Fundraising Countdown

The support and fundraising that has happened on my behalf has touched my heart and has made alternative cancer treatment a possibility for me. Donations continue to be my primary funding for healthy food, supplements, living expenses and medical bills. If you feel moved to give to my Health and Wellness Fund, please follow the Paypal "Donate" button below. To avoid Paypal's 3% fee, checks or cash can be sent to Zachariah Walker, 1003 Chipeta Ave, Grand Junction, CO 81501. Blessings!


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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Goodbye Paris, Stateside tomorrow

Dec. 16th:

            Ahhh, a final satisfying day is almost complete.  In true tourist style I crammed in a triple-header in the short day of light here in Paris.  After climbing over 700 steps to the second tier of the Eiffel Tower in brittle cold and overcast skies I symbolically exhaled the last gasps of my nine-week trip with bones and tombstones.  The tower was obscured in condensing fog all day.  Even halfway up I was not able to see the top.  The higher I went the wetter it got as the sky’s thickness caused the fabricated structure to perspire.  Vast views were limited to a short radius, but I was not disappointed.  The tower’s fascinating history and geometric construction were riveting enough.  I went from Paris heights to the belly of it depths with a tour of the Catacombs.  After the closure of the city’s largest cemetery, the Saints Innocents, in 1780, an underground site was chosen to move the remains.  Six million Parisian skeletons later it’s a creepy tourist attraction.  Bones and skulls are built into walls of eerie and dank passageways just screaming for a power outage.  To be trapped there in the dark would not have been humerus.  I finished my tour by making the ground level rounds at the Cimetière du Père Lachaise.  That’s the famous cemetery where Jim Morrison (lead singer of the Doors in case you get him confused with some other rocker) is buried.  It was easy to tell that classical music is still much more revered than good old rock-n-roll.  Morrison’s tomb was somewhat hidden in the middle of many much bigger monuments while Chopin’s was big, bright, and brimming with flowers.  Oscar Wilde must have been a wild one, his memorial was a flying pharaoh covered in lipstick kisses.  The depressing cold, crows cawing in naked trees, and so many people of the past immortalized in stone made a grave impression in my mind.  The day before I spent most of the day wandering through the immensity of the Louvre.  There’s a lot of famous artwork in there, most notably the Mona Lisa.  I was as, if not more, consumed by the building itself.  You just have to see it for yourself.  Afterward, I followed the lights and hubbub and managed to run into the Arc d’ Triumph.  It was big and pretty.  Enough about those amazing structures, I’m at the end of this column.   

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Yo!  I've got two days of cramming in the sights of Paris.  I just went to mass at Notre Dame, Wow!  The pipe organ and vocalists were profound.  Christmas is in the Paris air.  On a plane back to the states on Wednesday in time to celebrate.  See you there!

An Italian Glance (&Dance)

The C.T. by day and night!


Firenze (Florence) for an overcast sunset, David, & the lyrical ad-libber on the dance floor!

Dec 14th:

            Christmas is in the air… and on the ground, and in my mouth.  My fast train to Paris is passing through rolling snow-scapes and I just delicately ate a fresh and tasty pomegranate.  Yes, I can feel it, hot chocolate and PJs, slippers and movies.  I really just want to watch a movie and snuggle with friends and family.  I did go to Madagascar 2 while in Toulon, France.  It was an experience, and I got the main premise of the story, but all the one-liners were over my head.  And honestly, hyperactive animated animals can get really annoying, especially speaking in French when everyone is laughing but you.  I mean I was chuckling too, but I was really just faking it.  In the Cinque Terre four travelers cuddled around my not-so-large-screen MacBook to watch Casino Royale, a prelude to the new Bond.  I tried to go in Barcelona, but opted against the Spanish version.  That’s my European movie review, back to the relatively unknown Cinque Terre, by far the high point of my Italian experience.             

