Monday, November 27, 2006

the summer of love and woodstock passed me by when i was just starting high school, taking driver's ed, feeling quite repressed, not so much by the buffalo high school culture, which considered the new york state regents examinations to be the pinnacle of culture, but the stifling gray buffalo weather, and a gym teacher who ground me under his jack-boot, and, just the fact that i was too young to leave home and experience it all. i dreamed of the west, of places not visited, but at home i read old clippings from the scrapbook, one of a great-great-great grandfather who rode a horse and carriage with his family and all of his possessions from maine to illinois. when i finally left home i got to see it all, got to go out to the open skies, to the coast and back, and settled here in illinois again, where i sit by my computer late at night, family in bed, and sometimes travel a bit, on the web, to places like the garden of erudition, africa, or rileydog, wherever might strike my fancy. but lately i've been dreaming of second life, a proposition that would take up too much room in my computer, but would nevertheless be a traveller's dream. land of your imagination, build your own house, do as you please, a city bigger than st. louis with a huge economy and all the brightest of entrepreneurs. if you could do anything, build anything, own any island, what exactly would you do? i wonder as i sit on the threshold, and remember some of my own experiences- what is it that i still need, that i can't create here at home? that i would have to go looking for? i'm not the kind of guy to get kicks from killing people randomly in a virtual forest, having infinite sex with people of unknown gender or affiliation, or being rude to total strangers on virtual streetcorners, asking for a cyber-dime. but who knows, maybe there's something in it for me nevertheless, something i can't even imagine, from here.

as a youth, i arrived in san francisco a little late- the haight was washed up, taken over by junkies, gray and desolate in a way that made buffalo look like a ski resort; i was hit on my numerous men who reminded me that being hetero- was cutting off half the world's population and at least three quarters of san francisco's; the victorian houses looked strangely over-painted, and even the trolley cars were dainty tourist trains compared to the ancient but authentic ones i'd grown up on rattling through the allegheny mountains near pittsburgh. disappointed, i left, and pushed on for alaska, the 'last frontier' - where at least the skies opened out for the wild fresh air. but i had it better than my ancestors- who, loading an entire sawmill onto the back of a number of horses, headed west from illinois for the pike's peak (colorado) craze, only to find people coming back east, saying, it was all a bust, forget it, winters in the rockies are terrible, no way to make a living. and it wasn't much better on the plains, the wind howling, feet of snow gathering at their feet; their oldest daughter cora died and was buried out there on the kansas-nebraska line, and they settled in salem, nebraska for a few years until the marauders, jayhawks and their missouri equivalents & the violence of the civil war, caught up with them, and they moved back to illinois, disappointed but at least able to get on with their lives...

which is not to say, don't bother, don't travel: usually folks aren't sorry for trying; they come back with a different view, both of human potential, and of what cultural references the mind can conjure up, and make out of its surroundings. so i say, it's worth it, don't give up, at least consider any good trip as an opening of your frontiers, or at least the one that matters. but maybe i'm saying, try to figure out what it is you're really needing, before you set out. in my case, really, i've got everything i've ever wanted and more, a beautiful family, & even with winter coming i have no qualms with the weather 'til may. don't need a cyber sunset, a cyber island, a new gender, or even a six-pack virtual bod, though of course, i wouldn't even know what i'm missing. they could, for example, be taking and distorting my image, even as i write, into very interesting shapes, much as my boys did once on a video game- they made a 'virtual tom' overweight skateboard-rider and bashed him up against a cyber-curb once in front of me, accidentally, of course...but here in first life, i have my hands full, a virtual side-trip is about all i can handle. and i'm inclined to protect the littler ones, especially the baby corey, from the virtual obsession and the cruel world, not so much the debauchery, as just the stuff i don't understand. the sun sets on illinois rolling prairie, grasses and old oaks, an old civil war cemetary, a creek passing through, neighbors that i might know pass by once in a while, and i think, hang onto that sawmill, matter of fact, maybe i'll go on back & cut me some zzzzs, before it gets too late, and i forget how good a little sleep can be.

