such distinctions are getting hazy, conditions above notwithstanding. the sand, dear lord that sand, it was everywhere, and the winds...well, i saw the eyes of the devil herself in those winds and they didn’t care nothing for me; and their indifference, as all indifference does, delighted me.

yes, indifference delights me, until i get lonely. which is always.

heaven above those winds, and there wasn’t a soul on these usually peopled streets and on the seldom occasion that a car rolled by i was sucked in or spit out by vortexes rebelliously breaking every known law of newtonian physics. and i will tell you this – prepare to balk – but it’s the truth and i swear it on the chameleon i buried in my backyard fifteen years ago; that wind, when i was on the dirt roads, took my trailer and shifted it from one side of my bike to the other and that’s when i knew what i already knew, but now i really knew it: it’s time to stop.

i can stop anytime man, really man, i can stop, there's no problem here, i can stop, i can, no, it's cool man, my hands always shake like this...

but where?

i was in the gold-blessed wide open desert with nothing to break the empty horizon except a few raggedy thorn bushes with plastic bags trapped and flapped in them, and if i was going to stop and have any sort of a prayer of getting my tent up, i needed something to break this gawdawful wind. and thorns and plastic weren’t going to do the trick.

this place did the trick.

so i rode on and sand was blasting and plastering me and it was in my teeth and beating unrhythmically on my ear drums and it felt like a son of a gun, but i had to keep going and that wind turned to my back and i couldn’t even keep up with the pedals and so i just sat and sailed, all the while desperately looking for something, anything, anywhere to stop. and when my eyes caught site of a collection of desert mud huts, i pushed and pulled and yanked and cursed my bike over too them, gave my beard a stroke, knocked on a door, watched that sky get redder and redder, and lord i shuddered. minutes later, the door slowly opened to reveal a fully robed arabic woman who, needless to say, was taken aghast by my unsightliness and i tried, in my best sign-language, to indicate i needed a wall to pitch my tent behind, but she (and rightly so) thought i was a raving lunatic and pointed down towards her gardens, and so i followed the direction of her fingernail.

her fingernail pointed towards these flowers.

now there were some trees down there, but the wind was having its way with them and the ground was so stony and hard and ploughed and uneven, i knew i wouldn’t get a wink of sleep; and too, those resurrected parasites weren’t wasting any time in taking care of business which meant i had some desperate business to take care of myself, and that sense of urgency is a stinger because it only makes things more urgent. all the while those winds just kept roaring and the sun was sinking and the sand was in my nostrils and i could have sworn it was the commencement of armageddon and i started repenting so hard for my sins that i caught myself recanting sins i hadn’t even committed. but i figured a little insurance policy in this department couldn’t harm.

this guy has done some harm. enjoy your steak tonight!

hell’s bells there was nowhere to put my tent and i felt miserable and all i wanted at that point was to be eight again and in my bedroom with my nintendo and my parents bringing me some crackers and apple juice and telling me it was okay if i didn’t want to go to school tomorrow. god how i wanted that. instead i had sandpapered contact lenses making every blink an ordeal and i was terrified to let that pregnant fart go because when a fart ain’t a fart....well, it gets messy. especially so when there are no whirpool’s or maytag’s around to save the day.

well, i guess i could have cleaned up in this well.

so i’m just pushing through this field of lumps and stones and weeds not knowing where i’m going but taking consolation in that i’m moving (that’s what i do: move) and then i see a wall and behind it a house and i see some movement and i wave down a man and he comes over and unlocks the gate and i start my sign-language again and i remarkably ignore those parasites that i can actually feel swiss cheese’ing my intestines. he brings out another man, and i’m on stage again. then the third man, and by this time my script is down and the first guy is already bored having now seen three almost identical shows. there is a moment of silence. then some tense arabic is exchanged. i’m almost doubled over in pain with about one inch of colon to spare. and then, i get the nod and a smile. not just a place to pitch a tent. i’ve got a home.

this was a nice home.

but not just any home, my very own home. it’s vacant and they unlock it and direct me in, bike and all. they show me each empty room and indicate i can choose. they even show me a toilet, a hole in the ground, and i know i will be making good use of it, which i do the instant they leave. and glory be, put me on the cover of a magazine because i lost ten pounds in ten seconds.

