Wandering Thoughts

November 29, 2009

Failure

Filed under: Reactive Arthritis — terence @ 10:06 am
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Wave buoys, weather maps, and a rising south swell. That was the start of it. A plan that built through the week. A plan that grew in increments with each furtive scan of the internet surf reports. Along the way I accumulated a couple of guys I knew from work. Out of towners. I figured I take them to my old local spot.

It was touch and go, as summer swells are, but on the day there were waves. A little weak, a little wobbly, but, we all agreed, worth a surf. So we paddled out under the low grey sky. The water was brown and silty; run off from the swollen local creek. As I paddled through it, black swirls trailed under my arms.

It wasn’t an easy day. The drift took you off the takeoff spot. And the swell lurched and burped, no where near as strong as predicted. But more than that I couldn’t surf. My hip ached, my legs resisted the jump to the feet motion at the beginning of each ride and by the end, a few half rides later, I couldn’t stand on my board.

As I pulled on damp clothes in the drizzle afterwards, I wondered about my health. Some weekends I can surf, just. Others I just can’t. I’m better than I was (courtesy of ongoing megadoses of methotrexate.) And that’s ok, or it’s great even, but as I stood there on the beach in the fading light, it was hard not to think about the half empty cup, and the waves I couldn’t ride.

November 21, 2009

Zines

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 5:02 pm
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I subscribe to three different magazines*. While I enjoy the magazines I subscribe to I’d be lying if I said I read every article in every issue of each. Indeed, between all three combined there’s probably an issue’s worth of articles I’m thrilled to read, an issue’s worth I’d read at a pinch, and an issue’s worth I’m not interested in at all.

And so…I keep dreaming of a subscription service which allows me to choose 15 articles a month from a suite of magazines, turns them into a PDF, and sends the PDF to me to print.  I’d happily pay for it…

 

* And the Surfer’s Journal

November 17, 2009

Wondering where that go to

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings,Staying Places — terence @ 6:05 pm
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About six months late and looking the worse for wear my Boston Review arrived over the weekend.

 

I think I know why it was late….

I’ve never been to France. In a stange way I’m actually kind of chuffed I own a mag that has.

November 15, 2009

Accents

Filed under: Going Places — terence @ 3:48 pm
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The painting crew were run by a friend of a friend of mine. They were travelling to Montauk and I hitched a ride.  There was a Puerto Rican from near Long Beach somewhere, a gruff old guy with a beer-rounded belly and a beard, another older man with a long-broken nose, and some young guys, pale and slouching, from the unhappy suburbs round Islip. They all looked at me like I was from another planet when I wandered down their boss’s driveway telling them I’d be catching a lift. Shambling and shaggy with baggy jeans and long hair, I was used to looks like that in Long Island.

I travelled first with the Puerto Rican and a couple of the pale kids. They said nothing but the Puerto Rican was friendly, more talkative than me even. At the end of the day, I hitched a lift back again. This time with the older guy with a beard. For a while he didn’t say much.

“So, where’re you from?”

“Me, oh, I’m from New Zealand.”

“Hmh, I knew it was somewhere like that. Everyone was trying to guess where you were from. Those young guys, they’d never heard an accent so strange. They figured you must be from Connecticut or something.”

November 12, 2009

The Book Review Takedown

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 7:34 pm
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This is near perfect. I love the horses’ return at the end.

November 8, 2009

The Dangers of Dorms

Filed under: Going Places — terence @ 7:50 pm
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The youth hostel dorm in Quetzaltenango was lots of things. It was bustling. It was friendly. It was anarchic. It was communal. A single room, a tin roof, plywood walls and 30 beds in rows, it was home to aged hippies and earnest Spanish students. It was busy, it was transient, it was a good place to meet people. It was not restful. Plastic bags cackled through the night. People stumbled in the dark. Toilets flushed. The French woman three beds down snored like a hibernating bear. After a while I got used to it. The sub-conscious sentinels that keep watch during sleep relaxed a little. Decided that I didn’t need to be woken with every noise. They relaxed but not so much so as to stop me from waking in an instant, when a drunken Dane peed on the floor nearby. The sound was unmistakeable.

“Hey!” I didn’t need to say anything. An outraged American, even closer to the urine stream, was springing to action.
“Huh”
“Not here. The toilet. The toilet.”
“Nuugghhh.”
“THE TOILET”
“Auuggghhh” The weeing stopped and he shambled off.
I pulled my pack up onto my bed and slept next to it for the rest of the night.

The next morning the Danish guy didn’t remember a thing. Drunk. Sleep walking. The urine had already soaked into the floor.

