A gift from one of my taxi drivers, there were two and they took shifts alternating drive and sleep time. We stopped at his home so he could wash before our drive. His name was Nishan and he refered to our drive as “a journey”. It was. His co-pilot was Ruwan, the new guy, a trainee. The underwear came with a cup of black Sri Lankan tea. They are white with stars and Santa Clauses on them. Nishan’s wife made them.They don’t know who Santa Claus is and I don’t know why he’s printed on the underwear. I was glad to see that the fly came with a button, something that, being that it’s so hot, makes spending the day in just a pair of boxer shorts almost acceptable and less prone to awkward moments. They are size small and have a very good elastic waistband. They fit perfectly, odd because I’ve seen many people here who are much thinner and smaller than I. The drive took 13 hours. Top speed as about 40 kmph. Each time they spotted some wildlife (they were very good at spotting wildlife) we pulled off to the side of the road and would wait for me to take a photo, regardless of how many elephants we’d spot. We also stopped for food, most of which I attempted to politely smile through, and to replace one engine belt. They insisted I drink the king coconut and I showed them my skateboard. Both parties were impressed by the other.
Reading some of Jack’s best again. Here’s the Author’s Introduction. I really like it (yeah).
Name: Jack Kerouac
Place of Birth: Lowell, Massachusetts
Date of Birth: March 12, 1922
Education: (schools attended, specials courses of study, degrees and years) Lowell (Mass) High School; Horace Mann School for Boys; Columbia College (1940-42); New School for Social Research (91948-49). Liberal arts, no degrees (1936-1949). Got an A from Mark Van Doren in English at Columbia (Shakespeare course). —Flunked chemistry at Columbia.—Had a 92 average at Horace Mann School (1939-40). Played football on varsities. Also track, baseball, chess teams.
Summary of Principal Occupations and/or Jobs: Everything: Let’s elucidate: scullion on ships, gas station attendant, deckhand on ships, newspaper sportswriter (Lowell Sun), railroad brakeman, script synopsizer for 20th Century Fox in N.Y., soda jerk, railroad yardclerk, also railroad baggagehandler, cotton picker, assistant furniture mover, sheet metal apprentice on the Pentagon in 1942, forest service lookout 1956, construction laborer (1941).
Interests: I Invented my own baseball game, on cards, extremely complicated, and am in the process of playing a whole 154-game season among eight clubs, with all the works, batting averages, E.R.A. averages, etc. Sports: Played all of them except tennis and lacrosse and skull.
Please Give A Brief Resume of Your Life: Had beautiful childhood, my father a printer in Lowell, Mass., roamed fields and riverbanks day and night, wrote little novels in my room, first novel written at age 11, also kept extensive diaries and “newspapers” covering my own-invented horseracing and baseball and football worlds (as recorded in novel Doctor Sax)…..
It goes on and is good, but I’m not going to transcribe it all.>
Vin Diesel vs THe Rock
Spoiler Alert! (not the kind of spoilers that grace the shiny, fast cars. I’m going to tell you how the movie ends spoiler warning)
Well, Kuala Lumpur is pretty boring really, mostly commerce and lame touristy sightseeing. So, on my third and last day I decided to indulge in some air conditoning and take in a film. The Chinese cowboy movie I’d wanted to see was only in Chinese with no subtitles, so I “selected” Fast and the Furious 5 (yeah five, can you believe it’s been five?). I entered the cinema jaded (duh) but smiling, I knew what I was getting into: grade A action. It was a taste of home, it felt like home, complete with meathead jerks sitting behind me making lude comments and complimenting Paul Walker’s physique. Granted at home I would usually wait for this one to come out on VHS, but in Kuala Lumpur it was a breath of fresh air in Anytown, USA. It was familiar. The notion of familiarity has been important, yet rare, the last months. Coming into a town you’ve been before, as close as I get to driving up the hill to my house. You know where to find food, shelter and the people you’re looking for. The little comfort in not being the doe-eyed newby. You can spot the newbies and most times I’m one of ‘em. But the seldom instances; knowing something (anything) and what to expect, feel good these days. Sit down know what to order, how to order and get what you expected,. Landmarks, smells, faces, potholes, corners, prices, thank yous, all of it. To my American satisfaction Vin Diesel bests The Rock in a 15 minute head butting, fist bashing, body slamming montage. I highly recommend this movie if you’re outside of the United States. It even comes with a happy ending (not the traditional Malaysian happy ending) where everyone wins and gets tons of money, girls, and cars.