being illiterate is scary, especially when your water is almost gone and up pops this crucial sign.

then i crawled into my sleeping bag and was dead to the world. and thank god to that wind too.

sometimes the fleeting thought of being dead to something can provide comfort. but the comfort is also only fleeting. truth be told, i want to live forever. a classic want, i know. but i want it. but if i got it, i would no longer want it. that's how it is with me.

several hours later, a knock on the door. a tray of olives, bread, margarine, and piping hot mint tea balance on the hand of the third man, the ultimate permission giver. i can barely tolerate to even look at the food, but i suck down the tea with this guy and speak in smiles and thank him profusely for his kindness and wonder at how fortunately things can turn out when it seems hope has run out. it’s like i’ve always said, you gotta not only have hope, but keep it. he leaves, i get back in my sleeping bag, and throughout the night am able to purge those parasites and all their productions with several urgent visits to that hole in the ground (which i made less of a hole...). the next morning i’m running at 70%, there isn’t even the faintest hint of a breeze, so i pack it all up and off i go.


to the roads of morocco. that are ruining me.

because of the kids.

iii. little bundles of joy

i do not think i will ever go to a zoo again.

this donkey wasn't hee-haw'ing about nothing having been bagged like this.

i realize, accept, and am fully aware that i am a spectacle. it’s hard not to be. i am glad to stand out on these one lane, full of blind curves mountain roads where traffic pauses in disbelief thus sparing me unguard-railed 1000 feet plunges to my certain death (but what a death that would be!). but i hate, dread, and curse what i cause as i ride through the small villages. cups of tea paused mid-journey between table and mouth. women, a pair of eyes with everything else wrapped in black, hurrying off the road to get as far away from me as possible. conversations stopped mid-syllable with hovering hand gestures yet to be completed. i try to smile, wave, nod acknowledgement, speak some token arabic phrases, pump my fist to the claps. but until you’ve done this (and i mean on a bike, not whizzing through in a car), you will never know how taxing; day in, day out....hour in, hour can be. but really, all of this is nothing. nothing, by the way, is what i aspire to be.

this, however, is everything.

it’s the kids.

i have reached this point, and it hurts to admit this, but it is true: nature abhors a vacuum; i abhor the moroccan kids. why?

no kids here, i had my peace.

1. they stone me. though my body has yet to receive an impact, niAgA oLoS (my bike) cannot make the same claim. my favorite were the cliff kids. rocks fell all around me from fifty feet up. i pedaled as fast as i could banking that the little buggers weren’t good physicists. and then there was this one guy who almost got me with a ricochet off a wall. if he had called the bank shot and actually connected, i would have had to give respect.

just like i must give respect to good solid windows...

...and jugs.

2. they plague me. if i stop for a break, no matter how well hidden, they find me. they grab for my food, they prod at my bike, they beg for money, they beg for sweets, they beg for pens. they sit three feet away from me and point and stare and laugh and mock me (often in groups of twenty). and this doesn’t occur for just five minutes. they stay as long as i stay. imagine, trying to read or eat or just relax, wishing to be all alone, and twenty kids are staring at you, mocking you, laughing at you, pointing at you, and yelling at you. i eat a date. the crowd goes wild. a spoonful of yogurt. the stands erupt. a sip of water. they start the wave. i lose my appetite.

maybe i should engage them in a game. but only if i get to be the thimble.

3. they plague me some more. i am horribly slow on these steep climbs that go on for miles and miles. as i pass through a village, the houses discharge all of their children in a symphony of screams. they walk next to me begging for anything. they grab at the flags on my trailer and try to pull them off. they jump onto my trailer. they grab at my trailer and pull anything they can get their hands on (they’ve only managed to swipe my trash bag (twice)).

i could be a camel jockey. maybe then i'd get respect.

