Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fresh from the Yoga Farm

Sadhana: Night & Day

Swamiji has asked me to transfer the lavender plants
from a broken wood barrel – now toppled
to one side near Krsna temple – into two ceramic blue
containers where they will not die.

This task, as with the many asked, I agree to gladly,
though in this instance see that perhaps
a Karma yogi not-me might take care of this joyful little job
opportunity whilst I serve elsewhere: likely in the kitchen or the orchard.

There are trees that need water there.
We all know: water added to earth & air guarantees
trees will bear fruit eventually; in addition,
I offer prana, singing Lakshmi mantras
into the many tiny ears of these tender-hearted trees,
whom I hope or imagine discretely listen,
with subtle green sonic organs hidden in their leaves.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~
The moment night became too cool, feel the body bolstered
by a breeze of evening heat, rustled loose from that blue-black abyss.
On that too-hot tejas day, I dove
into the man-made pool so I could get the cool back: diving into a ‘Bliss Divine’.

On the dock of this pond called Vrindavan, I smile a salute to the sun
with the intention of tanning my gums (which is an old Swami Vishnu trick, I’m told).
Though this trunk & limbs flow through twelve full poses, my focus rests
over my nose, where fiery areolas form fluxional suns who arise & set & rise & set.

Sweating after effort, I shed a layer of t-shirt & shorts & use my skin to swim three
cooling loops around the fountain. From the far side, facing east, I am given vision
of the secret rainbow resting therein: that Self-same sun being split into its constituents
by the perfect scatter of water gone airborne, as if practicing ecstatic Asana.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Back on the dock, my chilled skin is sizzling in the oven of said sun. I turn & spit;
a sunfish investigates, then tastes. That nobly bold or dumb one bites my saliva and flees
to the deep. The spit stretches like trite cheese on impossible TV pizza. Seeing this,
the orange sunnies all hustle up, swarming to the surface, hungry for any potential-ojas left over.

Here I pause to take a picture; pause to capture the day’s last light. Here
I pause to wonder what happened to that pure, white Puja milk from last night:
when the deity is clean, do we just dispose of those holy leftovers of devotion?
Or can I try a bite?

The central fountain sends concentric ripples dancing over this underwater Vrindavan.
Refracted shadow & light climb the well-worn rungs of the wet wood ladder,
climbing through the heavy-set tendrils of an eternal willow.
How a trunk draws water from the earth,
shadow & light arise in ripples: rising how
kundalini is drawn to the crown of a ripened spine;
the way a fruit always falls, in time.

Friday, September 24, 2010

These Are My Essays

I am applying to earn my Masters degree in Writing and Poetics at Naropa University, in Boulder, Colorado. These are the application essays I put in the mail today. This is super-personal stuff,so please just don't tell me if there are any terrible spelling errors. I'll find out soon enough if there are. Enjoy!

Statement of Intent

Things fall into place. Though at any given moment the path appears random, retrospect reveals a progression of experience leading inevitably from one lesson to the next. The karma I carry with me in this life has continuously uprooted and replanted me around the world, ensuring that I meet certain people and arrive at essential realizations only when the time is right. Now again, I am like a fruit, overripe and ready to abandon the nourishment of my by-now-familiar Bogotáno tree; ready to leap, floating for a moment before finding fertile ground in which to spread new seeds. I feel overwhelmingly blessed to rest in the knowing that Naropa is the piece of earth I seek.

The source of inspiration for the course of study I intend to pursue can be traced to a series of dreams in August of 2008. Having graduated from college in the spring, I spent the summer as headwaiter and handyman at a boutique hotel and restaurant on an island in Wisconsin. Anticipating the change of seasons, I made concrete plans to move to Red Lodge, Montana, to become a bartending ski-bum. Alas, it seems there were more subtle plans already in place. Three consecutive mornings I awoke with lingering images of being trapped on a ski lift, rising into storm clouds; or of arriving at the top of a mountain without my equipment, proceeding to drift uncontrollably into the abyss. The ominous intensity of these dreams shook me to the core, and I made haste to change course.

Of course, our modern-day divination system (Google) led me directly to the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm, in Grass Valley, California. At that time, my experience with Yoga was limited to one-semester of bikram as a sophomore; however, I instantly recognized the Yoga Farm as the obvious next step upon my path. I lost a significant cash deposit by abandoning the Red Lodge agenda, but awoke the next day from a blissful dream of flying over paradisiacal island chains with a voice, booming out from a bottomless pit in my chest, saying, “You are on the right path!” It is great comfort to have confirmation, even when you already know.

On the 1st of January, 2009, I arrived for the start of 4 months as a Karma Yogi in the Ashram’s work-study program. This was by far the most transformative time of my life, and my experiences there continue to inform my daily existence. In addition to establishing a steady meditation practice, I soon became one of the Ashram chefs. I have always loved food; now I love feeding people too. This was also my first exposure to the complementary sciences of Ayurveda and Vedic Astrology. The discovery of this ancient wisdom was akin to finding a blueprint and a headlamp after clumsily stumbling through an unlit maze for what appears to have been years. The holistic system of self-knowledge that is Yoga gently revolutionized the way I think, speak, act, and eat, and launched me on a course of accelerated evolution that continues to this day.

Having said that, the aspect of yogic life that remains closest to my heart is the spirit of bhakti. Before arriving at the Ashram, I was skeptical (at best) about religious devotion. I assumed I’d just do the asana, stimulate my academic mind with scripture, and enjoy the tranquil Sierra atmosphere while merely tolerating the daily kirtan and intermittent religious rituals – probably watching aloof as people in orange robes washed rocks, gave clean clothes to voodoo dolls and tossed julienne-cut coconut into a supposedly sacred fire. How silly of me.

Like in a nightmare, where I flee an apparently evil pursuant: if I simply turn to face it, in direct but loving confrontation, that which I most fear becomes a source of supernal strength and elation. With the help of Swami Sita, Swami Guruprasad, and world-renown kirtan performer Karnamrita Dasi, I soon realized my deeply devotional nature. They aided me in understanding that bhakti takes many forms. In my case, it finds expression primarily through athletic performance and literary endeavors. For example, Swami Guruprasad, the resident tantric priest, noticed me reading for hours on end, and lauded my concentration. Never before had I considered my incessant literary indulgences from this empowering perspective!

Another wonderful surprise was the way my writing practice exploded with inspiration after mere weeks of Yogic immersion. There were days when, in all honesty, I had to give my karma yoga hours short shrift, being inexorably drawn to my journal or computer to hastily transcribe the flood of conceptions flowing through me before they disappeared downstream. I almost forgot to notice the joy of watching, with eerie detachment, as whole poems arose spontaneously on the page. Such ecstatic, humbling fun!

This is the state I expect to recreate at Naropa. I believe Naropa is the ideal environment in which to pursue the careful combination of my writing and contemplative practices. I hope to discover a course of study based in bhakti, blending the composition of devotional poetry with a special focus in Sanskrit song and translation. I sense that Naropa is the place where my ever-evolving meditation practice will encounter the structure and guidance it needs, while simultaneously engaging with the rigorous academic context I am seeking. For two years I have said I would not go back to school until I knew exactly what I wanted to study. Now I do, and I’m devoted.

Since I left the ashram, I have lived in Maine, Mexico and Minneapolis. This past year, I have seen the 4 corners of South America and am currently living in Bogotá, Colombia, teaching English and learning Spanish. My visa will soon expire, and I had been agonizing over what to do, where to go. Since this Master of Poetics idea dawned on me, I have been thoroughly energized and inspired. The effortless discipline I am experiencing while creating this application is evidence – the ever-sought confirmation – that this is precisely the path I've been preparing for myself. This preparation has again occurred without my conscious knowledge – but if I'd known what to do before now, I would have missed all the fun and adventure of discovery unfolding as I dance up the mountain!

There are many paths, but only one peak. I believe that ultimately, my path spirals toward some form of teaching. This TEFL venture is the latest in a pattern of tutorial roles that goes back to the 4th grade. This time, I have learned a level of self-sufficiency heretofore unknown; it has truly been a crash=course in adulthood. It has satisfied my nomadic instincts, and allowed me to establish a common humanity with people who carry karma far different from mine. I have become socially functional in Spanish, and have developed the unshakable confidence that I can harmoniously handle any situation I might encounter – in the classroom, calle, or otherwise. But while I enjoy the process of teaching, the TEFL world has grown rapidly dull. Recently, in an advanced class, we discussed Jorge Luis Borges, Paramahansa Yogananda, and one of my poems. My enthusiasm became contagious! I vastly prefer these topics to endless speculation over modal auxiliary verbs and prepositional phrases. This expedition has been an enormous blessing – however, I am ready for my next lesson. Above all, teaching has taught me that I am still a student, and always will be.

Having wandered long enough, I now know precisely where to go, and why. I am craving the opportunity to once again engage with a community of lively, thinking people. While I have met many amazing people in my travels, I have become disheartened by the lack of intention present in the general population. I thrived in the high-vibrations of the Ashram community, and I hope to find yet another group of intently focused individuals at Naropa. Employing all the tools of discernment in my developing toolbox, I sense a deep need for grounding, for a stronger sense of community, of home. I long to plant my feet firmly on the earth and grow roots that allow my more subtle selves to branch out endlessly.

