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things I get asked – part one: the bag

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everyone loves the bag – or, perhaps, The Bag.

myself included… you may have seen the hundreds of photos, or perhaps found yourself unwillingly in the middle of a conversation I had with it.

apologies for that, I spend a lot of time by myself, and it’s kind of my Wilson – or, perhaps Wilson Leather.

[that was funny. bag and I are going to joke about that later.]

but where did it come from?

well, last winter, a few friends and I found ourselves in Marrakech, Morocco. some from New York, some from France, myself in the midst of The Big Bicycle Adventure [I’m just going to start capitalizing shit so you pay attention] … it was Dec. 30th and we pushed and pulled our way through the gorgeous, albeit annoyingly in-your-face souq. smells and sights and not all of them good – quick hands extending from old bodies to grab you proving exciting at first, but wearing us down after that. we needed to get out and breathe, it’d be nice to not have to hold all of our valuables with one hand and slap away said extended arms with the other.

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but the problem is finding your way out. it’s a maze, a labyrinth. attempts at giving tourists maps only add to the confusion. finally, after 20 minutes of ‘no, I think we took a right here.’, we saw the light. a tiny little back alley, still peppered with shops, but the kind that seem poised to sell to locals, not us.

and there it was – down a few shops from where I got my beard trimmed. no more than 20′ X 20′. a shop for bags and what was hanging from his store window? a bag. the bag. The Bag.

now, the first rule of bargaining is to act indifferent, right? oh, it’s nice, but I could do without… but – just out of curiosity – how much is it? – type of thing. but it was hard. I mean, put yourself in the very fortunate shoes of mine right now – how would you react, seeing this just… hanging there?

I kept my composure. asked him to take it down so I could put my hands all over it. the stains, the worn-out feel, the smell… it was perfect. but I couldn’t let him know that. so, with my hands still on it – I asked if he had a new version of this, since-this-was-so-dirty.

he looked, there wasn’t. I feigned severe disappointment.

ugh. gross. well, how much is this, then? [not that I wanted it. ew.]

he looked it over and asked if he could get 50 Euro from me.

I didn’t even counter.

50 Euro. $67. I’ve since been offered $500 for it and no-way-mister. this is mine.

… and thus began the beautiful story of Aric and The Bag.

[end]

note: at the chance of my [un?]timely death, the bag shall be passed along as follows:

– to my nephew; when he turns 18, or takes his first trip abroad.

– until then, it will be in the care of Denver Nicks. who will take it on his #tinyadventures and be responsible for a] emailing [not – underlined – texting] photos of it to Corey Wickersham on her birthday, and b] allowed to stay over at Aunt Nancy’s home for long weekends. Jeffrey A. Ward has been earmarked to set up the Twitter/Instagram/Facebook account.

[end]

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side note – another question I sometimes get – back when I had access to a shower and nice things – was what cologne I wear. it’s a very nice smell, but not as offensive as a cologne. it’s also not sharp – that kind of smell that makes it’s way right up to your sinuses. if I’m being honest, it’s a very sexy smell as well. what is it, then? amber. some sort of petrified [?] amber. bought a few shops down from the bag man. you should really smell me sometime, it’s intoxicating.

the call.

we need to talk is never a good thing to hear.

someone’s breaking up with you.
someone’s offended by something you said or did.
someone’s watch has gone missing.
etc.

this was from National Geographic – this email. I could only assume it was about me splashing the big ‘as seen on National Geographic’ logo everywhere since my first article, and assumed this was the one conversation I’d have before being contacted by their legal department.

as I emailed back, I wanted to tell them look, sorry, but how often does a wannabe travel writer end up in The House With The Golden Border? and how could they blame me? if your band opens up for The Killers, then you engrave ‘as seen on tour with The Killers’ on every t-shirt and album printed, right?

a lot was said in that phone call, none of which alluded to me milking their logo.
and a lot of it I can’t talk about.

but when the phone call was over, I sat on that balcony in Buenos Aires wondering if it had actually been them, or an ex-girlfriend who knew exactly how to crush my very soul.

it took a few months to understand what was going on.
and it took a lot of contracts and phone calls and shared documents to make me believe it was actually happening.

but it was.
and it is.

and – in one week, I take a train to D.C. where I’ll spend a few days being pre-briefed in the Golden Offices.
and then – a few days later, I’ll be getting in a car they paid for.
going coast-to-coast with a video camera, a microphone, a regular camera and a pen.

because in 10 days, I go from being one of National Geographic’s siphon-ers…
to being one of their Travelers.

more soon.
as soon as I’m done throwing up.

hack the planet.

as you might have noticed, things around here have been a bit quiet.
someone wanted them to be.

when I first saw the ‘warning!’ page, I assumed a lot of sites had been hit.
turns out, it was only this one.

things are slowly getting back to normal, thanks to the genius of geniuses.
a few things are still being worked on

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, but we should be back to 100% in the next few days.

lots to fill you in on:

-a Tuesdays with Tara that will enrage you beyond belief.
-some big news on my end.
-some more big news on my family’s end.
-and some more big news on a travel end.

heaps.
and heaps.

so stick close.
and sorry about the hackings.