4. they rob me. i stopped at an internet cafe, keeping my bike in view at all times. when i exited, my pump, bike light, and two water bottles had been swiped. gone. as a sweet and unexpected end to this story, all of the items were miraculously recovered by the manager who made the reacquisition his personal one man mission by employing the “good” kids to go track the thieves and items down.

similar to my cycling in central and south america: no potable water, no medical facilities, crumbly mud houses...but...high speed internet access.

and that’s the thing. there ARE good kids. like the “good” kids mentioned above that hunted down all my stuff, and i bought them all a yogurt to say thanks, after giving, if i may say, a bit of a heroic speech in english that was translated into arabic. and the kid who gave me directions on a dirt road and saw i missed my turn and ran, yelling and waving at me, to let me know. the kid that purchased (with my money) dates for me. and the group of school kids (whom when i saw them, i winced and braced for stones) that lined the road and just erupted in cheers for me. and the countless other kids that i don’t see.

come here little children, uncle hIrSch won't hurt you....

but these good kids, and i’m speaking from my perspective (the only way one can) here, are the rarities. the five leaf clovers. i still shudder recalling the day a stampede crested a hill running towards me at full steam as i was watering some roadside weeds. with a grimace, i constricted my urethra mid-stream, apologized to my prostate ("hang in there old buddy"), dashed for my bike, hopped on and thanked the almighty that a downhill awaited. and i left them all behind; out of, figuratively and hell’s bells literally, stone’s reach.

where there is a hill, there is a way.

i’ve tried everything, with zero success. learning how to say “please leave me alone” in their language. firmly saying “no” to all of their infinite demands. never getting angry. never threatening. explaining that i cannot speak their language and they cannot speak mine, so it is a lose-lose situation. all of this invites more of the same, and often worse.

not as bad as it was for this chicken. enjoy your wings!

i am not proud to say that i have taken to absolutely ignoring their existence. this has worked seldom and has failed frequently, but when you taste success, you stick to that tactic. and it makes me sick in my stomach to do this. i mean, they’re just kids. give me their shoes and undoubtedly i would be just as curious about me (though i like to believe i wouldn’t be a badger). but curiosity is one thing. stealing, stoning, and scowling are quite different.

but i don't feel good when i ignore people...but i do feel good when people ignore me....

but – you say – but DO have money, maybe not much, but you DO have some. why not hand some out? share the wealth? where’s the harm?

this guy did not ask for money.

and now i say, yes, of course, i do have some money. but how do i decide WHO to give it to? if him, why not her? if them, why not that guy who didn’t even ask? if everyone, then i’m broke. so how do i do it? and, more importantly, does it really help when it is immediately spent on some type of overly-processed sweet cavity-conducive treat?

sometimes i think i expect too much out of life which means, of course, i'm only setting myself up for constant disappointment.

and now you say, but hIrSch, why not give the kids a little treat? a pen or a cookie? make them happy? brighten up their day? give joy?

we do all need joy.

and now i say, no. i NEVER just give kids anything. NEVER to the kids. you give to the kids, they will be asking until they die. and they will teach their kids to do the same. this may seem harsh, but i make no apologies for it. (before you get carried away, realize if there were a famine here, or if these kids were destitute, the story would be different.)

i rounded a corner and made a discovery of grand proportions...

...i recorded the following image to document this historic event...

...but then i sadly realized both that sir kodak gold beat me to it...and how unoriginal what i am doing really is. folks, it's all been done before and it will all be done again. please remove me from your hero list. however, i am doing this trip without supplemental oxygen. so put me in the books i say!

am i still bellyaching about these kids? yes. i am.

when i see movement on the side of the road. i pray for a camel. or a donkey. or a rabid dog that will mangle my achilles tendon rendering me unable to cycle in my last few glorious days before i become rabid myself and die in the desert to the delight of the buzzards who patiently wait. but when that movement is a kid, i stand up, pound the pedals, and never look back.

a muslim cemetary. i want to be put to rest in the desert too. but above ground so i can be pecked at. and then scavenged by the craftiest of all creatures, the ants. good lord almighty do not put me in some fancy schmancy $5,000 casket. that would kill me.