Bogotá, despite its many charms, is not a place where this grounding is possible. It is a hectic, sprawling, heavily polluted city of nearly 10 million people, and it exhausts me on a number of levels. Therefore, outside the academic realm, the principle attraction of Naropa is its location. I know Boulder well, and I cannot wait to arrive and settle down. With such easy access to intense exploration, I will gladly carry my tent, sleeping bag, bicycle and skis with me. I believe the surrounding beauty feeds Boulder’s cozy, vibrant community, creating an ideal setting for the life I aspire to lead. I am overcome with giddy anticipation as I imagine the joyful potential future I am here attempting to manifest.

I must also mention the awe I felt in reading the brief biography of Professor Andrew Schelling. His list of publications and description of interests resonate in a powerfully familiar way. He seems to be doing (or has already done) everything I hope to do! For example, “the ’conjunction of wilderness expertise’ with homegrown radical politics and an immersion in Asian literatures” is a strangely precise summary of what I hope to work towards over the next 2 years.

Having mentioned this hypothetical future, allow me to describe what I have in mind. After 8 months away, I will arrive home in Minneapolis on the 25th of September, 2010. I will then drive to Grass Valley, where I will spend October as support staff for the Teacher’s Training Course at the Yoga Farm. As soon as I can separate myself from the magnetism of the Ashram, I will move toward Boulder, in order to be comfortably acclimated in time for the start of the Spring 2011 semester.

Having completed the degree requirements in December of 2012, becoming well versed in Sanskrit along the way (maybe Hindi, too?), I eagerly anticipate an extended journey into India to further my studies. Swami Guruprasad has enthusiastically invited me to visit the Sivananda Ashram in Kerala, and I fully intend to take him up on this generous offer – when the time is ripe. I feel I must first seek further orientation in my higher purpose, so that I might travel beyond mere sightseeing. I have seen enough of the world to know beyond a doubt that what I am truly seeking is not found without, only within. All I need now is a supportive place to sit, to study and to write, a situation where diverse seekers gather for satsang. Is not Naropa ideally conducive to these simple aspirations?

In conclusion, I humbly request this assistance on my journey. In my mind’s eye there exists the potential for a wonderfully fruitful relationship between the Naropa community and myself. I intend to be a student-teacher for many years to come, and I would be both incredibly proud and profoundly grateful to continue in pursuit of my highest dharma as a contributing member of the Naropa community.


Supplemental (Self-Indulgent) Essay

It seems paradoxical that my primary inspiration to write stems from the very impossibility of the poetic attempt. Impossible because language can only ever point towards its subject, because words, like all symbols, are forever one step removed from the reality they aspire to portray. I think of a cairn: the cairn describes a path, but is not the path itself. A poem – simple ink upon paper – can never truly reproduce the experience from which it springs. Therefore, the poet’s best hope is to use the available word-stones to craft a small tower, marking the way towards a new experience. The Word, as way-shower, has illimitable powers of ever-fresh creation. This, then, is the worthy, worldly task at which I joyously toil.

Wisdom traditions around the world recognize the powerful influence of the Word. It has the ability to incite revolutions or invite needed rain, depending upon the vibratory harmonics of the chosen phoneme sequence. The Bible tells us that, “In the beginning there was the Word…” (John 1:1). In Christian traditions that word is ‘Amen’, while the ancient rishi’s of India pronounced it ‘Aum’. In both cases, it is understood to be the basic vibrational framework upon which physical existence is constructed. From Hindu kirtan, to Gregorian chanting, to numerous Native American ceremonies, employing sound to produce profound effects on one’s self and surrounding environment is a pervasive human practice. With this in mind, I constantly strive to find a symbiotic balance between sound and meaning in my work; and in this pursuit, two books have particularly influenced me: “conVERSations”, by Kamau Braithwaite, and “Skywriting by Word of Mouth”, by John Lennon.

Lennon first shocked my literary paradigms sometime during sophomore year, with his linguistic contortionism and irreverence for linearity. He lets words wash over one another, making meanings overlap, allowing what is written and how it sounds to exist in productive tension. Most writers seek to fix meaning; Lennon intentionally sets his signifiers afloat. At the time, I was just starting to see language as a multi-dimensional phenomenon. Lennon’s light-hearted – yet deadly serious – literary manipulations, helped me welcome into my writing a divine wildness of word-choice and purposeful abstraction of structure. My first attempts to incorporate Lennon’s influence were overzealous, but over time I have assimilated ‘skywriting’ so that its strange playfulness echoes throughout my work. This is a process.

The tension between what is written, how it sounds, and what it means, finds ultimate expression in the work of Kamau Braithwaite. He puts his vast theoretical work into practice in the book, “conVERSations” (although I hesitate to call it a book, due to its radical multi-textuality). Using his ‘video-style’, Braithwaite transcribes a 1993 conversation with Nathaniel Mackay (including audience participation), supplements it with textual elaborations, then intersperses sonic poems written in what he calls ‘nation language’, while running footnotes create a counter-narrative, challenging the privileged, ‘primary’ text. These different narrative strains are identified through varying font style and size, choices so dynamic that the result refuses categorization as mere literature – thus, ‘video’.

Braithwaite’s poems demand to be read aloud. This is the secret to deciphering their meaning, because the written words are slashed and cut short, carefully distorted to form a hybrid poetics that aims to establish an authentic literary experience where none was previously recognized. For Brathwaite, ‘nation language’ represents the merging of oral folk traditions from the Caribbean with those imported from Africa, under the structural umbrella of the colonially imposed Spanish and English. This alchemy of forms and influences is startling, and expands the limits of what I previously imagined a book could do. Braithwaite, therefore, provides a useful blueprint for how to successfully inter-textualize my diverse interests, which span, in brief, from quantum physics, to the Mayan calendars, to geo- and exo-politics, to shamanism and Sufism, to viticulture and gastronomy, and of course, to semiotics and linguistics.

In my own writing, I seek to combine the organic imagery made available by abstract, right-brain inspiration, with my hyper-intellectual, linear left-brain tendencies, to create a unique style that speaks to both the heart and mind of the reader. I hope to create poetry that is pleasing to the eye and ear, intuitively soothing and inspiring for the soul, while also able to entertain the analytical, academic brain. I want to perform mystical poems in front of a raucous crowd, while simultaneously submitting them for literary deconstruction.

Technically, I imagine most of my poems will be considered free verse, but they are all highly organized. For example, the prose poem “Final Relaxation” consists of 12 stanzas, representing the 12 basic postures in a Sivananda-style asana session (the final pose of which provoked the poem). Each stanza has 7 lines, to honor the 7 occult energy centers located in our spinal cortex. This specific asana practice, developed by Swami Vishnu-Devananda, is intended to progressively harmonize and awaken the chakras; the poem is intended to echo this process in print.

In addition to poetry, I have experience with journalism, short fiction and creative non-fiction. I was a staff music writer for the Arts section of the The George Washington University Hatchet for three years, and what began as a travel-blog at the beginning of 2010 has evolved into a patchwork narrative of how I survive since I left home. Blogging is the no-mans land of genres; most of my posts are short, disposable, creative non-fiction that sometimes rhymes. Yet there is something deeply appealing about this synthesis of forms. It is an alchemical process of expression, ideally melding the base metals of poetry and prose to create spontaneous literary art otherwise unachievable.

In this way, Jorge Luis Borges has exercised tremendous influence over my thinking. His concise vignettes are like tiny doors that open into vast realms. Borges’ artful sketches are like poetry, in that every word is crucial, yet they take the form of short fiction. They are considered fiction, despite the profound truths they point towards. I am attracted to Borges, not only by his mysterious, metaphysical themes, but by the ambition of his true literary aim, which he states quite explicitly in his poem, The Moon, describing a time when, “a man / Conceived the unconscionable plan / / Of making an abridgement of the universe / In a single book”. This ‘abridgement’ is a constantly recurring theme in Borges’ work. In addition to labyrinths and mirrors, Borges is obsessed with the concept of a one-word poem that contains the entire universe. In The Parable of the Palace, the poet is beheaded for theft after uttering his brief composition, because its raw power swallowed the vast palace in its entirety. Borges claims, “the text has been lost,” but he is clearly describing the Word, ‘Aum’.

Before I conclude, I must also mention my brief experience in bookmaking. My lovely parents run Photobook Press in Minneapolis, creating beautiful, custom books. For Christmas 2008, I gathered some high-quality scraps and hand-made 17 chapbooks, each with a unique cover, as gifts. The collection, entitled “Ear Sum Pomes”, begins with A Vesper Sotto Vocce and ends with a Morning Song. The content in between theoretically describes one wild night of the mind.