For some reason whenever I drink something on a hot day or after vigorous activity this sentence is silently screamed in the back of my head. I’m not sure where it came from, but it’s been in there for some time now. If I’m with company their likely to hear me say it out loud and without warning. In tropical (super fucking hot) climates my mantra has never been more relevant or difficult to follow through upon. Though drinking as much as I can remember to, I still seem to be not fully hydrated. I never considered myself a sweaty guy, but when we would go hiking my Dad would become a sweaty guy, so it makes sense that I should inherit this trait. In my new local I don’t stop sweating, day in day out. I skated the streets in Bangkok a few days ago, saw a lot of the city and every time I stopped I made it my goal to “stay hydrated!” by chugging some sort of cold, non carbonated beverage. They say if you’re fully hydrated your supposed to piss clear urine. Well on this day I didn’t piss at all, all the fluids I drank went out through my pores and soaked my clothing. I looked like I just got put through a dunk tank, people stared. Another day I drank nothing but beer, was out in the sun a lot and then come nighttime switched to obnoxious tourist drinks (you know the ones that come in big water bottles and are loaded with sugar). The next morning I woke up with the worst pain ever in my stomach, I thought I was in big trouble, but it went away after a few hours of slamming Pocari (popular Japanese sports drink). I’m convinced it was dehydration that caused this unbearable pain, not the so-so sushi we ate for dinner that made other people much sicker than me. This instance was a bit of a wakeup call. Now I know I need to stay hydrated more than ever.
Other sweaty guys I hold in high regard:
Other ways to stay hydrated:
Eat a whole watermelon
Not swallow sea water>
Here I am: Bangkok International Airport 5.26.2011 3:11pm
Here I am remembering where I’m from in the Bangkok International Airport. How come they have this here, but not in California? And how come I’ve never had a coconut creme (or whatever this was) before? After I’d finished my iced coffee and doughnuts I got into a long discussion with the people nearest me on the topic of The Big Dig and the Bruins. We agreed to meet up later for a couple cold ones at Copperfields. None of them spoke English.
The local food doesn’t have the same effect on my eyes.
Product Review: 2005 Honda Vario (The Magenta Menace)
Product Review: 2005 Honda Vario (The Magenta Menace)
Two months in the saddle of this beast. Superstitiously, I resisted the urge to write anything about her till now, somehow sure that if I claimed anything the next day I’d be propelled over the handle bars into a 3rd world hospital waiting room. Relief swept over me as I handed over the key with all my limbs intact. Motorbike isn’t an option for transportation here, it’s the only option. No one privately owns a car, cars are for lugging tourists to the airport and if you’re in one you’re stuck in traffic as motorbikes buzz past your windows on either side. That’s your first impression: three 12 years olds sharing a ride, smiling ear to ear as they zip past you in a sea of people, you with luggage in a taxi, sure your driver will hit someone before you reach your destination. I’m not a motorcycle guy, so being told that this was how I would travel in Indo made me nervous, it made me more nervous when I saw the traffic. Then I got my bike and found that when you’re a part of the madness it’s a lot saner. It’s safer to drive fast and weave through traffic with the swarm than to create another obstacle for the mass to avoid. And I found out why those kids were smiling.
My “rental agency”, like most businesses in Indonesia, sold strange wood carvings and hired transport on the side. They had two scooters to choose from, The Magenta Menace (I opted for the automatic, about $50 a month) was in slightly better condition and the proprietors assured me that pink was not a feminine color in their country. They bolted on a surfboard rack and I’m off, “no I won’t be leaving the island”.
