Some dudes really like cars, an expensive interest. Most of my concern is in getting from a to b and the destination, not the specific mode of transportation, so long as I’m moving. Once, when I was 17 I drove my Jeep Cherokee as fast as it would go on a Saturday morning commute to Wachusett. The speedometer only went to 85 mph and I got the needle past that, barely. It was just past sunrise, I had picked up Squints in Worcester and there was case of beer behind my seat. Wu-Tang motivating me through stock speakers, it felt fast, shaky and I knew that she wasn’t a racer. The road was vacant except for the Massachusetts State trooper who pulled me over. He didn’t see the beer, but he did give me as hefty of a fine as my old Jeep was capable of earning. I attempted to appeal and eventually ignored the ticket and driving in Mass for 6 years. Yesterday I drove a black Porsche 911 as fast as it would go on the Autobahn, we topped off at about 250 kph. This time it was techno, an engine that sounded like a fucking jet and a proper alignment that encouraged. It felt fast only due to the passing scenery and the sound, absent of this it just felt right. All I (and the car) wanted was more. Floored. More speed. It was fun. Thanks Flo.
Sri Lanka 8.8%
Nearly 3 months in Sri Lanka. Once again, it doesn’t feel like I came even close to capturing the place. The food, the people, the rice, the land, the animals, the wave, the folklore; another planet.
My advice: go for a month, that is more than enough. And don’t go strictly for the surf during July or August.
Here I am: On A Train Pointed South, Sri Lanka 8.20.2011 1pm
Here I am sitting in the doorway of a fast moving shaky old train riding the west coast due south. The 2nd class cars are rather packed, the 3rd class cars are completely stuffed, and I don’t think that 1st class exists. A seat is highly regarded and a seat by a doorway is deluxe. Remembering to keep your toes and neck inside the train is critical. Buy some of the weird assorted snacks that are being peddled through the aisles. Don’t let anyone pirate your spot.
I’m making an effort. This is 2-7, 6 moleskin books for about 6 months of whatever it is I’m doing. They start at 2 because I finished 1 before I left. Not much considering all the time I’ve spent with my thumb in my ass. Scribblings and rants from all hours of the day when something profound enters my mind and requires recording. Most of it doesn’t actually need to be recorded and this is proven the next morning.
First I heard that there was a killer traveling around Sri Lanka and attacking women and taking their blood. He was supposedly heading to the east coast.
Second I heard that it was a gang of men all of whom were 3 meters tall and could jump very high to escape being caught. They had killed 7 Muslim girls in the closest town the day prior and one that night. They were voodoo men who were drinking the blood of the women.
Third I heard that the Muslim villagers had apprehended one of the attackers, but the police had let him go.
Fourth I heard that the villagers had set fire to the police station and placed flaming barricades blocking the roads. All of town was shut down and Sri Lnkan armed forces were fighting with villagers.
Fifth I heard that it had been the Army who had beaten a Muslim girl to death.
Sixth I heard that the Army had shot and maybe killed two villagers who had been throwing rocks.
Seventh I heard similar things were happening in other towns.
Eighth I heard that 17 soldiers had been killed 14 villagers were injured and 2 had been killed. The Muslim man who told me this said he thought the men who were attacking women at night were Sri Lankan military.
I saw a group of Sri Lankan Army Soldiers armed with AK 47s loading into a truck and heading to the town. I saw the fires blocking the roads. We were told it was safe. We were told to not go into town. I felt the tension in the air. We got halfway to town and knew we shouldn’t be there. We turned around and went back. It’s peak tourist season at the beach I’ve been living at for the last 2 ½ months. This is a place that many are hopeful for (counting on) more and more prosperity year after year. Big resort planning is in the works. There are probably 500 vacationers/travelers/surfers here now from all over the world, too many, in fact, for the waves. It’s also currently Ramadan (a Muslim holiday) and a full moon (sacred to Buddhists and makes all creatures, humans included, act slightly different).
I’m pretty sure the blood drinking voodoo men are not 3 meters tall. Aside from this I can only confirm what I’ve personally observed. There has been war here before. The Tigers are still a threat. The president is said to be dangerous and very corrupt. Sri Lanka is a place full to folklore, mystery, myths and imagination. There is a degree of fear among the locals by the beach; they know what could happen and they’re all thinking about it, hence the outlandish rumors. People want to talk, the cultural divide between tourist and local is forgotten. 3 kilometers away in the town there are weird things happening. Where I am the lineups are still crowded for the sunset surf. People are enjoying their vacations from work. Out of sight out of mind.
Here’s what the BBC report says:
In addition to all this I was threatened today for talking to girls, tourist girls. Apparently I’m only allowed to surf and vacation, but not talk to girls, cool. Thanks guys.
