I wish we didnt have so many screens. Or any screens. I think its making everyone depressed. Or maybe its just me. I want to go back to the forest. To sleep under the pines and feel the wind pass over my face. Now its all walls and ceilings. They are meant to keep us in. To separate civility from chaos. It makes us forget what we are. Be wary of the illusion. The ducks play in the water all day because they can.
I should chill on this wine, I haven’t been drunk since I moved to Utah. It’s new year’s eve and I’m alone just like I was alone on Thanksgiving and Christmas. And I will be alone on my birthday in 22 days. It’s OK. Last year on Christmas I was at a pool party at a hostel in New Zealand and on new year’s eve I was at a friend’s wedding in Australia. Now I’m here. Listening to Childish Gambino’s new album. James Franco is the white Donald Glover don’t you ever forget. He said he just makes everything for everyone. That has stuck with me. I just write shit and see what happens. God damn he is so creative. Best TV show of the year, great music and he’s going to be fucking Lando. No one can just be one thing these days. You have to be a powerful creator. Powerful creators can do anything and everything. It’s something inside your bones that radiates electricity. I remember the last time I felt electricity. I was with the one I pine over and it was years ago. She was right though she saw the future and I have no control.
I am just a breathe.
That’s what yoga has taught me. I am just a breathe. My legs are different lengths and nothing is perfect I have a scar on my back from the same cancer that took the Singer. When I walked into the surgeon’s officer he said, melanoma, that’s what the Singer died of. Did he know that I sing his songs or did he just assume since I have long hair and a beard? Some things just can’t be explained. I just wonder sometimes if this is all a game and things are thrown at me, no they are thrown at everyone but most people don’t listen. They are distracted, busy dealing with what is placed in front of them. I found this notebook full of drawings when I worked at the recycling plant. I don’t understand how people can throw away such meaningful, inspired pieces of art. Some artists just create and create and create and then their final work of art is to throw it all away. But I found it and they have no idea. They don’t know that everything people throw in the recycling bin floats by on a conveyor belt and humans watch it and some let if float by but sometimes these humans feel something. Cardboard, newspaper, plastic bottles, a lawnmower, and then a beautiful work of art. How did that get there? Why did someone throw this away?
The book is full of cathartic sketches. The one I can’t stop thinking about says: “a fox contemplates the skull of his dead mother in his den. he resents death and is trying to justify to himself his existence as a meat eating creature.”
Why am I here? I don’t eat meat anymore but I still consume. I have to consume. I have to bend otherwise I would break. I don’t want any of this. I am surrounded by humans who ignore the truth. They don’t think about what I know. They didn’t sit under the mountains in New Zealand for hours just staring into the eyes of the world. They didn’t grab the calves and throw them into the trailer an hour after they were born. They didn’t hear their mother’s screams. I’m sorry. I’ms ororry. I;msorry. I didn know. I didnlt kmnownijsdfjf HOw can I eve be forgiven for thes etransgressions. This is the way I was raised and no one told me what it was I just consumed. I;m sorry. WE are the same. I would graldy give myself for your life. I am sorry. Esther forgive me. They don;’t know. They don;’t knoe waht I feel inside. They didn’t hitch hike up and down and up and down the south island and they never talked to the people I talked to and they never stood on the street with a backpack and a guitar and they never stuck out their thumb and waited. Just waited. In the rain. I just waited and then a sweet little old lady picked me up and she said she just lieks driving. I love you. I love everyone. I love you all. Hitch hiking gives you so much overwhelming love. SO many strangers that touched me and I know I touched them. Thanky you all. It’s 9:59 it’s almost a new year in Virginia where all of my family lives. Happy new year.
There’s a good chance the world as we know it will end in 2017. I am a journalist how do I inform the public of our wrongs? I can’t. It’s a losing game. The Earth will always win. Let your climate anxiety go the Earth will be fine. Everything will be fine. Animals, humans will die off, never to be seen again. But the past 100 years is a blink of an eye. The Earth is strong. The Earth will prevail. Us? These human bodies that we occupy? ha. hahah. Yoga has begun to teach me. I know nothing, I am nothing. But I am on the right path. Yes, I know that. I am sure of that. It takes years and years and years and life times and life times but eventually a human can come face to face with god. A human can become god with enough patience. It takes time. I am nothing. I am nothing. I am just a breathe. My guru is tough. She pushes me and I don’t even know if she knows. But I know.