in minnesota, i once stared at a bear. a polar one. i looked through a thick sheet of plexiglass that allowed me to see this magnificent creature ripped from its homeland. for twenty minutes i stared. and that bear walked on the white (to simulate ice for me, the spectator. it did nothing for the bear.) painted rock. then it dropped into the water, swam three strokes, climbed out of the water, back to the white rocks, repeat repeat repeat. for twenty solid minutes, that was what this bear did. i started to feel sad. the girl i was with said the bear was doing the exact same thing when she was here a year ago. speaking of bears, the only bear i saw on the appalachian trail was in a zoo in new york. the appalachian trail literally goes right through this zoo. it was a good old black bear. and it just sat there, motionless. it had been given a big red ball to play with. the big red ball just sat there, also motionless. i stared at that bear for a while. watched families stop. kids point. dads taking pictures. i moved on to the mountains. where the bears should be but aren’t because we've taken what was and should be theirs.

the man in the mountain

now, i am that zoo. no admission charge. come one, come all. my next scheduled feeding is at 10am. don’t be late. unlike the bears, however, i am left to my own devices after my bowel movements. no shovels or hose-downs for me.

at this very moment, i was thinking, "what this place needs is some condos."

iv. future, assuming i have one

the kids have had zero impact in the decision i have made: i am off to europe. adios africa. i am sad about this. i am stoked about this. i am sad and stoked about most things in life.

the subject of the photo was meant to be the "5o days to timbuktu by camel" sign. however, i think it goes without saying that my beard stole the show.

i went back and forth daily. probed deeper. investigated details. not only were visas going to be an issue (logistical, monetary, wait time, and if i would even be granted one), but the necessity to get “travel permits” was the next roll of red tape i discovered. perhaps i could get that sudanese visa, but then maybe i could only get travel permits for certain roads in certain areas. which would mean i would have to pay for transport to hop around to the areas where i was allowed to ride. that holds zero appeal for me. it doesn’t sound fun. that and the very real possibility of being half-way through africa and getting stuck not being able to get any sort of onward visa sealed the deal.

please sir, can i have my visa? pretty please?

i want to RIDE my bike. and that’s what i’ll do.

v. jesus vs. muhammad (there are no winners)

finally, this is a dialogue i had with myself around easter time, which, incidentally this year, almost exactly coincided with the birth of muhammad.

the mauve is me. the mint green is also me:

today is an important day in my religion. our prophet jesus rose from the dead.
today is an important day in my religion too. our prophet muhammad was born.
tell me about muhammad.
he is god’s prophet, and he came to earth to help us know how to live. tell me about jesus.
he is god’s prophet, and he came to earth to help us know how to live. do you believe in jesus?
yes, i believe jesus existed and said some very important things, but i believe that muhammad is the true prophet and jesus is a false prophet. it says so in the qur’an. do you believe in muhammad?
yes, i believe muhammad existed and said some very important things, but i believe jesus is the true prophet and muhammad is a false prophet. it says so in the bible. tell me about the qur’an.
it’s the religious text i believe in and abide by. tell me about the bible?
it’s the religious text i believe in and abide by. where are you from?
i’m from morocco. where are you from?
i’m from oklahoma. i wonder if i were from morocco and everything i knew and saw and experienced was the qu’ran and muhammad, if that’s what i’d believe...
i wonder if i were from oklahoma and everything i knew and saw and experienced was the bible and jesus, if that’s what i’d believe....

the sun will soon set permanently - for me - on africa. africa is going nowhere. i am going somewhere. and maybe those wheres, on some distant day, will overlap again. there is plenty of future.

Monday, March 19, 2007



...back to this life

everything has been happening. is happening. that plane ticket i bought on a cold, rainy day in september way back in chile no less has finally served its purpose. it’s africa. no longer a place i’m going. i’m here.

and what an introduction with marrakech, morocco because when the sun sinks low in the sky, this place just starts to get going and everything you thought might only be happening when the national geographic cameras were rolling is actually happening and it’s all around you and there are sweet beards everywhere and women who could be prostitutes and women who are head to toe in arabic robes and it all somehow mixes and shakes up and there’s a guy tooting his flute and that cobra is in a trance to dance and then starts striking at nothing and i’m thinking yes man!,

and here’s a little band beating on drums and tambourines and whacking those guitar strings and smoke’s all over from those poor dead animals being cremated for the carnivores and then those delicious vegetables being grilled in tarjines and the couscous is always cousing and the tea is piping hot and tangy with ginger and there’s a guy with a wheelbarrow full of bread and it’s warm so i buy a piece and fresh orange juice everywhere and dozens of varieties of dates and figs to choose from and mounds of cinnamon and cumin and curry and mint and turmeric

