Saturday, June 27, 2009

there is much to be said about the dominican republic, which has been on my mind lately as i try to compile the things from my trip. in this area i'd like to just bring up the personal stuff, although sometimes it is impossible not to mix in the professional. it was very tropical there, and we noticed that almost as soon as we landed, even in miami, where storms threatened and the plane was moved from gate to gate as a chicago-bound flight was delayed for hours. i myself had just come from chicago, on a plane full of hondurans who had been to a honduras-usa soccer game; one kid that i talked to was a little disappointed that the usa had won, and on top of that, most americans such as myself were not even aware of the game, much less traveling across a continent to attend. when we landed in santiago, a highland traditional town in the d.r., we could feel the different atmosphere right away. i woke up bright and early the first morning to a rooster crowing; it reminded me of mexico, and of the way you didn't know quite what you would get at a restaurant or a motel.

the people we met were generous and friendly, and took us from place to place, from lunch to dinner, giving us dominican food and dominican coffee. two people i liked immediately were jose and manny, leaders at the center in santiago, generous to a fault, and interested in all things usa, baseball, jazz, obama hope posters, etc. they more or less ran the center at santiago, but also made sure we had what we needed, to the best of their ability. thouogh our technology never arrived, or was not up to the job, at our presentations, people remained nice to us, and if they found our presentations over their head, or wild, they never let on. people at motels and restaurants were similar; they seemed to have good enough english, but didn't always let on, if their comprehension was not quite up to the task.

there were signs of a gulf between worlds- one, the rich & fat world of the usa, two, the poor third-world scramble of the d.r. cities. one young boy at the motel gave me a guilt-drilling stare, though i wasn't interested in a shoe shine; finally on the last day i gave him some money, as he'd worked for it more or less constantly over a period of three days. it was the third world, in the sense that so many lived with so little, and even they were wealthy, compared to haiti, which was right next door.

at the dominican american center, where the conference was, it rained, and rained often; in my plenary, it lightninged, thundered, poured. a little garden next to the building housed bananas, an avocado tree, mangos, yuca, that kind of stuff, put there by the workers and tended meticulously. when the sun came out i would be covered with sweat; at night, in the rain, manuel gave us a ride around santiago, and showed us downtown, the monument, the fort. it was home of manny ramirez, or so one man said; it seemed like everyone, down to the last busboy, could talk baseball, and wanted to. in general, the food was fantastic, such things as sangcocho (meat soup), moro, mangu (a kind of mashed plantain), and mangos, mangos, mangos. i heard stories about ubu de playa (sea grapes)- how people ate them before they were truly ripe, and so had gone out of style as too tangy. be patient, people! get your grandmothers to tell you how to handle it! i was given the best of food, but one night jose had some kind of melted-cheese-on-taco meat dish and shared it with me- greasy, heavenly, but, actually made me sick by morning, i think.

my spanish was quite terrible, but i managed, got around pretty well, and said what i wanted. sometimes i'd plan out a good sentence, only to be hit with good, fast spanish in return; in general, i was unable to keep up. i was grateful that so many people knew english.

my co-presenter, who ran workshops on using cell-phones as a classroom tool, was afraid to turn on her cell phone and have to pay hundreds in roaming fees, so she ran whole workshops on other people's phones, since they didn't bring her one until the very end. her classes would post a class roster of photos on the web, all self made and uploaded; then they'd work on verbs and go from there. i found myself also unable to do what i'd intended, and bursting in sweat from the tropical heat, almost became faint, but kept it together, and got through the first two days (santiago) fine. but the night of the second day, in a restaurant that had four televisions, all on american baseball (one on the indians- a sight i never see)- this was when I got the food that didn't agree with me; i was sick the following morning. that morning- the morning of the ride to santo domingo- we saw the whole country, right down the valley of the central highway, with roads going up in both directions, toward countryside, down into villages, out onto farms, up into the highland rainforests. it was a busy country, hard at work, with lots of travelers out on the road; our guide drove in a very dominican way, all the while giving us a tour in english.