-a

pickles. and jams.

different people come into your life at special times – for special reasons.

sometimes for love.

sometimes for support.

sometimes for inspiration.

and sometimes to keep you from being stranded at the airport en route to Rio.

 

the two girls and I laughed at the fact that – despite us not really doing the touristy stuff here in Buenos Aires – we kept running into each other. and you need to know that this is a big ole place. but 3 times in 4 days was enough and we finally all decided to sit down for a beer and get to know one another.

where ya from. where ya been. what’d ya like. where’s next?

then:

isn’t Buenos Aires nice?

my god, it’s gorgeous. I don’t even want to go to Rio now. I just want to stay here until I fly back to the States.

yeah, we know. we were just in Rio, though, and it’s gorgeous there. so you’ll love it. and after everything they make you go through to get the visa, you’d better!

ugh. another long line at the border? do they charge us as much as they did in Bolivia?

you don’t have your’s yet?

nah. will just get it at the airport.

[they both looked at each other with a worried look, and then to me with a worried look. I always get nervous when people who know nothing about my well being worry about my well being.]

you’re not going to Rio.

why not? I laughed. thinking this might be Americans being Americans and making everything extreme.

because it takes weeks to get a visa. you have to get a certain type of photo, print out your bank statements, show a scan or copy of your last check from your employer, have a hotel booked and then pay $160.

I had none of those things.

and this is when my well being began to worry about my own well being. ’cause, see – my flight back to the States. the big ole expensive one that set me back I-don’t-even-want-to-tell-you-how-much… was from Rio.

but I remained calm. mostly because they were both good-looking and I wanted to appear tough.

guess I’ll just have to buy another cheap flight from here to Rio the same day and just get on my flight then.

the good-looking girls went back to being the worried girls.

they won’t let you on the plane here without a visa for there.

I suddenly stopped caring about being tough.

there isn’t money in my account for another I-don’t-want-to-tell-you-how-much flight. I spent that already on the first one.

I had a flight booked from here to Rio on Saturday.

and then from Rio to LAX a few days later.

there wasn’t going to be a visa.

and there wasn’t going to be a flight.

now, thank the man upstairs it was Sunday and nothing could be done. this gave me a chance to very calmly, very strategically and very methodically, get very, very drunk.

I seriously had nowhere to go. and no means to do it with. the last time I was this worried about actually making it out was Ethiopia a few years back.

do I go the Brazilian Embassy and wax [ahem] poetic about my own stupidity and see if they could expedite one?

could I beg them to let me on the flight and just live in the airport for 4 days?

or…

do I go to the airlines and see how much it would be to change my Rio-Panama-LAX flight to Buenos Aires-Panama-LAX?

I chose the latter. because I love it here, it would be less hassle and fuck Brazil. they should post stuff like this all over travel websites. [note: they post this stuff all over travel websites].

so, to the airline office I went.

‘how much to change the flight?’ I asked in the nicest voice my hangover would allow.

‘we don’t fly from Buenos Aires to LAX.’

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. this is Buenos Aires! everything is perfect and beautiful and delicious! nothing ever goes wrong!

‘how much for a flight to Panama? and then I can just get my connecting flight there?’

‘you won’t be allowed on the plane if you miss your first flight.’

had I eaten any snacks the night before amidst my wine bender, this is where I would have pooped myself a little.

‘then what do I do?’

‘well, to fly from here to LAX will be $950’.

I was about $500 short of that.

a grey beard. broke. I stunk. toothpaste stains on my shorts. alone. homeless. 35…

and I’m about to have to call Mom and Dad for a flight home.

and just a week or so before, I was talking someone through his transitioning phase, telling him that ‘when it gets rough, that’s when you really have the adventure! that’s when you really get to know yourself!’

I had no interest in an adventure, nor in getting to know myself.

‘is there anything you would suggest?’- pleading.

‘well… there is one thing you can do. take a boat to Uruguay, then you could fly from there to Panama, Panama to Los Angeles. it would cost you $240.’