Friday, November 24, 2006

thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday; given my reckless past, an overwhelming sense of gratitude that i'm alive and surrounded by wonderful loving family, is the most profound thing i can celebrate, and certainly the most enduring theme of this blog. my oldest daughter returned from seattle, with her husband, though only for a few days, and i was grateful that they hadn't changed much except cities, climates, jobs, etc. A son returned from kansas, confused about a major, and all i can say is that this is gut-wrenching and difficult, and there's no easy way; it's made worse maybe, by the fact that a good scholarship will run out if one takes six years as i did, to straighten it out and get some kind of workable solution....

fortunately, the weather here has been stunning, and we have been hitting the green earth trails with our aging dogs and taking it all in. fresh air is a pretty good substitute for the swimming and riding that i'm missing, and i'm also trying to get a little sleep. a lot of things may go by the wayside, but hopefully family and sanity won't...a happy holidays to all, and i send wishes that a clear focus will prevail, even among the lights that are springing up on all corners, even as i write, and making reflections in car windows, taking over whole corners, blinding drivers to the lost deer, jumping around, trying not to get their hooves caught in the cords.
thought i'd give an overview of the travelling section of my life, which occurred after one and a half years of college, when i was nineteen, and took about a year and a half. In fact, though I went back to school after that, I then dropped out for five more years, meaning that it was ten years altogether before I graduated from any university. nevertheless, as a sophomore, i was so tired of schooling that i couldn't take it anymore, and announced to my family, much to their dismay, that after a family trip to iowa, i would be setting off on my own. this was in january- 1974, i believe. why i chose to go south, toward atlanta, i'm not sure, since my dream destination was really california. maybe it was because i figured that january was the time to see the south, and i wanted to see the whole thing, really. so why not save california for later? i got a job in hartsfield international in atlanta, but didn't hang around long- i was in new orleans by mardi gras, and going west into texas. it was there that i got the idea to go south, and i took a quick look across the mexican border in brownsville/matamoros which then turned into a month-and-a-half trip to guatemala and back. i really hadn't planned on going that far, but i did- life, and connections, and pure luck, kept me going on to the next stops. in guatemala, though, i realized that my luck and money were running out, and there was nothing to do but head back. up on the caribbean coast of mexico, i encountered a man who was sailing to florida, and set off with him- at this point i had seven dollars in pesos left, and with no skill at sailing, i was lucky to arrive in florida alive- i kissed the pier at key west when they drydocked our boat. At this point i was quite used to eating sparingly, or not eating at all, so i set to going west to california as i'd originally intended. i remember feeling that florida's lively tourist scene and rowdy motels were something i had very carefully avoided at first, yet now landed right in the middle of it almost accidentally. at one point, in new orleans, a group of travellers who had given me a ride headed for a blood bank with the intention of coming out with some money, to be used for food. i felt, at that time, as if i didn't have much blood. didn't have any money either, though: it would take days before they would convert pesos, i figured, until i got into texas where they'd probably at least seen them. later i virtually sailed into la and headed up into the bay area where i spent my birthday, in april, and now began noticing that i was out of money.

here, i'd intended to at least see the city; it was my original destination, and got a job at a cardboard box factory on the south side of town, near candlestick park, and a place to live in a rooming house somewhere near the civic center. the rooming house was tolerant of people like me who would pay them on the next paycheck-day; overall i found the city a little tough on people who didn't have much money. i did my best with this job, but was overall disappointed at the city itself, and found that in general i wasn't much for actually living in cities at all, given the patterns i'd set in the last three or four months. a weekend would come and i'd go off to yosemite, or up to seattle, stopping along the way at rural places, just to get fresh air and a breath. i quit the cardboard-box warehouse within a month and headed east toward the rockies and around places in the west i hadn't seen: colorado, utah, grand canyon, montana.