            The CT is a nationally protected area named after the five villages of Riomaggiore (where I stayed), Manorola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterrosso that cling to rock ledges overhanging the sea.  Mountains climb immediately eastward and the whole area is connected by trails (some temporarily washed out from the previous storm).  There are no cars in the towns, they must be parked above.  The growth that haunts so many tourist traps is forbidden and the locals are warm and friendly.  The train bounces between amazing tunnels and vast views to link the corridor; it is truly a beautiful place.  I stumbled into excellent accommodations at the Mar-Mar with a large kitchen, spotless bathroom (w/ heated towel rack!), and a balcony overlooking the south side of colorful Riomaggiore and a splash of the sea.  Throughout the first evening inadvertent backpacker recruitment built our number to four: Pete- an Australian photographer (, Shannon- an Irish-Canadian adventurer, and Colin- an engineer soon to be ski bum from Vancouver.  The next day Pete cruised and sisters Michelle (nurse) and Emma (student) replaced him to represent the land down under.  As I’ve said before, the company and accommodations can make an experience, in this case spectacular sunshine, vibrant views, and magical moments added to it.  The steep land has been terraced over centuries of local sustainability to support citrus, kiwi, grapes, and a variety of provincial herbs.  Cactus, palms, and granddaddy yucca relatives grasp to the Mediterranean facing slopes.  Each town offers its own individual charm and the food is affordable, and so good.  It’s the home of pesto so I heard.  I ate my fair share.  Manorola sports an immense nativity scene lit up on the hillside above the town, which inspired an after dark adventure to find baby Jesus.  The final day Colin and I hoofed it to the heights above to reach the ridge and visions of snow-capped peaks one way and an unending aqua abyss the other.   A downpour that night and next morning verified excellent timing with the stay and signaled an inevitable end.  The whole time there I thought of my old friend Kit who first told me of this destination.  I can see how the romance of the Cinque Terre landed him in the arms of a Rose and transplanted him after his visit there.           

            Colin and I buddied up and headed to Florence.  A few hour stop in Pisa was enough to see the sight and, as ordered, the skies parted for just a moment to light it up for a few snapshots.  Colin spent his film on the tourists taking the ridiculous (and quite amusing) souvenir shots.  There’s the: “Look, I’m holding it up!”  “Look at me lean on the leaning tower.  We’re both leaning, how cool.”  “AHHH!  This big tower is about to fall on me.”  “Hey man, look how big my shlong is!”  I opted for the homeboy handshake and Colin, finding a non-leaning perspective on the tower, chose a shrug and look of confusion.  The truly funny thing about the whole experience is some shitty architect who couldn’t build a straight building is famous for it.

In Florence we landed through word of mouth at Gary’s House.  Another funny thing is it’s actually Lorenzo’s house.  Lorenzo’s a good Italian guy who smokes cigarettes and googles over the girls, but he cooks a mean dinner, which is part of the 10 Euro deal.  The first night’s menu would’ve been that much out.  That first night was pay dirt in addition to the food.  The mix of socialites staying at the hostel was perfect.  We drank wine and gabbed before grooving our way to the dance club.  That was a fine moment!  Our crew bounced in unison down the street as Colin beat-boxed and I free-styled: “The Can-Am connection rockin’ the beats, resurrectin’ the crowds on the Florence streets, they looked in awe, as the words poured from my jaw, we took up the path, like the width of a bus, dudes did the math, wished they could be like us, but we just nodded and rolled, maintainin’ mic control, ‘til we got to the club where we couldn’t hold, our dance moves within, busted ‘em out again and again, with the girls all around, along the walls is where the other guys were found, trying to get up the nerve, while we smiled and swerved, to nearly every single song, while the night rolled on, and on, and on…”  The next day I managed to hang with David and join the multitude of tourists trying to snap an illegal photo of the statue.  The secret is waiting, with camera undercover and flash off, for the security to get distracted by some less cunning individual (I hate to say it, but usually an Asian tourist with flashes a poppin’).  The girls at the hostel were enamored with the perfectness of David’s sculpted bod.  I couldn’t help but point out that his giant hands did not really correlate to what “they” say.  It is however a truly magical (and enormous) piece of artwork.