Reliablity: Fuel is purchased as liter bottles of petrol kept in recycled absolute vodka bottles that look like molotov cocktails ($1.00 to fill up). These are found on the side of the road at houses, markets, and eateries. I think I got a bad batch in Lombok and she stalled out whenever I slowed down for a week. Of our motorbike gang (I suggested the “The Sea Snakes” but we never formally agreed on a name) I was the exception to flat tires, everyone had a t least one, I had none. Being two islands away from where I rented her I would have been slightly fucked had she crapped out, but she never did.
Perfromance: The Menace was sluggish on hills under a full load and slippery in the sand. She hated the mud. On the flats she was at home and I could always count on her to get me past a dump truck before the dump truck coming at me made me a pancake in his lane.
Comfort: One day we drove till 2am, on slightly sketchy roads we didn’t know. It was fun and maybe not the best idea. By the time we finally got where we were going my ass had taken a pounding. Generally, drives were short, under an hour between spots or pit stops on a travel day, so you never got the chance to get that uncomfortable. I would have liked to have one of those gel seats that old people have on their geriatric neighborhood cruiser bicycles.
No Tits No Ride: The Magenta Menace didn’t help with the opposite esx; I think I only gave rides to dudes and friend’s girlfriends.
All said, The Magenta Menace and I were a good team. I pointed her directly at potholes and she didn’t complain. We got each other to places neither of us would ever have been without the other and I wouldn’t trade my time with her for anything, except maybe something with 3 wheels or a hover car. I would have liked to retire her after me, perhaps a final fantastic jump into the sea, but there are other tourists and many more potholes for whom she is destine.
A couple keepers from two months in Indonesia. Apparently I took almost no photos of the waves and a lot featuring animals and boats. The waves were good, as where the people and the times.
The asphalt in Indonesia is shit. The temperature rarely gets above the boiling. When you traveling via scooter the skateboard you can’t ride and the jeans you’ll sweat through become a burden and getting them off your back make your voyage a lot more tolerable. Many hotels offer storage for free or for a small fee, but only if you’ve stayed there. I had been staying in smaller places, with no storage, so when decided to lighten the load I had to shop around. After being overpriced and denied a few times I decided it was time for an ice cream break, whereupon I met the proprietor of a small corner market. No sooner had I inquirer as to where I should try next, then he was putting my sleeping bag and useless clothing in a box. I offered money and he refused. I offered again, he refused and I bought some surprisingly good quality drawing pens and another ice cream cone. My belongings were stowed above a shelf with some medicines and other first aid supplies. I left thinking it wouldn’t be the end of the world if my stuff was gone when I got back a month later, a limited SNOWBOARDER hoodie being the most valuable of the relinquished. Everything was just where I had left it when I returned today. The old man was sleeping (it was about 2pm) so I didn’t get to properly thank him. I bought another ice cream cone.
Been kicking around with the same pack for the last few weeks. We’re too many for a surf trip, due to our number, we’re a crowd. No one likes a crowd. We don’t care.
Asier is 19 and hails from the Basque country. He had planned his 3-month stint in Indonesia to be with a friend, but friend backed out at the last minute. Asier left anyway, telling his mother he would email and bringing with him two surfboards he had shaped for the trip a small knapsack with a change of clothes. He’s young, can’t sit still and surfs well. He does what he wants and goes where he wants. He’ll go alone if no one else will go. He surfs his own way and loves to eat food. He rationalizes purchase he makes by the equivelent amount of donuts (we found the best donuts ever in West Sumabwa) he could have for the same price. He smiles a lot. “Today I get all the bar-rels”
Matti is tall and blonde. The desire of all gay law enforcement officers. He’s kind and polite; “you get yours before I get mine.” Always. He’s in no rush, camera in hand, the journey, not the destination is the subject. He always throws up the horns in every photo opportunity ever.