somewhere around the grand canyon i heard about a rainbow gathering that was to be held in the caves of enterprise reservoir on the utah-nevada border; having never been to one of those, i decided to go, and arrived on a dam of that reservoir one evening just as a huge sun was setting and moon was rising on each side of this little road that crossed the dam. it was almost summer now, and the desert was very hot in the days, like mexico; one would be better off not travelling in the afternoon, but i arrived here with a kind of heat stroke from not following that advice, or not stopping for water often enough, and had to spend a day or two in a cave recovering. nevertheless it was somewhere around here, in the company of people who travelled much of their time, and who clearly weren't afraid of anything, that i decided to just fulfill all of my strong travelling urges, and go all the way to alaska, now while i was young, single and free. it was, after all, something i'd always wanted, and, as the west was unfolding in front of me, i now saw that the nation was awesome, even in its most unknown and hidden backroads. this cave territory, for example, was virtually unheard of outside of the immediate area, a stark and forbidding place, yet awesome in its color, its shapes, and the ways it made people adapt to it. but the same could already so easily have been said about the other places i'd seen: the folds of clinch mountain, new orleans, the texas-mexico border, the beaches of oaxaca, even san francisco. there was no reason to stop and still plenty of summer in front of me.

the road to alaska proved long and interesting, and took me through parts of canada that i had never imagined existed. peace river valley was one of these- where i talked to some people who lived there and who weren't so used to travellers passing through- and who considered their home to be the center of the known world. To me it seemed so remote, so far away, so clearly dominated by a huge and overwhelming winter- such were many of my conversations. a huge gap was crossed between me, who was used to travelling now, having seen much of the continent, and people who were clearly not used to getting out much, but nevertheless curious enough about it, and not afraid to stop and talk about it, and willing to share what they knew of their home and culture. i was stunned at hospitality virtually everywhere i turned, and even more so when i was in another country, and even more yet when i realized that canadians had many reasons to not necessarily welcome every american who poured across their border. my trip was delayed by the washing out of the alcan highway near fort nelson, b.c. - this experience provided some food and travelling money, actually- , but i arrived in alaska nevertheless healthy and happy, and worked on a fishing boat temporarily, considered other more substantial work, but turned back in fairbanks, deciding finally to come home and do something different for a change.

this last decision was somewhat reluctant- i was in the habit of travelling- and i decided to hit vancouver island on the way home, as vancouver and its island were places that every canadian seemed to think were at the top of the list for any traveller. on vancouver island i walked a seven-day trail where i actually set eyes on washington state after going around one bend, and felt like i had walked the last seashore that remained on the trip home, myself. but once again i was out of money and tired of it, and this time i set out from vancouver, not even wanting to stop and look around, possibly the most fantastic city on the continent; i was so down on cities in general, by this time, that i didn't even bother finding the city center, just turned my collar up and headed east on the trans-canada highway 1. in the okanagan i stopped and picked peaches for a while; again, this gave me a dinner or two and enough peaches to eat, that i didn't notice any other kind of nagging hunger. in general, now, i was thinking of what would be the best place to settle, and start a life somewhere, but at this point i couldn't imagine going back to school in boston, nor could i imagine, really, just stopping in any other place in particular. the trip home was long and at one point i slept not too far from lake huron, where the tide came in and i kind of sank into a fetid area before it woke me up and i moved away from the bog i had chosen to bed down in; this gave my bags quite a stink by tthe time i rolled into toronto and called a friend to get a ride home (buffalo, at that point). i seem to remember my sleeping bag getting thrown straight into the wash, and taking a shower, before i even began to tell my parents where i had been and what i'd been doing. at this point i'd already missed the fall semester and could possibly have missed the january term if i were to choose going back to school- which is what i'd been expected to do, and what i almost couldn't avoid, given a complete lack of alternatives. a desk job or factory job might have been nice, but i was almost as alienated from that kind of life as i was from school, given what people had been telling me out there in the world, and what i thought i could do, given the life i was coming from. i knew from experience now, that the mundane elements of getting up and going in to a routine job would be tolerable for about a month- and that was barely worth settling for- actually finding a place to live, etc.- in most places, unless i felt that it had a possibility as a kind of place i could live for a bit longer than that. as i considered the whole wide country that i'd seen, my favorite places were montana and washington state, but i also had a soft spot for the center of the country, especially iowa, which had been a place my familly had gone for many years when i was growing up.

