Monday, July 29, 2013

Trail of a Lonesome Gringo (IV): Coming off it at El Hostal

Ugh.  Ugh, ugh, ugh.  Pulling away in turmoil, through turmoil and from it, hopefully not to it.  Physical causal reasoning, whispering like a devil; taught so well, while fresh, like a language—not easily forgotten.  So easily learnt.  Pulling away.  Loss of everything.  There are distinct moments, lasting often longer than just one moment, where I feel insanity.  I know exactly what it is.  It’s simple and not foreign at all.  It’s where we come from.  It could even be quite tasty, like cheese with wine.  Which addictions am I pulling away from?  Doesn’t matter much, unless they were blockages in some form; how the fuck can that be ascertained, though?  It can’t.  Back to Go again.  Two hundred pesos.  Not much.  The Tree, in which I lodge, with the Velvet Underground, somehow comforting me, though I’d never have picked that one, despite my long, never-lost love for them.  Waitin’ for my man…that’s pretty much it.  Hey white boy, whatchu doin’ uptown?  Good question, Lou.  Not sussing out my heroin dealer, but something that could be related.  What if I died alone here?  Ah well, there’s two two litre beers I’ll likely have finished before it happens.  Christ, who’d he actually thought that these cat claws would start scratching after things again.  Phasic organisms, we are; well, this one can only speak for itself, I suppose.  Nah, we’re pretty phasic ey.  Absolute.  Scared to speak because now all you hear is, ‘You can’t be right or wrong.’  Isn’t that a muddled philosophy when applied blindly?  Alright.  Who cares?  Nothing happens, nothing matters.  No right, no wrong.  Simple as that.  I don’t think that’s what the Zen Buddhists mean though fellas.  Again, not so simple.  Take it and run but don’t go too fucking far.  The baton must be passed to an other; another.  Living.  Organism.  Have I been pulled completely out of my introversion?  Because of course that would not feel right.  Ugh.  Unlikely.  More like a scab picked and picked and picked, infected.  Lovely to pick though.  A real god damn pleasure.  Yum.  THE FOLK HAVE GATHERED IN THE HALL, THE FEAST AND TALK HAVE BEGUN; RELEASE US.  Donde esta mi guitarra y mi amigos?  Singing never sounded so prosaic.  But I love them all still.  Todavia.  This was a blog once.  What did I do today?  Well, regular words would be like a long showing of holiday photos, terribly boring.  So I woke up.  Got out of bed—after fucking ages tossing and turning and wondering if my dorm-mate had choked on her vomit in the night (alas, she had not) —did not drag a comb across my head, my hair would simply engulf it; then I ate breakfast.  Gracias, senora!  I got all my own shit out to eat only to see that fuck it’s provided, felt like a weirdo foreigner guy that didn’t know what was going on, ‘cos I was.  What of it?  Ate it, told her I was a vegetarian and that’s why the jamon was still on the plate, and the adjoining cheese because it was touching the ham, a weird phenomenon, because I don’t really know whether I’m cool eating something that’s touching meat, I mean, the other half was probably fine, but fuck, do we get particle-ular?  Particle…particular.  Party cooler?  Jesus, I’m losing it.  Went walking around with the ladies, what a vibe, said goodbye to English and visited a magical beach with some street dogs too, biting and running and chasing things—not without purpose, I think.  Without purpose seems to be a thing we might project onto animals.  Dumbness.  Cute dumbness.  Endearing.  It’s great though, seeing in them so much of us.  Their beauty not withstanding.  The beach was grey and muddy and wavy, a giant cannon pointed toward the ocean and I thought maybe pirates were coming and I was right, there were pirates.  I manned the cannon, the girls searched for shells.  When they finally arrived I’d actually left the cannon, which sat below the lighthouse, which I was now in.  But it was broken so I couldn’t guide the pirates into the rocks; and it was also daylight and there were no pirates.  So after that we went back, coursing through some dirty streets, idly chatting (or chatting idly).  Next thing I knew my stomach had been turned inside out, like a godforsaken ghoul.  That voice: what are you doing?  Over and over.  Like a bastard, it was.  I knew once that the answer to that question doesn’t exist; it is a void question that makes no sense and eats its own tail.  Somewhere along the line my mind returned and began defecating on my soul again.  Not for long.  Finally got some great food but mi estomago seems to have shrunk and I eat like an infant now.  Going to try to stretch it out, give it an iron, maybe clear all the shit bits out and then put it back.  Rough and tumble, my friend named a dishevelled bird once.  The name was spot on.  The language has begun to take to me, cheeky beast that it is.  