            I suddenly realized my train has sped up to jet-like speeds.  Now through the mountain, which have been glorious to watch pass, we are on the final flat haul to Paris.  I can almost feel the G-force.  It’s kinda freaky actually as the trees whip by.  I wonder what happens if a cow ends up on the tracks?  It’s probably better not to wonder such things.  A princess tied to the tracks would definitely be screwed.  I guess it was almost nine weeks ago that I was on this same speedy route, just in the opposite direction.  Time slows down while traveling, it seems like ages ago.  Of course, when I land back on familiar streets it will all seem like it never happened.  Perhaps it was all just a dream within a dream. See you soon, and do your best not to wake me.  

Buzzed Bantering (Parental Advisory)

Dec 13th:

            It’s the next night’s dinner, I’m more than halfway into a half liter of wine (and feelin’ pretty fine) and pizza.  Though I swore my last meal in Italy would be gnocchi, I opted for a more veggie plentiful and wood fire cooked pizza.  Funny thing about these pizzas here in Italy, they don’t slice them for you.  Intriguing at first to pick and choose how you dissect it with knife and fork.  Designing a pattern from the inside out, puzzle piecing it from end to end, crusting out the edges for breadsticks.  However, it’s just too damn much work to eat a pizza with utensils.  The playful efforts soon lose ground to non-symmetric slices that can be grasped with finger and thumb.  Speaking of finger and thumb, it’s amazing how the Italian attitude is often spoken as if the middle finger and thumb were involved.  Psycho drivers cussed out by a multitude of Italian pedestrians, it’s funny really.  Before leaving my hellish accommodations for dinner I tried not to listen to the fist pounding and bantering coming from the hall.  What I assumed was negotiations for an extra towel would’ve had the neighbors dialing 911 back in the states.  Oh my gosh, how bizarre.  The music playing at this very moment is, “red, red wine, make me feel so fine.”  Like, wow, that was just going through me head like five minutes ago.  And this is by far the best and cheapest house wine I think I’ve experience at a restaurant thus far.  €3.50 for 2/3 a bottle, and Mmm, Mmm good.  Definitely dented a few bottles in the Cinque Terre with a fantastic crew of folks.  That had to be one of the top three highlights of the trip, but who’s counting?  OK, to go on with randomness, there’s a dude at the door with the most whack hairstyle.  I’m not one to critique, but this town’s got a weird sense of fashion.  His clippered head has vein-like stripes buzzed to the skin, he must have lost a bet.  The young ones walking around with a compromised mullet spike are another thing.  It’s not long, it’s just short in front and back with a patch of hair sticking straight up in the middle.  This is not a complaint however, just an observation.  One thing I’m sick of is hearing travelers complain about shit.  I swallowed an Aussie’s 30-minute rant about the Eurail pass, and I admit it’s about as good a deal as anal penetration without permission, but I swear his attitude is manifesting a boatload of problems that my joyous attitude hasn’t had to deal with.  The overwhelming reputation of Italian trains is one of villainous attempts at promptness, they’ve even hired some bilingual chick just to announce late trains and dock changes, but (knock on wood for one last train ride outta here) my experience has been down to the scheduled minute.  Anyways, I was complaining about complainers.  As if attending a double-header, the same evening as the Aussie I listened to some broad broad (I bit my tongue to ask where she was from because I knew she was an American, the typical American the foreigners love to tell me they judge all Americans by) grumble about every non-existent travel travesty she’s endured until I mentally bitch slapped her a dozen times and abruptly left right out the door.  Left, right, left, left, right…  I already talked about how exhausted I am from walking like that for so many days in a row. 

            I sure haven’t felt motivated to write for about a week now.  Little did I know I just needed to put on a little solo buzz.  I’ve moved from the cozy and quaint pizzeria La Cabazza to my room at the Hotel Frejus.  I’m focused on my computer as an avoidance technique.  I don’t know what Frejus means in Italian but if I looked it up I’m sure it would be defined as: A rat hole accommodation smelling like French cheese and sewage with faulty wiring and backed up drains, piss infused rugs and cigarette burned sheets meant for junkies and gullible tourist willing to pay twice what’s it’s worth before comprehending their blunder.  That may sound like a complaint, but I’m really just irritated with my own judgment.  Seriously though, this is the type of place that, if you stayed with a wife, would be grounds for divorce.  There would definitely be no sex, unless the sheer discuss compelled her to sleep on you just to avoid touching the sheets.  On the positive side, the windowsill acts as a great fridge.  Anyway, it is truly amazing how when traveling your accommodations can make or break your whole experience and impression of a place.  Right now I can’t wait to get to the arrogance of France.  Can you say crepes and Nutella?  Word.  We’ll hitchallup on the train tomorrow.