in santo domingo now, we were given a plush hotel, with a buffet breakfast, now all you can eat, mangos, papayas, pineapple, mangu, whatever i recognized. santo domingo is a capital city; the caribbean sea crashed mercilessly on the black coral shores by the seaside road in front of the hotel. here, it was a much more urban scene, and we met the ambassador, cultural attaches, all kinds of people, including an artist who had done an exhibit for the center to coincide with the conference. we ate dominican food at night, danced merengue, and i went to the hotel pool a couple of times, and had all-you-can-eat mangos for breakfast. still it was very hot; we were drenched after just walking a couple of blocks. again, the dominican coffee kept me going; they gave us spending money and were very generous with us, in general. one young haitian student was assigned to get me copies, water, whatever i wanted; we talked linguistics, languages, french creole, and the three he knew. he seemed to be a nice fellow, using his skill at language and language teaching to come to the states, maybe, or so he said. the other usher was haitian also.

at one point we were taken to the old city, down by where columbus lived, or where his brother lived, anyway; and, all the other spanish heavies (cortez, pizarro, etc.) had ghosts there too as well as the damas for whom a certain calle was named. history oozed out of this part of town- it was the 1500's, after all; and i realized that their columbus complex was much deeper than ours; by that i'm referring to general mixed feelings about cristopher and all he had done to/for the new world. at one point we paused by the statue of a famous governor, ovando, and it was generally agreed that he was bad, though feelings weren't so unanimous about columbus himself.

toward the end of my stay in santo domingo i walked down onto the sea, to see if i could put my foot in it; it crashed up against the black coral, however, and i was unable to. furthermore, people told me that it was dirty up near the city, but that on the beaches it was greener and bluer and much cleaner; this i could see. the road along the sea was called the malecon (mah-lay-cone) and was easy to cross, unlike lakeshore drive, for example; who could forget the brown lizards, or the yellowish purple crabs along the shore there, or the statue of the nino descalzo (barefoot boy) along the way to downtown? we ate fabulous food everywhere and i practiced my spanish on simple signs: empuje (push), pare (stop), salida (exit). back in the hotel, i ran into an old cesl student, working on the island fixing hyundai generators with his uncle, adamant about the fact that he was not a hyundai employee.

our presentations still suffered some disconnect. in both cities, it was unclear how much the teachers actually wanted to be there, or were able to use the information or even understand it. teachers' listening seemed uniformly better than it was, better than their writing in particular. they had few questions; they had no comments, and i wasn't used to this. when i asked them things i rarely got definite answers. i still try to sort it out, and say, ultimately, that i hope relations continue, and i can continue to be helpful. it's a special place, a unique place, down there south of florida; it's an extension of the east coast, where they still love baseball, where there's a kind of sadness in the air when it rains, where there are miles of beautiful beaches, but a statue of a "nino descalzo" (?) or barefoot child, perhaps one who grows up, wants to be in baseball, and is willing to do anything to achieve that dream. i was happy to see that so many had not lost their spirit; i was treated with grace, hospitality, and genuine friendship at every turn. for that, i am truly grateful.
we played the pavilion on wednesday, which isn't quite as big as it sounds, this being a very small town and all, and the pavilion being a wooden structure right in the center of it, with the train coming up one side of it, and two highways coming up two other sides of it. the trucks keep coming on through, and often turn north at that corner, and the city, after all these years, still has done nothing to protect this little shelter from the noise. still, it's shaded, which is big in this 95 degree heat wave, and it seems to have a constant breeze which makes just standing there not bad.

the instruments however aren't fooled by this illusion; to them, it's still 95, and 99 percent humidity. they never seem to stay in tune, and worse, the sweat that's everywhere just starts to make playing more difficult. we sounded ok, i thought, as it's not every day that we have all four of us, and actually, there were quite a few people there; most had brought chairs or something to sit on. that took planning, i thought; i sure don't walk around on hot summer days with lawn chairs, downtown.

we faced south, so i could see the train man and the big red caboose behind him, the whole time we played. he's actually my favorite statue, my favorite part of downtown really. there isn't much in the way of old buildings down there; there are a few, though, and one is remodeled, so it's better than it used to be, but the train man still stands guard, witness to all the trucks, and particularly the ones turning north, that seem to have to go through a few extra gears to do it.