I handed her my card, praying there was enough. last time I checked, it was around $250.

turns out I had $224. but that’s why we have overdraft protection.

so there you go. I have to find a boat to a new country, pray they don’t have the same tastes in visa requirements as their neighbor to the north… and make my $262 in cash last for 9 more days.

and $10 of that goes to buying each of the girls a bottle of wine.

’cause lemme tell ya… finding this all out at the airport the day of would have been a kick in the pants.

a

p.s. both the timing and irony of my 2nd article for National Geographic making their home page being all about me – the seasoned traveler – sharing some tips from my wise learned mind is amazing.

p.p.s. sadly, having ended up in this situation many a time, I know a select few of you will do what you always do and ask if I need money. I do not. there are some cheques on the way to my account from a few clients – a few clients who ironically chose this month to be the time when they were late with their payments. and, well, tomorrow or the next day, the new travel project launches, which you can help support. so send nothing, except potty-mouth letters to Rio… stupid Rio.

 

crystals.

[hit play before reading. it works better that way.]

[ryan adams – ‘la cienega just smiled’]

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I stood there, on that terrace, for one final cigarette.

it was a quiet one, and maybe that’s what seemed strange, as it was this spot that had loudly set the stage for the past 5 night’s worth of a million.

see, sometimes you stumble upon a magical place. and sometimes you find magical people. but rarely do the two ever show up at the same time. but sometimes they do. and when they do, and when the podium is set upon a hundred used wine bottles from the vineyards you can see just past the fishing boats from where we would sit night-after-night, opening one-after-another, it becomes something more than just ‘a few people who met while traveling’.

if I’m being honest, my heart hurt a little bit this afternoon when I was taken to the bus station by the hostel owner. I’m glad his wife wasn’t there to hug me by or I might have fought back a tear. or maybe I wouldn’t have fought it back at all.

but there was something about this place.

there were a lot of us, but there were 4 of us. the ones that would stay up the latest, finish the most wine, tell the naughtiest jokes. maybe we ran some people off, and that’s okay. at times the 4 of us were more than 4. we had our different sides that would come out at different times. and with that much carmenere, with that much sauvignon blanc, it wasn’t always clear who we were talking to.

but that’s not what mattered. what mattered was that at any given time, those 4 – or 8 – possibly even 12 – people got on.

and got on well.

my cigarette halfway finished, tar and melancholy combined for a heart heavy to say goodbye to our ritual. a nightly debauchery of our perverse quartet.

the first – a man conflicted in his own transitions, transitioning through his own conflicts – wanting to take as much as he could out of his unique position, but at the same time fighting the tranquility of where he found. then there were the two – a ying and yang with loud Adelaide accents. one spent too much time on her empanadas when she should have been prepping the dinner, over-thinking snacks when it was the stock she should have been starting. the other had a new life, a new destination and a new plan each new day – this idea and that dream, this possibility and that reality. I bought her a box of gum, ’cause I was sad to her leave. she didn’t say ‘thanks’  until the morning she left, but it was worth the wait. and then, there was me – the person who hadn’t personalized with too many persons on this trip – enjoying, for the most part, the solitude. but from the minute everyone sat down that first evening, I suddenly wondered if I’d been missing things like this these past 5 months.

but I thought back on my past adventures and realized I hadn’t missed out on anything, as this doesn’t happen often.

great things in great places with great people don’t often meet – not often at all.

different groups bring different things, but our nightly intoxicated bipolar show made sure all ends were covered.

my cigarette was almost done, and the more I thought about it, the harder it was to pull myself away from it all.

that empty stained terrace. overlooking the colorful city we saw so little of. my hair that still smelled of barbecue ash.

I was really sad to leave.

and maybe the town had a lot to do with it, a mix of a Berkley student – full of color and mentality – with an uncle from Havana. that’s probably what made the man and wife decide that this place – this spot – this street – was where they would build something beautiful. his favorite movie was Field of Dreams, so that should explain what needs explaining. she, an immediate mother to any who walked through her doors – standing there waiting for each traveler to get out of the cab or bus, kissing us each every morning, every night and making the biggest deal out of the wine glasses we gave her as a thank you gift on that last night.

and I mean – a big deal.

she shouted when she opened the boxes, hugging her husband as if they topped her Christmas list. taking out one at a time with the slowest of movements, pouring us all a wine and then holding it up, looking through it smiling.

the four of us – standing close to one another – could all see her smiling, because we could see her through the glass she held.

they were only a few packs of cheap wine glasses, but you would have thought they were full of crystals.

taking one last drag of that view, on that terrace, I teared up and I couldn’t figure out why.

