Sunday, September 27, 2015

Got Nostrils? Too Bad.

No Scents, the sign said.

It was on the office door of a math professor I once took a class from.

Woman. Put herself through college all the way to a Ph.D. as a single mother. She smoked.

Couldn't stand perfume though, or cologne, nor any kind of poofery or puffery or fluffery that came in a bottle or as freight in a bar of bubble soap.

I myself at times have gagged mightily when confined narrowly, near one recently exited from drenching of ten-cent-a-gallon stink juice.

The anti-aroma brigade gains more members daily, way up north where I used to live. I can understand them. I can understand that.

Here, no — don't think so. Not in Ecuador. Maybe not in any of what we-all call Latin America.

Here, if you're alive, you need to smell good.

To smell good you need to smell like you popped out of a flower-adorned bottle.

You get that way by

  • bathing with bar soap
  • applying hand lotion
  • shampooing
  • greasing up with sunscreen
  • doing laundry, and wearing the results
  • doing anything else

You can't help it. Everything stinks, everywhere, all the time.

Products aren't allowed on the market unless they can be used as chemical scent weapons, capable of emitting shock waves of sweet reeks to flatten small buildings and overturn rolling traffic.

The Bad News: The smells that linger for a week. No matter how often you wash.

The Good News: I'm waiting. Make it happen. Please.

But it's all relative then, innit? As in how close to borderline nausea you begin that day, just being alive. And how fast you can reasonably run, discreetly.

But they're always there, the floral stinks. Always.

Always seeking, ready to infiltrate your head, and to destroy your sanity. Mine, anyway.

Maybe it's my nostrils.

Friday, September 25, 2015

I See You?

You walk around.

If you want to see anything, you do. Walking is the best way to see things. And here is no exception, seeing things here.

To walk, you need open spaces. Open spaces to walk in, walk through, experience, explore.

But you don't get much here.

It's different here. This is a private society.

Streets are necessary. Streets are mandatory. Otherwise we'd all need to be birds. That won't work for me. I've tried. When I was young. With the arm flapping. Every kid tries it. It doesn't work.

So flight is out.

Moving around on the ground, the obvious place to start is with your feet. You move them. And then you move.

And to move you need streets. Because moving feet can do only so much.

Moving feet move bodies, and bodies can carry some of this and that, but not much else. So that's were wagons and carts and donkeys and then cars and trucks and buses come in. All require streets.

So we have streets here. They are essential. But this is a private society.

Which means.

That things are different here.

Open spaces are rare, aside from streets, occurring randomly and relatively unpleasantly, as parks. They aren't. Not as we know parks. We foreigners.

The parks here are flat squares of pavement, with a few shrubs, and a scattering of fenced-off trees.

Not what we think of. No. Not what I think of.

The open spaces here are inside houses. Or other buildings.

Schools have them. You can see. Every now and then you can see. Them. Inside. Inside the walls inside the buildings.

Safe areas. Protected areas. Private areas. Roman villa style, rooms around the periphery, space in the middle. Sealed off from the rest of the world.

The parks. What they call parks. Are incidental. Really.

Token gestures.

When you go to a park, you're going to a place you go to be public.

And that's different from.

From what?

I don't know — different from what I used to know. Just different. More public in a way.


Like making a political statement, or formally proclaiming a religious view. I am here, now, today, in this place, and am visible. So there. Done.

And then you go home and get all private again and no one knows where you really are or what you are up to and no one cares.

You behind your walls.

Monday, September 21, 2015

JBoob With Chicken

Hey. Don't blame me. I just pressed the button up toppa the camera.

J was already there, boobing around with a chicken on his shoulder. It was like that when I got there. It was like that.

I dint have nothin to do with the chicken neither. Is that a chicken? Who knows? It's something up there beaking into the sky. Might as well call it a chicken. Looks happy. Can't beat happy.

J don't look so much happy, but that's kind of the story. Sad to be here, sad about what seems to be happening, sad about what comes next. Even for the guy in charge it's not a happy story so I'll go with the chicken. Or the boob.


No matter what it's a creepy boob. I don't know. What's the real story here?

Too late to ask, I just pushed the button. So away we go then, and something different next time.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

When The Water Goes Away

They say that there is a certain lurking paranoia.

But I haven't tripped over it yet. Maybe I've been hiding in the wrong place. This could be the reason.

Or not. Who can say?

However, the events of daily life persist in nibbling at my ankles, which is not so good for my socks. And it is distracting. On the whole, of course, distraction is a good thing. Except when it gets to be distracting.

Today I'm a bit distraught over a certain distraction. Which is a certain lack of water coming from any tap. Here. Today.

But who am I to complain? Am I complaining? Nope — don't think so. Not enough to register on the Complain-O-Meter, as far as I can tell anyhow.