I am safe.>
Unemployment can lead you to look almost anywhere for new ways to bring home the bacon. I’m not thinking about it much yet, but as my savings deplete responsibility will start to creep back into my line of sight. A job. I’ve held many in my life to this point, 24 if my count is true. Draftsperson, junkyard employee, midnight stockperson, gutterer, snow geek, etc. I’m proud of all of the titles I’ve held, somehow. I even got to fire someone once; my own brother. Point being: employment was an ever-present facet of my life until recently and to some degree I’ve been having minor withdrawals since recently. This blog itself is proof of this, a putty for the void that was created by the abolition of blackberry, desk, and paycheck. I haven’t attempted to work or anything crazy, but my eyes are open and yes, I’m aware that I’ll be a member of some work force again in the future. Looking around in the world you can see how many different ways to make a living there are. There is someone for every occupation and trade that can be imagined. People need to get from place to place so there are airlines staffed with pilots, flight crews, and all manner of administrative personnel. Then there are cabs, buses, tuk tuks, and motor bikes. When they get where they’re going they need somewhere to stay so there is accomodation. Then there are places to facilitate almost every other necessity life might create. Almost (opportunity knocks). Right now, in Arugam Bay, tampons are the most sought after commodity of the traveling community (mostly women). As I’m told the closest place to purchase tampons is the capital city of Colombo, roughly ten hours away. This country needs a Tampon Smuggler. The civil war is over and tourism is growing quickly. Western women like their tampons almost as much as they like their toilets, and they are willing to pay for them. If I were you (or me) and I was coming to Sri Lanka I would bring as many Tampons as legally possible with me. And I would charge $10 US each. This would also enable me to meet a lot of women.>
Here I am: Dambulla, Sri Lanka 7.28.2011 11am
Here I am getting my scalp violently massaged in a local “Saloon” on the main strip in Dambulla. Throughout Asia I’ve noticed the word saloon in place of salon on the signage for hair cutting establishments. It’s one of those quirky little lost-in-translation things and still makes me giggle after 4 months.
The decision in favor of a more aerodynamic mane-styling came as the final revolt to going blond. Not totally blond though, just on top, the sides, which have been kept short, were my natural shade of brown. Two-tone aint my jive. Also someone finished off the last of the shampoo that I’d left in the shared shower in Aragum Bay. The guys at the Saloon called my haircut the Barrack Obama. I think it looks pretty tuff, maybe it’ll help me get more waves… The hair removal took under a minute and the massage is the après, it went until I asked him to “please stop”. He poured the green liquid in the foreground on my head in the beginning and went back for more lube no less than 5 times.
This is how you carry your money now, crumpled pieces of paper from god knows where that mean god knows what. Credit cards are for plane tickets and hotels. You don’t stay in hotels. Pull the wad out of our pocket while trying not to let anyone see exactly how much you have. Most of it is wet. Dig through until everyone is happy and you can leave with what you came for.
Counterfeit? Probably. Maybe not. Your collection contains 3 different sorts of 20 rupee note.
Conclusion: there’s no way in hell you’ll catch me with one of those ethnic hippie man purses you see “travelers” flopping around in their crocs with.
The Ice Man
My days are a la mode. This is one of the most important relationships I’ve made in the last 6 weeks. He operates by bicycle, with a cooler mounted on the back. Roaming the fringe of the beach honking a small horn that alerts potential customers to his presence. The product is a cross between ice cream and shave ice, the flavor varies from day to day, but usually leans towards to vanilla. It’s served in a flavorless, stale, cone. One scoop, melting fast. We started out a bit shaky. I had bought one from him the day before and as with most first purchases I try to settle the price before I buy. He said 30 rupees (a bit less than 30 cents) and it was delicious. The next day I found him in a similar location and again asked for a cone. This time, not in line with yesterday’s transaction, when giving me my change he increased the price from 30 to 50. It was early, perhaps too early for ice cream, and I was grumpy so this was irritating. I said to him that the day before the price had been 30 and asked why it was more now. He did the bobble head and I brought up the fact that even his cart had the price painted on it and that “this is bullshit” and started to get into the “skin color shouldn’t dictate price”, probably too early for this debate on this day with a man who doesn’t speak my language. He eventually gave me the correct change, but my ice cream came with a bitterness that plagued the surf. The following day I noticed that he had scratched out the “30” which had been painted on his cooler and I began to spread my money around to other dealers and send The Ice Man dirty looks hoping to stir up some jealousy or remorse. Time heals all wounds and sooner or later he was standing in the right shady spot luring dry tongues with the sound of his horn. Like any junkie or spineless lover (I can’t figure out which analogy works better here) I went crawling back. Now we understand each other. He sees me walking back from the point and I get ice cream. It turns out his ice cream is usually slightly better than the competition. Sometimes I’ll give him some money for the whole week thus eliminating the hassle of exchanging wet notes.