Three months later and a long way further south, in a much smaller room in Puerto Natales, I woke to the same sound. This time there were only four of us. Me, Christine the French Canadian, and Sandra and Eddie, two English travelling companions. We’d just walked round the Torres del Paine. And had celebrated that night by getting pleasantly drunk.

Once again. I didn’t have to say anything. Sandra was closer to the action.
“Eddie? Eddie! Good God Eddie what are you doing?” Sandra, was well heeled, with an accent from an expensive school somewhere. Her tone I thought was just about right for the situation. Eddie, however, was having none of it.
“What do you think I’m doing? I’m having a piss.”
His voice had a grumpy certainty to it. Quite convincing, and for a moment, still only half awake I wondered whether peeing on the floor was normal after all. Or, at least, normal where Eddie came from.

He finished his toileting and got back into bed and for a moment there was silence. Sandra was clearly as confused as me. And if Christine was awake she wasn’t saying anything. Maybe it really was normal. Maybe…
“Arrrrgghhhhh!” That was Eddie. “Where are we?”
“The youth hostel in Puerto Natales.” My chance to contribute to the conversation.
“And I was just…”
“Pissing on the floor.” Sandra finished the sentence for Eddie. Sounding rather cross.
“Fuck. I thought we were still on the trail. I was outside the tent. I couldn’t figure out why you were asking.”
“Right.”
Christine began to giggle.
“Maybe,” I wondered aloud, “you might want to mop that up?”

November 1, 2009

Maps

Filed under: Going Places — terence @ 7:27 pm
Tags: , , ,

My mental maps from my first years of travel are much like the maps drawn by ancient mariners. Coastlines carefully plotted but with great empty spaces inland (save for the odd dragon or airport or two). If it was more than 50 miles from a surf spot, I wasn’t interested. The temples of Ubud? No thanks. Not while Padang Padang was breaking. Komodo dragons? Just big lizards really and at least two days travel from Lakey Peak. Celtic Castles? If they were on the coast, perhaps.

I arrived in Mexico in this frame of mind. And all went more or less according to plan. Arriving at night, flying over city lights that stretched horizon to horizon, we slept over at the airport. The next morning we used my carefully researched notes to get us to the right bus station on onto a bus to Puerto Escondido. For six weeks we surfed up and down the coast. In the melting heat and thumping marcismo of Puerto Escondido. In the sleepy surf camps in bandito country in Michoacan. In the dilapidated concrete shell hotels of Pascuales. I didn’t go any further inland than Tecoman. That was a trip to the bank.

We did end up, after all that, stuck for couple of days in Mexico City though. It was just the way the bus and plane schedules worked out. The first evening we were wandering round the safe but still hectic Zona Rosa, half-heartedly trying to do something, when the sky began to rain ash on us.

“Yuck”

“Pretty bad smog, aye”

“Yeah, wow what a polluted city.”

Pete scrapped a big glob of the stuff off a car windscreen. “Glad I don’t live here.”

“Yeah. It’s actually pretty hard to breath. Let’s go back to the hotel.”

The next morning skies had cleared. Big billowing clouds puffed and bulged above the horizon but above us it was fine. And the pollution seemed to have gone.

“Let’s do something.” I think it was Bill’s idea. He went and asked at the reception about day trips and they told us to go to Teotihuacan.

“Las Pyramidas”

My Spanish was still pretty bad but it sounded, I told Pete and Bill, “like there might be Pyramids there, or something.”

And so, with misplaced accents and forlorn verbs searching for objects, I navigated us via the metro to the right bus station and on to the ancient city.

We bickered a bit wandering through the tourist stalls. Pete was driving irritating me. I was bugging him. And we were both driving Bill nuts. I’m not sure we really started paying attention until we made it to the top of the, ‘Pyramid of the Moon.’

“These buildings,” a guide explained to some tourists next to us. “We ancient even to the Aztecs. They didn’t know who built them. Their legends had that the pyramids were the creations of an ancient race. Or Gods, perhaps.”

“That Pyramid of the Sun, which we are looking at, is the World’s largest pyramid outside Egypt.”

It was impressive. Hewn geometry. Jabbing into the sky. It shone lazy yellow in the sun. Behind it, the dark clouds billowed, threatening.

“Looks like thunder,” I wondered allowed.

“Thunder?” a German tourist looked at me like I was an imbecile. “That’s the eruption. You know, the Volcano?”

“Volcano?”

“Yes the one that everyone’s talking about. In the news. The ash cloud that smothered the city yesterday?”

“Ash shower? Oh. That ash shower.”

The German gave up on me and I went back to staring over the ruins. The ancient city and monuments, as old as legends, sun-gold against the eruption-dark sky north of us. And I decided that seeing I’d come all this way I should probably take notice of the land as well as the sea. Every once and a while, at least.

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