My aunt wrote me a Christmas card and said she hopes I find true happiness in 2017. That was the best Christmas present I received. I grew up with a living room full of things on dec. 25. So many things that I didn’t even really want or need. I mean I wanted them at the time. But that was before I was me. I didn’t know we are in a crisis. How can I justify my existence now? I need a new laptop I need new gloves and I need new boots but do I really? The harddrive is dead and it’s not working right now and my fingers and my feet were freezing this morning when I woke up at 5:30 to ride along on a snowmobile with a cross country ski trail groomer and I saw the stars twinkle above and the foot of snow sparkled below and he yelled back at me telling me facts about skiing. The wind was whipping and biting my fingers and legs and all I have is the 30 dollar steel toe boots I bought for working at the recycling plant. But do I NEED anything? Hitch hiking taught me that everything will be OK as long as I’m not going to die. It taught me to wait in the rain because eventually someone would see me and accept the quest that I presented. I am a quest. I didn’t need anything. I gave away the clothes that I spent 100sand100s of dollars on because I was rich with Australian bartending money. I had so much money from Australia and then New Zealand taught me that I don’t need anything. I bought so much shit from Kathmandu and then I gave it all away. I was buying life lessons. If I had never left the cave I would never be sitting here in a Mormon’s living room writing these words on new year’s eve, alone. But that cave was so comfortable. I never knew that an entire world existed outside of that cave. We should have never left that cave.
But it is selfish to stay in the cave. And it is selfish to reproduce in multiples of threee. I want to reproduce too but you guys are clogging up the world with all of your babies. Please, stop. Every organism wants to carry on their genes, but not when we are in a global crisis. And, no, I won’t write run on sentences, thank you very much even if you expect that since I am drinking wine and I have a very low tolerance. I have style, OK? I refuse to be predictable. But maybe you already knew I would do this. WTF.
Wine is a high functioning drink for me. Beer makes me annoying. Liquor makes me blackout and do dumb shit. But wine, wine gives me a clear head. At least I think it does when I drink wine. I wish I had some friends around here. But I chose this fate and I write things in the newspaper everyday and writing about people makes it hard to make friends. I have a coffee date with a 29-year-old single mom next week. Tinder is fucking lame.
OK, you’re losing steam here, buddy. Find where you were. I wasn’t anywhere, man. There is no point to this. You were watching King Ragnar Lothbrok drink wine with King Ecbert and speaking in kings’ riddles and you were drinking wine with them and laughing and jesting and enjoying the company of two old friends and then King Aella killed Ragnar.
God damn I fucking hate how Macs had to make everything different from PCs.
It’s five AM and it’s dark and cold. I’m sipping burnt instant coffee out of the mug they gave away freshman year and eating porridge with tropical fruit trail mix out of the aluminum bowl I got a thrift store in New Zealand. I’m listening to a story on public radio about refuge children who went missing in Europe.
Please stop telling me how many miles to Des Moines. You just told me ten miles ago and that city means nothing to me. It is just a reminder that I’m still in Trump country and I still have a long, long way to go. It’s too early to be thinking about Des Moines.
An Irish immigration expert is talking about something but all I hear is her accent. She is from Dublin so she doesn’t talk like you. And then she says one word and I start to time travel.
I can imagine you saying that word exactly how the woman on the radio says it.
Maybe it was when we were cooking mushrooms, brown rice and lentils by the river and our family of mischievous ducks wouldn’t stop trying to steal our food.
Or maybe it was when walked through the forest with big bottles of beer and made up stories about the lives of trees and you told me all the things you never told anyone else.
No, it was when the status of our relationship was determined by the texture of peanut butter and the variety of jam in my sandwich.
It’s before dawn and I barely got any sleep and I’m idealizing women from my past again.
Ninety-eight miles to Des Moines and all I can see is corn.
Pete talked to me for about two hours last night. He didn’t allow me to say much.