Lionel is the unappointed leader, though we all sometimes share this role. He knows no more about where we are going, but is the first person we turn to for directions. He can converse in most of the dialects we find the along way, which is one of the sources of his confidence when we’re at the proverbial fork. He’s usually the last one to turn in at the end of the night. Sometimes I’m the second to last and we sip rum and smoke cigarettes together till we’ve had our fill. He likes a good party.
Argoitz English is broken, but his facial expressions make up for it. His eyes explain everything before he does. Small children find him hilarious. He’s goofy footed, picks the right waves, and can paddle faster than you. He, like me came from snowboarding and has spent many a cold night in a ski town parking lot. Our smiles get wide when we sit on the beach in the hot sun recounting pillow lines and cold winters.
Libe is quiet, but knows and observes more than she lets on. She and Argoitz are beautiful together, sharing meals, collecting beach artifacts, playing on the same team. She advises on all the moves, be it chess, dominoes, cards, or travel. She is very pretty, dark hair, dark eyes, confident and warm.
Florian lives in Berlin, but, at times, embodies America much better than I could hope to. He gets the most laughs in our family. He’s the kind of person strange occurrences are drawn to. He tells hysterical stories, and I haven’t heard the same one twice yet. He and I share comfort in surviving huge set waves while the others battle for position oblivious to fear. He thinks 100 women is not a lot to have slept with.
There are others:
Fransisco was in Western Sumbawa when we arrived. He plays the guitar
Arkaitz lives in the cannary islands. I dropped in on him before we met.
Fabian has too much compassion for cats.
Dreese always knows what swell is coming and what the wind and tides should be doing.
There’s me, the American trying to avoid the subject of politics and redeem our nationality in the eyes of foreigners. I’m the only one from all of our points of origin who knows nothing about electronic music, apparently it’s quite popular everywhere else. We use English when we’re all talking as a group, it being the language that everyone knows the most of. I’m the only one for whom English is a first language. This makes me a reliable source for clarification when translation is lost. This comes with a fleeting sense of pride of intelligence, than I remember that I only speak one language and have no choice of languages to speak, a sense of shame quickly replaces the pride. I also drive slower.>
Best read in a foreign tongue
English books can be difficult to come by at the local book exchange, and what’s here ain’t exactly top shelf. There are however some gems to be found:
I can’t read Dutch, but here’s what I think Sylvester Stallone’s literary debut is about. Vinny is a down and out dockworker still living with his cliché Italian American parents Ma and Pop. He dropped out of high school like most of the guys in his neighborhood and took the first job that came along. Ironically; the name of the street he grew up and lives on is Paradise, though it is not an alley and to an outsider, not paradise. With no hope of climbing the corporate ladder he spends his free time walking ruefully down the dirty sidewalks with his hat pulled low staring at his feet. His piers blow their earnings at the local watering hole; O’Malley’s, but Vin steers clear of temptation, though every time he walks by the patron’s; friends from work and lusty women, try to lure him in. Ma and Pop are getting older and their health is diminishing, so it’s on him to support them in their golden years. The only sparkle in his existence is Vicky. A woman he’s known all his life, been in love with, but never known it and wanted to do something about it, but not known what it was or what to do. Vicky grew up across the street and used to be the aspiration of every male on the block, she played along of course, but always had her sights set on Vinny. She also dropped out of high school, only rather than the docks, her employer was the local chocolate factory. That was six years ago, she’s gained 200 pounds since and slowly became less popular with the opposite sex. Night after night Vinny lays by a smudged widow, his closet sized room illuminated by the city lights. Stretched, hands behind his head, on a cot in boxer shorts and a white undershirt, Vicky occupying his every thought, kind of. It’s not that he thinks he’s not good enough for her, he’s just not that bright and has no grasp on the mechanics of women or what they mean to a man. One day on his way home from the docks, he passes a crowd of men in a circle passionately arguing and exchanging currency. He stops and is beckoned by a coworker. For some reason he’s not surprised when he finds himself pitted against a humongous, overly confident, Ukrainian oaf in a kitten-hurling bout (two men each throw a kitten as far as they can off the dock, whoever throws their kitten furthest wins, duh…). After much speculation as to the newcomer’s ability, bets are made with Vinny being the heavy underdog. Surprisingly to everyone (except Vinny, who we’re learning never has any grasp of what’s happening and is incapable of showing any emotion of any kind) our hero hurls his fluffy little kitten more than 200 yards, twice as far as his rival. The onlookers go freakin’ nuts. The few who bet on Vinny clean up on their wagers, the Ukranian is banished from the docks, and a dark well dressed figure cloaked in cigar smoke on the outskirts of the betting circle takes note of Vinny’s kitten hurling prowess. The next day, Vinny finds out that Ma and Pop have the black plague and without a costly plague removal operation, stand no chance of survival. Vinny (more confused and emotionless than ever) takes to wandering the streets after getting the bad news. Obviously the Dark Figure pulls up beside him in a shiny pink convertible Mazda Miada. After explaining his proposal four times the Dark Figure, an apparent gangster of some kind, convinces Vinny to be his new kitten hurler. Vinny easily wins all his matches, he’s a kitten hurling phenomenon. As his niche fame grows he, with the help of Vicky, slowly uncover the truth about the Dark Figure: he’s an evil guy and he’s exploiting Vinny. When Vinny rebels the Dark Figure threatens him and his voluptuous unknown love interest. Rebelliously, Vinny takes an intentional dive in his next match costing the Dark Figure a ton of money. Soon after, Vicky is kidnapped after a short chase through the sewers that ends with her being stuck headfirst ass out in a large pipe. Vinny for the first time in his life forms a plan and with a trash bag full of kittens soaked in gasoline storms the dark figures compound hurling flaming baby cats at anyone who stands in his way. He manages to rescue Vicky before the whole place explodes in a shower of kitty fur and when he gets home he’s relieved to find out that Ma and Pop had Pink Eye, not the Black Plague.
This would make an excellent video game.
Note: I’ve learned that Sly actually wrote Rocky and Rambo V, so he is already an accomplished screenwriter though this is his first novel.
Tourists have money. Many of those who visit Indonesia do so with the intent of buying some souvenirs, probably something they could get on the internet, but because it reminds them of their trip, it is special. This is old news and as such walking down the streets in many villages feels a lot like Tijuana (the only place I’ve ever felt the same tension before) vendors and salesmen compete for the attention of anyone of fairer skin. Residents who might not have anything are also out for a quick sale, they’ll run off to buy what you “need” and bring it back to you at an slightly inflated rate. Sales tactics include, but are not limited to: grabbing, being friendly, extreme persistence, playing to your pity, begging and being rude. I’m a visitor in their land and where I come from we have a lot more money, so to them I look like a big cartoon bag with a big dollar sign on it. I get it, I accept it, but it gets old and you end up walking with your eyes down. It’s like this unless you really venture outside of the common tourist path to spots that have not yet been corrupted by the western presence. There the people are earnest, kind, and real. If however you plan to stay in the popular sightseeing zones and maybe even buy something; be prepared to be offered everything. Here are a few of the more interesting services or products that are obtainable as quotes by those doing the selling.
“Men like women”
“Ticket to the Moon”
“Ticket to Hell”
“You want” (said while pointed at whatever they are standing next at the time)
Matti was lined up for the standard shakedown from the local cops. We had a late start, a flat tire and were burning daylight fast, driving across the northern expanse of Lombok to a ferry for Sumbawa that night. Our motorbike caravan was five and Matti was at the caboose, thus the obvious candidate for a traffic bribe. The standard shakedown takes about five minutes and usually ends with an exchange of between 100,000 and 20,000 rupiah ($10-$2). Matti’s felt lucky when the cop didn’t demand money. He was confused when the cop asked what his hobbies were. It was bad timing that I pulled over and called him just as the cop was asking if he had a phone. When the cop began rubbing Matti’s arm, he finally grasped the situation. The next few moments were awkward, but he got on his bike and eventually caught up to the rest of us, feeling a bit more like a piece of meat than he had at the start of the day. A half hour later he began receiving text messages, they got more and more graphic as the night wore on. Indonesia is a devoutly Muslim country; it’s not strange to see a man with his hand on another man’s leg or other simple signs of affection amongst men. Homosexuality is explicitly forbidden, so what would be perceived as “gay” in western cultures can only be simple friendship because “gay” is absolutely out of the question. It’s been 3 days and Matti has received more than 30 text messages and dozens of calls. He thought he was to be the target for another bribe, he ended up being the target of a super horny cop who can’t tell anyone in his country how he feels. These are a few of the tamer messages.