Weary Wanderer

Dec. 12th:

            Ahhh, an aperitivo of vino rossa.  Another day of train hopping and aimless wandering through new and busy streets has finally landed my famished body for dinner in a street side bar in Torino.  I will explore this former site of the winter Olympics more tomorrow, but for now I feast on a variety of finger foods.  This is not dinner actually, the earliest you might sit for dinner is seven at a pizzeria, but more likely after nine.  Apertivo is a drink often accompanied with a spread of snacks (all you can eat) for one low price.  It’s meant to carry you over until dinner.  For me however it is dinner, at this point in my trip nine is sounding like a good time for bed, not food.  The end of each day (and often the middle of it) finds me exhausted, my body is so worked from so many continuous days of wandering.  I am developing a slight dependency on the once mocked petite cups of potent coffee.  I have ditched a number of personal items along the way, yet still my pack seems to feel heavier and heavier.  With the days counting down a bit of Christmas shopping will send me to the Paris airport bearing a Santa Claus sized bag burden, or so I imagine it will feel.  The one thing I think about most back home is my bed.  Friends, yoga, hot springs, and massage follow close behind.

                I can count my days left in Europe on one hand and am feeling a sense of completion with my travels.  I’m sure more than anything it relates directly to my readiness for rest.  Touring another church or museum feels blasé and the adventures are starting to blend into “where was that again?”  I am losing interest in attempting to discern local customs and menu items while on my own, and, though I have truly enjoyed almost everyone I’ve met, I am weary from socializing on such a temporary basis.  I am ten years the elder of many hostellers and, though few can keep up with me on the dance floor, I find it difficult to keep up with their enthusiasm to see the sights.  It’s time to come home and hope after resting my mind and body I am clear on what’s next.  Of course, knowing how the cycle works, I may wake tomorrow after ten hours rest and be ready to tackle four more countries.  But I doubt it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Visions of Italy

December 10th:

            Outside my hostel window the rain is pouring down in Ferenzie (that’s Florence in our western vocab).  A three-hour tour of Pisa today offered a brief splash of sun on the leaning bell tower and a stellar artichoke, olive, ham, and parm pizza.  Yes, now I can say I’ve eaten pizza in Pisa, a true Italian experience.  My four nights prior to that the Cinque Terre provided a phenomenal experience of sunshine, fabulous trails, villages clinging to the edge of the sea, pesto, pasta, and vino, and true relaxation in the company of fantastic travelers.  Here’s a photo journal:          

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Time to Share

Dec. 5th:

              In less than three days the language around me has morphed from the bizarrely familiar (relatively speaking), to familiar yet incomprehensible, to absolutely unknown.  On to Italy when I was just reformatting back to the few French phrases I had etched into my mind (somewhere).  I think the French dislike replies in Spanish even less than English.  The transitions are tricky and I am continually fascinated at how quickly an imaginary line on the map triggers them.  Or the train you jump on.  I just completed a forty-minute walking tour of Nice and watched designer jackets, boots, and luggage invade the train at a quick stop in Monaco Monte-Carlo.  The Italian train will carry me to Genoa, a spontaneous plan drawn from the events of the morning and the joyous autonomy of unchained expectations.  I truly love flowing in undetermined circumstances with no attachment to outcomes.  Those that relate to the freedom I feel right now, be vicarious.  My sustainability rests gently above me crammed and cinched into my pack, my Skullcandy ear buds mimic the ambient rhythm of the rails, a dinner of fruit and French pastries rests heavily in digestion, and I will soon transfer another unknown into experience. 