He is the 40-year-old guy from Rarotonga, one of the island nations in the South Pacific, who has been staying in an apartment at the hostel for five years. He doesn’t really come out much but over the past few weeks he is always around, talking to the young travelers. Some consider him a nuisance. Some might say he has mental disabilities. He is tall and wiry and has a slightly raspy voice that can quickly change from normal volume to yelling in seconds.
I’m on duty as night porter and everything is clean and no one is drinking. I’m watching a movie in the big green hippy tour bus that has long been converted into a TV lounge, late-night joint smoking and hook up spot. The couches and pillows are not recommended for germophobes. But travelers ignore those little details.
He pushes the door and steps up and says, oh it’s you. Goodonya for keeping everything peaceful and quiet. You’re a good sort, he says. I say thanks, it’s just because no one is drinking tonight but he says no, really you do a good job.
This is my first time talking to him one on one. One of the receptionists, a white New Zealander, said Pete has called him a “nigger” several times. The only time I’ve interacted with Pete was when I was putting my laundry in one night when I wasn’t on duty and I heard a scuffle. I run over and see two men fighting in the bushes and I pull Pete out and a smaller Maori guy is yelling “Black Power, Black Power,” a motorcycle gang in New Zealand. The following night, I look back over the security camera footage and see the two of them having a calm chat and then Pete stands up and starts pointing in his face and motioning with his arms and then they started to push each other then they started swinging.
He launches into a one sided discussion on spirituality and being comfortable with yourself. He says people in Rarotonga don’t care about gay people and it doesn’t matter if a guy wants to suck your dick but they used to be cannibals. It’s a hard life over there. He was the smallest one in the family so he was beat when he was younger. He has been beaten a lot.
It’s hard to follow him and half of my attention is on the movie, but I enjoy listening to him. I like listening to people who don’t stop talking. They are interesting. I don’t care if I disagree with them or if they are crazy. I just nod and mmhmm to see where he goes.
Then he starts talking about when he worked on a farm. They had all sorts of animals and he would abuse them. He doesn’t know I’m vegan. He says he would kill chickens with his hands just for fun.
He asks me if I believe in God and I say no. He doesn’t understand.
“So who made the Earth?” he asks.
“Umm…no one,” I say.
“Oh, was it a woman?” he asks.
“No…I don’t think anyone created the Earth,” I say.
“So, who made Man?” he asks.
“Umm…evolution,” I say.
“Ok, interesting. Wow. And how did life begin?” he asks.
“Uhh…well I’m pretty sure it started as bacteria and then evolved over millions of years,” I say.
He doesn’t understand.
I like the word ephemeral. And transient. That’s what life is like here. Some days I am so happy with the joys of walking into the communal kitchen with the giant wooden table and seeing new faces to meet and sometimes I just think, what am I doing? Where are my friends? The people I have been hanging out with for the past three weeks just left and these are all strangers. It’s a low and it’s a high at the same time.
Over free vegetable soup and bread, I talk to a 30-something Canadian man traveling around New Zealand for a few weeks and I tell him my story and he asks, “How can you do it? How can you live here?”
It must seem so foreign and abstract to someone with responsibilities. He has a wife and kids, a house and a career. He can’t just drive a 28-year-old van into a new town and create a new life for four months. He can’t imagine that. But now that I’ve been back in Virginia for a month and my former travel buddies have returned to that giant wooden table and are currently surrounded by new faces, soup and bread, I want those feelings again. Freedom and adventure. You can’t live that life in this country. At least not around here.
We are walking home from the pub after closing time.
We are getting close to the bridge over the slow, shallow river and the French guy takes off all his clothes and throws them all over the street. Half of our group—most of us just met tonight—follows him up the beams about three meters above the street while the rest of us take the sidewalk like a bunch of pussies. He dives head first into the water and I’m sure he just broke his neck because I’ve seen that river and it is rocky and shallow but somehow he comes up laughing. A German girl is stuck at the top of the bridge—like a cat stuck in a tree—because she is scared and here comes a cop.
He is young and he doesn’t turn on his flashing lights or anything at the sight of a bunch of drunken backpackers, one of whom is naked and soaking wet and one of whom is above him, stuck on a bridge.
“Make sure you get home safe,” he says casually as he drives off.