Here I am: Mawi Lombok 4.26.2011 12:47pm
Here I am laying down the Magenta Menace (my moped, with surfboard in tow ) for a quick break on a muddy tracked road in a rice field near Mawi Beach in Lombok Indonesia. There were a lot of water buffalos around here, so i suspect some of this mud was their shit. I was going exactly zero kilometers (like miles only shorter?) per hour when this happened so nothing was damaged except a bit of pride. Really beautiful place, really shallow reef at low tide, really slippery ride.
(“Here I am” will be a regular installment of the blog. Typically a photo of me, so you don’t forget I actually exist and brief text explaining the image.)
We are vile. Or that is what you would gather if this example was the first American you were ever to meet. Originally from the Midwest, she’s been calling Pacific Beach San Diego home for the last few years, a “vortex” I called it, “paradise” she called it. There are thousands of girls just like her in PB. I was glad to have another American to share some American connections with, that faded. She had been drinking Bintang all day in the sun. She said “It isn’t how old you are, it’s how old you fuck”. It made me blush. Then I decided to observe her for the rest of the evening. She informed me it was our duty as Americans to teach people American sayings. She couldn’t think of any American Sayings. She took a lot of pictures. She showed me pictures of her and her roommates wearing funny hats and drinking in her living room on a weekend afternoon. She talked about how much weight she’d gained since she started her vacation. She kept screaming “Bintang!”, even when we weren’t drinking Bintang. We went hunting for ice cream, unsuccessfully, she cut her hand trying to to break open a cooler at a hotel that had ice cream in it, but was locked. She didn’t go home with any of the suitors she had captivated though the night. That, I did not expect.>
Indonesians do not snore. If they did the cities, the villages, the beaches, the countryside (the islands) would echo throughout the day with the sounds of slumber. These dudes are nap savvy. The landscape is dotted with small nap shelters designed to offer salvation when the sand man comes calling. But they don’t over do it. It’s common nap knowledge that too much can be the kiss of death, leaving you groggy for the rest of the day plus overly rested come nighttime. The ideal nap doesn’t cross the line into heavy REM sleep, but just to the edge, perhaps not even truly sleeping, a rest for the eyes. Indonesians are aware of this, more aware than me and most of the west, and their nap shelters reflect the strict principles of conservative napping. They are not too comfortable, no pillows or blankets. Usually just a wooden platform approximately 8’x8’ elevated to the height of a table on four bamboo legs that stretch up and support a thatch roof. It’s simple. It’s shade. It’s a place to sit or lay with a few friends and just high enough to avoid interruptions from dogs, roosters, cats and most other wandering wildlife. Being that they aren’t that comfortable, at the end of your nap you don’t mind getting up and back to whatever your day consists of. The most common naptime appears to be when the sun is at it’s highest, this is when you’ll find three, four, or five humans occupying a shelter. I can’t tell if you only bed down with those you’re acquainted with or if it’s common to sleep a few inches from a stranger. I suppose I’ll have to have a go in order to understand. When a quick snooze is necessary and the shelter is full, most Indonesians are resourceful, and will find a worthy location. Shade is paramount, so long as there is shade, anywhere seems to suffice. On the four hour ferry ride from Bali to Lombok I was one of 2 white people aboard among some 200. My presence was also marked by being the only person (captain excluded) who didn’t get some shut eye. The bench seating was the first to go, then people got creative, the pros didn’t have to get creative, they had planned well for this. A mat on the roof of your truck with the breeze running through the garage level of the boat looked pretty good to me. A lot to learn from these people.