            I have attempted to assemble some form of these European adventures into words.  I find though, words are like pictures.  In words you capture a snapshot of time.  A tale told in words visualized with the mechanisms of a camera do no justice to the true essence of the moment.  Of course, the natural reality is that it is impossible to relay such a thing.  It is a solitary experience truly told in the wiser countenance upon return.  Travels logged in details are mere memories that fade into the wind of time.  In fact, the efforts of defining risks the memory’s own ability to account for what was meaningful.  Do you remember the moment, or the picture taken in the moment?              

            When I left Granada and rolled into Almería I experienced emotions, thoughts, and feelings that would much more easily be lost in the eternities of time.  My attempts to capture them represent a mere fraction.  There’s a good chance my mind will recall the beautiful landscape on my train ride, the bustling swamp market surrounding the bullfighting ring, my wonderful discoveries on the wrong side of the tracks, and the glorious sunset from the heights of the Alcazaba.  In Alícante I will remember looking into beautiful eyes.  Engaging with real people and sharing stories and seeing possibilities.  I will carry the reminder that music is a worldwide language.  My ability to make music with a hollowed out piece of wood with Australian origins landed me in a late night circle of South Americans making music and sharing food.  I bide my time for a rich experience, they bide theirs for a chance at citizenship and a better future.  My fears surround catching my train on time, theirs on catching an unwanted flight.  My hard work has allowed me the opportunity to unshackle the burdens of a job and fly into another world, just for the hell of it.  Their hard work is underpaid and unappreciated (teachers bite our tongues) because they have no say.  Mums the word when deportation’s involved...  There is an essence that rises up out of the details of these words…

            Barcelona was a brief opportunity to soak up the last of Spain.  In a glorious afternoon, following a brittle night, I joined sun-worshippers from Port Olympic to Port Vell.  I said “good-bye” where I first said “hello.”  My stop in Toulon, France was just as brief and a potentially even more significant good-bye.  I wrote a content ending to a relatively untold story with my beautiful friend Florence.  An at times stormy connection, swirled in the mix of warm and cold waters, chilled out for a placid last evening together.  Her friend Anne-Francoise, a non-metallic conductor of good energy, shared her time and space as a catalyst of positivity.  Florence and I parted ways the next morning at the train station, both off in opposite directions.  In our eyes we shared the affirmative “so that’s that.”  The future turned present turned past.  Again, we shared the before mentioned essence that I have shared with so many strangers on this trip, the essence of sharing.  There are moments when I feel a rich buzz from this.  As I sat down for dinner that first night back in Toulon with my friend Marco at his mother’s house it was there.  There I was, part way around the world absorbed in the foreignness of it all in the home of people that hardly know who I am.  Their trust not garnered from references or a long-standing relationship.  It’s energy. It’s a desire to comfort, to learn, to say, “Look how different we are.  Feel how we are the same.” 

            We have all developed our own levels of security with our ability to share.  At our core we all know it is one of the greatest joys of living.  Sometimes we may attach agendas, expectations, or desires.  It may be second nature or it might require great efforts.  On this trip I have landed in the presence of many people I before had no idea existed.  That is what the true definition of travel is to me.  Yes, I have seen the sights, tasted the food, and waded in the waters, but they seem mere excuses.  I can now say, “I’ve been to Europe, how culured I am.”    But, they are words I will be lucky to hold onto over a decade of time.  The true satisfaction is knowing I have lived beyond fear and looked eye to eye.  Here’s what I see, here’s where I am from, here’s who I AM.  In the eye’s reflection I see the one world we live in.  Here’s who WE ARE, a sentiment that will expand over lifetimes.    

Friday, December 5, 2008

Wandering into Winter

Dec 3rd, 08:

            As my train earlier passed frost covered ground and forested depths my thoughts briefly turned to the oncoming winter of the Rocky Mountains.  The annual visits throughout my childhood in mountainous Montana and now in the rocky high desert of Colorado.  I’ve grown to dread the marrow chill I often get long before I realize it, but find satisfaction in sharp and brisk inhales that crystallize on whiskers when released.  In recent, and maybe not so recent years I have claimed a willingness to trade skis for sand.  But, even at this moment, as I stare out at French snow powdered heights glazed in drab condensation, I sense within myself both dread and absolution.  The burdensome belonging that singes the soul when stole.  The changing mercury represents the wholeness that is heart and home.  The rivers of the Colorado and Bitterroot are ever shifting and evolving, but their seasonal renewal from fresh snow remains forever constant.  As the planet revolves in its yearly balancing of yin and yang it reveals the moral and prays that we embrace its story.