the pressing heat, though, has been relentless; it's now been over a week; it's been over a hundred more than once, and it makes me feel old; i've been coming home, not wanting to go outside, not even wanting to run the hose or play with the boys out there. i mostly want to sleep; i feel like the world has already taken it out of me, just stepping out in the morning when it's already almost 90, cranking up the aircon in the car, just to go cross-town, and then doing it again on the way back- it makes me not want to go out later, stay home all weekend, etc. getting instruments across town at noon seems like an extraordinary hassle, just because i have to go from 95 to aircon a few extra times, you get the picture.

so i start to play the train song, one i've played for thirty or forty years, by the way, and one that i always make a point of saying, is about carbondale, even though it has centralia in the title. this song is a hopping banjo song, but i get a little excited when i play it, and a string on the banjo just pops right out. it doesn't break; it just pops. now i'd assumed, actually, that a train would come by when i played that song, but it didn't happen, maybe the city made a special plea with the illinois central to give us a break on wednesday at noon, but anyway, here we were, middle of the train song, and that string was popped out so bad, i just had to stop. just my fate, i guess. later in the gig they got me to play it again, and, second time, this time the set was about over, and i played it at a different mike, over where i could see the train man better, and this time it went ok, it kind of made up for the time before. there were people i knew in the audience, of course, that's usually true, but in this case, i felt a little better, as if, well, at least i did it, and i finished it. the train man stood, unmoved, silent witness. the flowers had come and gone from around him; i think maybe somebody had painted him recently too. the homeless had been using that pavilion quite a bit lately, too; maybe it was about the only shady place, certainly the coolest, and i can't imagine how you'd get through ten of these 95 plus days, all day, in any place outside. i can guess, though, why you'd want to turn north, even if you had to go through most of your gears to do it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

so as i graded big piles of research papers; sixteen gone now, down to a pile of finals, i kept checking in on #iranelection, and finally wrote about it, for what it's worth. it's 100 degrees in the shade here; it rained a bit today, but you could hear the sizzle and see the steam rise from the grocery store parking lot; the rain didn't even cool anything off. it was still sauna, still sizzling.

It's a kind of guilty pleasure to sneak a peak at fuzzy youtubes of demonstrators throwing rocks in the streets of tehran, when one still has such a pile of grading, that one has to practically apologize to each class for being so far behind. yet, when the world is brought to your doorstep, who can not at least glance? i have no idea what is really going on over there; all i can assure you is that here, it's a sizzling parking lot; classes that go on with too much class time, too little grading time; and a price to be paid every time one walks out the door, the heat hits you like a blast furnace. we're considering getting another puppy, so we've been investigating the puppy situation, but in my mind i'm imagining a world that looks like l.a. only everything is in farsi, and people are good & mad. i know; we had two elections stolen ourselves. and it didn't quite matter that the government had lost its legitimacy; an arrogant government doesn't care about that. do i have any right to judge? probably not. i should have thrown a rock or two when they stole my native state, ohio. but i'm actually kind of a wimp; i don't throw stuff, i just talk about it. the images, though, stick in my mind. the way the people can take pictures, upload them, and share among themselves, whether "they" approve or this a new world? or what?

was hoping to do some writing tonight; maybe some stories are coming. i'm not though. i'm thoroughly exhausted; i've done massive grading, and test-writing. wrote a test about schools going to e-textbooks; i'm curious, as usual, what my students will say and how they'll say it. it'll make my day, tomorrow, as i teach a last class, make one more final, and do mountains of work that has piled up on me over the last week or so.

sunday, father's day; i'm playing fiddle at a winery, and it's shaded, but it's still out there in the ninety-something intense heat that has blanketed the area. my father's day was good; i had lots of homemade cards and gifts; a family dinner; even some time, by myself practically, at a winery. a trip to the country, a moment or two to reflect. what else could one want, except maybe a swim. and i'm trying for that soon, any day now. the pool has opened again; it should be possible. but at this gig, my head swims; it's a little too warm. it's the solstice; it's nude hiking day; it's father's day, yet to me, it's just fiddle-in-the-winery day; just play, and let the chips land where they may, i guess.

in the meantime, bed. i'm exhausted. the piles have got to me; i'm washed out for now. something intelligent to say about twitter; maybe i'll find it, maybe not. everyone seems to have something to say about it; but, with my limited time, maybe i'm going in the wrong direction. wracked by self-doubt, occasionally. but only occasionally; the rest of the time, i'm right here, at #iranelection, at least for the moment. chou