In my life, as in my writing, I pursue dynamic synthesis, whether with the spices in an Ayurvedic recipe, or by linking ancient wisdom traditions with modern science, or Sancho Panza with Arjuna, or Spanish with Sanskrit. In my experience, the “Aha!” moment that readers and writers crave is most often established through these unexpected connections. I seek to reveal the underlying unity of seemingly disparate topics, to create a many-varied voice that emanates from One Source, with characters arising and falling (like in life) across prose, poem, and the occasional diagram or drawing, so that the reader may access an experience yet unimagined. In his essay, The Poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson describes how he, “has a whole new experience to unfold; he will tell us how it was with him, and all men will be the richer in his fortune. For, the experience of each new age requires a new confession, and the world seems always waiting for its poet.” Here in this New Age, I offer my confession.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Deviotional Poetry of the New-style


Today was given a vision of the archetypal Tiger.
I spent two years at two different high schools and both flew
the black-and-white flag of the Tigers. The morning of my birth arose
in the Chinese Year of the Tiger. That was exactly two zodiac cycles ago;

now on this eve of a New Cancer Moon, Tigers flash into focus
on the blackboard of my forehead, a Tiger struts past, looking left to flash
His awesome jaws, just to show me how His startling stripes create impossibly
stark contrast against His bone-white Tiger teeth.

This animal in my mind, how may I tame him?
True my Tiger is tranquil now but don’t be mesmerized:
He will lull you to sleep and eat you.

Such self-consumption certainly sounds unpleasant: destruction from within,
mauled and digested, left for dead, a fresh carcass to feed the lucky scavenger,
and by what? What force of will outside my own instigates this graphic tragedy?

“None. Free will alone accounts for how experience unfolds,” Tiger whispers.
Now: I hereby choose to alter course in that finest moment of choice, moving to embrace the beautiful fiend who pursues me, feel him purr, make him family.


Your Name

As soon as you gave it, it was gone and all that remains
in my mind is your eyes and in my heart is your glorious aura; aching,
our colors seem made to match exactly, which is maybe why
I need no measure of time to be sufficiently inspired to invite
You into my life right now, or forever.


Broken Story of a Voice

…and s/he spoke of immaculate conception,
redefining the term ‘conception’ through its root: concept,
or thought, thinking, I imagined, that were our
intentions made immaculate, we might find new life in the Christ,
be reborn for a loving Virgin Mother, the Divine Feminine
energy finding harmony with the Father’s strength and mercy,
His fierce pursuit of Truth tempered by Her patient Grace, so pure…

…but that this serpent lay at the base of the tree of knowledge, spiraling up to look Eve in the Eye - speaks of our spine, and the divine, spinning energy centers snaking up our trunk…

…and how the Star of David explains these principles perfectly, even more so when you include the swastika in the center, to represent the eternal cycles operating within the perfect balance of Wisdom, which allows the many to know themselves as One, and Compassion, bestowing Heaven on Earth, abundance, ‘as above, so below’…

…but to be no longer ruled by psychopathic patriarchs, not to be led by empty humanoid vessels bent on spreading Fear, clones with zero sense of compassion or consciousness other than getting their jollies off seeing the perceived plebeians suffer; how still we must trust in the ultimate efficacy of karmic Justice, knowing our only role is to continue offering forgiveness, for truly, they know not what they do…

…and those forces we might label Evil are in fact catalysts, crucial characters in the 3-D drama of Our awakening. They are the ready manifestations of the deepest, darkest unacknowledged aspects of our collective Self. We require their instructive influence at this time...

…but nightmares are so exciting! A fresh opportunity to turn and confront the demon pursuing you. And if you do, lovingly acknowledge this former source of Fear, do you realize how much celestial Love explodes out of that interaction? The Law of One states (Ra, Book 4, Session #83)…

“… that by far the most vivid and even extravagant opportunities for the piercing of the veil are a result of the interaction between polarized entities…”

…and this is why, as we continue toppling toward a tipping point of positive intention, our collective closet is being emptied of skeletal shadows, and the Powers-that-Be are becoming the Powers-that-Were but first they are going to throw everything they have at us. Like children. There is nothing hidden…

…but don’t misinterpret the Word. Apocalypse only means ‘revealing’ - granted, on the grandest scale. So say goodbye to your ghosts, and get ready to focus on divinely aligned co-creation, inviting the Light of the Father to help us honor the body of our Earth Mother, with us standing in-between as equals…

…and from where I sat s/he showed me a blue diamond planet, no longer
reflecting the light of its local star but giving out a supernal glow of its own,
illuminating its neighborhood in space, a supreme paradise, built by and for
its Light-bodied occupants…

…and in this way I was made to Awaken, newborn, to bear witness
to this Self-created state of affairs, where when I walk
the Path spontaneously arises underfoot, and if I stumble
over a stone or clandestine ditch I know Just who to talk to…

Monday, August 2, 2010

Early Poems of the New-Style

Primarily for the benefit of my Mother. These can also be found as Notes on my Facebook page.


Pimples are appearing like spinal notches
down the front of my body. It started
on my forehead. "Funny," I thought
"that is where my Third Eye would be."

Next it was my nose, like Rudolph on the peak
of Everest, standing on his tippy-toes, reaching
up just one more desperate little milimeter,
simply because he was born to light up the night.

My lip is split. A dehydrated slice sits precisely
in the center of the quasi-symmetric curls of flesh
which represent my bottom lip. Flesh most vicious
every morning when it had almost healed.

Shaving today for the first time in too long,
I nicked the newest one. It began to bleed,
red as that original apple for which this lump,
forever caught in my throat, was named.

I suspect my chest must come next.
Welcome! My heart is wide open.
Further down I'll omit for now, seeing how
that's just nothing for public consumption.

One day I will lay naked.
Nothing I can do then.
As it is, was and will be.
I am clothed for now in flesh by highest consent.


Rant 7 June 2010

How often do we exercise the true mythic form of Freedom?
Must we be so ever fervent, this incessantly faithful to the easy lure of party lines,
assuming some expected trust, obviously now already unearned
based upon the endless litany of false-flag attacks and desperate subversion tactics
to which the population at large has been subjected, agreed to, once upon time,
while demonstrating how scary forced evacuation in the Southlands is or will be,
and how interminable internment camps become, and quickly.

Somehow I never remember offering any sort of submission,
be it to a law well-known to be innately unnatural, nor
to assist in the completion of bureaucratic quota sheets
which support a system designed to promote clones destined
to achieve that status so often sought though only ever offered
to Officials who are (who?) willing to haul all such stinky bait with them
when they go, and go they will, to become lost on assignment,
stumbling blind and deep into the darkness where all incarnate
fish swim and feed, learn to fight, sleep and wake up in time to die.
Like true legends. So who then next will bite said tempting hook?

Okay what, so try Freaking Out today just to see what happens, and then or
ask those folks just home from detainment in G-20 Toronto, not forgotten, if it was fun,
or not.


An Imagined Apprenticeship

For tutor I choose sea turtle (not Nemo)
so as to learn to surf star-gate currents
zooming just under the surface
of Earth's oceans, those veins of the Divine
floating close to Light-speed, even past it,
no matter.

I'd spend my nights writing (like now)
propping my spine upon the chiropractically-magical
curve of his or her tremendous shell:
the type of exo-skeleton which one day might
sit atop the skull of Earth's one true beholder,
becoming the new crown of Atlas.

Watching whorls of star-coral unfold
amid triple-helix spirals busy
sprouting bouquets above below
around and within us, we slide
across the uncreated floors and shelves
of the cosmic undersea scaffolding.

Having turned through an obscurely curving corridor,
fraught with lost fish lingering in caves
laden with temptation, we emerge from that
shadowy canyon and plunge past the precipice,
flying like cartoon Coyote, only we know not
to look down or allow doubt.

This is how we stay weightless.
Trust us, it's safer that way.


The Earth Will Not Explode (Giving Birth)

And there: did you sense that subtle boom?
that muffled rush of stardust, a newborn unformed,
contemplating which shape to take?
Awake within the womb, so warm, and then what?

Lava playfully pushed into this ocean of existence to see how plain
dark and freezing it is, so full of resistance, and insistence
on confusion and fear it is at these heavy depths; so hot we streak
toward the surface in as direct a path as possible,

-- though some aberration is expected,
and, naturally, patches of atoms will tend East or West --
seeking to explore those sacred spaces,
places less dense and more rife with light,

impelled up by not-knowing-any-better,
yet all the same, always weighed down by a pervasive blur,
this fresh molten starflesh, formerly amorphous, stiffens and stops,
still not shallow enough and now growing slowly dead

of separation, having ventured too distant from our core source,
but clearly not yet near enough our local star,
and so caught in-between becomes this infinite range of
statuesque spires, seeming almost moldy through the gloom

though this deep down we know what brittle fossils we've become,
inevitably destined to erode when the oceans overflow
then drain, there abandoning all evidence of man's random art
to wither in the heart of the wind, under the breath of death's sun,

with plans to be reborn inside the final sunrise
witnessed by our shrouded eyes on the blessed being Earth.
Tired of being blind inside a storm of time distortion,
we temporarily chose to be toads so we could watch the earth explode

into life! Finally! enough groundswell has gathered
and our galactic island triad is all set to surface
into the sea of Spirit, a crystal child born warm,
blinking open in the Dawn of crazy new age fame.

Terra, is her name.