            These images, and the faint spectrum stripe in the gray clouds of France, paint my mood as I disavow my affair with Spain.  I have not been lead to this point by rational thought, rather a burning from greater depths.  As I laid down to nap two days ago in the flat of a new Argentinean friend restlessness stirred in my gut.  I had an hour before changed my departure from Alícante for an undetermined stay to pursue the possibilities of fulfilling promises to self.  In my new connection with Rosa Maria I had establish a long time friend and within my two day of visiting I had established a tribe of transplants.  The bulletin board at the local language school and murmurs of a yoga studio seeking help whispered in both of my ears.  Por qué no?  I guess I have found answers to that question.  The threat of inner energetic rumblings as I lay there in crawling skin said it all.  In what I hope was not an awkward liberation I continued on.  It was a shift to return to the doubtless momentum I have already generated in a grand valley.  I have paused to pursue planetary perspective and I will return in brighter light.              

            In Sevilla my room assignment at the Hostal Nuevo Suizo determined the fate of the rest of my time in Spain.  Meeting my new Irish friend Gary was beyond coincidence.  The simple bond of travelers was multiplied excrementally by our colon-less connection.  There is an unexplainable bond between survivors of the same circumstances.  A quote from The Poisonwood Bible (which has lent more worldly perspective to my travels) seems appropriate here.  “Hunger of the body is altogether different from the shallow, daily hunger of the belly.  Those who have known this kind of hunger cannot entirely love, ever again, those who have not.”  There is at least a different level of love for those that have.  His brief connection with Rosa in Australia years back brought the three of us together.  And we soared, explored, laughed, and mapped a new reality.  In addition I learned that when you mix mala leche and Guinness blood you get a Siamese twin, attached at the attitude, speaking in ridiculous accents.  Luckily though, when it comes to America bashing, me la suda. 

            The streets of the Barrio de Santa Cruz in Sevilla are some of the most complex and mysterious I have ever experienced.  If tiny cars dared to pass through them, you, as a pedestrian, had to evaluate the quickest route to the widest part of the passage to hug a wall.  An offset building or a mere shift of 3 degrees in the street would be cause enough to change the name.  The absolute lack of geometrical sense took different forms by day and night as if cast in a Scooby-Doo special.  I shifted habitations to the center of it all to experience the quirky (and quiet) Pensión Vergara.  The next morning, as if to reinforce our cosmic connection, I “bumped” into these friends two minutes after hitting the twisted and tiny streets.  No need to call and set a rendezvous.  Cadíz, departure point for Columbus’ 2nd and 4th voyages, brought us a daylong adventure highlighted by each other’s company amidst the memorable views from and of the Cathedral de Cadíz.  I finally experience tapas worth writing home about (they tend to be hit and miss) and learned that the Africans selling pirated music on the streets apparently don’t know the difference between the Orishas and Abba. 

            Granada, as I’ve already alluded to, is where my growing love for Spain anchored.  The Missoula-esque and culturally infused atmosphere pulled me in.  The three of us voyaged via car to imbibe in the Alhambra, as intricate Islamic art and architecture by day, and a fine local cerveza by night.  We chanced on the Davis Cup final, Spain vs. Argentina.  It was a blast to watch Spain win the exciting match while in an Argentinean pub.  Outside, even the street performers trying to nickel and dime the tourists would’ve been appalled by our favorite.  While we overlooked the magical moment of marriage just above the Plaza Nueva a stumbling “musician,” with half a beer can wired to the end of his recorder, shrilled three notes he felt worthy of a tip.  The humor in it (naturally, you had to be there) was worth a tip in itself.  I’m afraid however if I did manage to plunk a Euro into his vessel it would’ve been imbalancing enough to put his wasted ass on his face, literally.  After Rosa’s departure to her “real life” responsibilities Gary and I splurged in the Hammams de Al Andalus Bathhouse.  The soak and massage later lured me in for a second round of rejuvenation before I hesitantly headed on to continue my adventure…