It’s been giving me tips, letting me in on a little more; I think now that if I want to, I can befriend it fully, allowing me to contact its people more easily.  They’re a lovely folk and their words reflect their beings, their take on this big gnarly beast called life; more practical, but also more soulful; more living and human than, say, those of us raised on Friends.  Why can’t I stop watching it though?  I’m learning Spanish from the subtitles.  Killer excuse.  So: do I see Eduardo in the mountains, solo-gringo it way out to the indigenous foothills; or do I waltz down tourist valley and sleep amid new age folk and grapes?  Or both.  Or should I consider having money to go anywhere else?  See what tomorrow morning says.  Haven’t showered in a bit again.  Dirty as a slime.  Over and out.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Trail of a Lonesome Gringo (II): Home Again

Hasta luego means something like ‘until soon’, I said that over and over in my mind and probably aloud the last time I left.  White-washed streets as tranquil as tranquil gets, for streets anyhow; Clint Eastwood put me to sleep last night and believe me, he’s far more tender than you might think.  Some cop drama I’d seen before but hell at least I forgot me troubles, laddy; warm water, as always, like a womb, even if water spilled all down the shower curtain and made a flood in the tiny bathroom.  Too easy to flood, me says.  And when the shower curtain funnels it all down one little section where it’s not pulled into the actual shower, it pretty much guarantee maximum floodage.  Clean again, home again, alone but not stoned again.  Very fresh morning, overcast and crisp.  Kindly folk, like a country town but now quite country; rural-feeling, lots of space and little shops selling little things.  Hostel with a warm fire and a kindly, kindly old soul who I can throw Spanish to without worry.  She’s not the first, nor the last apparently, ‘cos then I went to the square (how I love the squares here), called in pretty much all the towns I’ve visited here, the plaza de armas.  It’s weird ‘cos it seems to mean the ‘weapons’ or ‘arms’ square.  Ironic or am I completely misinformed?  Paz is all they seem to harbour.  Peace.  Comfortability somewhat established I am unleashed feeling less ill than before, though the fact that I wake not hungry is slightly concerning.  Onwards and across.  The square, markets, local people and families wandering about on an empty-feeling Sunday.  Muesli with all sorts of things in it: sustenance.  I buy it immediately with some dried cranberries.  This cuerpa must be fed.  Soon it will come wanting...!  The dogs here are very sleepy.  Hungry like me.  All the dogs are very at home where they are; they aren’t phased by the gringo, or the locals, or anything much really.  Lots of pet shops here too; people seem to care about them—or at least they don’t mind their presence.  Eduardo is a man with a broom, sweeping away at the markets; he’s not a janitor though, he has a stall selling emu oil, t-shirts, a few knick-knacks.  He’s from the mountains though now, he says, he travels about selling stuff.  His enthusiasm and friendliness is a little disconcerting, which says more about me than him I think.  Broken Spanish and suddenly he’s drawing me a map to his town, up in the mountains, los Andes, way way out where there are more indigenous people.  Two hours across to a town named Ovalle, then up, up, way up to the mountains.  The mountains.  Montanas.  As we speak two or three people come to join, asking if he needs someone to translate; god knows how they know English, or why they’re so keen to help.  This friendliness is astounding.  Smiling, smiling, he jots his phone number down and says to call some time when I’m in Ovalle, or to visit the markets there where I will find him and he can show me around.  He has a daughter and a wife and lots of cute dogs.  He seems jittery and a bit nervous, but with a kind heart.  I thank him and wander off, no direction, just keeping track of where I came from.  A lady in the street.  Beggar?  She holds some herbs, starts ranting to me and gesturing towards the herbs; I think she’s a beggar and so grab a few coins out and she takes them but it’s not over; she pulls me to a door and grabs my hand, and I start to feel a bit worried—are we going inside?  Shit.  What do I do?  But no, she grabs my hand and starts reading it, babbling away in Spanish far too quick for me to understand much at all.  She keeps touching the herbs onto my hand and then, pulling a note out of her satchel, gesticulates with the note across my hand.  Eventually I realise that the reading has ended already; she wants more dosh to read more.  I tell her no, no entiendo bastante!  I don’t understand enough!  While she was reading I tried to feel her voice more than understand the words; she did seem to be doing something as all this was going on.  They’re common here.  Tarot readers, all that kind of thing.  