PS Hey Mom, cut my hair today. Here look:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Scenes, as Seen through Colectivo Windows

A dog. This beautiful brown lab, standing alert in a deserted gas station. She is holding an empty Coca-Cola bottle clamped in her jaws. It sticks straight out sideways from her mouth. Her searching eyes watch the other dogs, the passing traffic. Entirely earnest. Claiming that corner, that Coke bottle. Because she can. Like: This Is Mine Now.

Two twelve-or-so year-old kids, niños with backpacks on, in a foot race for the fun of it. In the middle of the street. Again, because they could.

Beautiful women. I try to act normal about it but they're everywhere.

Former world-number-one DJ Paul van Dyk is hosting a dance party here on the 13th of August. There are posters plastered all over the city, encircling every telephone pole and covering every graffiti-free wall. It is advertised as a 'black party', which, I assume, means all attendees are encouraged (required?) to wear black clothing. Mr van Dyk must have a lot of black lights. Anyway, I saw one poster (only one, out of thousands) that took the advertising intensity to a new level, openly proclaiming that "Once you go black, you'll never go back". And I understand the point they are driving at here, but where I'm from, that phrase suggests rather something else. Something else entirely.
Furthermore, having seen Paul van Dyk in Buenos Aires at the start of March, I here publicly attest to my continuing ability to 'go back' to the more interesting music to which I have become accustomed.

(There is a great one here. Now missing, mis-filed in my memory. Somewhere, some one remembers. I'll send an intern to go rummaging through the dusty filing cabinets in the basement of my brain. Funny how yesterdays files find their way into ancient drawers to co-mingle with age-old reportings.)

Large and small, all sizes; from dark to caramel, the odd vanilla or exotic strawberry, there is an embarrassing overabundance of beautiful women in this country.

I pass by the EcoPetrol sign up la Septima several times per week, sometimes twice a day. It has a big smiling, plastic green lizard sitting on top, with its tail stabbing through the O in Eco. No shit. "EcoPetrol" is an oxymoron so obvious, I can only hope and imagine that the Namer often reflects and laughs at the slyly self-depricating self-awareness of it, the blatant linguistic tricksterdom involved, the contradictions encoded to the degree that this idiocy passes for advertising, a sophisticated marketing scheme, somehow acceptable precisely because it is so damn bold, so bald.

Blockbuster video still exists. I've seen it; it's true.

Way out Calle 26, otherwise known as Avenida El Dorado, near Carrera 66, a man was sleeping on the sidewalk. His upturned head was tucked into the cement corner of a storefront, but his body was entirely exposed to the morning sun. It was almost 9 am. To be honest, this did not strike me as immediately unusual. The bus driver touched the brakes as we passed. I continued watching the window. Then I noticed an aberration in the sleeping mans jeans, just below his belt. Well, obviously, his half-erect penis was protruding, propped up through his unzipped fly. Of course it was; why wouldn't it be? I've since rationalized, accepting my suggestion that maybe it was a prank, a realistic fake. But wishful thinking rarely leads to stable logic, far from any form of truth.


There will be more where these come from.

Dinner at Chez Daveed

We've been cooking.

Over the last two weeks, Patricio and I have enjoyed delicious home-made dinners at least 5 times. One time, Diana came over and put her chef-school skills to work to create a feast of veggie curry, complete with mango and crushed cardamom seeds; there was such depth and complexity to the dish that I was able to finish off the copious leftovers in little more than a day and a half. Unfortunately, there are no pictures of this deliciousness.

These pictures are of a more humble meal I created. So we have kitcharee (read: Indian)-style rice and beans, spiced w curry, ginger, cumin, some aji picante and a base of ghee. Then we have our veggies, sautéed in oil and garlic: fresh red and green peppers, carrots, and onion. Then we boiled the baby potatoes until they were super-soft and mushy to be a vehicle for the soupy beans, contrasting the crunch of sizzling vegetables.

Vegetarian, well-rounded, and scrumptious. Hot sauce always helps, as does the salt and beer pictured. The other thing about this meal, is that my big Budweiser cost more than everything else together. All the veggies and potatoes were something like 2,800 COP, which is $1.50 US. Beautiful.

I believe Patricio had jugo de mola in his cup.


Feeling damn-near civilized, I tell ya whut.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

For What It's Worth

So today I had that classic, tragic song by Buffalo Springfield in my head all day.

"There's something happening here,
what it is, ain't exactly clear.
There's a man with a gun over there,
telling me, I got to beware.

Stop! Children, what's that sound?
Everybody look what's goin' down!"

Now lemme tell you, "that shit was goin' down" (Uncle Dick) tonight in downtown Bogota. Independence day stampedes, pickpockets and smoke bombs rumored to have been built by rebellious students punctuated an otherwise tame evening.

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010 marked the 200th anniversary of Colombia's independence from Spain. This accomplishment is largely credited to General Simon Bolivar. He was at various times, and often simultaneously, President of Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia and Peru. The main square in Bogotá, as well as innumerable other cities and towns throughout Latin America, is of course, Plaza de Simon Bolivar. Bogotá's edition is surrounded by the principle halls of court and government, truly grand and gallant structures, as well as the most imposing cathedral in the city.

The plaza was thus the place to be for the bicentennial celebration, the prime location to watch the fireworks.

It was a dry night, and clear. We'd heard they would close the gates at 7, but the surrounding streets were already so packed that we quickly knew we would not make it to the square. I was with my Argentinian amigo Patricio, and a mixed group of gringo's from Hostel Sue: Australians, English, American, I think that's it. Lina, who is our loyal local, and manages the front desk at the hostel, was originally with the group as well.

There was a wall of police enforcing a boundary, because the area around Plaza de Simon Bolivar is only so big. As a group, we crawled our way slowly forward through the crowd. It became steadily more packed. At some point, we stopped at an intersection. The gibbous, Scorpio moon was overhead, above the mountains in the Eastern sky. Jupiter was huge, shining over the city, further to the South and West.

There was a crush, as streams of people crossed in opposite directions. A middle-aged white-man passed us, obviously on his way home, with his girlfriend carefully clutched behind him. He said "if there's a stampede... watch out."

Two minutes later the air was tinged with a palpable panic, and I believe I then placed my left arm straight up in the air in order to lead the retreat. "Disculpa, disculpa. Perdon." We'd slithered 20 m back up 6th when the first bomb sounded. I heard it, and turned to see a small-tree-sized plume of white smoke.

The second explosion, moments later, did not appear to produce any smoke.

At first I figured it was a failed firework. The second opinion offered was tear-gas, intended to disperse the crowd. At last, Lina explained her smoke-bombing student hypothesis. Their precise motivation remains vague.

Patricio had his wallet nicked from under his poncho; I had 23,000 pesos pulled from a zipped pocket. Impressive, really.

Boom! Instant forgiveness in action! I say: Thank you sir, brother angel, for providing me the opportunity to practice!

Anyway, then we went home. Enough intensity for us. Several groups made their way back separately. Patricio, two Aussie lasses and I scurried back first, and had beers in hand before the next crew arrived, followed eventually by the last two girls, who had walked ahead of the group from the very start. Right back where we began, we sat in the Sue courtyard and listened to the fireworks.

I wish I had pictures. I'm glad I didn't bring my camera.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Save the Rave!

Of all the things that need saving at this moment in this world, I cannot honestly say the rave is one of them. It was a beautiful morning in ColOMbia all the same.

Hoffen is a friend of Sherm's friend Cata, and a member of my twice-weekly English class. She is in school for movie-making. Somehow she had all these free passes, and I ended up with 9 of them.

This made my Aussie pal Marli real happy. Like most Australians I've met, she digs on electronic dance music. Also, she had friends from home who had arrived just the day before; so, perfect.

After some hemming and hawing, hesitating and complaining about how much it was going to cost, I allowed the peer-pressure to wash over me like clean hot water on a cold night. I ran back to the apartment to get my bus pass. After procuring sufficient sustenance to last me through morning, I had no cash.

Save the Rave was held on a beautiful piece of property in Chia, which is almost an hour by bus North of Bogotá. Chia is a tranquil farming area in a verdant valley, cuddled under el Cordillera Oriental de los Andes. Obviously, the view was improved by the dawn, but we had many hours to go before concerning ourselves with such luxuries; first, we had to get there.

We = me, Lina our Loyal Local, Marli and her two friends from home, Beauden and his girl Alex.

There were rumors of a bus, a free bus picking up at Calle 85 y Kra 15. Lina was unsuccessful in several attempts to call the Help number given on the tickets for information about this potential bus.

Another Aussie friend of Marli's has an apartment "near" to the pick-up. I was imagining walking distance. But nope, hop out of the cab at Calle 50-something. Woop, but we're several hours late, and that group had just left for this bus we've been discussing.

Okay, no problem, new cab. Lina finally gets a hold of someone, and she says the arrival of the bus is imminent. Great! Vamos!

So we get out at the prescribed intersection, and there is a grocery store parking lot half-full of minglers, groups of individuals wandering around at 9:30 on a Saturday night. Marli called her friends from my phone but hung up before saying anything because there was only one other large group of gringos standing around on the edge of the parking lot.