so it happened that, after checking in to boston and saying goodbye, i came back through buffalo, picked up my skis, and landed in iowa another january, more or less similar to the one i'd left. i guess it was a year later- though i often say it was a year and a half, it wasn't, i guess- because i stopped in iowa, right there, and though i travelled a lot after that, i basically stayed in the iowa city area for the next eleven years. i enrolled in school too- the university of iowa- which i thought would be much different and possibly better than boston university. certainly much cheaper. but it was a mixed and rough landing- rough especially on my cousin, who i stayed with until he and his housemates threw me out. i'd decided at this point that travelling was over- i'd try something new, whatever it led to, in order to stay in one place for a change, and give up this crazy moving lifestyle. once again my habits overtook me, and it wasn't easy to settle, but i did, eventually, and though the university life didn't quite take either, it was for the better, and i was on to a new chapter - life in iowa.

Friday, November 17, 2006

vacation's coming, and a good one, my favorite, with good food & family & beautiful weather, usually, oranges and browns and a little cold which never hurt anything. but these days it's been raining, and raining hard, a lot, so i take my truck, no sense biking in this stuff. and i look back at the camper and try to imagine the best kind of plywood i could use to make a little cabinet, to hide all the junk, make a place to sit back there sometimes. the vet says to tell my wife to stop calling it an "old" truck and start calling it a "vintage" truck. papers piling up, but i've started hocking my students about chat, and asking my kids about it, surprised that as different as languages are around the world, they all seem to be developing an internet-based written short-version, & i'm learning some about it...but back to the truck- this morning, another cold rain, pouring out onto the street out in front of our house, out in the ornament valley, and what do i see, but the perfect piece of plywood, just the one. it's out in front of the neighbor's house, and it's a red political sign, republican. a red plywood in a blue state. now this poses a moral dilemma, because, i know i'm not going to have time to paint it or even deface it for months, although, if i'd-a thought about it, vacation's coming. ironically, the plywood sign is about how somehow the republican candidate is going to solve the state's teacher's pension someone-robbed-the-piggy-bank crisis. did i mention that, in the same way alaska has this rugged gun-carrying individualism running through all people, both parties, gonna have to moderate that if they ever want to seriously join the union, well, illinois is the same way about corruption, you could put it on our license plate. i left the plywood on the street, but that's too bad, 'cause if i were a little less picky, or a little less visual, i'd have a little red box to put stuff in. i have a shed now, and i'm going to put old license plates up on the walls in it, maybe during the break, when the older kids are around to see it, and talk about old cars they used to is a big subject around here- we're on the cutting edge of the curve, making cardboard dinoco helicopters and frank the combine models- wish i were in the business, i can tell by the google traffic that the market is better for things like that than, say, music. gotta do something in retirment, though- somebody spent the pension money already, several times over, i suspect. and i'm holding on tight to some stuff - memories, if nothing else, save it for a rainy day, so to speak.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

they say there's a new cottage industry in taking things off the net that people originally put on because of their childish foolishness, thinking, who else but my friends is going to see this? everyone, it turns out. it's all published, out there for the whole world & they'll come, sooner or later, looking for scraps to use against you, maybe. under those circumstances i'm embarrassed, a little, that i was so quick to tell my whole story (italics, below), yet, it was kind of not doing too well pent up inside me anyway. the more i write, the more of it comes back- the long days in mexico, the trip up from guatemala, the androscoggin, the cardboard box factory in san francisco, the bears, even many days in a jones county of mystic beauty & almost no tourists, or even interlopers, whatsoever...i'm not only not done, i haven't even begun to start. but i wonder if i won't be coming back around, sweeping out the cat litter, protecting myself from my own stink. rules of the small town: the better you know someone, the more hesitant you are to reveal the most intimate details, meaning that some stranger sitting next to you on a greyhound bus is as likely to hear your true feelings, sometimes, as the person you've seen every day for ten years. now i've known people who are offended by that law, but that's because they suspect people are containing all kinds of stuff, and maybe they're right. it's a good time for me now- i'm producing lots of good stuff, even the reading quizzes are poetry, the three boys at home are giving me lots to do & think about, the older two are coming home, and i've got lots of time, riding the bike & swimming, to plan the rest of it, if not do it. have not heard from the unitarians about the play, which, upon reflection & good input from my friend larry, i realize is flawed. but a play is like a song. when someone else does it, you expect it to be different, not how you'd do it- and that's how it should be, because that means they put something of themselves into it. but the question is, if it's a little too much for the readers of this blog, which is generally my own children & parents, should i then just weave it into the fiction? let them wonder? sit on it for another 35 years? the fact is, it wasn't that bad, you wouldn't even get arrested for it nowadays....and, to me, one of the more interesting laws of nature is, information wants to be free. it's almost like it has a life of its own. like it gets ornery bound up in your pocket, and you figure, if people care enough to get into the archives, let 'em have it. one son defines 'history' as a place you go to find places other people know about and you don't- he's mastered google images and can't even read. now i thought hissssstory was the punchline of a joke: what do you call a snake in the road?