it might have been the fact that I was coming down from a 5-day bender.

it might have been the view.

it might have been the gum.

it might have been a lot of things.

and I didn’t figure it out until I put my cigarette out and went to the kitchen to wash my hands.

there was a handmade wine rack where yesterday, there wasn’t. the owner must have gotten up early and made his wife a special rack for her special prizes.

and I sure wished everyone could have seen it before they left.

but in that wine rack was where in there it all made sense – what it was that had given me a lot, but also had taken away quite a bit from me as well.

the reason I was blue had nothing to do with the wine – it was those new wine glasses, as they too had two sides.

see, what we saw in them the night before was a lady smiling.

but what she witnessed through her glass were four people standing close – four people who needed one another at the same time. in the same place.

in their place.

her shout had nothing to do with the gift, it had to do with what they had achieved with the terrace.

one look at our deranged-yet-inseparable group was what made her hug her husband tightly.

they did it.

they had made a place with something special – that called out to special people.

they had built it and we had come. to play our deviant game of nocturnal vocal baseball – all-stars the night before became retired ghosts the next morning.

that’s when it finally all made sense – why I left with a heavy heart.

it was those new wine glasses.

and through them – as opposed to what was inside them – lay the magic.

because as it turns out, from the way she held that glass, and from what she saw in it, there actually were crystals.

four, eight, or twelve of them, to be exact.

 

yellow.

as many of you know, I grew up poor in Oklahoma. Dad was a pastor and so meager was his salary, that he actually took a second job – working out in the oil fields, so that the 4 of us [Alex hadn’t come along yet] could eat. this was something that stuck with me throughout the years – seeing him come home in his shirt and tie, kissing Mom, shooting a few hoops with me, grounding Ashley for whatever it was she had done that day that deserved a grounding, and then changing into his stained overalls and heading back out.

a few years later, when I got the illegal scholarship to attend a prestigious Christian school, our friends, The Richardson’s, brought over a box of nice used clothes for me to wear – since my jeans with patches and G.I.Joe t-shirts wouldn’t exactly suffice at a preparatory institution like the one I was headed to. so there I was, in a borrowed outfit, in a school where everyone else seemed rich.

long story short – we were poor.

and when you’re poor in Oklahoma, you dream of a world outside. there was this trip to Europe that the school offered and I remember the look in my parents eyes at the dinner table when they told me that $2000 was $1900 more than our family had. they could tell how bad I wanted to go – my grandpa met my grandmother while they were both working at the circus, so gypsy is in all of our blood – but I simply couldn’t – we didn’t have any money. simple as that.

we also grew up without a television, which meant I never got to see National Lampoon’s European Vacation, Lawrence of Arabia or any other films of that time that at least gave the novice dreamer some context.

what I did have, though, were parents who took me to the library every Saturday morning. what started out as Hardy Boys novels [my parents will still comment to this day how quickly I would go through them – reading one in the few hours we were there, then taking 5 more [the limit] back home for that week] turned into Robinson Crusoe, Jacques Cousteau, and anything having to do with pirates or buccaneers.

and then… one day, I picked up a periodical with a yellow border – National Geographic.

from that moment on, I was ruined. the very first thing I remember seeing were the floating markets of Thailand, then the pyramids. The Eiffel Tower and black people in Africa with things in their ears, lips and noses. at that very instant, longing to travel became an obsession, which soon led to collecting maps – something I still suffer from. you should see my diaries, a running commentary of an idealistic lotus eater – spending hours upon hours drawing points of interest and then figuring out ways to get there. could I go overland from Russia to Alaska? what sailing route could be done to hit the South Pacific Islands of my adolescent daydreams – stopping off in, of course, Easter Island? even now, as I reference a map for this post, I made a mental note to the specifics of getting a boat through the Panama Canal.

all of that and all of this from that magazine with the yellow border.

now -flash forward 20+ years and I’m rooftop in Sucre, Bolivia. I had just visited an amazing monastery and was about to post a photo from the top of it when I get a notification on my email. one of those ‘pingback’ notifications you get when someone links to your blog:

I sat there, before clicking the link it came from and lit a cigarette. I did this because there had been a rumor – a rumor– that someone, some organization had picked up my story, video and photos of being the first person up on Machu Picchu for 2012. I lit a cigarette because otherwise, I wouldn’t have known what to do with my hands.

that someone was the magazine with the yellow border.

on top of the page was the name National Geographic.

and below that was my name.

I cannot describe what that felt like, I really can’t.

