the escape artist (early 2013)

The escape artist was practicing his disappearing act in his head, slightly distracted by the heat of his room, even more distracted when the fan turned to send its chill. He could relate this infrequency with the air to his own nature. In one idle state of being, usually pressed in by some warm force seeking to hold him still, until the wind came and he blew away with it. The thought gives him pleasure, never one to stick too long to any single idea, his mind moves on to a few of his favorite sayings. “Variety is the spice of life”.
He was trying to put together a better one. A combination of all his favorites boiled down to their essence and mixed together like an old mashed soup: Everything in moderation-including moderation. Fame and fortune are predestined, of what use is a guileful heart? Rather, constantly seek the truth, maintain your discipline, and preserve your dignity. Fortune favors (s)he who dares. Nothing Gold can stay.
Now the escape artist had his ideals in life all narrowed down to words spoken or penned by people he greatly admired. This brought satisfaction of a confirmed ideal; an acknowledgement of the fact that most everything worth saying has been said in some way before, but there still exists the option to rework some of those truest to you, to put your own mark to them.
And here the young scatterbrain tries to return to his initial thought of how to leave this heat. Recently he’d been trying to learn to leave without burning bridges, realizing a bit late that it only increases this hated heat. The heat has a tenacity to it, as it’s much easier to collect something than to do the Bruce Lee and work towards nothing. A favorite school lesson-cold is merely lack of heat.
Now there are a few things anchoring the escape artist to this current set. Bear in mind, most everything is a prison of sorts. Your body keeps you wanting and needing-food and water, a place to dump them. Money gives a queer sense of freedom yet brings the ever increasing desire for more. We get into relationships with others to be free from ourselves, but become slaves to their desires, needing to be ever present in their lives. The escape artist wonders; does any person really know freedom? He should like to meet them. Perhaps there’s a google search to find them.

The travelogue: Part I (2012)

I had been home from Israel for 2 weeks. Taglit was exhaustingly illuminating. I immediately wanted to go back to Tel Aviv, sort of wished I had saved this trip for a time in my life where I was feeling better, could have been more confident, more social, more outgoing. Better. The end of the trip was exhilarating. Five others and I decided to stay a few extra days in Tel Aviv. We befriended some marooned pick up artist who’d had all of his bags stolen and was waiting to go on an archaeological dig somewhere up near Haifa, the very north of little Israel. He joined our group and showed us his tricks. They failed invariably but we bought him drinks anyway, for the sheer fun of it. I admired his willingness to approach anyone, his unshakeable confidence. He attempted to give me advice on flirting with the Israeli girl I had developed a crush on in our first few days there. Early one night I had introduced all the israeli guys to Irish Car bombs and, committed to showing them how to drink, I managed to get stupid, stumbling drunk. No girl worth impressing is impressed by this. I got to the point where I couldn’t pronounce her name and she still put up with me, good-naturedly teaching me random Hebrew. She tricked me into telling all the Israeli guys I was gay and they would all burst out laughing. I was not to be embarrassed, smiled and accepted their explanations and a few embraces. Our group of American college students and Israeli army members stayed up all night laying on the monuments in some park in the middle of the city. A monument to Ben Yahuda maybe. We walked back to our cheap hostel near the beach with the drunk that comes as the sunrise makes you forget about the alcohol. I was tired but clear, hooked to the lifestyle. We slept three hours then went to the beach.
I stayed in Tel Aviv a day longer than everyone in the original group, walked around the city and went shopping to replace the khaki shorts our pick up artist kept making fun of me for. I thought about how I had worn pink pants in the desert just 5 days prior, drinking arak, laying on stranger’s stomaches, talking about conspiracies and the stars. It was good to be alone, good to be alive. I slept most of my flight home, woke up with my head on my neighbors shoulder. Apologized, went back to sleep with my silent friend for four more hours.
When I got home I realized there was nothing for me there. I began thinking of what to do with my time, with the $15,000 I had saved. When I was 15 I spent a month in Costa Rica with a group called Wilderness Ventures. I met one of my first role models, a 30 something year old man named Joshua, who had a penchant for rapping up advice in tall tales. He taught me how to take the ginger out of a flower, told me to eat half the ginger and put the flower behind a girls ear, handed me a second flower and pushed me towards the girl he had seen me looking at throughout the day. Somehow my sheepishness dissolved under his assured gaze and I put the flower behind the girl’s ear. She kissed me, the next night, as everyone went to sleep. Two days later we went surfing and I got up on my first try, surfed all day, then had my board cut me on the top of my ankle. I still have a small crescent scar which reminds me of Joshua and the rainforest. A friend from that trip told me he’s dead now, of some rainforest disease. I remember him when I can and try to be courageous.
So after Israel I decided to push my courage and go on a surfing trip.