Friday, November 10, 2006

a picture of the band, cd due out soon. Also playing at the yellow moon cafe, cobden, (at least some of us) on nov. 25. come see!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

i've been ramblin'...this caused by making a play, but also taking the truck out to get the oil changed, and having it sputter, gasp & die immediately upon leaving the oil-change place. mechanic said it was down four quarts- what's up with that? maybe they forgot to put oil back in it, in which case i'm lucky to still have a truck, i guess. hell would be to pay, i'd tell them, except i'm so tired, it's hard to get up an angry stomp. and they are pretty much nice kids, in awe of a truck about three times their age, not meaning any harm- one even stopped when he saw me & the baby, stranded at a major main-street location on friday.

voted today, and almost voted for mickey mouse twice. he was the most sensible alternative, but i declined & voted for real people, with all their foibles and human weaknesses. i'm not mad because i'm getting plenty of exercise. riding the bicycle to work lately has been putting a fine mist in my face, while the colors of the trees are truly sensational- one more reason not to deal with the truck i suppose. yet my wife is sick; life is busy; there are bills to pay & messes of unpacked stuff wherever i turn. junk, notes, piles of stuff, old linguistics tomes, old cesl webpages copied to fix, etc. would like to get the last play done, too, before i move on. but i need to work on the present one, and the one for the unitarians, and the calendar as i'm dying to do a little graphic arts, just for fun. just for a break. stay posted...whatever else i've been doing, i'm keeping up with the blogging- doing my part in the new transparency, as it's the elixir of sanity, a clear mountain brook, in a life that is a little too chaotic, a little too pushed, a bushwhacking slope of prickly bushes...-ciao

Sunday, November 05, 2006

good tidings of yule- a new play, this one written for the unitarians (don't know if they'll take it yet, but they'd better, they don't have much else)...but interesting anyway. you should be able to read it in a good sitting. it might get you ready for the season, who knows? i'm ready for turkey, but the demand is for plays- i wrote another, monsters of kanifloria, which will have a great poster, but which won't go on the web- and which will be performed, hopefully, in early december. had to do it, or i'd have drifted off altogether, i've been so busy. the plays are good as they have a specific audience, i'm in the groove with them, i could probably write dozens, if i had time. i do what i can. was doing my work resume and noticed: 1) there are lots of dead links back there to clean up; 2) i've been very productive lately; 3) still am barely managing to put the newest members of the family in its place; i've moved almost entirely onto blogs, with the static web scene mildewing in the closet. 300 pages back there, in various states of disrepair and need of mopping. will sort it out by first listing them, probably here.

my daughter lists out some of the searches that leads people her way. i thought of doing the same thing...but got only one worth passing along...dawson creek death logging truck...

glad that wasn't me they were looking for.

a second dinoco helicopter is finished; a seventh piston cup, but this cup will be soon followed by another. fortunately there's plenty of cardboard, and the glue is wholesome too. the boys are also old enough for baseball now- had a good time outdoors, where the colors are beautiful, and we have our own pine forest, if we clear out a little brush. will decorate new shed- with license plates.