Monday, December 1, 2008

(the shit's gettin' deeper)

December 1, 2008

            The sun is setting on another day in Spain.  The parcel of my being has been posted for delivery, first class, to pass through the narrow streets of a final Spanish town.  Barcelona will deliver the first bit of familiarity I’ve experienced since stepping on this untried European soil. That is, aside from the familiarity I’ve learned in walking through the unfamiliar and facing my reflection in streams of resurfacing emotions.  One day’s elation is the bane of the next’s heaviness.  Possibilities and promises wrestle and settle on the compromise of a singular existence.  The world provides endless perspective that seems to diffuse form rather than shape it.  The difference between fiction and non becomes irrelevant and the awe in it all disallows monotony, yet withdrawing to the rusty cage seems the only salvation.  I will be a single drop of rain, until it’s time to be a travelin’ man again. 

In the cigarette smoke of Alicante I shared sanctity.  On the street I stumbled into the circle, a momentary family united by music.  I carry now the story of “illegals” living continents away from home; there is a bridge from Argentina and Chile to the coast of Spain.  And there is a bridge extending from the heart of a strange unkept man from Colorado.  Love lives like dreams in the slipstream.  I am weary and unrested, and I am born again. 

Bittersweet is the taste of travel the way I’m accustomed to experience it.  I realize the sap oozes from my skin and I am infatuated with relevance.  I carry a disenfranchised passion and yet my heart is true.  I laugh, I cry, I philosophize and expand.  I experience, I sojourn, I fly and I land. Potentiality flares like fuego and cinders out under the extinguisher of my short attention span.  I hide from the march and emerge for the dance.  I write creative garble just to play with words and wonder what the hell I was thinking the next day.  The thought of the moment… Tenacious D is brilliant.  And I’m looking forward for the mountain my thoughts have been rolling down for days and days to bottom out next to the meditation of a campfire and lullaby stream.      

Thursday, November 27, 2008

On Purpose...

Nov. 26th:

            I pass hillsides of olive groves interrupted intermittently by crops of solar panels, neatly planted in rows.  As the train departed Granada minutes ago I experienced a twinge in my heart.  Something about the tightly tucked neighborhoods on hills, the Moroccan influence of kebabs and street vendors, the University vibrancy, gypsies living in the hills and entertaining in the plazas, the presence of the snow clad Sierra Nevada Mountains, and of course the distinct emblematic presence of the Alhambra overlooking it all.  That and the mix of languages coming from all corners as you pass.  The culture blended in language, history, and customs- something to embrace, as I will never find its equivalent in Colorado as long as I live.  Despite these feelings it was no doubt time to move on.  To sit in once place for too long without a sense of purpose (beyond seeing the sights) becomes uncomfortable.  It’s like a root determined to set itself in foreign and concrete soil with no concept of what it may fruit.  There is temptation in experiencing the growth process and blooming out from the unknown.  Especially in a place where gravity seems to have a stronger pull.  However, there is ease in movement because movement will eventually return to the comforts of where it started.  Yes, the comforts of home and the love of friends, but as much the sense of purpose that seems so relevant and waiting.   

Elevation has stunted the growth of the olives, farmers giving way to the barren.  Further along I witness a landscape unique to any I have ever seen.  Resemblance to the carved unassuming desert soils of Colorado and Utah with rolling snow painted mountains resting in the beyond, but with the presence of low valleys of seemingly planted tall and wispy poplar-esque trees.  The white-washed residences and brief encounters with unvisited villas sparks the imagination as to what life is truly like in that little speck of the Earth.  So many specks, so many people, so many ways of life.  As the distance to Almería shortens I see the landscape noted in my Lonely Planet, one straight out of America’s Wild West.  In the 60’s and 70’s dozens of Hollywood Westerns were shot, at least in part, here.  Some movie night in the future may have to include The Magnificent Seven and Fistful of Dollars.  The valley I currently gaze at has now given way to rows of giant wind turbines; alternative energy has its presence on much of this journey I’ve taken.  Visions of moving into the future.