Saturday, June 20, 2009

i've been back from the d.r. for almost six days, and while i have a huge report, of blue-green caribbean, tropical rain, and all the mangos one can eat, i'll have to wait on this report a bit while i get my feet back on the ground here. had twenty three hours of teaching, two weeks of papers to grade, and classes that were rent asunder by my being gone, and required a bit of attention. so now, i'm trying to get some rest; meanwhile, it's 98 in the shade here, and there's almost no sense actually trying to move around, or go anywhere. so i'm in a mildly air-conditioned house, trying to contain the energy of young boys who, bless their hearts, also can't just go outside.

the boys did fine in my absence; they grew a little; they did their usual thing, and they were glad to see me upon my return. i am only sorry that, it seems, there is nothing for it but to put a little extra time into work; i can't avoid it, since, compounded on everything, is the fact that it's almost the end of the term. and what is summer here? it's miserable, humid, sun beating down killing off virtually everything. i woke up at about six this morning and for some reason looked out the window; saw a deer sauntering down the street as if it were a teenager, and owned the place. i shook my head a little, but realized, six in the morning is about the only time a person could go for a walk, in this kind of weather, when the air is the slightest bit amenable to actually being in it.

once again, i'm sure i've become some kind of wimp, that even ninety-something has me running for the air-con. but, the tropics kind of did me in. you'll have to wait for that report, but put briefly, when it's that tropical, a person has to take measures, and one way would be to be a lot mellower than I am, which might not be possible.

was asked to write a book on twitter, right before i left, and sure enough, twitter was on the cover of time, a magazine that arrived in our mailbox the very same day i received that offer. went to the d.r. thinking about what that book would be like, but didn't actually investigate twitter itself until i returned. but now, what should i find, but a revolution in iran, documented and shown to the world on #iranelection, which you search for once you get into twitter. and then, what do you find, but about ten posts per second on the topic of what's happening in iran. a jaunting expression of free speech, all on the board, documented for eternity. it transfixed me. a revolution in progress.

of course, i'm somewhat eager to join the revolutionaries, since we ourselves were robbed of two elections in a row by fundamentalist hate-mongers, and, much as i know such statistics can be rigged on either side by either party, still when it's a matter of government repression of free speech and rights, versus the people with their little twitter-proxies, it's easy for me to take sides. so i tried to make my twitter profile green (lost the picture as a result) and threw the weight of my individual support toward the people of iran. one thing i can say: the u.s. needs to pay attention. it needs to know an iranian from an iraqi, farsi from arabic, mousavi from ahmedinejad. it needs to pronounce the name. maybe i can help.

back on the home front, how can i write a book on twitter? well, to start with, write a proposal. finish the term; get my term papers behind me. catch up on everything i set up for the d.r. do the laundry and the dishes. most of all, get some rest, and stay out of the heat. it's getting worse, not better, and it's due to stick around until what, maybe halloween. embrace the sauna, is what i said one year. this year, it's lay low. let the aircon swirl about, right around an inch above floor level. and don't get up until you're ready. chou

Friday, June 05, 2009

it's one of the basic things i grapple with, that my daily schedule is grinding; that almost twenty hours of teaching, counting hours as fifty minutes blocks as is common in academia, takes up so much of my time and creative energy that i'm entirely beat when finished. and, given a minute or two, on a clear, beautiful, cool day, unseasonably tolerable, as i like to say, i realize that you have to go outside when i have the chance, because, this time of year, that next chance might not be 'til october. by "chance" i mean, a time, when a person can just sit there, outside, without any real discomfort at the heat, that would drive you in.

so i'd had a skype experience at work, in which i'd noticed that one can now connect visually with anyone, on earth, at any time, and see them while talking; i'd known this was possible, of course, and had even seen people at various times, in other ways, but, it is now becoming clear that geography is absolutely no barrier to people really communicating to each other any more. where there's broadband, there's a family reunion, so to speak, and this i think makes my little confining town a little less confining. traveling itself is still difficult, still interesting, still challenging on a personal, cultural and language level; places are still different from each other. but maybe it won't stay that way. maybe the people like myself who actually know a little about different cultures, will become the majority. and that would be a big development.