Aussie dudes with Colombian girlfriends and long flowing locks of golden hair awaited the bus, and also us. We sipped on vodka and Coke for half an hour. Just as we were getting nervous, a big white school bus appears down 85th, heading West. Yes. Cross the street, nominal fee, and we're on board, basically there already.

This is Marli (on the left) and her friend Alex:

It was a lack of forethought that led to us finishing all of the alcohol before we even got on the bus. I would have taken some responsibility, but I wasn't drinking.

Okay, okay, so we get there, and understand immediately that we should have worn boots instead of valued sneakers. Earth plus Water makes Mud. Mud in the dark makes for very dirty shoes, and splotches of splatter half-way up my pants.

The music was on and off: interesting at times, enough to inspire some dancing, but overall very average. I don't know if it was due to issues with the equipment, but some of these DJ's were having trouble matching their beats on a very basic level. This led to choppy, incoherent transitions, eliminating any chance to create choral tension, much less let it drop.

The dance floor under the tent was uneven and covered in mud. The acoustics were better just outside the tent cone covering the stage. Plus Jupiter was huge in the sky! I spent several hours shuffling about, half-dancing and staring at the one star, in fact a planet, visible through the benevolent cloud-cover.

There were fire-pits scattered throughout the campground. We spent some time sitting near one such fire, on this log:

These here are the aforementioned Aussies and Irish with said Colombian girlfriend(s).

And then the sound system failed. The first time, there was about 10 minutes of silence. The second time it went down, we were treated to almost half an hour of morning sounds, complemented by the residual throbbing the hours of techno had installed in everyone's equilibrium. I was a trifle disappointed when the music sputtered to life again. The ambiance of a new day awakening outside the city felt far more in line with my sensibilities by the time 4 am came around.

So like I said, it was on and off.

I would like to take a moment now to discuss the ridiculousness of naming a party "Save the Rave". The party business is as booming now as it ever has been. People think the world is ending, and like Prince all they want to do is party. The rave is in no danger of dying. Extinction seems out of the question, if truly this percentage of teenagers are exposed to dangerously enticing pharmaceuticals, finding short and false jollies on what are essentially numbing agents. Brain-cell genocide, pushing the big red button and dropping chemical weapons on their brains. Why then, must this rave be saved? And from what (besides simple rhyming)?

But we had to laugh when the sound went off. Just imagine the headlines, like: "Music Dies at Save the Rave", or, "Pave the Rave: Who Kicked the Plug?". Is that irony?

Did I mention there were some teenagers there? They came and stood next to the tall, blond Alex and tried out their newest dance moves, experimenting with wing-flips and leg-kicks -- the evidence, I suspect, of having You-Tubed Michael Jackson or Justin Timberlake over and over.

Eventually the girls got cold and we skipped and stumbled toward the gate. Bad news: the bus that brought us will not be back until 7:30 in the am. Oops. Lina needs to be at work at the hostel at 8.

More information: the local buses start running at 5:30. It was then about 4:30. We can make it.

I passed the time staring in this direction:

As it tends to do, the time passed and soon there was sunlight, and Sunday traffic, and finally, a bus with "Bogota" posted in the window. I snagged a window seat right behind the driver and had a fantastic ride back to the outskirts of Bogota. I watched the sun rise over the Andes, bestowing light on the agrarian geometry of crops and fences, trotting dogs and horses.

The driver and his assistant refused to let me pay, finding it funny somehow when I tried to hand them my fare (2,000 pesos had magically appeared in my pocket). We got off at Portal Norte, and my bus pass was a Godsend. J95 brought us home to the Gold museum.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

El Apartamento

This is where I live. Guided tour. Ready, set...

GOkay, this is what you see when you walk in the door. Green spiral staircase and a desk. This is not at all what the furniture was like when I arrived, but after applying some spontaneous amateur feng shui, the space has a nice functional flow about it. Also, I have a fireplace.

Then, turn to your left. You can see the window, which opens out onto the street. This allows me to bypass the buzz system. Not to worry Mom, there are bars on the window. The kitchen area is back there, comprised by a simple two-burner electric stove, a table and some storage racks. Here we are looking Northeast.

This is the view from the kitchen, sitting in the window and looking back at the ground floor. Here we are facing Southwest.

Okay then we go upstairs. This is the view of the bedroom from the top of the stairs. The bathroom door is to the left of the bed there. My meditation corner is immediately to the left of where this picture is taken from.

Now this is the view looking back, sitting on the bed, facing Southwest again. Note the blue-tinted tigers on my bedspread. I like tigers. And the color blue. And big warm blankets.

My little meditation corner is my favorite place to be these days. It makes such a huge difference to have a space dedicated entirely to the practice. For example, meditating in bed is difficult because there is a lot of sleepy energy lingering there. Sitting in the kitchen wouldn't work because of the temptation to cook or nibble. But with this special little spot, I sit down and slip quickly into calm, breathing slow and trying to attune to the rapid pace at which that blinding light in the front of my forehead is vibrating.

Here's a closer look at my make-shift altar:

So you see my green and orange yoga mat. I sit on this, plus a little mat and a pillow. The blue cloth there sits on my lap. On the left is a representation of Pachamama ("Mother world"), plus two other Peruvian underworld deities. I purchased this hand-stitched cloth-of-three-pockets on Lake Titicaca. Literally, on the lake, on one of the floating islands, from a nice Uros lady named Maria. Then there are three rocks I collected from around the continent, arranged in a triangle. The point of the triangle is a crystalline stone from an island in the Beagle Channel, just south of Ushuaia, El Fin del Mundo, Argentina. It came from a spot where shamans used to sit and pray for days, naked except for a layer of seal fat.

Then you see my green goblet, with some mineral water in it. The purpose of this is to help focus healing energy towards the water principle. All things being interconnected, if I focus love and healing on this little bit of water, in theory, the butterfly flaps its wings and the oceans have a smidgen more support in this time of great peril. Placed around the base of the goblet is a gift for Lulu. Cappo and I met this amazing girl in Capilla del Monte, Argentina. She gave her name as Lunita Kosmica, and she makes jewelry to support herself. She spends some of her time in a traditional Mayan community in Argentina, using the 9 ancient, inter-locking calenders and the moon as their guides. This piece was the first she ever made, and she said she'd been waiting for the right person to come along and buy it. Me!

On the far right side, we have a marble owl I acquired just outside Uyuni, in Bolivia. It is a present for my Father. The owl represents perfect wisdom, symbolized by its ability to see clearly in the darkness, and rotate its head all the way around. In front of the owl is a gift for my Mother. It is made from a stone (I wrote down the name, but lost the page!) which is said to assist with circulation. I found this, again, just outside Capilla del Monte. This was a rather magical place, with several pyramids overlooking a long and many-fingered lake, surrounded by rocky hills becoming mountains. I strongly encourage everyone to investigate pyramid power. The Russians have done some spectacular research concerning their profound healing qualities.

The last aspect is a 200 peso coin, because money is just another form of energy exchange, and can be consciously manifested just like anything else. I also sometimes keep my copy of Autobiography of a Yogi on the altar. I am also in the habit of offering food items, to be blessed before I consume them. If Krsna is hungry, he is more than welcome to sample my apple; but for now, it seems he wants me to have it. In return, the endearing trickster, that stealer of hearts has my endless thanks and gracious obeisance.

Two more photos, just for fun.

Pachamama (sideways):

and the green goblet, with Lulu's amulet:

Friday, July 9, 2010

Today in The Life

Anyone out there interested in what I did today? Entonces, mira.

So after a hectic yesterday full of running around town, some movie auditions, and finally a private class in Chapinero (Northern Bogota) that lasted until 10 pm, I ate a small bowl of ghee-sweetened rice and found myself five hours of sleep before my first alarm sounded at 5:25 am.

I forgot everything about my dream, which continues to strike me as some deep loss.

So I pull together, turn the key behind me and turn down the street toward Jimenez when my "Leave the House Now" alarm goes off at 5:55. I take an experimental route, which eventually gets me where I want to go, but ultimately proves to be entirely stupid. It involves way too much walking and my chosen buses go unecessarily roundabout. Today I can clearly see my undue reliance on the Transmilenio, and an instinctual lack of faith in the Colectivos.

In any case, I walk through the door at 7:04 (early, since my "Start Class Immediately" alarm was set to sound at 7:07). Naturally, I'd neglected to bring any ID (who carries ID these days anyway?), so I have a nice long talk with the security guard, who eventually accepts the combination of a dirty printout of my birth certificate, a Delta Air miles card, and my passport number.

I find my elevator and am on the way up when I check my phone. Lo, a message. My client, the lovely Claudia, writes (with almost impeccable grammatical execution): "Hi. I am sorry. I can not meet with you today. I will speak with you more late. Claudia" Like I said, almost.

Okay. "No problem. See you Thursday".

This is, in fact, entirely fine, because I get paid anyway and now I'm awake and have the whole morning free. First I have to get home. The building where Claudia works is one of a cluster of classy-looking office buildings out near the airport, North and West of where I live in La Candelaria. So I hail down a bus displaying a wooden sign in the front window which lists, among place-names I´recognize but don't know, CentrO. That's me, we hope.