and mariah carey blasting from some speakers over there and good god all the sounds i hear and the languages that mean nothing to me and those shoes that curl up at the toes and everybody is just in this rhythm and everyone’s moving and clapping and jumping and hooting and hollering and it’s just a tuesday night and you bump into and out of people and you don’t apologize because you’re just going and flowing and that guy on the clarinet is just blowing and a monkey runs by you and that lady just looked at my palm and told me bad news: i’m destined to die young because of this short line and i imagine unwrapping her scarves that hide everything but her eyes and planting a fat wet kiss right on her lips because that just might be the best news i’ve heard all day, but i don’t and then i see this tower off in the distance and slowly, from below, the lights on it illuminate and this guy on a microphone just starts chanting and saying who knows what and people migrate to it because it’s time to pray

and things here stop for prayer (rather than praying for things to stop) and it’s five times a day and every time i hear that sound bellowing from those towers i start to think of the too many things in life i take for granted and never give the thanks for i should and so i start praying myself and as to what god is where and who and why and when....well, let’s just let them folks with the bullets and guns straighten all that out for us.

i buy the darkest bread i can find and some real tart yogurt without any sugar or yellow number 5 or phenylalanine and some tomatoes and dates

i can't get a date in the states to save my life, but they're dang cheap here and i get to pick and choose! what more could a sad, sad man want...?

and bananas and even some chocolate with almonds and i have the best dinner money can buy, and before i eat it i stop and give thanks and i try to really mean it and say something different each meal so it doesn’t just become like a habit or something i feel i must do, i want it to be something i want to do, something i look forward to doing and i don’t want it to be something where i have to bow my head or close my eyes to do because i question the necessity of those things so we might even be getting ready to eat a meal, you and i,

maybe even here! i mean, why not?!?

and we might even be talking and you’ll never know that my other self (you have one too!) is in a different place offering thanks for all i’ve been given and all i have and all that is yet to come, but that’s okay because i don’t pray so that other people will see me do it and so it all works and you’re none-the-wiser and i’m just a big old fool anyhow and so i do what i do and we dig in and it’s all delicious and i’ve got yogurt in my beard and then i realize how despite all these delusions, that it’s just me that is here and i’m alone again and at first i revel in the freedom but scales can tip and turn oscillating on that little fulcrum and so then i start getting that hollowness in my stomach where i start wondering if i’m living this life right but i move on as i must and eventually fall asleep so deeply that not even the muffler-lacking motorcycles speeding through the 4 foot wide alleys right outside my room phase me.

and the roosters crow and it’s been too long since i’ve heard them yelp and i’m up and in sandals and shorts and that sun just beats down and i say, “yes!” and i sip the mint tea and eat some fresh bread with honey and i watch people’s lives and think about my own and i already miss my family and friends and wish i’d had all the conversations i dreamed of having, that i did have, back on those lonely patagonian roads (how well they went in my head!), but the timing was never right or i was a coward and of course it was the latter, but it’s okay and i get my bike all back together in one piece and whisper in its handlebar that it’s time and i take it for a test spin and it’s then that i realize that the time is now, it’s time to move, it’s time to go, it’s time to return to this life...and i pedal as fast as i can and weave between the donkeys and old men with canes and slam on my brakes for that motorcycle that didn’t see me and everyone yells “bonjour” and i repeat it back and then i hear more sounds and i don’t understand a single one so i just say yes and smile and go!

and so the next morning there i am in that 4 foot alley, bike against a wall, hooking up my trailer, and i mean i could be anywhere right now. bolivia. boston. doesn’t matter because the constant in this equation is always me. and my bike. and i take comfort in those constants and slide my flag stick full of flags down into my trailer and say goodbye to whomever will listen and everything beneath me begins to slowly roll away and so it goes once again. this life where i move and never stop...and everything and everyone i see....i leave it all behind.

she's not allowed behind that wall. once upon a time she was. but all fairy tales must end, though not happily ever after for all....

