I am moving to Brooklyn in a few weeks. This is the end of my Southward travels. My bike is sadly disassembled in a box. This abrupt shift in life plan has led to some very poignant questions: What do you do for a living? What are you going to do with your life? What is your thirty second elevator speech?
Well, to begin with, I haven’t been in an elevator for several years.
I need to revise my resume. Who am I? What have I done in the past few years? I would probably be listed as itinerant or destitute by most federal agencies. I would definitely fit into the category of ‘disgruntled worker’ in an economic census. I have virtually no physical manifestations of what I have been doing with my life. It helps to look back. This is what I was doing on this very day in recent years:
I wrote the following in my journal on a motorcycle trip in India seven years ago on October 16th:
“Left this morning after an okay breakfast. We cruised some beautiful mountain and coastal roads with no idea where we were going. I have finally gotten a real good hang of banking the bike around turns, which is a blast.
Finally we got to highway 17 and we were forced to blow around a police roadblock. It was a thrill. I am now sitting in a beach villa writing since we cannot return until later due to the police roadblocks.
Leaving later had no effect on the police presence, which lead to us blatantly blowing through about 3-4 police roadblocks. The force was apparently stepped up due to the once a year unveiling of the ‘Infant Jesus’ in Culver, which draws people from all over Goa.
Blowing through one police roadblock I actually made eye contact with cop as he stepped in front of my bike and clearly motioned me to the side. I motioned to him that I was pulling over and started pulling to the side, and then hammered down on the throttle and took off.
After consciously avoiding police several more times, we made it back to Baga for the night. We were delayed since Anthony suffered a front tire blowout. We had to go to a shady shack in the woods to get it fixed. The guy there guessed we were from the states right off for the first time, but I believe that it is due to the fact that we were smoking Camels. They patched the tire, but the power had been out all day, thus they said they could not fill it. The power miraculously switched on and off we went.
We got back to Baga and checked in at Traveler’s Guest House. We ate and went out for drinks since it was our last night together.
We were playing pool at the bar and getting pissed, it was a blast. We were the only customers thus the bar tender felt free to produce a hash joint which I promptly smoked with him. I feel asleep after sitting at Maioka for a while again.”
Five years ago I was living in the Central Yucatan in a small village called Xpujil where nobody spoke English and I spoke a modicum of Spanish where I wallowed in post-graduation confusion.
Here is some of what I wrote as I was hitchhiking through Chihuahua two years ago on October 16th:
“We decide to hitchhike to Recusarare Falls and start our walk South out of town to hitchhike from the rotunda. It is a beautiful morning and there are cottonwoods with their leaves changing. We get to the rotunda and there is virtually no traffic; I am worried that I am going to look like an idiot for pushing this plan forward. We are chatting with a local guy after waiting for 30 minutes or so and a family in a pickup rolls by and throws us in back with a brand new big screen TV. Miriam and I have shit eating grins on our face for the whole ride. Once again, the best way to see the world is from the back of someone else’s pickup.
We get dropped off and start our hike down. We are going along a creek bed and through lush stands of ponderosa pine. There is a group of donkeys grazing in one meadow where two small streams converge; I try to pet them but they will have none of it. The trail winds into more rugged terrain and there are many Tarahumara women about, all industriously working on artisan crafts: baskets, scarves, belts, bracelets. All of it good quality. They are selling it, but will not say anything to us but a quiet, muttered ‘buenos dias.’ All with the most piercing black eyes that the indigenous people of Central America have and bright dresses.
After laying out on the rocks in the midday sun to warm up, we head down canyon through a boulder choked canyon with blue pools in between. Everything is mossy and lush, yet littered with the remnants of globalization in the form of Coke bottles and Frito bags. All of this requires a lot of jumping and bouldering. Miriam says in English how doing this makes her feel alive; I couldn’t agree more. I find a super creepy dolls head and put it into my backpack. We finally reach a pretty tricky point and decide to turn back.”
A year ago today I was training to ride my bicycle South.
Eight months ago I arrived in Guatemala and randomly met a girl named Lauren in Guatemala who had taken a four hour car ride with my mom at one point before deciding to travel to Guatemala after hearing about my adventures.
Seven months ago I decided to quit my job, break up with my girlfriend in Utah, and stay in Xela, Guatemala after staying up all night watching a volcano erupt.