i'll get searchers looking for "dinoco helicopters," i'll bet. if i were selling 'em, i'd be in the right place at the right time. but i don't sell. i hover- over this moment in time, my spirit a cardboard propeller. i swear, some days i'm held together with a gum band...if i'm lucky.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

so much is going on, i can't let time go by without commenting. it's all saints day, and my favorite of those saints, though i'm not catholic, is christopher, patron saint of travellers, and especially those young of heart, who cross streams. i'm not up on the saints, barely make it through hallowe'en alive each year, but, november is my favorite month, with its oranges and browns and misty haze of grass and leaves withdrawing into themselves, and it seems good to celebrate. anyone who thought trick-or-treating was dead has not been out to the west side (what i've been calling the ornament valley, for its dazzling trees) - trick-or-treaters were arriving by the truckload, though we were bringing in our own haul. my band, the parsley sagebrush band, is finishing its cd; this will have one of my own songs on it, and i'm proud of that. it's taking some evenings though. the pictures may include the '68 truck, a ford, appropriate for a life-goes-on album, though it's been going on just fine, getting me to work when the bicycle won't.

one of our singers, joel, really likes the hard-driving country style, whiskey for my horses, and all of that. i like it too and could put my fiddle into it quite a bit. but he's working full-time at a small town called christopher, of all things, and says that 60% of his class doesn't have the internet, and it's part of an old mining community, not very well off. it's more representative of southern illinois than, say, the ornament valley, which is suburbia with quite a bit of diversity, a trick-or-treat-tourist magnet.

would like to write a play or two, still, for the unitarians; also working on producing our own, monster(s) of kanifloria, possibly before thanksgiving, possibly expanded and with a larger cast. don't know when the wwii play will come out, maybe spring, but this upcoming season could be an interesting.

i'd like to recommend that anyone who is still reading, my most loyal audience, try doing this survey, that is, if you are a blogger. it will make you think a little about what you do as a blogger- issues i try to reflect on, but sometimes don't. don't reflect, that is, as opposed to don't do.

and finally, i wish all travelers of the season, a good and safe passage- i know i'm expecting, counting on, seeing some of my own- it's river country, it doesn't matter what side of the river you're on, really, you may need hand across it someday. i'm glad to say, the truck, which i leave in the driveway on the nice days, now has fewer miles than the family car, -yet it seems like a long time since the day i got it- in christopher, by the way- with still no fixing up, no good long camping trip. it could use to be a float in the annual lights parade here- that might require a generator, lights strung, maybe a trailer behind. worth the trouble though. what's the good of a fine old piece-a-metal, if you don't get out & get it seen? and, by the way, get a good cd player put in it, cadillac style. a musician has to remember- you won't be able to sell the songs, in this day and age, so all you really have is your image- you might as well put a twist on that, the best you can...
though i'd planned to go to california from new orleans, i had no special schedule or anything that said i couldn't at least set foot in mexico. in texas i drifted south and decided to try it out; next thing i knew i was in mexico, hitchhiking and trying to speak spanish to people i met. my high school spanish was woefully inadequate and people kept saying "mande?" or "say it again?" so i got lots of practice trying to say things in different ways. eventually i got better too. my parents had told me about an old family friend, or maybe a distant relative, who lived in a small town way down by mexico city; i saw it on a map, and set out for it. little did i know that there was about twelve hours of desert between the border and that town, guanajuato. a trucker gave me a ride most of the way. he was a caballero (said so on his truck), a horseman of the road. a well-decorated truck, a macho kind of guy, very nice to me. he got me some food at a mexican truck stop- he obviously would know the good one- but it made me sick, as did the high afternoon desert sun. by the time i got to guanajuato i needed a big nap. but the relatives were very nice to me and took me out to show me the town.

it was an incredibly exotic town- very european, very cool at night, lots of people on the street. stone tunnels went beneath the town along the valley; the town itself was above this tunnel road on a level with the main street that went the other way. so beautiful! but, way above the town where there were some gold mines where the old man had spent his career, someone stopped suddenly in front of his car and caused an accident. i got the impression that this was a deliberate trick, but it was almost as if they wanted to find out who i was, rather than just to rattle the old man, or to get money out of him. any of those was possible, actually, and i was in another culture, and really couldn't tell what had happened. the old man, my relative, was very nice about it, and told me not to worry about it.