I'm only here as an observer, and to emit money while not becoming overly annoying, if I can help it, and no one wants another annoying old guy hanging around. So I'll not complain, but wait.

I hear we're due to receive water this evening at 6 p.m. Is what I've heard. And I got my shower in. I'm clean. Barely, of course. Barely but done, and clean. And things could be worse.


So if you want me I'll be down my hole, lurking until six. Unless today is the day that they come for me. But I'm wedged in pretty well so it should be another good day in the life no matter what.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Sun Is Back (Or I am.)

So there I was, sitting in Port Angeles, WA, on a bus pointed at Sea-Tac Airport south of Seattle.

Was this for me? Again?

I had been to Ecuador twice before, had gotten residency twice before, and both times I had decided not to stay. Because I hadn't realized that I was already dead.

I do now. I think.

Over the last 15 months since I left Ecuador the second time, after I had returned to the U.S., to Washington state, I have disappointed myself, and life has disappointed me.

I had plans, but many of them were not executable due to the circumstances of life as we know it these days, or if they were executable, were only partly executable.

And the rest of my plans, though I was able to carry them out, went missing because, well, ah — I just didn't feel like playing out the whole script.

Some things were administrative: buy a car, select a city to live in, find an apartment, settle in, get to know the place, become another anonymous resident.

Most of the items on my mental to-do list were more decidedly soulful — experiences worth pursuing for their own sake. In other words, making a lot of backpacking trips.


The administrative details kept tripping me. I was aiming at living in Wenatchee. Wenatchee wasn't waiting to receive me into its loving grace. Too expensive.

Although I'm not poor, my income ain't what it was. Walla Walla was too small and isolated. Yakima offered too little, especially the barren landscapes outside the city limits. The Tri-Cities of Richland, Pasco, and Kennewick are in a constant vibrant hum. Lots to do there, well-supplied by retailers. No shortage of cultural events and clubs and so on, but again, more barren landscapes outside the city limits and nowhere to go for miles and miles.

Yeah, so then there was Port Angeles, population 19,000. Not great either, but Olympic National Park is on one side and the ocean is on the other (you can see Canada straight across, 20 miles or so, right there). And cheap.

And gray and wet all winter. But cheap. And close to wilderness.

So that's where I stayed, waiting. Waiting for winter to get over so I could do in the summer of 2015 what I'd wanted to do in the summer of 2014 but couldn't, due to driving around, checking out various cities, hunting for apartments and failing to find a decent and affordable one. What I wanted to do was major backpacking, now that my retirement income had doubled and I could kick back and give backpacking my full attention and just do it.

And then, after waiting months and months and months through the winter, spring came, and then summer, and a lot of Washington state caught fire.

Every place I really wanted to get to burst into flames, so I went to the second tier of places on my list, and those were on fire too, and the third tier, and I ended up going back to trails I'd hiked before, again and again, and ultimately found that I didn't care all that much any more.

I found that it was more fun sleeping in than springing out of bed for an early start to another long day on the trail. I found that I got bored while hiking. It was work.

Partly because I saw very little new territory and partly because I didn't care all that much any more. My strength came back. It takes a while, but it came back fine. I could trudge uphill all day underneath a backpack, but why? I didn't know. I didn't really care to know — I was just bored.

So what's the point then?

I finally decided that I'd passed my expiration date. I'm still good for a while yet, though my flavor might have faded a mite. I might not quite have that sharp, spicy tang any more, maybe not enough of a decline in quality to register during a casual encounter, but it's there — I know it.

I got slightly confused a few times while driving, which is a fine early hint to get out of owning a car. Check.

My new favorite hobby became napping, especially on waking early, when I put the headphones in, tuned to the morning news, and sank back into sleep for another hour or two. Check.

I had fun drinking a beer with lunch. Check.

I endlessly frittered with unimportant things, or passed days just reading. Check.

I focused on small things and decided that what I really wanted was to be irresponsible and float — not to accomplish anything in particular.

And I realized that winter was coming again, and too soon. Which meant that there would be another eight or nine months of gray skies and drizzle before I could reconsider and get out into the back country and try things yet one more time (to be sure, really sure).


Hear that? It's the warning buzzer. What it means is that it's already too late. I bailed. Got my documents together, packed, bought a bus ticket on the Dungeness Line to take me to the airport, and flew away. Twenty-three hours after getting to the airport I descended the stairs from the final plane and once again was on the ground in Cuenca, Ecuador.

Today the sun is shining, right up there among the happy clouds. The temperature is 63°F but the sun is hot. There is a slight breeze — only enough to keep the air from getting stale, no more. The sun will set at 6:17 p.m. tonight and rise tomorrow at 6:12 a.m., The sun will keep doing that sort of thing as long as and even longer than anyone cares to notice.

I have a place to stay and good food. The rest is going to take care of itself.

If the sun is happy, I'm happy too.

I think it might work this time. And if not, I don't really care any more.