I’ve never seen him eating ice cream.
That’s rule number #4, never get high from your own supply. Maybe the junkie analogy works better.
Camp Fire Song
There are few things more cliché than a guitar sing along around a camp fire. But if you can’t find the joy in something this simply pure than don’t bother getting out of bed in the morning. Don’t leave your house and don’t leave your hometown, you’re taking up space on our planet. The guy with the guitar is from France. The guy with the uke is from France as well. The guy with the harp is from Austria. Their singing about a surfing elephant named Jim Morrison. The board he rides is 20 feet long. He walks the nose. It’s the best song we’ve ever heard. You couldn’t sandblast the smiles from our faces.
I won’t go into detail.
We tried relaying the event to others the next day, but it never came out right. You aren’t here. You weren’t there. I hope to remember a the moments like this for the rest of my life.
The descriptions I read before coming to Aragum Bay said “lazy town”. It’s a massive understatement. I have no idea what day it is
I know if I think about it I’ll be able to sort it out. But I don’t want to, it’s irrelevant. The only constant pertinent to time is a weekly party held on Saturday night at a nearby hotel. There’s bad electronic music and dancing and one girl to every ten guys and the locals get completely sloshed. I can figure out the current day by counting back to the last time this party happened, if I want to. Aside from this event, what day of the week it is holds no bearing on my life.
It’s between the hours of 11am and 3pm on a day, “a” day, any day. During this time the sun reaches it’s peak and begins it’s daily assault on my brain and any motivation I might have had. It is too hot to converse, people sit at tables and stare blankly over each other’s shoulders, faces blank, foreheads melting. Each night I’ll think of things that should or could be accomplished the following day. Each morning, sitting in the surf, pink ball of light at eye level, during a lull, I strain my mind to recall just one of these tasks that held importance a few hours prior. They never return, and the fact that they went un-done never seems to matter. I’m one month in here, two more coming. There are others here for the same stretch, they are another constant. Many come and go. Most stay a few weeks, at the end of which we grill some fish in honor of their departure. New people arrive to fill their beds, seats, spot in the line up. I don’t put too much effort into anyone who says they’re here less than 3 weeks.
I’m a constant too. I don’t get offers for tuk tuk from the drivers. They finally know me and that I don’t need to go anywhere, it took a month for their transportation propositions to cease. I’m a constant to them for now, to this town, to the wave, to the tiny market I buy a single cigarette at each morning to have with my coffee. They do know I won’t stay forever though, and as such, put in just about as much time actually get to know me as I do with some dude who’s staying for three days.>
Hassle Free Warranty
Round here we ride bikes. Single speed grandma bikes, slow-like, nowhere to be nothing to do. The road is flat and you feel free behind the bars of an old rusty cruiser. After shopping around to buy, it became clear that renting was slightly cheaper and with a bit of haggling I got the owner down to a rate I almost felt bad about. With my rental agreement came one stipulation. “If break, you fix.” “Yeah, yeah.” And I’m on my way; wind in my face, scorching sun on my back. First I noticed that there are no brakes, fortunately there are no hills. The Fred Flintstone method will suffice. Next I noticed that my rear tire was flat. Westerners are weary of any auto maintenance, unless: you can fix it yourself or you know someone you can trust. The rest of us are screwed, at the mercy of the hammer the mechanic is wielding and the price of the new clanking sound he produces. More recently in Indonesia I found trustworthy mechanics and standardized prices for repairs that didn’t fluctuate between visitors and locals. Sri Lanka is more complicated. My first visit to the bike repair shop uncovered two of the best negotiators who’ve ever lived. The guy with the wrench doesn’t speak a lick of English (I shouldn’t expect him to), but he’s got a mean head bobble and is well aware that white folks find this gesture very puzzling indeed. His partner is mute, he doesn’t speak, he can’t speak, but loves to talk about sports while the wrench guy is telling you what you’ll pay. Trying to explain to these guys that I knew what the price of a tire tube patch was and I didn’t want to pay more because of the color of my skin was a dark tunnel of confusing. I left paying double and knowing some makeshift sign language. The second visit came shortly after the patches I’d paid for failed. For round two I decided it would better to opt for a new tube and to pay whatever they asked. We talked about cricket again and hopefully I won’t have to go back for a few weeks. Now I’m free again, free to go as far possible and back before dark. The elephants come out at dark.
The Watering Hole
And you thought your local bar was a dive.