and i didn’t even know where i’d go because i’m still not exactly sure where it is i’m actually going (both a liberating and frustrating feeling), but a guy i met told me of a cool place on the coast and so i aimed my bike and headed that way and i guess i’ll just see what happens in the inbetweens.

and what happened and is happening is that every time i stop for a break, i am hounded by people, no matter how middle of nowhere i try to get. the kids are the worst. yeah, i’m getting bullied by ten year olds. they want my food. they want my money. they want my bike. they want the book that i’m reading. and they grab for it. not violently, but definitely with a vague notion of intent. and with no capabilities in french and with my arabic a bit rusty to say the least, what can i do? i mean it’s like i’m back in the third grade with that feeling in my stomach that comes when those two good-for-nothing fifth graders are walking towards me and they want my oreos, but no way (especially since they’re double stuff) and so i run fast and take my lunch near a teacher and they may be pounding their fists into open palms now but i’ve got white hydrogenated sugary vegetable fat on my tongue and i'm sticking it out for them to see. but, anyway, with these kids....i don’t get angry,

how can one get angry when there are flowers like these?

because anger is just a waste of time, but it does wear me down. trying to reason with them that, a) i don’t speak french or arabic, b) no, they cannot have my bike, c) i need the little food i have. the one time i did share food, the result was an additional badgering for more. and then there was that one day, on a stiff climb where i was inching along at a brisk 4 miles per hour, and a small girl jogged (ok, walked) up to me and we exchanged hellos and then she yanked something right off my trailer and sprinted down hill with it. i couldn’t believe it and was about to give chase until, however, i realized that unfortunately for her, all she managed to steal was my bag full of garbage. and then the goldblessed next set of kids i came upon concluded that i would make a fine moving target for them to hone their stone throwing skills. luckily, no future quarterbacks in the lot of them. but this doesn’t make for fun and enjoyable cycling...but that's fine because it is what it is and i am what i am and they are who they are and we are all here in it together. i just hope that little girl doesn't dig too deep. i mean, what with the used toilet paper and all that....surprise you little thief!! that'll learn ya!

but i know i know, i can’t let these things drown out all the kindness i have been the recipient of, and it has been overflowing. like my first day out some guys scoring me a moroccan flag for my trailer.

or being invited into that family’s home. or the guy who gave me tomatoes. or that girl that took the time to draw me a map when my looks of confusion and consternation superseded the bulwarks of languages. or the people that clap for me. or...for the kindest gesture of all...for those most blessed of people who just ignore me. to them, i take a knee for letting me be.

and, though i’d hoped otherwise, the hardest part of this bicycle trip is still finding a place to lay my head for the night. somewhere where i can just disappear for 12 hours. late one night, i’d been asleep for a while. out in the desert well hidden (i thought) behind the shrubs. i’d slogged my way through the loose sand just to get there. figured i was money.

should be money, right honey?

and then, i’m suddenly awake. to see four guys not two meters from my tent. they are walking, strangely silently, in a single file line. and the thing is, they walk right by me. my pulse is racing, and i’m thinking, is it possible they didn’t see me, my tent, my bike, my trailer...? well, it is dark, no moon yet.... but then the single file line becomes a blob. and they all 180 and come right back towards me. here we go. but i’m strangely relaxed. one guy has a flashlight. he shines it right at me. i tell them, oxymoronically in french, that i don’t understand french or arabic. indicate that i am just sleeping here for the night. that when the sun comes up, i’m out. they seem to understand. and 75% of them are ready to continue going wherever it is they are going. but that last guy is still there. looking over my bike. my tent. all these cursed things that i have (god to be able to live with no possessions! imagine it! is it possible?). his speech is indecipherable, but his tone and body language radiate (though perhaps misinterpreted) a want to harass me. and it doesn’t take a genius to realize that these boys got the numbers on me. two to hold me down. two to grab all my stuff. done. and if that were to have happened, life would have gone on as it does. and i would have figured out something as i do. but i surely didn’t want to be in that situation. and so, for whatever reason it was, those other three guys took the one by the shoulder and they all 180’ed again and headed off into the desert night, thankfully never to return again.

and so i ride on. and i will ride on.