I read and re-read the story I had written like it was the first time… and it was.

the last time I did it was when it was on this weathered computer, with nothing above my name and title but a few options for font and spacing. but this time, well… you already know what had changed.

it was thrown up online and never in my life have I welled up with so much love and appreciation for my friends and family. the comments, the shares, the reposts and retweets. the private notes sent, the silly little thumbs-up that usually seem so trivial, upped my day with each tiny hit. my Mother emailed back to say that ‘she and Dad were so proud, they were going to have a steak dinner that night to celebrate!’ [which – knowing what you do now, is huge]. different people prefaced the link with different things about my adventures – and, again, I sat there stunned.

that night, I hid quietly in the pub corner and tried to take it all in – a punk kid who barely finished high school, snuck his way into a career in radio, bummed his way around the world for a few years, lied his way into China and then spent 6 months in SE Asia, India and Nepal paying dearly for the arrogance he accrued in Shanghai. someone who splits his adult life between travel and Facebook. a kid who comes from an amazing family, has good teeth and a circle of friends who have lifted him up time-after-time in his sojourns…

basically – the least-deserving candidate to have been published in the traveler writer’s dream, but for some strange reason, I was chosen as that guy.

you know, since I can remember, I’ve struggled with religion – a large part of it having to have been forced upon me, another begin the judgement of others that follows it, the final being how unbelievably fucking dull so many that claim to worship are… but I’ll tell you one thing – you simply cannot have a life as blessed as mine, with constant gifts like the one I write about now, without knowing someone up there has an eye on you.

it could be The Man Himself.

it could be Pierre.

my grandfather.

Kaz.

it could be anyone.

whomever it is, though, I thank them. with as much gratitude as I thank those who have fed me, clothed me, bought my photos and read my little book – people like yourself.

the magazine with the yellow border didn’t tell me how amazing I am. the magazine with the yellow border told me how amazing I’ve been treated by those around me.

and if you’re one of those people… thank you.

I owe you many more stories like this in exchange for your kindness and generosity.

and – brothers and sisters – with my recent yellow boost, you can be damn sure there’s going to be a lot more.

and very, very soon.

a

missing the boat.

dear elizabeth/liz/beth.

I don’t know if that’s your name, but it was the song that was playing on my iPod when I saw you and, well… once you read below, you’ll know why I needed to give you a name.

it’s a long story, so I thought I’d throw it [the song] in here while you read. if you read. it’s a good song.

[Bon Iver – ‘Beth’]

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anyway.

I just wanted to say…

[text deleted]

[text deleted]

[text deleted]

damn it.

I’m no good at this.

you can probably tell by my ill-advised posting of your photo that this is not my area of expertise. I didn’t show your face ’cause I wanted this to be a confession of sorts. me to you. for quite a few things…

I suppose I should start for apologize for being anything but subtle this afternoon.

I’m sorry for staring.

I’m sorry for taking pictures of you without your consent.

and I’m really sorry about the note.

trust that I meant well… even though I told myself that if I couldn’t find a way of passing it to you – without him seeing – that I was fully prepared to go back to the office of the boat company and bribe the guys there for the passenger manifesto.

oh my god, that’s even creepy to write.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry.

uuuuugggghhhhh…. look:

I’m glad it started to rain this morning. I’m glad because otherwise, I would have stayed up top, instead of coming down. I didn’t expect to see you, but then again, I don’t know anyone who wakes up and says ‘I’m going to sit across from a girl so stunning that she makes me embarrass myself’. you were there, with the guy and with a girl. you have no idea how much I hoped he would have a lisp or would have looked just like you, but you were really nice to him the whole way – sharing your iPod, smiling when he talked – and that should have been reason enough for me to just go back to pensively looking at the water, but I couldn’t help it. there were 2 Swedish girls on the boat with us – do you remember? I tried to force myself to look at them [I mean – they’re Swedish, after all, it shouldn’t be too hard], but it didn’t stick. you had your hair up and a slightly crooked smile with your Chuck T’s laced up differently and I was so thankful when you pulled out the English version of the South American guide book – for no other reason than it was one step closer to me being able to talk to you…

but I didn’t.

I can’t.

for many, many reasons – one being I don’t know how to approach someone like you. the second being that you may or may not have been with your boyfriend, and the third factor of you being one of the most striking girls I’ve ever seen.

so, no. there was no way.

