Losing Che

I know the smell of Cuba, of revolution.  I’ve never been there, but I swear I know it.

It’s Sharpie markers. It’s phony Cuban cigar smoke. And it’s the vaguely humiliating stink of being rich and white that rises up off you like a dead-meat odor when you stare, bewitched, into the eyes of a dead man who probably would have hated everything about you.

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From the archive: Off the Rails in Killarney

I am cleaning out my literary closets. Trying to get a few long-abandoned writing projects out the door in whatever form seems fitting. I wrote this more than a decade ago, when I’d just returned home from living in Europe. It’s non-fiction, of course. I partied a lot then. Enjoy.

It is three o’clock in the morning on New Year’s Eve in a hostel in Killarney, Ireland, terrible year of our lord 2002, and things have gotten out of hand.

In the corner of the lounge, a group of Australians are noisily arguing the merits of various New Year’s Resolutions. Carrie, a plain, squat girl from Melbourne, has resolved to keep in better touch with an aging Grandmother. Ben from Sydney wants to start flossing.

Drunken Irishmen are pissing on the buildings outside. Perhaps it is a tradition, I don’t know.

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Mexico City – Photo Gallery 2 (DF to Portland by way of airplane + headcold, stomach flu, etc., etc.)

Caught a few overlapping and particularly nasty viruses on my way out of Mexico City and back to Portland by way of Southern California. Add to this a massive Dec. 31 editing deadline and I was out for the terrible, terrible count, doing that favorite old dance of Sometime-Gringo adventurers, the Aztec Two-Step. What a gut-wrenching Christmas! What a fate! Alas, alack. ‘Tis a terrible-wonderful brand spanking new year! I have updates on Mexico City coming, and photos. Many, many photos. Down and Out in DF Batch One comin’ atcha. Hold onto them hats.

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La Isla de las Munecas

I’ve been witness to some deliciously strange things in my travels abroad.

At the border crossing between North and South Korea, a man in a giant bear costume leaps about, shouting, “Welcome to North Korea!”

In a hostel dorm room in the Red Light District of Amsterdam, an Italian Acidhead dressed in pink briefs and a blonde wig blasts Britney Spears on a boom box, babbling horrifying nonsense and shoving a filthy stuffed toy dog in my face.

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No me jodas!

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Hola de D.F.

It’s 6:20 p.m. and I’m just emerging from a nap. When I fell asleep, light was still pouring through the windows of our fancy colonial apartment. When I woke up – totally dark.

The sun sets early in these parts come December. No Daylight Saving Time. Mountains and tall buildings all around. And a pallor of smog that mutes out the wintertime sun before dinner.

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Best Lucky Trip!

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It’s a sunny noon on Saturday in San Francisco. As I type this, my driver’s license is long gone, most likely sloshing around at the bottom of a steaming, stinking dump truck, marinading in lukewarm garbage juice on the long journey out to Altamont Landfill.

Yesterday afternoon, in my greedy rush to consume an entire very large to-go container of chicken-and-cabbage dumplings in a hotel spa lounge and then quickly dispose of the evidence, I managed to inadvertently chuck my ID into a trashcan.

It is a long, long way gone.

I was able to bribe a security guard into letting me into a Chinatown mai-tai bar without proof of age last night, so I’m still counting this trip as a success.

Tomorrow, in a valiant bid to make it back to Portland sans any brand of government-issued identification, I will do battle with the Transportation Security Administration armed with little more than a few credit cards, a photocopy of my passport photo page and an aging University of Missouri Graduate School ID.

All that, plus my questionable charms, and my mother and my 88-year-old wheelchair-bound grandmother in tow.

Luck.

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On my Birthday’s Eve

Hello, late summer. It has been a season of way too much work. I’ve been kept busy 6-7 days a week with freelance writing and photo projects and have mostly been quiet and industrious since I got back from the East Coast at the start of July. Did run a half-marathon in there, though, which must count for something.

Tomorrow, I turn 32.

Last week, I flew down to San Francisco. I caught up with my little sister and then met up with E on his way back from his adventures in Ecuador and Colombia. Que chilero! We saw the shit out of SF, ran a bit, and ate copiously. The highlight: lunch at Chez Panisse, the petri dish for farm-to-fork dining and a Berkeley stalwart. Fresh squid with beans, shaved squash, chicken, collard greens, hazelnut ice cream, berry spritzer. Best $90 I ever spent. Then it was on to Sacramento to catch up with E’s extended family.

Yesterday, I drove back up to Portland from Sacramento with E and his dad. I am potato salad from 11 hours in the car and a long day of catching up on work today.

A few selects from late, great California. I just had my little handheld Canon on this trip. As always, I am fascinated by the minutiae of cities. Graffiti, old signs, windows and mirrors. That, and cheesy preloaded camera filters. What can I say? I picked up some cool pieces of random garbage, too, for my collection. Mostly scraps of old notes and parking tickets and fortunes and stuff.

From the righthand coast

Well I suppose I am abandoning the 30 Days experiment. Or at least retiring it until a calmer month. I’ve been hopping around the East Coast since last Tuesday visiting friends and family and there is literally not even time to sleep. DC – Baltimore – DC, and off to New York City Wednesday. Then back to Baltimore for the weekend and back to DC for a few more days after that. Feeling nuts for trying to pack so much in, but it’s been worth it.

I’ve been taking mad photos. In substitution for my lack of literary endeavor, enjoy this photo of an outhouse being lifted up by a crane. And a few assorted others.