i spoke to a friend in the park, as we were watching our children. he had cut off a small part of his finger, and couldn't work; that was one reason he was there at the park. his finger was healing. he was a cook; he had come from mexico; he was college educated, but couldn't seem to crack in to jobs where he could use his education, and instead had gotten jobs like cooking where he'd lost the edge of his finger. his girls were roughly the same age as my boys and they played well in the playground, in the cool fresh air, for quite a while. la republica dominicana, he said, is feminine, though it's el mexico, there's no telling why some things are feminine and others are masculine. this is what i like about languages. as you learn them, you come to these places where cultures have made choices about how to say things, or how to use them, and in the process of learning, you wonder how this came to be. but i imagine that every republica is feminine; this would include honduras, chile, etc. Actually i have no idea how many countries are republicas.

the sun rises slowly here, the birds have sung their hallelujiah chorus; the puppy has heard it, i tap tap away more because my skype experience has me sleepless. there is a personal element to technology, that it can connect people so; it is here, now, on this earth, because people far and wide badly need to reach out and know more. this is necessary for us because of the times we live in and because if we don't organize, as six billion or so that we are, we are finished. i feel that as a messenger, one who brings these new times to a new place, part of my message is inherently personal; this will change people's lives, for sure. and i hope it will be good. i'm wondering, how much of the personal to put into my talks. about how, for example, i struggle with some of this technology, can't get some of it to work, even ignore some things, in my very own classroom, because i don't have time to figure out which wires have become jammed or aren't plugged in. or, would rather just have a blackboard, that people can actually see, because it's so hard to get overheads and lcd's to do as i want, without putting everyone to sleep.

so, i'm a little miffed, in a way; i knew i couldn't do everything at once, and one thing i never did was totally dazzle people, as is possible with technology; come in and say, look, you can do this this this this this and this, and leave them speechless, and more or less afraid. i can't do that, partly because i can't, and partly because it's not me. but, as i've thought of the things i can do, in hopes of coming up with stuff to share, i know i have plenty to say. i may have to prepare it on the plane, though i'll be sleeping on the plane also, i'm sure. but, i'm looking forward to it. i'm on my way to the d.r. this is going to happen, going to happen, on sunday. the pieces are falling in place; i'm getting my classes covered. i've had to double up; prepare and grade not only the twenty i'm in the middle of, but prepare also the twenty coming; and also, somehow, get ready for the d.r., with handouts and websites well connected to everything i'll need to say. quite a bit more to do, before i leave.

and one more thing, a benefit concert on saturday, benefit for an organic farmer, who has been diagnosed with cancer. all the local folk musicians are playing, and i think it will be quite a collection of local talent. at this point, saturday afternoon, i might already be ready to keel over, but won't, probably, be ready in any way; my bus leaves sunday morning, at about this time, five am. i'm playing it tight. i'm pulling it together at the last minute. i'm sleepless in carbondale. but, what can you do?

the playground forces me, in a way, to just stand there, and breathe fresh air. i don't swim these days; the pool is closed, i think, so i'm heavily dependent on a few moments a day to experience peace and oxygen. one has to breathe, and also, let out some creative juice. notice that, no matter how bad it's gotten, i'm right here by my blogger. and i also did my facebook risk, romping and stomping irkutsk and yakutsk as is my wont. i'm curious about that expression btw, (as is my wont) but it's very appropriate here, i trust; and, before it dies, i'm thinking maybe it needs to be the title of a short story, if not book. but do people know what it means? i'm not even sure i do.