I’m sorry for staring.

we got to the island and I really hoped that when I stood up, my penis wasn’t showing through my shorts [I don’t wear underwear], that my white shirt wasn’t accentuating my man-boobs [for some reason, I still insist on wearing white shirts] and that I hadn’t accidentally sat in water and it have looked like I might have pooped myself [middle school kids can be so mean] …

thankfully, none of those things happend.

you 3 walked ahead and I was able to not freak out about walking ahead of you. my knees were already heavy.

we passed a few times in the little harbor town – I don’t know if you saw me or not. I quickly got some water for my tea, an egg sandwich, and started up the only trail I saw. after about 10 minutes, I was all by myself and realized that things like this – like you – don’t happen that often, so I veered off the path, headed up the mountain [which is hard, by the way – the altitude almost killed me], found a road, and then started walking back.

this might seem a bit strange to you, as we were all on the full-day tour, meaning you start hiking at one end of the island and then get picked up on the other… but while I was walking, I realized that you 3 might have chosen the half-day option, which meant that you would be leaving from the same place we arrived at, meaning there was a chance that I wouldn’t have been on the same boat as you going back…

and that was something I needed to do, Liz – be on the same boat as you. even though I had no fucking clue what I was going to do…

probably stare some more.

ew.

anyway.

I went backwards down the path – you might know this, as I passed your big group. maybe you didn’t see me, but I saw you. the smart thing to do would have been just to follow your group, but I was already bordering on creepy and making an 180 after seeing you would put me into an immediate stalker status.

so I walked back to the town and got on the boat. it was me and a bunch of old people who couldn’t hike. even the boat driver made fun of me and I didn’t have enough Spanish to explain you to him… although he must have seen you, and I’m sure would have understood.

the boat got there about an hour before your all’s trek was done. I was freezing, sitting up top, but I forced myself to keep my jacket off, since it didn’t match and I wanted my outfit to coordinate for you. but you all weren’t there, so I went up to one of the restaurants on the cliffs and had some fish and some beers.

as you can tell from the above, my mind already is a bit off to begin with, but when you throw booze into the muddle, it gets even worse.

I wondered if you were headed to La Paz, or Chile, or Argentina.

I wondered if I would find a way to talk to you.

I wondered if you’d be open to buying an old car with me and driving it until it broke.

I wondered if you’d look at me like you looked at that guy someday.

I wondered what your real name was, Beth. I’m sure it was something pretty.

I wondered a whole lot of stuff.

the whistle blew, so I headed back to the boat, hoping you hadn’t sprained an ankle in those Chuck Taylors.

I sat up top again, but this time because it was actually warm.

you weren’t there, so I decided to look for you that evening – walking around town that night, poking my head in every bar until I saw you again.

the Swedish girls sat by me.

the captain began chewing his coca leaves – which, as we know – meant he was about to start up the boat.

and then I saw you – the 3 of you, actually. but I only saw you.

you came walking down the dock and you looked at the boat and whispered something to your friend.

I know you didn’t see me, but I couldn’t help but wish you were saying ‘there’s that cute-and-in-no-way-creepy-guy’, but you were probably talking about the captain chewing his coca leaves.

and then you sat right across from me.

I started staring again.

I’m sorry.

the trip back was long, everyone was tired.

you went down below after an hour, probably because that 6’4” guy slept on all of our shoes.

after you had gone, I pulled out my little notepad and wrote you a note:

as you can tell, this one stayed with me – I gave you the second one.

see, this one only had my first name and I thought ‘well, Queen – if she is, even the slightest bit interested, she wouldn’t be able to just find an ‘Aric'”, so I wrote the same thing, but with my last name.

[btw – I am painfully aware that the first note was a stretch, but for it to have been revised and re-written is reason enough for a court order. I’m so sorry.]

the next 30 minutes were spent figuring out how to get it to you. I almost asked your friend quietly to ‘give this to her if/when the appropriate time comes’, but that would have required a whole lot of talking, which would have been hard, as my throat wasn’t completely working.

I could just walk up to you, but that could’ve been awkward if you freaked out… as we were on a small boat in the middle of one of the world’s largest lakes.

there was really no way to do it, I told myself, and I was beginning to worry I might miss my chance.

it began to get cold up top, so I came back down. you were asleep on the little bench, which meant my hopes of even attempting some eye contact were screwed. so I sat there and listened to Otis Redding… which, if you know anything about Otis Redding, was a mistake.

the boat docked and I saw you wake up, Elizabeth. everyone else began standing – as people do when boats stop – but I hung back, which was weird, seeing how I was the first in line to go. but I took a chance and stayed back and almost everyone else left the boat [including your friends/friend and boyfriend], leaving only about 5 of us left.

the rest you know – I waited until you were behind me, turned around, refused to look at you, handed you note v2 and said ‘I’m really sorry if this comes across inappropriate’. the worst part of that was that I was trembling when I said it and was hoping to impress you with my great voice.

you took the note – as people tend to do when handed notes – and I turned around [hoping, again, that my bottom wasn’t wet] and tried so very hard to calmly walk away. it didn’t go so well, as I slipped a little when walking down the jetty. I tried to picture the scene behind me – if you read it, if you hid it, if you laughed at it – but I never turned around. no way. I walked to my hotel and chain-smoked for half-an-hour, trying to calm down.