Calle's and Carrera's slide by, sinking from 68 as we move South and East toward the mountains. We pass a black pyramid. Things are going well until I begin to overthink, and soon I'm second-guessing whether this is a Cl or Cra, and what's this Diagonal 22? I can see Montserrate, but it ought to be nearer; now it's passed, is behind me, drifting back from where we've come. I see a cross-street I like and hop off.

I didn't even make it to the South side, reaching Calle 0. I could take a two-dollar taxi, but it's a beautiful morning in Bogota, so why not walk? There is rarely an ugly morning here; the trusty rains arrive in the afternoon. The walk was uphill, but otherwise uneventful, except for the crazy statue outside the Colombian Finance Ministry building.

There is this statue, maybe 13 feet tall, of a thin man striding forward. The man has the head of an eagle. I wish I could remember what it said, but it it made reference to an Egyptian pharoah from 1400's A.C., which I assume to signify Antes de Cristo, or, Before Christ. It's a representation of Horus, but I believe all the early pharoahs adopted the name Horus. So yeah, curious. I will do some research and report back to you on the specific esoteric symbology in operation here.

On the way home I buy a canteloupe, some granola and a delicious cinnamon-flavored oatmeal-based beverage. Breakfast.

After breakfast is meditation. Super peaceful; my practice is strong these days. I have set up a small altar upstairs where the desk used to be. I will post a picture soon.


Listo. Next I get the grand idea to inflate my new soccer ball. I won a red Budweiser 2010 Word Cup soccer ball at the Hard Rock Cafe on Saturday night. I am not at liberty to publicly discuss my reasons for enjoying drinks and an extended dinner there (seriously), but the Bud girls did come around, so I bought a beer and played their silly little mini-game and won, (of course), scoring 2 out of 4.

So I have this soccer ball, but it's pressed flat. I walk two blocks to the closest mall, and climb the ramp and stairs to the 4th floor where the indoor footy courts are. Hand-pump, done. Crappy ball: lop-sided from the start, with seams coming exposed when a little air-pressure is added. Nonetheless, I have my very own soccer ball!

I buy a lighter on the way home. Home, I sit in meditation for some minutes more, just because it felt so nice the first time.

Then off into the street, wearing grey basketball shorts and Uncle Jay's t-shirt, with a Canadian Maple Leaf stamped on the front of a classic VW bug. I am wearing white sunglasses and carry a quarter-full 5-gallon jug of water. The ball is at my feet. First, it occurs to me to check the hostel, to see if anyone wants to play, but no, still asleep, hungover. Fine. Good.

So down to the closest plaza. If you search GoogleMaps for "Parque de los Periodistas, Bogota, Colombia", you'll see what I'm talking about. I set my jug of water down by the big circular monument in the center of the triangular square, and start juggling. I make some darting runs, play myself two or three through balls, then turn with a quick change of pace and blow right by the unsuspecting pedestrian defenders.

A siren sounds, at a pitch far more frightening than any tornado warning. As I consider becoming concerned, the pitch goes up, intensifying for a moment before winding down. It leaves a very loud silence in its wake of sound waves.

Eventually someone else wants in. A young man with skin so black it's damn-near purple shares my enthusiasm. Our errant passes invite others into the game. Soon we have a group of 5 hitting long balls, juggling, taking clumsy touches and chasing around downtown. If we had had mini-goals, we could have been a World Cup commercial, the one that comes on immediately after the national anthems, enthusiastically ruining all the excitement and momentum they create before kick-off.

After lots of laughing, showing off and one or two confused headers from passers-by, the fun runs its course. It is down to just me and my first friend. We are just juggling, getting a little lazy. The ball rolls toward two men dressed in orange jumpsuits, complete with yellow reflector vests. The nearby Las Aguas Transmilenio station is under construction. After passing back the ball, one of the workers says, slowly, in a tone sprinkled with condescension and pity, plus maybe a splash of envy, "Buen-nos noches", his pitch sliding ominously upward at the end.

Turns out my dude Manuel (he had lots of other names I could not understand) is from El Choco. He is happy to hear I've been there, and is inclined to agree that it is "como paraiso".

The rain comes pouring down as soon as I step inside the outer door of my apartment. I shower. Now, I have been sitting at this computer for more than two hours. I have now finished my two beers, meaning it is time to go. Soon, I will head North to collect a fresh teaching assignment from Peterson's, followed by an intimate dinner with Autobiography of a Yogi (my second time through since I've been in Colombia), before attending a free reading and discussion with the Russian poet, Yevgeny Yevtushenko.

(Update: Mr Yevtushenko apparently gave his reading at 11 this morning; the reception was at 7. I was under-dressed and not brave enough to crash it. Plus there was a line. Oh well, next time.)

Opportunity for ecstatic experience continues to slip through the thin filter that is my ego-consciousness. I am grateful for what this has allowed me to learn thus far, but these days that filter seems like little more than a crack in the dam, destined to expand and eventually explode out, allowing a flood of divinity to overcome previous restrictions and cleanse all in its path, a grand letting go that allows us to simply embrace an existence beyond distinctions.

Life is fun if you let it be.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Here continues the chronicle of Tom and Sherm's visit. I started to tell these stories before, but stopped for some reason. Now I have my very own computer here, and can write as long as I like. Today is the 15th of July.

The second leg of the trip began when we heard Sherm leave for his flight early Tuesday morning. Tatiana brought us coffee before we could stand up, and we had a quiet morning of preparation. That afternoon Tom and I flew out of the rain in Bogota and landed in the mild swelter of Santa Marta. We had bandeja paisas on the boardwalk, playing Rummy and listening to costeña radio coming through on my phone.

As evening settled, we toured the North side of town, looking at three different rooms before finding a place we felt comfortable. We walked half a block in the wrong direction, and therefore passed the same whore twice. She'd heckled us in Spanish the first time, so she switched to English as we came shuffling back around the corner. It occurred to me to claim ignorance, como "no hablamos ingles", but I hesitated, instead simply laughing as we sauntered on.

We blasted the fans and lay in our beds watching futbol, lazily pounding beers only because if we didn't they quickly became warm. So the new heat plus some cervezas sent us to bed early. As such, we were up relatively early the next day, and able to stumble into a private shuttle into Tayrona National Park.

The almost-trusty Lonely Planet had told us all about the bus that left at 10 am, but at 9:30, we still had shopping to do. As it happened, we spoke with the driver-guy and he told us No, he'll wait for us, claro no hay problemo. So great, we went grocery shopping, bought a jug of rum, various fruits and even sundry items such as contact solution and a small, waterproof soccer ball.

That's Tom on the bus, on our way into the park. We had a liquid breakfast, starting with juice and continuing summarily back into beers. We bought one for the driver too. No reason why he shouldn't enjoy a cold beverage with us. Unfortunately, the speaker system had been shorted out by the rain of two nights ago, so we were not quite as festive as we might have otherwise been, but even still, this was a supremely fun bus ride.

Having reached the Eastern entrance of the park, we had a bit of a hike ahead of us. We'd picked up a sturdy English girl at the gate, and now the three of of us were traipsing through the jungle. I quickly lost a sandal in the mud, as did our British friend. Somehow Tom's shoes remained clean, while I took the drastic step of removing my footwear altogether. This seemed like a fine idea at the time.

I carried the tent and our bag of fruit. Tom trekked in with a 2-gallon jug of water in each hand. I believe he had the jug of rum as well.

We walked for maybe 40 minutes, tiptoeing past horse droppings, up muddy paths, negotiating skinny through-ways cut between the enormous boulders planted in that sea-side jungle.

The 'feel' of the coast comes first, inevitably setting in as you approach any ocean. You know how you just know it's there? That.

Smell is inevitably next. The negative ions and floating salt engage our most primal sense - that which shoots us straight in the brain - the sea a sensory pistol aimed at our precious pineal glands.

The excitement really begins to rise when your ears kick into gear. We stepped out of the jungle and into the first campground. Tom was there to testify to the newness of the computer perched behind the check-in desk, under the palm-thatched roof. We are told it definitely was not there 7 years ago.

We stopped for a sit-n-snack break. Then continued on, veering left through a group of cabinas, a dirt courtyard complete with donkey and sleeping dog. Then this happened:

Walking on, moving Southeast down the Caribbean beach:

Walking barefoot became far more comfortable once we found sand.

(To be continued...)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

For the Record

If any person place or thing mentioned in these stories has a different version of events, a slant I didn't see, or embellishments I've forgotten, I whole-heartedly invite all-types of commentary or contrary accountings. I also like comments because it lets me know if people are seeing this. Then I feel special.

I am special. Sometimes.

Technical note: if you click on the pictures, they get bigger.

I'm telling you people, this is some high-resolution shit we're dealing with here . Seriously, nothing but the best.

End transmission.


Now that I've settled in Bogota, I thought it might be nice to provide a stop-by-stop synopsis of where I've been in the last 6 months or so (if only for my future benefit, and obviously, that of posterity). I will have to do some research to fix the exact dates, but I'll try to mark those that I know.

Cappo or Keir, please let me know if I've missed or misplaced any moves.