Two weeks ago I was training and prepping to ride North through Mexico with Lauren.
Ten days ago Lauren received an email from a friend regarding a job opening that was essentially her dream job.
Seven days ago she accepted the job on the condition that we move to Brooklyn within three weeks.
Here are some excerpts from conversations in the past week:
‘Dad. I wanted to let you know before anyone else that Lauren accepted a job in Brooklyn that starts in a few weeks. We aren’t going to do the bike trip anymore and will be home in a week or so.
So you called to tell me that you are becoming a barrista?’
‘I spent a summer living there once. To succeed, to survive, you need to be angry. Don’t worry though, you will become angry just by living there.’
‘The East Coast is weird. People there care where you went to highschool, what your parents do for a living. I had a boyfriend’s dad ask me my SAT score the first time that we met, apparently he does it to all of his kids partners.’
‘How are you going to live there? How do you have any money left? I think I should explain this to you since you have been in Guatemala so long: having three figures in your bank account shouldn’t make you feel rich.’
‘You could probably get a job cleaning the building where Lauren works or maybe making tortillas. Cuatro por cinco!
Yeah…. I am going there like an immigrant with everything that I own strapped to my back and no clue as to the future. I am like a cockroach though, I know how to adapt and survive.’
‘I saw this movie with Michael J. Fox where he went to work for a publishing house in New York, something you could do since you like writing, and he rose up to editor from copy boy. He did it by snorting mounds of cocaine and staying up all night.’
‘Don’t worry, there are plenty of weird people like you there. Everyone is doing something interesting.’
‘Hahahaha. I can’t imagine you there. Good luck adjusting to the sedentary life!’
‘I get self conscious when I am there. There are literally flocks of supermodels roaming Manhattan. Flocks of them!’
Yesterday I was vexed with anxiety over what I am going to do in Brooklyn, over where I am going with my life. I have not built my life around work like the hypertrophied, ravenous, career professionals for which New York is famous. I have traveled extensively, met incredible people, learned another language, read hundreds of books, and discovered more about myself and humanity than I ever could have imagined. How do I reorient all of this to sound like I am a valuable and diligent worker?
How am I qualified for this position? Honestly, I am probably not.
Today I am reflecting on my life. I have chosen the path that I walk, over and over again, yet all too often I look back in frustration at its sinuous course. I navigate through life with my values as a compass, often leading myself in directions that are confusing to others and myself. I don’t really know where I am going, but as usual I feel good about it. I haven’t had a boring chapter in a long time and I am sure that this one will be no different. It is just a continuation of the adventure, of my life.
The coyote called today from Juarez; he wants the money before the month is out. He threatened the milpa in San Pedro Matagallinas again. The farm isn’t worth anything anymore; the rains never come on time and we can only grow maize. The seeds and fertilizer are expensive. It is home though. Carlitote and Josephinita need new school uniforms, they need books, they need a future. I need tortillas. There is not enough work. There is the rooster though, The Gallo de Oro.
I promised him a peaceful life in the North as we waded across the Rio Grande. It cannot be though; there is a greater fight. He will strut under the lights of the ring once more, squaring off against a sleek, bowled cockerel with filed talons raised behind a bodega in the Bronx. The Gallo de Oro is hard and lean from the free range; he has fought in Hormigas, in Hermosillo, in Tecpatan, in Cholula, in Nogales, in Juarez. The pluck has seemed to have gone out of him with his departure from the ring; he was meant to dance. And so it will be. I am the Gallo de Oro.
I enter the fray, no limit to my potential other than my own ambition. I am working in an office with my face against my palm as the fluorescent lights bleach my soul. I am stressed; my teeth hurt from grinding them at night. I stand up to shovel Chinese food into my mouth as I peer out on the shimmering lights of the city from an office building, exhausted from a frantic night of scribbling out the nonsense that is in my head onto a white board, only to be interrupted as someone taps me on the shoulder to hand me a comically oversized check. I twirl in Time Square, reveling in the brilliant light of the utmost manifestation of the material dream. I see Thomas Pynchon cross the street in front of my car; he is just another human. I read ticker tapes that reflect my prudence and intelligence of my investments, numbers that hint that I may be able to get a little place in the Hamptons someday.