I forced myself to stay online until the battery on my computer died, hoping you all would have already taken a bus out of town or had eaten early.

when I walked into town, I kept my head down. I ate my fish, I drank my wine, and I prayed you 3 didn’t walk into the same restaurant. you didn’t, for which I am thankful – so I don’t know if you’re still here or not…

nor do I know what I would do with that information if I had it.

so… I guess what I’m trying to say is:

I’m sorry about the note.

I’m super sorry about the photo.

and I’m really sorry about this – one of the longest blog entries I’ve ever written.

I just…

well…

I just really thought you were beautiful.

 

tuesdays with tara – volume forty six

“We were wild, for awhile. A burning wildfire.”

Take away everything else. Leave just one thing. This thing, this facet of you, was what drew me towards your burning essence.

There were red flags from the very get go. I didn’t go into it naive, not in the least. I may not have anticipated you, but once you arrived, I not only perked up, I made sure that I got in the head of the line. Whatever it was that you were sending out into the universe, I wanted to be in its path. I wanted it to run down my chin like honey; sticky and gloriously sweet.

You covered me with it. You did not disappoint. I was breathless. On a regular basis.

Tearing down the highway in the middle of the night, we were giddy with the summer breeze. We made our way to the reservoir. We stripped down and jumped off the rocks into the icy water below, a full moon illuminating our mad passion for the moment. It was the way we always did things: jumping right in and ripping the meat off the bone, stripping it down until there was nothing more and collapsing in a puddle of delirious exhaustion when we were through.

It was a difficult way to live life all the time, to be sure. I started to run low on fuel. Our exploits began to test my limits.

I remember a night; a night when I began to truly see.

We were sitting on a veranda, overlooking the water, the sky full of stars, and our spirits were filled to the brim. I raised my glass, made a toast, and pitched my glass over the wall and into the sea. That moment was meant to exhibit a deep sense of joy and instead, upon seeing your face, gazing detachedly in another direction, I felt chills run up my spine. You had become a drug to me. You were everything that an addiction could be: destructive, blinding, and all-encompassing. I had become addicted to the exhilaration that I felt as a result of your burning. I began to lose sight of my own values. I was replacing them with placebo emotion cloaked in adventure.

Why did it never occur to me that I wouldn’t be enough for you? Was it an ego issue? Was it misplaced trust? It may have been a lethal combination. Whatever the case may have been, I was buying it, whatever you were selling, for the longest time, because I wanted the goods. Your excuses were immediately received with faithful ears, apologies accepted with expedience. I needed to believe that you needed nothing more than me because I was giving you all that I had and reaching beyond that to give you more. I was betraying myself, time and time again in order to submit to you. I knew better. I didn’t care. I wanted more and I was going to get it.

And there is a price to be paid for such arrogance. The price is steep. Experiencing such dismal disappointment in yourself, seeing it laid out in front of you, trying to sleep at night; all of these have price tags.

Once I passed through my anger at you, at your insatiable appetite and all of your lies, I had to deal with myself.

Because you see, I knew better. I saw you coming. I bit anyway.

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Play Today The Moon, Tomorrow The Sun’s ‘We Were Wild’

Tara – not Aric – has written forty-five others like this. forty-five. that’s a lot. you should read them.

the things boys do. do.

girls, you’ve not been kind. in fact, you’ve been downright unfair.

god knows how long we’ve taken flack – and how equally long you’ve hidden behind it.

I don’t even know how this conversation began – or what got me thinking about it. it might have been Jules posting the [many] common mistakes us boys make in bed. or it might have been Paul and I giggling the other night when LeBaron said ‘it is our duty.’ [hint for the girls here – it sounds like ‘doody’]. or maybe, just maybe, these Occupy _______ Street’s have gotten me rethinking about the misbalanced justice scale being used on us.

we are the 51.3%.

girls, you’ve not been allowing us to do the same thing you tell us you need to be able to do.

we are men. and we are boys. and we are both.

[help me prove my point here by silently exhaling a ‘that is such a guy thing to say.’]