Until then.
-Maxwell

Late Nights, Early Flights (2014)

I never sleep well before I travel somewhere. Doesn’t matter how far I’m going, a creeping anxiousness comes between me and my blankets as I try to get well rested before sitting on a plane. I’m done living in Lauderdale. Tomorrow I’m flying to Puerto Rico with my British friend. I don’t know how long I’ll stay or what exactly I’m doing there. I assume going to the beach and drinking. Going on tours of San Juan and the surrounding islands.

I sent home all of my things I brought down to lauderdale, save for a few changes of clothes. I buried the broken record player, last remnant of the car wreck. Not even the pain lingers. I suppose it didn’t want to leave Lauderdale. I didn’t touch my short story once while down here. So much for that plan. At least I read a few good books and met a lot of good people. It was fun to watch the city mutate as different crowds came and went, to watch the locals move like the tides in and out of certain bars, tourists pushing and pulling them like moon gravity. I sat relentlessly through it all, a rock on the beach.

I’d like to be able to sit here and wax on about what I’ve learned in the last few months but nothing really comes to mind, just the specifics of a few people I met (shoutout to Scary Jerry) and moments I spent with them. This is all a life lived in the moment really is. I plan on moving past it now, into different ones, and I’ll let thoughts of the past infect my mind, I’ll do my best to try and diagnose them with reason. For now, I have diagnosed myself as needing sleeping. My pillow has much to tell me.

Greetings from what’s no longer my room. More on Puerto Rico and America, soon.

-Maxwell

Observations on a Train

We will have to jump to this point in the story of my life, and I hope it can be a prelude to a coming piece. 

I had spent too much time in Paris. I arrived, met a friend and another, left quickly to celebrate Queen’s Day in Amsterdam, then returned to bid my friends farewell and get to know the Romantic Capital on my own. I believe I spent 3 weekends there, but time got to all sides of me and I’m not really sure how long that particular dream lasted. I remember one great night, right after I arrived back from Amsterdam.

I’m at my hostel bar alone. People make me nervous, but I know the workers and they give me specials on drinks, which lends me intrigue. Tip: Always befriend the workers.

There is a blonde girl talking to an older australian boy behind me. I interject and introduce myself. We all drink for half an hour or so and then somehow the Australian is ousted and this lovely Swedish girl who had just spent 3 months working at a hostel in Barcelona, is asking me to take her out that night, me in my black t-shirt with a pocket, tight grey pants and black flip-flops. Her in a green dress that clashed against her blue eyes and a small coat. We go to my favorite bar area, Bastille, and it is uneventful. A bar tender pours liquor all over the bar and sets it on fire. We warm ourselves beside it and head back out. A French man comes up and introduces himself to us, and he is outraged to find me wearing flip flops. Such disrespect! And with such a pretty woman. If there was one conversation I wish I could have recorded, it was this one. I try to explain, “I must wear them, I have an infected wound on my foot from a skating accident in Thailand (great to say) and shoes pain me so!” But he can only reply, “no, no, no, I don’t know how you do in your country but this is Paris! You must respect the city, you must respect your female friend. Why would she want to go out with someone disgusting like you!? It is pitiful. I do not understand.”

He repeats himself, in nicer language than I credit to him, for around 10 minutes. We excuse ourselves. It is 2 a.m. and we are low on money and we want to go out in a better area. We get in a cab and go home and then I see my friend, a Hostel worker, and he tells me the absolute place to be is an Irish bar in Montmartre. My swedish friend wants to get drunk. We get in another cab at 2:30 and go all the way to the north of the city, find the bar, stumble in, and we find all of my friends who work at the hostel.

I buy a drink, a long island without any coke in it. I spend 15 minutes quaffing this, sharing with the swedish girl, and reveling in the unexpected appearance of almost everyone I know in Paris.
The bar has to close, and the dreadlocked hostel worker tells us to follow him, he knows a place where we can keep drinking. While we are walking, the little French bartender from my hostel steals me from my Swedish friend. I always smile at her at breakfast but she always looks away quickly, I had surmised that she didn’t notice me. Someone told me earlier that she is unofficially dating the muscular Romanian bartender. He’s intimidating but for some reason seemed to be the most likely to sell me a cheap drink.