Sitting next to each other while watching the Hobbit leads to laying down next to each other while watching the Hobbit leads to meandering hands leads to the night porter walking into the bus at 2 am to put up the new “NO SMOKING” signs and turning on the lights and seeing you sit up naked and look me in the eyes and kind of smile and kind of laugh as I slink out. I’ll put up the signs in a half hour.
It’s another quiet night and everything is clean and I come back to the office after smoking a joint with the Irish girls and I check the security cameras and see Pete smoking a cigarette outside so I grab my guitar.
We sit in the smoke-o room and he tells me the devil is his best friend.
He is a beautiful man. He is a musician.
He launches into a biblical rant about Jesus, Samson, Nebuchadnezzar, Jerusalem and Babylon. I accompany him with quiet fingerpicking on my guitar.
I ask if he is talking about leaving Babylon and going to Zion, one of the fundamentals of Rastafari. Babylon and Zion mean different things according to different interpretations of the Bible. According to Christianity and Judaism, Zion is Jerusalem. For Rastas, Zion is Africa, specifically Ethiopia.
I start to play “Africa Unite” by Bob Marley. “We moving right out of Babylon, and going to our father’s land.”
He says, Sean, you get it. Wow.
He starts talking about how he only eats good food like oysters and how he knows what the body needs. He takes care of himself. I tell him I’m vegan. For the environment. He asks me what I use for a meat substitute. I tell him I don’t think of it like that. I don’t need a substitute. Before I was vegan I would always think of dinner in terms of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables. Now it is just all goodness. I just eat a lot of different plants of different shapes and colors. I don’t think about everything as separate anymore.
After I play a song he tells me I have a very clear mind and it’s because of my diet.
He suddenly starts professing his love for Robert Mugabe, the 92-year-old President of Zimbabwe. So, naturally, I play “Zimbabwe.”
Then I play “So Much Trouble in the World.” The bridge goes, “So you think you found a solution, but it’s just another illusion.” And he says, Wow. To hear you play Bob Marley songs, just the chords and singing, really makes the lyrics more powerful than hearing the full band version. You understand. You know your shit.
Bob Marley and Pete both love the Bible so he inadvertently quotes Marley lyrics. When I hear one, I play that song. He says, “Why do you cry for me?” So I play “Concrete Jungle.”
He keeps talking and I keeping playing and I hope we do this again. I want to record us. We are the only people in the common areas and we are creating something beautiful and unique.
He asks me how I can play Bob Marley songs if I don’t believe in God.
I say God is just an escape from the real question. It’s a scapegoat. I don’t know the answers to the big questions but I’m not just going to say it’s all because of “God.” What a strange concept.
He changes the topic a few times and then he stands up with fists and says he quit fighting in ’89 but he is acting very aggressively right now. He tells me he used to get in fights all the time and he never won. He tells me he has fallen off of five-story buildings and he was fine. He has jumped out of cars and he was fine. He knows how to make his body absorb the impact.
He tells me the owners and the receptionists say they have become worried about him these past two weeks. But he tells them, don’t worry about me, I worry about you. God speaks to me.
He says he has lived here for five years and he loves talking to the backpackers.
“I see youze as spiritual beings,” he says.
The next day I talk to the receptionist and he tells me Pete was kicked out of the hostel a couple of hours ago.
Everyone here hates him and thought he was the crazy guy who causes trouble. I’m sad that I won’t have any more late night talks with him. I’m sad I will never see him again. I wonder where he will go.
A few weeks later I look through the hostel complaint book and see a series of notes:
Hostel: Other guests complained that you were behaving strangely and making them feel uncomfortable. You also left strange notes about being “the messenger and child of God.” We are a backpackers and you are not a backpacker. Sorry.
Pete: last night I was helping out in the kitchen. I am not God’s messenger. what the fuck? im just being a dick, I love this place. The other guys accused me of stealing stuff the other night too. Does Ben have a grudge against me because I told him NOT to give you that silly shit… it was a game OK?
Hostel: You are not staying. Please leave or I will call the police. I do not like your swearing or your behavior.
Pete: what the fuck, you will regret it later. Can I please have my stuff from my room?!
Hostel: I am calling the police as you have just threatened me!