[thanks.]

you take a long time to get ready to go out.

you sometimes need extra cuddles.

you like shiny things.

you like eating out.

you need to talk on the phone.

you need to spend ungodly amounts of money on things for your face and hair.

you need to cry.

you need to be with your BFF.

[etc]

now – are any of those bad things? do any of these make you a horrible person?

no. they do not. they make you a girl.

a pretty princess who grew up making cakes with mom, whose daddy and brother would beat up anyone who tried to kiss you. you dreamed of Ken and ponies and castles made of peppermint, built on the mist of fancy perfume and clouds bought at the carnival.

we are not these things. we are boys.

tough and tumblers who grew up swinging wood at fast pitches, stomping ants and making forts. our makeup was that of camouflage, just in case that shit from Red Dawn ever happened. we chewed gum loudly and pulled your hair ‘cause we liked you. our knees were covered with proud battleground reminders and if we could eat everything with our hands, we’d be that much happier.

so why, pray tell, has it come down to these two statements:

you need to let me be a girl sometimes.

[and]

god, you’re such a boy.

yours – a defense. a rational explanation for when we don’t understand. said in a way that makes us feel even worse for not realizing it. you need time to be exactly what you are and shame on us for looking at you funny when that happens.

ours – a passive-aggressive insult. reminding us that we never grew out of our GI Joe posters. we revert back to the simpler times of laughs – when humor hurt no one, unless someone tried to hold a lighter up to it; but we need to grow out of this, so insinuates your tone.

your need to be heard sounds to us as a need for something to be solved.

what Michael Buble is to you, Michael Jordan was to us.

high-fives do mean – despite your worry of being a ‘bro’ – as much as a hug sometimes.

you look good naked, but choose to wear clothes. the exact opposite goes for us.

poker nights that end in tequila warrant the same annoyance that your Mother visiting does.

we. are. boys.

and you. are. girls.

therein lies the magic, the mystery – the wonderful adventure of betting a lifetime that the two can mesh.

but there is a difference. in anatomy, in thought process, in comedy, in sharing, in loving and in hurt. and it’s time you all stop referring to our childlike times as a lack of maturity, while using yours as a shield to insensitivity.

we are men.

but first we were boys.

the two make us up in equal parts.

we argue loudly with the umpire… at our son’s baseball games.

we worry about our parent’s declining health… while still worried that we’ll be grounded.

we make a mess of the kitchen… when trying to impress you with our chili.

we drink too much beer… when celebrating with friends.

all we’re asking here, is that you see both.

and meet us in the middle with this Poop Discussion, admitting – in the very least – that it’s a funny word.

 

a.s.q.

take your pic[k]

man, I’m in a good mood – and that might have to do with a whole lotta stuff. the new cover of the book came in this afternoon and we’re almost done and up for public consumption. it randomly got colder in NYC and the golden bath of a clear sunset lit up Lady Liberty on my drive back over the Manhattan Bridge on the way home from work – sometimes I wait on the corner until a tour bus goes over so I have an excuse not to drive 45mph and I can take it all in along with those paying. maybe it’s because I caved and started dieting – a bit. trading my bagel for fruit and eating smaller portions more times a day than my usual treat, which has sadly resulted in me feeling fantastic. maybe it’s because of stuff happening that you can kind of see here, maybe it’s cause I got pals like Johnny B – tattooed as a muthafucka and who’s good in a pinch – but still thanks me for bein’ his pal. maybe it’s because this horribly cheesy pop song that I’d never admit to you soberly that I like, but how often am I writing when I’m not? I’ll tell you now in case you ever look at my iPod and I stutter – it’s this… except I don’t know how to hyperlink [blessing] in this new format, so just know it’s bad. I’m sorry, but I’m not sorry. it came along on a really good fuckin’ day so I won’t apologize… much. I’m mostly sorry. or maybe it’s because twice a day, I cross a bride to/from Gotham – a cousin of mine wrote on my FB wall today that he’d always wanted to visit and here-I-fucking-am. or because I got to see Brother Cohn last weekend and an hour with him lasts my insides for a year. I don’t know. maybe it’s because of a few of the forms in front of me, or what was in the cardboard box that now lies on my bed in the basement that I live where I can sing along badly to this track and [hopefully] no one hears. there’s a grate, so maybe, but it’s Brooklyn and no one cares. or because Sister Jenni is in town and unknowingly reminds me of a not-so-innocence lost? it could be a lot of things – or maybe not. maybe it’s the wine.

or maybe it’s cause sometimes, a good mood just comes along and I like celebrating it.

the spell check suggests it’s the wine.

fuck it – I’m happy.

[and even more so you can’t hear this song – sheesh]

 

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