I plan now to get a few readings, maybe record them or get the reader to write them down.  I leave the woman and stroll casually down the street, surely to the amusement of the locals.  Oftentimes I find myself heading down a street or road, stopping and turning back.  This is necessary when you have no idea where you are or what you’re doing, but to local people it must be a sure sign: this person is not from here.  Nonetheless, it must be done; otherwise, where do you go?  Continue into a wall just to prove to people you don’t know that you’re cool, know what’s going on?  Foolish either way, perhaps.  Stop, about turn, walk.  Markets, streets, shops, restaurants; but everything here seems smaller, more humble.  No one seems to be too concerned with themselves only.  Social.  Tranquil.  Even the supermarket is quieter, less commercial (complete paradox, I know).  Fruit, water, nuts, bread, juice.  Stuff to live.  Away and back again but I see the Japanese gardens and have to go in, carrying all my grocery bags, not the best choice but now that I’m here I have to go in.  Japanese gardens in the middle of a Chilean town.  Beautiful.  No words.  Zen.  Home again.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Trail of a Lonesome Gringo (I)

Hum-drum fears, tears, sensations visceral like I’d never imagined.  There are more than two ways of looking at all this; but first, I must re-trace my steps in order to find where I left my stomach.  Just old change again; just old change again—­jumped the gun.  Ya gotta run, run, run, run, run, take a drag or two.  Heard it all before, boss.  Heard it all before.  Duh, lah-lah-lah.  Hrmph (hermf).  Next thing I know there are two Pakistani guys who seem to be running some sort of shady business from a backpackers’ hostel; see, I mean, I guess it’s pretty normal for two older men to get up every day and put on suits in that kind of place; you know, storing all these plastic bags with random new-looking products in them in all the lockers, I don’t mind not having one, don’t get me wrong, but how is it that you two are in the business of selling soccer balls, working between Iquique and Santiago, Chile?  I have no idea, truth be told.  Not one. But being brothers, I’m sure it’s all bona fide family business.  Thanks also for the chorus of snores and flatulence each night; and also for blasting Paki-rock throughout the communal area while people are trying to chill out; and also for waking up at ungodly hours without considering at all that the gigantic room light probably isn’t necessary to get changed.  Loudest morning whispers I’ve ever heard, too.  Golly.  Onwards and upwards though, right, I guess.  The days are young; blood spills all the time.  Remember the French Revolution?  Nope, but heads did roll.  Perhaps a fairy-tale came out of all this after all: a German princess arrives, gentle murmuring sounds as she sleeps awaiting her prince.  Alas, there appear to be few princes here.  Maybe they hide in the subway?  The blood brothers seem evil and conduct business in order to kidnap this Bavarian bachelorette, while elsewhere forces leaning more to the good side shoot knowing glances at one another, wondering if it’s really all happening and whether they should intervene.  There are three levels here: one is one, two is two, and the third is the highest.  It’s very loud in this forest, where she sleeps.  A Chilean woman keeps a swift eye out for pretty much everything; it’s a more trained eye, because it’s been in this forest for a while.  It speaks their language, while most of us just make funny noises at what we think are animals, hoping that maybe they will understand.  Two nights and thus two night-shifts are probably enough—I am convinced I’m not the prince and want to get the hell out of there.  Maybe that’s where my stomach was left.  Christ…I hope it catches up.  More seats.  Traveling, especially away from weird places, is all about seats.  Plane seats, bus seats, wagon seats.  The latter is more from a fairy tale perspective of travel.  Horses pull wagons and I guess that sort of makes you think there might be magic around.  No?  Es verdad, chicos.  Making my way, way away, on foot, I look confused as always and a real Chilean queen appears, somehow trained in the tongue, asking me with a tenderness unseen in my home country, whether I need help.  Well, of course I do, so I accept her kind offer.  Which wagon do I take?  I know already, but I’m unsure and what better when you’re unsure than to be re-assured by someone with a kind heart.  Kind hearts might just be what I’m after, after all.  The dazed gringo masturbates a map, glancing around like a challenged man, umming and ahh-ring with his entire being: Run, run, run, run, run, Gypsy death and you, tell ya whatcha do.  And this creature so kind then offers to take me, like the stupefied child I am, to the location of my wanting.  