Feb 1: Minneapolis to Atlanta to Lima, Peru.
Feb 2: Lima to Arequipa, Arequipa to Puno (by bus)
Feb 3: Puno to La Paz, by way of Isla del Sol

From La Paz, West-Southwest to Rurrenabaque and Parque National Madidi and the Pampas, and back to La Paz
La Paz, South to Oruro for a weekend of Carnaval
Oruro to Potosi (still in Bolivia)
Potosi to Uyuni for a three day tour of the Salt Flats
Train from Uyuni down to the Northern border of Argentina, night in Salta
Salta to Cordoba
Cordoba to Capilla del Monte

Feb 26: Capilla del Monte to Buenos Aires
Week in BA
March 3: flight from Buenos Aires down to Ushuaia, el fin del mundo

Things get a little fuzzy in Patagonia...
Ushuaia, by bus and ferry, North (the only way to go) through Rio Gallegos to El Calafate
El Calafate up to Perito Merino for a day trip to the glacier
From El Calafate across the border into Chile, to Puerto Natales
Puerto Natales North into Torres del Paine National Park for 4 (5?) days
Back to Puerto Natales to catch the NaviMag, going North along the Western coast of Chile, through the fjords for 4 days and 4 nights, eventually arriving in Puerto Montt
Left Puerto Montt immediately, on our way to Bariloche, back into Argentina

March 20: go-karting for my birthday in Bariloche
From Bariloche, North to San Martin de los Andes for one night
San Martin, West to Pucon, Chile, to conquer the volcano (this was about a week after the big earthquake)
Pucon, North to Santiago for the weekend
Weekend included a trip to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar
Slept through a 6+ strength aftershock.
Santiago to Mendoza for a few days of wine-tasting and treating Norwegians to a birthday dinner

April 4: Champagne campaign on the overnight bus from Mendoza back to BA to reconvene with the Doub
April 7: leave BA on a boat for Uruguay, catch a bus to Montevideo
April 8: fly from Montevideo, Uruguay to Bogota, Colombia (by way of the airport in Rio di Janiero, Brazil)
a week in Bogota
a week in Manizales
almost 4 weeks in Medellin
weekend out west, in El Choco
weekend back in Bogota
a week up North: one night in Santa Marta, 6 days on the beach in Tayrona, at Cabo San Juan, then two nights in Taganga

Now I've been back in Bogota for about three weeks.

I found a job, teaching English to business executives around Bogota. Now I need to find an apartment. Once I have an address I can get a bank account. Once I have a bank account I can start transferring funds and allow my debt to begin its slow erosion.

So yeah, that's my life. On the South American continent, I've now touched the Pacific coast (twice), the Southernmost point, the Atlantic coast (BA/Montevideo), and the Northern, Caribbean coast. In my mind, touching all four corner lends my trip an extremely satisfactory sense of completion. Nevermind that I couldn't afford it...



East (Buenos Aires):

(They said it; not me. Here I'm merely documenting.)


Oh yeah, let's see North again:

Just one more time:

North is Up.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I Changed the Background

See that? Softer now, no?

Ok more stories. Back in Bogota with the Brothers Sherman.

Well, but first our plane stopped in Medellin, and we still had to make our connection at the other, larger airport on the other side of town. Our bags were stashed at the Pit Stop still, because we didn't care to carry them out West. So we touch down in Medellin maybe two hours before our next flight, and we're on a mission.

Zip-zip, grab our bags, snag a cab, on our way in no time. The driver found the Pit Stop straight off, which was rare; although, after living there for three weeks, you'd think I'd be able to give directions. Again, zip-inside, grab the other bags - here, even had time to sneak a peak at my gmail in order to take advantage of a plastic present Tom had brought for me, from my Mom - and boom, back in the cab and on our way, 90 minutes to spare. No more than half an hour to the airport, no problem.

So, it's a chicken-or-the-egg situation. See, we can't be sure whether the cab's rusty clutch had made this man age prematurely, or if, in fact, the elderly man was just somewhat clumsy, often forgetting what gear he was in, and thus summarily gumming up the gears. We suspect it was somewhere in the middle.

It was funny at first. Until we stopped for gas. Right before he pulled into 4th as we approached a gradual hill. Then, when the huge Airport-This-Way sign suggested we take the first right of a round-a-bout, our earnest friend slowed around the bend two-hundred and seventy degrees, and eventually made a left. I am sincerely convinced he was doing the best he could, and truly hold no malice toward him. I suspect he simply had no idea we were in a hurry. And on the plus side, I got to listen to a whole GirlTalk album, shit I never heard before. Kept me entertained.

As it is, we made it to the gate on time anyway. Of course we did. Ahh but wait, the nice people at ADA, with their magical self-repairing planes, had made a phone call for us back in El Valle, hadn't they? Making an inquiry on our behalf, in case we might miss our connection. But they hadn't confirmed any changes yet, had they? Oh, well yes I see, you can switch the time of your flight once for free. How convenient, good policy. What's that you're saying, we're confirmed on the 9 o clock flight, not the original 6? Okay. No, that makes sense. Thank you. Si. Gracias.

This serendipitous delay led us to some basement diner in order to find the first proper bandeja paisa I ever saw. I've seen better since, but this first time was a glorious event. Beans and rice, fried platano maduro, some form of carne (almost steak) with that sunny-side up egg perched on top, waiting to bleed all over the plate; chorizo (so much more than a hot dog), and the deep fried fat that tastes like bacon (with the name I can't remember), and an arepa, like a flour-colored hockey puck, reluctantly soaking up the left over juices. Here:

Take note: this is a beautiful photo. Everything is happening. The food has been explained, but the salsa de aji is there on the left, next to the Club Colombia beers. Poker, Pilsen and Aguila are the other three most popular beers around here. They are all pilsners and are all generally about a dollar, with 4% alcohol content relative to volume. Club Colombia has 5%, and can be a thousand pesos mas costozo. We were also in the midst of a fierce game of Rummy; those are Tom's points you see splayed out on the edge of the table. I could be wrong, but I do not believe we ever completed this game. It was the first game, however, when cards started falling for me. Although, at the same time, I support Tom's theory that because we switched decks, the cards were finally getting shuffled properly, so the game became more random, thus I got lucky.

We had been sitting, waiting for the plane to fix itself in El Valle, wondering where would stay once in Bogota, when Sherm's old friend Mateo called to insist that we stay at his place. He and his lovely new wife Viviana live on the North end of la septima. As hosts, they were most generous, providing Tom and I fat air-mattresses on the floor, while Sherm had his own room. Viviana brought us coffee before we stood up everyday. There was breakfast, too. It was truly heartwarming to be taken care of so carefully. That first night we - meaning Mateo, Sherm, Tom and me - emptied a proper full-size bottle of aguardiente. Easy.

Next day, we got up and cabbed downtown to Plaza de Bolivar for a Mockus/Fajardo rally. Antanas Mockus and Sergio Fajardo are both former mayors, I'm now told, of Bogota and Medellin, respectively. They were the duo representing the recently-created El Partido Verde in these most recent presidential elections. This rally was their last before the first round of voting. There was some music, but we mostly only heard Mockus speak before sneaking off for awesome Mexican almuerzo. He tries to explain his nuanced views by speaking very slowly, and people find him difficult to understand. It seems he is too liberal, too intellectual for the people at this moment. It was a profound experience though, being in the midst of this, listening to the chants of "La union (beat) hace la fuerza!" This says a lot:

Just look, I mean: the girl on her fathers shoulders, braving the rain and the pain in her shoulders as she tried to hold that green sign up high; the older girl standing next to them, arms outstretched in hope of some undefined deliverance; and the woman on the right, focused, and fiercely pumping the sunflowers in her fist around in a circle above her head; that's El Colegio Mayor de San Bartolome in the lefthand background, El Congreso de la Republica closing the square; and all the way on your right, ladies and gentlemen, let's hear it, Mr Thomas J Myers! Okay, everybody! He and I got lucky our raincoats were the right colors for that rally, his yellow, mine green.

In that first round of voting, Santos and Mockus were the two top vote-getters, among a number of candidates. Santos won something like 49.7%. If he had had 50% plus-one-vote, there would have been no run-off. As it was, there was a run-off this past Sunday. Santos won with 69% of the vote, to Mockus' 28%. In essence, Santos is the conservative choice, and is seen as a continuance of current President Alvaro Uribe's policies. The result was, unfortunately, expected, but it was a step in the right direction, I think. I know many Mockus supporters who did not vote.

For Sherm's final night, there was a reunion of sorts. Sherm and Mateo invited friends from their Fulbright days for a barbecue. It rained all day while Tom and I ran about town collecting the necessary goods for said barbecue. This involved kababs, chickens and bbq sauce, two pineapples, more aguardiente, charcoal and, of course, flowers for our lovely hostess (this was Tom's idea, and scored us big points). Sherm spent the day giving surprise visits to old friends, and Mateo has a job. (There were sunflowers involved in the bouquet).

As it came time to spark the charcoal, the rain was still in the process of stopping. The moment demanded drastic action. Something had to be done, and I believe we all knew precisely what that thing was. There was a laundry room with windows, with tile flooring and the remnant stench, hidden and permanent, of stale, putrid water. Perfect. We needed to seal off the area to minimize the influx of smoke into the rest of the apartment.
The series of pictures explains...