i ramble; lack of sleep is getting to me, and will continue to do this, i assume, life being what it is. it will settle; maybe, i think, around mid-june. it's not mellow. i'm not doing mellow these days. i'm hurtling down a rapids, broken paddle, waterfall ahead, can't hear, even if you know how to do it. it's too late to go back; i'm in the chute, so to speak. a nagging cold and cough are hanging around. one son went back to kansas; i considered a facebook status that would include clicking shoes, or whatever it was that dorothy used when she went back to kansas. the dude in the balloon. in the end he drove his own car; it worked fine; it was a kind of rite of passage, that it drove, and he made it, and he ended up, right at his own house, there in lawrence kansas. fly, like a buttah-fly, says our favorite african song, our shee-shay-yay song, which reminds us that we laba laba laba laba shee-shey-yay, what i'm saying here is that we've developed this family language to talk about how we miss this son, and that he's free now, out there flying, he's a grown up, but that's both good and bad, from our point of view, because we miss him so. the ones on the playground, they're filling my plate; they have the whole range of life's experiences, right there on the slides and the monkey bars; the young girls try to catch them, or get a quarter off of them, or just tag them and make them "it," and that's enough; they come home, tired, and sleep at night. i should be so lucky. i am truly happy, though, that i'm not a cook. my fingers bring me everything, and will be the conduit, the little magnetic power cable, that i will be using on saturday, to let my spirit free, before i go. that, and some sleep. i'll need some sleep, too, or i'll get on the wrong plane.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

summer has reached its finest point here; the last couple of days have been hot and sunny but clear, with variable humidity. as the summer goes on, and it doesn't have to go far, that variability settles into a stifling 99%, which rain or no rain, becomes the way summer is, well into september. but for now, the sun is almost so hot and clear, it sizzles off the dew and settles into a burn before the morning is half over. i myself experience it only when i go out for my fourth, fifth, sixth cups of coffee; the first few are at home before i even leave. it's a frantically busy time. five days before leaving for d.r., my presentations are unfinished; and a long way from finished. my twenty hours, with its large writing class, rumbles on with frantic intensity, and i have to prepare also for the twenty i'll miss when i'm in the d.r. finally, summer plans somewhat unfinished; i'm trying to buy a plane ticket to seattle for a teenager, at the same time i'm sending him off to camp, and spend some time with a college junior, home from kansas, sleeping in a bit and getting a little restless to get on with his life.

underfoot, the two younger guys make a huge racket. school is letting out; the first grader moves on to a new one in the fall; the 4-yr-old faces some adjustment too. on campus, e-mail switched over to g-mail, thus stranding over a thousand of my e-mails in a mail program that is no longer functional; the problem was compounded for people like my wife who actually use mail programs on a day-to-day basis, and can't imagine switching their whole operations. it's interesting how everyone is stuck in their own habits & ways, loss of e-mail a huge cyber-disaster like a derecho or inland hurricane. i grade until my eyes are popping out of my head; 1200 e-mails stuck in my mail program are the farthest thing from my mind. i do, however, toy with rhymes like "e-mail/female" or "male program" & wonder what i could make of it. those 1200 aren't really lost; they're just a little harder to go do anything with them.

deep in the middle of the dominican republic, my plane will land in a highlands town called santiago, a regional center in a well-populated but rural valley. not far to the north, the caribbean sea spreads out north; i'm not sure if it's resorts up there, or remote, or what. there's a town up there called sosua; this town at one time took in 800 jewish refugees from germany and austria, at a time when, remember, florida passed them up. these refugees made a cheese factory which stands to this day, or so they say at least. having travelled extensively in mexico (my spanish is that of a very old mexican who has forgotten all his words) and married into a jewish family, the cultural exchange here i find quite interesting, kind of like the cuban-chinese restaurants on the upper east side, which had their own version of their own food. if i get a chance, i'll go for sure. but, it's the sea, that sea is the most beautiful i've ever seen, by far, and i don't care if it's full of sharks, or gold bullion that has rusted for four hundred years. it's of no consequence. it's like 1200 lost e-mails. they aren't going anywhere, yet. if the computer crashes, i'll lose them for sure.

the city here has settled with a few of the huge stumps; some of them aren't going anywhere, in any big hurry. some of the houses aren't being repaired, or are being repaired so slowly, nobody would notice. they promised to haul away our brush on memorial day, but that came and went, and some brush is still out there. now that it's hot, people want to go to the beach; our beach is a small, family beach, with gentle cliffs right across the lake, and plenty of sand running down into the water. haven't been yet; i've been too busy. almost went the day before mem day, but it wasn't open yet.