but for how much further on this continent, i am unsure. it is impossible to cross into algeria. the border is closed (and has been for years) because of political disputes. to proceed east in africa, the direction these tires must more or less continue to spin to possibly circumbikeulate this globe, i face three major hurdles:

the darfur humanitarian crisis. diplomatic relations between chad and sudan might make this border crossing extremely sketchy, if not an impossibility, especially since my passport says “united states of america.”

central african republic. though it doesn’t get the media attention darfur does (which doesn’t get the attention potential impregnators of anna nicole smith get), a friend of a friend who lives there says the only way she can safely travel within the country is via international medical convoys. she strongly advised me against bike travel through this country (even priests have been shot at). in certain places, no worries. but a west to east traverse, not smart at all. especially alone. she said it was all but a guarantee that i would be robbed. more than likely by the “military.”

congo (zaire). for years, plagued by civil wars and peace accords that seemingly fall apart before final versions are drafted, the congo definitely has its safe places. but on a bike, when you want a continuous journey with no hopscotching on planes or buses or trains, you gotta go through everywhere. this ain’t your land in safe part of country x, get whisked away by a big bus, take your safari and your photos, and then fly away home sort of trip.

in addition, visas have to be arranged in advance and are costly (up to $150 for the application fee for a one month visa, not including the necessary bribes or hotel fare during the 1 day - 3 week visa processing time). and then i still might be refused (application fee being non-refundable of course) because some countries require an onward plane ticket or an official letter of invitation or acceptable proof of funds, etc. do i want to hassle with this? fool around with these logistics and waiting and hoping and possibly having to face the possibility that, nope, i can’t get the visa i need? and then what? there i am in some dusty town and i can’t go on? so then what? put ‘er in reverse?

now cyclists have traversed africa. no doubt. the north to south cairo to cape town route being the most common. but i’m nowhere near cairo. and yes, sure sure, some people have crossed from west to east. no doubt. but the crossing over the dodgy areas is done not on the bicycle but rather via the friendly skies. something i don’t have the cheese for. especially if i decide that i want to get around this globe on these three wheels. unfortunately, practicality and dot matrix atm balances rear their ugly heads...i ain’t gotta rush or nothing, but i do gotta keep moving, more or less and mainly east. i just falling prey to the hype? maybe it can be done.....maybe it won’t be too bad.....maybe i’ll be fine.....

but then there are those 19 europeans who were recently taken hostage (and some of them actually just released) in ethiopia. and ethiopia is “supposedly” safe.

and then i was stopped by the cops the other day. in the desert. had to turn over my passport. the one guy spoke english. told me they wanted my itinerary. for my safety. because of “the terrorism....the al qaeda.” had i heard of the group of russian tourists in algeria who were recently murdered? i told him no, but that i had seen al roker going down a waterslide during our national news morning program. and that after al’s adventure, i learned how to decrease my closet clutter. the cop told me to be careful and to keep an eye out (whatever that meant). after all, there had recently been a bombing at an internet cafe up north in morocco. i think news coverage of this was preempteed by a report on whether the color tangerine and lime were making a come back this spring.

speaking of news, yes, i did it. ok. it's off my chest. god i feel so clean right now. in addition, ann curry is hot.

and so i ride on. hell's bells, these things will never happen to me. i try to convince myself.

but man, dang it all, i’ll come clean right here and right now and i’ve said it before and i'll say it again: i just want to ride! to go! to move! to be free! to be able to look at my maps and dream about anywhere....not to look at my maps mandating me to go there because it’s the only place i can apply for my next hopeful visa. i don’t want my trip dictated like that. just the thought of that drives me nuts. to be forced to connect the previously determined dots.

so i’m thinking more and more about spending a couple months here in morocco and then hopping a ferry into spain. and sticking to the back roads through the mountains and then up into the pyrenees and the alps and wouldn’t it be great to ride through romania? and all the while, heading east.


nothing has been decided for sure. and as always, i’m leaving my options as wide open as these african roads that undoubtedly cajole and coax.

in the interim, i will ride morocco. turning left here, going straight there, just moving and spinning and rolling all over. and when my visa here runs out. i will see where i am. and choose where next to go.