in fact i ran into one of the people from the incident later, and he assured me that it was nothing and that i should not worry about it. he also said, that if i was travelling through mexico, i should stay with some relatives of his, who lived in puebla, candy capital of mexico (?)...down past mexico city. this made it seem like i was being pulled further into the country, though i'd really had no plan. and i remembered, at some point, that my parents had come to mexico in a volkswagen when i was three; i remembered only the slides, but those slides were perhaps one of my earliest memories. though at the moment, they were very worried about me, hitchhiking in the center of mexico as i was, i was not worried at all; it seemed like everyone was friendly, and i was actually feeling that sense you get when you revisit a place from your childhood; where old memories and shadows of them come to you, and make you sleep more deeply, and connect to those ancient memories. and, though mexico was considered dangerous to my parents and many others that i knew, in 1974, i was also probably protected from the spectre of robbery by appearing to be carrying very little of value, and by appearing to be somewhat fluent. of course, i was better at appearing this way than at actually having any real fluency, but i had this hunch: it was the kind of place where appearing to have friends would always work in one's favor.

i repeatedly got rides from people who identified themselves as part of u.n.a.m., the national university, and these people seemed to be everywhere, and friendly, as really everyone was. my biggest problem seemed to be that in general many cars were already full to overflowing, if they rean at all; it was rare to find one that actually had an open seat. but anyway, a pair of u.n.a.m. students invited me to stay with them in mexico city (d.f.), and we spoke at length about kennedy's assassination, which they insisted was a conspiracy, and furthermore a conspiracy hatched in mexico. they were committed political leftists and this was one reason they wanted to pick my brain and find out what we american leftists were up to. i was probably disappointingly apolitical to them; i was not really even up on the us presidency or pollitical situation.

i used the same strategy i'd had in the states: pick out a place on the horizon to aim for; tell people i was going there; keep my eyes open for opportunities to see the real scenery; avoid the huge tourist spots (acapulco, guadalajara), talk as much as possible to find out what was good, what bad, where to go, what to see. it was working well. people wanted to know about my family a lot; it stretched my vocabulary just to talk about them.

in puebla i stayed in a garage of a suburban house that had the sisters, or relatives of the guy i'd met in guanajuato. they wanted to dance and i obliged. they were sweet, thier whole family sweet; we had a good time, and they sent me on my way the following day. puebla was quite large, as was mexico city; somehow, this wasn't bothering me. oaxaca was more reasonable in both size and climate, and was full of americans, which at that point i considered good. i noticed the irony that the americans appeared to be wearing mexican shirts; the mexicans appeared to be wearing american ones. i'd been told to go to the beaches in oaxaca state and i started out on a hilly jungle road that turned out to have, around one bend, a massive coffee plantation with an aroma i'll never forget. i remember someone, perhaps some americans who had given me a ride, extolling the virtues of a wild flower that grew in that valley, belladonna, but i also remember seeing an old coca-cola stand, quite ancient, and thinking that the whole verdant and exotic valley was somewhat hallucinogenic in nature, anyway, as it was; i certainly wasn't going to alter my consciousness when i really didn't have much of a handle on the reality i was experiencing at that moment.

but i had plenty of surprises waiting for me anyway. the beach i finally landed on, a good twelve hours from the town of oaxaca, was called zipolite, killer wave. someone warned me that there was one; the current would suck you out right about there, and then this wave would come crashing you against those rocks, which i could see out there against the sun. i laid out my pack and relaxed on the warm sand; it was a lazy place, not much happening, it was only about twenty cents to camp there; and there was night life, so they said, and a good grocery store, down the road in puerto escondido. after a while i decided to try the ocean, and went for a glorious, relaxing swim, that loosened up my aching leg and foot joints, and made me drift into a kind of relaxed state. but this was obviously a mistake; the "zipolite" came by and crashed me against the rocks, raking me and scraping my skin several times. i kept my wits about me and survived, angry at myself for ignoring advice that had been pointedly and generously given to me when i arrived. from then on, i decided, i'd take what people said seriously, whether i believed them or not.