So the world isn’t so unkind after all; there are some out there, beasts of burden, shaped somehow beyond the run of things, blessed enough to hold a hand out to a mouse in a crowd.  Train away, or carriage, or cart, depending on the era and dimension of reality.  Fictional non-fiction, comin’ atchya!  The saga rolls on until the bus terminal, which seems terminally ill in some strange way, sedates the gringo, who collapses and watches the mountains, seen now for the first time (the smog has lifted), breathes slowly and eats some papas fritas: I don’t usually eat unhealthily, but I do already feel as though my body might be wasting away; last night my ribs looked 3D and when I felt them I wasn’t sure if it was a normal feeling.  So I bought a media luna too, fatty and filled with custard, munching away as the locals threw little eyes at me—what is this guy doing here?  And then the seat.  Night fall.  The ocean: as soon as I see it, despite it being dark and miserable, I feel my breathing again.  That’s right, I can breathe.  Deeply.  And onwards and upwards and onwards and upwards.  Constant doubt about where and when to get off, despite knowing it’s all probably quite simple.  Proxima, proxima, proxima…and then that horrid feeling as you remember, or find out, or discover, that you don’t have a bed and it’s dark and everyone else knows what the fuck they’re doing.  Golly again.  Run, run, run, run, run, take a drag or two.  Alas, the people here are kinder; a wagon-driver informs me of a home I can have for the night. Es seguro andar? Si.  And off he goes, still a little shaken, still a little sore at the world, to a warm shower, a fuck-load of tea (the peace it brings…) and action films in Spanish.  Time to realign.  Time to find the time, to feel those signs, re-design and find a loving eatery, sin carne, to feast my troubles away and stare at the mountains, knowing deep in my heart that out there troubles loose their footing easily, stumble down stiff peaks, and die.  Gringo out.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Drop Off

So we dropped Phil off at the job, said we’d be back later and when we did he was covered in blood, gaunt and all, like, dazed and dreamy.  Straight away he asked if we could go and I looked at Marty and Marty just nodded, all panicked, his eyes all white and staring in horror at Phil’s blood-stained clothes.  The sound of the truck idling started to get to me and so I grabbed Phil and pulled him into the truck, blood smearing all over my white shirt as I did, and told Marty to step on the fucking accelerator.  I dunno why, but I felt like I had to take control of whatever this situation was.  I hadn’t a clue what the fuck had happened, but it wasn’t good and Phil needed to be out of sight, at least until things were sorted.  Maybe it wasn’t something so bad; maybe it was just an accident and he was in shock.  None of us knew so it’d be best not to freak out.  We sped off and eventually, after an eerie and silent trip, I pulled into a quiet street next to some factories and we started questioning Phil about what happened.  He said everything had gone well, the job was done, he said goodbye to the old lady and that was that.  Me and Marty just gawked at one another, unable to fathom how he was saying what he was saying.  We turned and stared at him from the front two seats of the pick up.  I asked him, well why the fuck is there blood all over your uniform?  My patience was running a little thin.  Things weren’t right here and he wasn’t saying anything; for all we knew, we were transporting a fugitive.  There was a short silence but, as smooth as silk, he looked down, slowly, looked back up, and said: Oh, this?  And tipping his hat proceeded to explain to us that there had been a cut on his head, underneath his hat, all day, and that it had bled and bled without him noticing it until it was too late and it had stained his entire uniform.  His words didn’t even seem rehearsed and scarier still, he didn’t seem to be lying—or at least, he didn’t realise he was.  We kept saying, what?  What?  What?  But he remained sickly calm and explained everything in real simple terms, like there still wasn’t anything to worry about.  But mate, Marty screamed, there’s human fucking blood all over you and you’re telling us that it all came from a cut on your head that you didn’t notice until the end of the job?  And the bastard just shook his head, over and over.  We asked him to show us the cut and so he removed his hat and his hair was actually caked with blood and there did appear to be a deep wound there, but fuck, we both said, each questioning him in different words but with the same gist, basically asking him how he could have gone a whole day not noticing a gaping wound in his fuckin’ head, but he just rolled on with more stories, extremely tranquil, as though what he was saying had actually happened.  