a benefit looms; it's a concert of all the local folk musicians, benefit for an organic farmer who is suffering from cancer. i'll get to play my train song, for sure; i also will ramble around on the fiddle, and point out that i'll be playing less than a couple of blocks from my own home, in the unitarian assembly. they have quite a nice building there, but it rises in pyramidic shape up to a kind of glass skylight where music kind of gets caught being reflected into infinite harmony. you get the impression that it's all very beautiful and harmonic up there, in the light, but you never know, because none of the sound ever makes it back to earth, where you can actually hear what's happened to it. my mind will be elsewhere; already, in recounting some of the details, of my trip and my week, my mind is drifting off to caribbean months in years past, the dry tortugas, the wide shore of cancun and isla mujeres, the sun setting on key west. from santiago we'll go to santo domingo, capital, home of merengue, place where i'm certain, there is history, culture, secrets. i am but a visitor, a fiddler, a banjo picker, i come with my eyes wide open; i actually am not a ed-tech savior, more of just a guy, from the land of obama, come to exchange culture, maybe see the place where columbus landed, and found an arawak language, and a wide beach, and a turquoise sea. i'll not make it to dominica, or martinique, or haiti, or cuba, but i'll be close enough, and it will do, for now. i'll be sleepless, i can see already that i have enough to do to fill my evenings, from here on through, and just hope i'll have handouts, something to say to dominican teachers who come to hear me. trust, i'll tell myself, trust that they'll learn something, and be grateful. i certainly will- but, it's not about me. i will be catching the sea breeze, delivered from a june that turns here, turns in a direction i'm not fond of.

so a friend caught me, outside the door of my building, and when i told him about the d.r., he told me about a plane that had disappeared off the coast of brazil, the bermuda triangle certainly. when i finally found the map, i wasn't so sure, but there it was nonetheless, hundreds of people, trying to cross an ocean, and nothing left of them but a few lifejackets in line. it's a far cry from the days of columbus, yes, there was not a sign of scurvy or those diseases you get from lack of fruit; still, i remembered a time, in a sailboat, nothing but the clear blue sky and a miami radio station, the gulf its blackish grayish evil, in contrast to the turquoise eyes of the mujeres and cancun. don't know what the sea will look like. last time i went to new york, i noticed that the sea there was bluer, as is lake erie, lake upon which i was born. it happens, stuff cleans up; the earth turns.

the stack of papers keeps on coming, article after article, about such topics as vegetarianism & carbon footprint, refrigerant gases, and the role of zoos. these will be published; you'll see them; they're public record. good or bad, a certain amount of language will pass by, much like the gulf stream, sometimes it's somebody else's history. it's a big wide sea, and to say it's all the bermuda triangle, well, that's not really accurate. but then, we were stuck near the dry tortugas, a little pocket of shrimping boats that stood there at the key west of key west, the final key, the one that is actually still under water. why i had to stay there and contemplate that spot for several days, i'll never know. the miami radio station kept playing b-b-b-b-b-benny and the jets. the sun rose and set with dazzling intensity brought on by nervous refusal to eat, at least on the part of my shipmate, who was less stable than i was, for sure. is there a plan, that life brings you to a spot such as this, at such a time, so that you can contemplate, what, the place where so many boats crossed paths, and gold fell to the bottom, and pirates went home for dinner? I have no idea. vaya con dios, they'd say to me in mexico, travel with god, does that mean, never forget god, or, does that implore god never to forget me. my guess is, the shrimp are gone. the gold has settled, and animals are living on its rust. the treasure i'll carry away, besides maybe a sea shell, much more ephemeral, maybe a passport stamp, the taste of plantain, a souvenir nina, pinta, santa maria...i'll write some poetry, maybe. and if i make it to the north coast, i'll put it in a bottle. one reaches out, into the wide blue sea, and, yes, sometimes it never comes back. and sometimes that's ok, what would one do with it if they actually found it, be disappointed perhaps, that here was a bottle, but nothing to drink in it, but some poetry.

that triangle's got nothing over me. here's to the brazilians, the parisians, the irish, and their families. vaya con dios...there is no explanation, or, maybe if it is, that information would be somewhere in a mail program, on a hard drive, waiting for what they apparently call in the g-mail world, migration. btw, in g-mail, you can chat with people right on your e-mail; you can also see them. they sit there and look at your image as you're opening your e-mail. and this is just the way it is, a brand new day, hot and sunny, the dark turbulent waters of history washing by, virtually unnoticed.