Most of the larger hotels in town offer beer and maybe some Arrack (bad whiskey/rum), but they also jack up the prices and exist to cater to tourists. I get the feeling this place would be here without the tourism. It has no name; people call it simply “the bottle shop” or “the bar”. Walk past the twenty-or-so bicycles piled by the door. Inside are crowded plastic tables, bare walls and a cage where two men open bottles in exchange for currency. There is no entertainment of any kind. No music, no TVs, no games. The crowd always seems to be in deep conversation, but when you get talking to any of them it turns out they are all way too drunk to speak. As you cross the threshold you’ll be greeted warmly or with a look that lends more to animosity. You might not make it to the cage without getting a hand massage from a toothless man, that’s warmth. The menu consists of loose cigarettes, Lion Lager and Strong Beer which is 8.8 %, both of which come in 24oz bottles . The Strong beer is the heavy favorite of the clientele; the stock is frequently depleted or very warm. When the Strong runs out the patrons do too. Most of the men in town know when the next shipment is scheduled to arrive. It doesn’t taste that bad, considering, but it packs a heavy hangover. As you’re ordering you’ll be cut many times. It feels a bit like I expect the stock market floor would feel, someone holds something up at a good price and arms and money go flying in it’s direction. The beers are 200 rupees with a 30 rupee deposit and the cigarettes are 20. You can stay with your beer or take it to go. If you stay you’ll probably be the only white guy and if you’re a girl you probably shouldn’t stay.
Here I am: Aragum Bay, Sri Lanka 6.21.2011 11am
Here I am standing in the sand at the main point in Aragum Bay. It’s a long right hand point break over dead coral reef and some sand. Rippable, cruisy, barreling, fat, fun, serious, frustrating and rewarding; depending on your taste. I scored this morning and came back to take some photos. The photos are swill, hopefully I’ll get some decent ones in the future. I’ve extended my visa for 2 more months which will allow me to stay here through the hot hot summer. As more swells come through the sand shifts and the wave is only supposed to improve. Why not?
Allen’s been here a lot longer than we have, he’s here every morning before us and before sunrise. Some days he passes me in the dark climbing over the hill towards the bay. His bike is much faster than mine, also he knows the potholes better, he’s been here longer. He’s about 50, leather face, mangled teeth, rides a nice baby blue thruster with a bit more volume and a bit more rocker, perfect for the wave. He seems to prefer taking off late; he makes most of the drops. On the sets while rest of the pack is scrambling to duck dive he usually turns with no time to spare and goes, sometimes he doesn’t make these ones, most times he does. He was in the construction business, is retired now, divorced and built a house here a few years back. He recently sold the house and will look for a spot to build another one that’s a bit more remote. He said he had planned to see the rest of his country (Australia) when he got old and tired of surfing, but it just never happened.
The dude at Supersucks
It’s breaking well for the first time in a week. There’s only a few people out, we don’t have boards, we’re just looking/scared. Those that are out are getting good rides; it’s far offshore, so you can’t tell whose whom and what’s what. Someone snags one, lazy style, trimming along, regular footed, it’s his backhand, tucks in quick, grabs rail, pumps, makes it out clean and leisurely cruises along until the wave dies. He paddles in the rest of the way and when he reaches the sand I see he’s an older guy, built tough, and board he’s got under his arm is big pin tale. Walking back to where we’d parked, we see him standing on the front porch of a bungalow facing the beach. There’s a cig hanging out of his mouth and he’s pouring hydrogen peroxide on fresh cuts. “That happen every time here?” “Yeah, most times” The blood turns white and fizzes, he doesn’t seem to notice. He owns the hotel and is originally from Hawaii. We’ve got a million questions to ask, hoping for some of the wisdom he seems to be leaking. Our conversation ends quickly, us un-reassured. His daughter, a small naked local, comes over with something stuck in her a foot and his attention shifts.
Upon inquiring if they could feed me I was told to go get something to drink if I wanted it and dinner would be in 15 minutes. Someone said there was good food here, so I followed directions to the Library and found Ramm’s Place. When I returned with a beverage Charley was sitting on the front stoop drinking a large beer in a large coozie and pulling on a cigarette. I could tell he was Australian. First I noticed his skin tone, a shade between bright pink and dark red. He was wearing a Bintang (Indonesian Beer) tanktop and boardshorts. He’s a big fucker, tall and wide, and getting on in years, 56 I found out later. He said he had gout and that it always acts up when he’s overdoing it in the meat, booze and cigarettes department. I asked if he had been here before and he said he started coming in 1978 when it was only a few Aussies and some European hippies, he said he spent most of his time with the hippies smuggling hash from India. He always sits at the end of the table eating with his hands (as the locals do), Ramm pays special attention to him makes his food spicier with extra gravy, but Charley still complains. He said he was staying at Butch’s (whome I later met and found to be an equally big/red Aussie) and that he didn’t know for how long. In the water he’s grumpy and yells at everyone. I think he’s taken a shine to me. He laughs, a great booming laugh and slaps me heavily on the back when I make a dry remark.>