At a complete loss, me and Marty both stopped our questioning and I leant against the dashboard, thinking to myself, and Marty with one arm out the window started fumbling for a cigarette and I asked for one immediately.  We both smoked for a few minutes and then Phil asked for one and not being able to think of a reason why not Marty gave him one.  Unsure of what to do next I told Phil he was going to show us the job, that we’d drive back, I’d find him a change of clothes and we’d go through exactly what he’d done that day, nothing excluded, and he of course just said yeah no worries, of course I’ll show you.  Even weirder was that he didn’t question being questioned so much, so even if he believed his own words, which I really think he must have, he wasn’t aware that it was strange to be asked so many questions about the blood and where it came from.  Christ, I kept thinking, what a fucking day. So off we drove, Marty smoking like a digger, me running my hand through my hair constantly, trying to figure out this weird mess, and of course Phil in the back, sitting there like a god damn child, staring out the windows and occasionally blinking very slowly.  I shot Marty another look and he shot one back and we both thought the same thing: what has this fucker done?  He’d been with us for years now, never done a bad job, never been in trouble, and now this.  She was an old bat, too, so fuck knows why he’d have done her in—it was a straightforward job, like any other day.  We arrived at the property and there were patches of blood that neither Marty nor me had noticed earlier, smudged across various sections of the pavement out front and on the door and even some footprints of it coming from the house.  I know Marty felt as sick as I did and we both got comfort from just eyeing one another, knowing that we weren’t involved and that we at least didn’t need to worry about us going to jail.  Phil stepped out immediately, almost mechanically, and walked around the back of the truck.  Fuck, I thought.  What if he does us in, too?  What if the old woman’s still alive and we have to see some horrific scene that this apparent psychopath has created while we were off doing other jobs, minding our business.  There seemed no friendly ending to this story.  Marty stepped out after him and I followed, feeling cold and sick at the prospect of seeing something fucked up inside.  We followed him into the property, at a safe distance, hoping this was all some weird mistake; hoping that maybe he’d just lost his mind and taken to a possum or something, but things got worse.  Marty was just ahead of me and as he stepped into the front door I heard what sounded like him throwing up.  It was him throwing up.  He’d stepped aside and was puking all over the floor and at first I was watching this happen but then I saw it, strung up in front of the TV, with Phil standing next it peering out the window into the garden.  He started to explain how he’d trimmed the hedges a little bit lower this time, because they’d grow faster in the springtime, and that the tree he’d chopped down was still in the yard because the chainsaw had broken and he couldn’t lug it out the front by himself, and he kept prattling on like this for what felt like ages, just staring out into the yard and suddenly I started to feel sick too, not only with the sight of the dangling clump of meat before me but the whole fucking thing, the whole scene and this psychopath talking like that, so god damn collected and confident as though nothing was there, nothing had happened, and so I just leant against a couch somehow knowing from his serenity that Phil wasn’t going to murder us too, being sure that he himself didn’t even know what he had done and for some insane reason I cannot even begin to explain, he wasn’t even comprehending what was swaying before him.  God; it was actually as bad as it seemed it could be.  He’d strung her up with line-trimmer wire but it, the thing hanging there, didn’t even look like a human; the light was on and the details were so clear and then sirens, all I heard was sirens and no one moved, we were all too sick, too stuck, or too insane to move or consider doing anything and it seemed like just a few seconds seconds before the door was being pounded on but still no one moved and Phil kept talking, talking, talking about the yard and the job he’d done and the seasons and even how the lady had offered him a cup of tea and BANG the door was down, they stormed in furiously and took all of us, Marty first, covered in vomit, me and finally Phil, who still didn’t seem to know what was happening.  And the last thing, the very last thing I can see in my head, is that unholy scene: that woman, dangling, ruptured, severed, dripping, soaked, hanging from the ceiling of her own home, and a man staring up at her, blinking like an infant, talking about the grass, and the leaves, and the branches, talking slowly and monotonously like the words were falling from his mouth out onto the ground, rhythmic, pulsing, steady.  Then they drove us away.