Ahh yes, the deck is better. Rain over, coals hot, Tom and I took over cooking to let all the old companions converse. Perfect spanish moves too fast for us anyhow. Fantastic times. Nothing short of classic.

More later.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

In The Meantime...

Right. Still here. It's been exactly two months since my last update, so there is much to discuss. My intention is to lean towards summary.

Looks like I left off in Manizales. Wow, that was a long time ago. Anyway, we showed up in Manizales during the Pit Stop Hostel's inaugural week. We made friends with Paul, the Irish owner, and after a week in Manizales (previously described), we piled in for a severely discounted busride, thanks to the native-Spanish-speaking negotiating skills of Paul's gorgeous Colombian girlfriend.
We got our money's worth, as our driver bounded up blind mountain curves, passing trucks and bikes alike, prompting Cap and I to buckle up and say our prayers. We made it back to flatland, and the driver made an unannounced stop for lunch. This, along with two other stops to satiate small bladders and nicotine needs, and our 4 hour journey took 6. However, we managed to arrive alive.

Medellin is a beautiful city, with perfect weather all year round, a great party scene, and surgically enhanced women everywhere. In fact, the whole city sort of thrives on artificial enhancement, being the destination sought by those wanting the Pablo Escobar tour, upon which you might meet his brother, the mechanic, or even have the opportunity to bump a line off the top of Pablo's gravestone. Tasteful.

Speaking of which:

The first thing I saw when we walked into the Medellin edition of the Pit Stop, was a big sign asking for help behind the bar. This was a turning point in our trip, as it was the moment I realized that I was going to stay in Medellin by myself and conserve cash until the Brothers Sherman made it down, while Cappo was sure to go North alone. But first we had a week or so to play in the City of Eternal Spring. PG-13 party stories are boring to both read and write, so I will leave you to imagine all the empty half-bottles of aguardiente, the bad salsa dancing, the photos full of overexcited poses, and the half-brained Spanish that was thrown around during this time. Although, as I may have mentioned before, my Spanish steadily improves as the night goes on, until about 4 in the morning when I am basically a native speaker.

There was one night when Cap and I went out to meet some girl he'd met somehow (I've stopped asking for these type of details; she had a friend with her, okay great, let's go). The night before there had been some miscommunication between she and El Capitan, a simple issue of "Where are you? I'm right here. No you're not.", but it devolved into her, let's call her Melissa, crying her eyes out, bawling about it being the worst day ever, and being lonely and, well, basically giving us reason to suspect this individual to be somewhat emotionally unstable. I'm not judging, just trying to provide context. Anyway, she was 21 years old. But the combination of her braces and her child-like frame made her appear to be more like 15, 17 at best. Okay, still no problem, we're happy to have someone to hang out with, to show us around, and she said something about a concert. Great, perfect.
But first we had to go meet up with her cousin. Her 14 year old cousin. So now Cappo and I are strolling around downtown Medellin with a 15-year-old-look-a-like and her 14 year old cousin. Totally normal. We hopped a city bus to the mall, where we're told the concert is to be held. Sure enough, there was a gaggle of youth swarming around the entrance, and a stage setup just inside. The band was called Tres de Corazones, which for those uninitiated, refers to the Three of Hearts in a deck of cards. Guess how many members this band has...

A quick googlesearch has revealed a glaring error. The name of the band is actually Tr3s de CoraZon. My mistake. I strongly recommend that all of you lovely people out there perform this same googlesearch, and thus spare me the trouble of explaining to you exactly how and why this is the worst kind of music possible. Talk about pissing in the ears of the audience... Really, really bad emo-pop, aspiring toward a grunge twist but apparently settling for a commercial-interrupted gig at a preteen infested mall. So much for their indie street cred.
At first I thought we were going to have to babysit our dates right up front, but Cappo's quick-thinking saved the day and we ended up standing in the back, pounding beers. The lack of laws concerning public consumption (in the mall!?) is one liberty we have here in the South Americas that is sorely lacking in the Northern, 'land of the free' (New Orleans receives a notable exception, honorable mention here). Anyway, I know you all are worried, so allow me to put an end to your anxiety by assuring you that the cousin was not given a beer of her own. She had to share. This night actually turned out really well. Another of-age friend showed up, and we had delicious dinner, followed by a party in the park, followed by proper live music (reggae/hiphop) on a rooftop.

In this photo, are you able to distinguish between the pre-teens and the infants?

The next time we saw Melissa, it got awkward because she kept laughing and telling me she wanted me to be her boyfriend, and my careful non-response somehow made her think that I thought she was kidding, a disastrous misunderstanding which only encouraged her to repeat her slurred desire again and again until I called a cab. Cappo was of no help here. I'm told this was very funny. Ha ha.

Then Cappo left. He flew to Santa Marta/Taganga to go scuba diving and trek to the Lost City. I stayed, hung out behind the PitStop bar, searched for work, and lived the thrifty life as best I could. Keir continued to eliminate rigmarole at every opportunity.

(Note: this is the correct spelling of 'rigmarole'. However, on principle, I refuse to let spelling affect phonetics, and will continue to pronounce it 'rig-a-ma-role'.)

Then, on the 16th of May, the Brothers Sherman landed in Medellin. By way of explanation, the Sherman Brothers are my good friend Tom Myers and his older brother John. Sherman is a nickname they pass back and forth between them, although more often than not, John is Sherm.
Our three days in Medellin (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday) were uneventful except for when we almost became television spokespeople for Colombia's new tourism campaign. Tom and I were in the travel agency, listening to Sherm use his perfect Spanish to arrange our trip to El Choco, the department on the Pacific coast of Colombia. Next door was a casting agency. In idle jest I suggested that we go get famous while we waited. Then, of course, on our way out of the building, two young, professional women walked in. As I held the door for them, they looked us over, and at the last second, asked if we spoke Spanish. I stuttered (because that's how I speak Spanish), and pointed to Sherm. He took it from there, and up we went. I filled out a form, and we went in front of the camera, one at a time, to turn and pose and twist our heads, then maybe say something about why we love Colombia. And, well, we haven't gotten a callback yet, although I've been encouraged to visit the Bogota office to see if there are any new campaigns coming up. So yeah, still not famous.

Okay so then we went out west. El Choco is a region of Colombia that is, if we're honest, still a little dangerous. But it is not nearly as dangerous as it was just seven years ago when Sherm was first here and desperately wanted to go, but could not. The military presence has increased, so guerrilla kidnappings have gone down. This is good news, because El Valle (where we went, at the north of Utria National Park) is some of the most beautiful Earth I have ever been blessed enough to witness. Jungle encroaching on ocean, great waves breaking... just, spectacular. It's a place, I believe, that I'd seen in a dream years ago. A truly fantastic dream: I was swimming, as the ultimate aqua-mammal version of myself, and then I decided to fly, so I shot straight up, just high enough to see the curvature of the Earth, and I was looking out over jungle-covered shoreline and islands that stretched endlessly, and water spanning the full spectrum of blue hues, like a paradise, and then I felt like falling, so I fell and landed happily back in the warm ocean, except then I was tired so I woke up sleeping on the beach. This was that place, in real life. Except I can't fly. But we did go snorkling! Lots of pretty fishies that I imagine my father can name.

So that was Parque Nacional Natural Utria, where we snorkeled and ate fried fish on the beach, and Tom and I played baseball with driftwood and a coconut. We spent another day on a nearby beach, enjoying the most picturesque disc-toss possible, and looking into purchasing an ideal property -- a small rock outcropping on the beach, perfect for a bar with a view, a restaurant, and the adjoining property would be the hostel. Brilliant. Except, my Spanish is not good enough to negotiate all the payoffs we now believe would be necessary. Nice idea though. Never any harm in real estate speculation. One day it rained and we stayed in bed, reading and sleeping all day, then played Rummy after dark. Strangely that was maybe my favorite day.

On the day we were due to fly out, we were at the airport in plenty of time. We figured we'd have a beer each, then we'd need to go. Two beers later, we were still waiting. We'd seen our plane land, empty of passengers and baggage, and then sit on the 'tarmac' (read: compacted grass), but no one moved. Then word came through that there was an issue with the plane. A flat tire. So we'd have to wait. Okay, no problem, the Champions League final was on anyway. All the military personnel were cheering for Inter. Then word came through that there was some other problem with the plane, and they needed to bring in a new one, so it would be several more hours. Shit. Now we were in danger of missing our connection to Bogota. But okay, what can we do but wait... Then, all of a sudden, everything was ready and we were boarding. Except, but, hey, there was no new plane. In the four hours we'd been sitting there, in plain view of our plane, not one person who even resembled a mechanic had gone near it. No one had touched it. Now suddenly we were boarding, ready to go, no problem? I took a picture of Tom before we got on, as evidence, just in case my camera survived and we didn't. (We did.) I suppose this is just how things get done.

Bogota was next, my second venture there, but my hands are tired of typing and there are people encouraging me to be social. Yighlchh. Fine. More soon.