So she comes up and grabs me, I never knew her name, and she takes me in an alleyway and begins kissing me. She kisses me for a two minute eternity. Then she shushes me and pushes me back out to find my friend.

So we end up at an apartment building, and the dreadlocked boy climbs a fence, lets us in. Breaks open a door, lets us in. Shushes us as we walk up two flights of stairs, and then he pushes open a door to a barren and unfurnished three bedroom apartment, disappears in the kitchen, and comes back with two bottles of vodka. I take several swigs while eying the cute french girl, while failing to realize that a beautiful swedish girl would like to be kissing me as well. How terrible the clarity of hindsight is. 

We all stay up drinking and talking until the sun comes up. I, happily, can not recall a single word that was said. Two girls from Alabama took it upon themselves to bring me home, and I decide the pinnacle of a good night is not having to take a cab home. We hop on the metro, I tell them about how I must be in love, and they assure me they’ve gotten me out of trouble. Romania no longer sells me cheap drinks, and the french girls’ stare lingers at breakfast.

Paris was good to me, but I had to go. I packed my bag, walked the 10 minutes to the metro, and took it to Gare du Nord. I bought a train ticket for 80 euro and in moments I was seated on the train, nothing in my stomach but some pan du chocolate and an orangina. I dreamily watched the other passengers-Observations on a Train.

 

Every time the boy rides the train, his chair will be just a bit smaller, his view out the window a bit better. He’s too caught up in the excitement of the world and his new ability to speak and to count and to perceive to notice. His mother is too caught up in trying to make him eat and nap. She exasperatingly fails to notice. But I am listlessly observing, book on my lap, remembering the days when, at half my current size, my house was a cavern and adults were odd-intentioned giants. Savor childhood. It may not last.

Movements part I

I saw Astrid swat a fly dead then fail to find it after sweeping it away, continually looking, confused at the disappearance. Her sureness of having killed it faded as a new fly appeared. From my vantage point, I knew it was merely a new fly, flies being a plentiful pest. She regarded it as a failure and didn’t even bother trying to swat this new one.

I look away to see a man walking forward confidently, stick in hand, only to stumble as the dog he is leading turns abruptly to a patch of grass. The look on his face is like that of a schoolboy after having leaned too far back in their chair. Surprise is ageless

The van is a smarter move than a bus. Its drawback, especially for me and my weak system, is the lack of a bathroom. This is made up in speed and a modicum of comfort. Feet inching in all directions yet hesitating to invade the space of strangers. All couples and locals, Astrid and I the oddballs-certainly not a couple and even further from local, with our height and pale skin.

I must note: an iPod is a funny writing medium. In times like now-bags hardly accessible, the ride too shaky to write legibly with pen-it’s really the only option. How else to get out these spur of the moment thoughts?

These partially developed winding mountainous roads all seem the same to me. The only difference with the Philippines is the occasional cross shouting its devotion from a hillside. An ever-present catholic fervor from hillsides to windshields. “God bless our journey.” I surely have no objection to that prayer.

The Philippines are really a funny place. With culture and language heavily influenced to the roots by the Spanish who colonized for nearly 400 years, and later by the Americans who took over at the turn of the 20th century, installing our own language-still present-in the schools leaving a huge mark in only 40 years. Nearly every Pilipino is bilingual.

The very spirit of the Pilipino is admirable. From the defeat of Magellan to their independence and recovery after WWII. Possibly most impressive (in as few words as possible) was the peaceful upheaval of Ferdinand Marcos by the widow of Ninoy Aquino (who was assassinated after his exile in the US), Cory Aquino.

A brief of my brief history lesson from Manila. I previously passed a wild week in Boracay and now am on a cramped bus (aforementioned) on my way to El Nido. We’ll see whatever this next leg of my journey has in store.

Much love from my iPod.
-Maxwell

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Choosing through musings

I left for the airport, intentionally leaving my umbrella behind, and it began to rain. I’ve great respect for whoever said “when it rains, it pours”. Nail on the head, nail on the head.

My cabbie is running out of gas. I’m struggling to poeticize this now, but that’s life. I’m still smiling, and the beach is still waiting for me. If it rains there I’ll merely go underwater and watch the droplets drum on the water’s surface, envisioning “the beach”, the chapter with the rainy days. I’ll pretend I’m hunting for fish with a spear…if there are fish to aid my pretending.

Back to now, my cabbie is explaining the difference in gas prices (3.50 a km) to fare (1 a km). No wonder they try to rip off every falang.

Also, who coined the phrase “coined a phrase”?