And how to move into the future is still a translucent image in my eyes.  This time of travel is clearly a time of transition in my life, the break from the form my “calling” has taken over the past five years and into a lifestyle more purposeful.  How to move vocationally to encounter a greater sense of purpose than teaching?  The answer found in how one defines purpose.  (And important to note as I watched the antics of school groups touring the Alhambra today, I was happy NOT to be the one in charge of disciplining and ordering the rambunctious ones.  Exhausting just to watch.  I chuckled to myself with the clarity.)  Purpose has a synonym that I’ve always knows, and that has become apparent again with the examination of those I have encountered, even just in Granada.  The old couple running the pension I stayed at.  Each morning a warm smile as ginger teas was delivered with kind Spanish comments regardless of one’s ability to understand.  A day of cleaning, making beds, checking in and checking out.  Day after day…  I wandered tiny streets which led to pathways up the hill opposite the Alhambra.  What appeared to be open land I quickly realized was inhabited.  Caves etched out of the Earth and marked by recycled fence pieces, hubcaps, and other useful rubbish.  The call of a drumbeat pulled me higher to witness a shirtless dready, hands making music.  Accompanied by a guitar and two dancers.  Dancing to the day, dancing to the One, dancing ‘cause they’re people living underneath the sun…  I struck up a conversation with a street artist, the first I’d ever seen with his craft of cutting the coins of the countries into creative charms.  Truly detailed work of which one I now wear.  He had spent years working the mechanic’s trade in Germany where he bore two children but was eventually politically pushed out.  His origins in Costa Rica intrigued me, but he laughed at my inquiry of living there.  “I can’t afford to because of you!”  I understood the generality of “you” and gathered more awareness in the inevitable laws of cause and affect.  He now lives hand to mouth following his creative passion as content as could be.  “Life is good in Spain.” 

Purpose is living in happiness, being content with who you are, what you’ve got, and what you do, each as individual entities.  The world is overwhelming with possibilities for the fortunate ones.  We, the fortunate ones in the Industrialized First World, so bent on being industrious.  How many sacrifice who they are by defining what they do by what it allows them to get?  And what do they really have?  Analyze this via possessions and money, the crazy concept of retirement, self-image, what you will.  I’m sure the problem lies in never really being allowed to know one’s self.  Others start defining you long before you’ve got the faculties to do it yourself.  Unlearning is much more difficult that learning. It’s much more daunting to realize your capabilities than your limitations. 

This may read as vague gibberish, it may strike with personal relevance.  I’ve uncovered my own insight.  I started this trip as a cautious shadow dweller and storyteller.  I’ve bent my stature into a stiff neck and tight shoulders.  Fear and paranoia have manifested into gastronomical mourning.  I’ve caught anxiety in the form of clenched fists and jaw.  Honestly, I believe the origin of these side effects have been my self-concept while traveling overseas as an American.  At times I’ve wanted to run home and hide, I’ve played with becoming a Spaniard and falling into the lifestyle of siesta (still not a bad option), and I’ve wondered what it means to be an American.  I have had countless interactions with a variety of foreigners and each one has shaped my understanding.  The generalities that we all hold towards each other are amazing.  I could see the change in foreign attitudes as our election results opened the shades to large windows in a dark room.  I had something I could speak proudly about other than the vistas and open space of the west.  My newfound pride to be an American is not based on power, it’s based on possibility.  The world is overwhelming with possibilities for the fortunate ones.  The fortunate ones have responsibility for the possibilities of the world.  It is not necessary to pick a purpose out of possibilities, but to live one based on them.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Loving Spain!

  I am having a killer time in Spain. Much of the adventure in traveling alone is finding others to share the experience with.  From Sevilla to Cadiz to Granada I've had the joy of sharing the experience with Gary Ireland and Rosa Lopez.  Gary, from Ireland (you should've guessed), and Rosa, from Alicante, Spain.  Two quality cats with whom I have laughed my ass off with.  Nothing like some good America bashing with those thick foreign accents.  I take it in stride...

pic 1- The Grand Cathedral in Sevilla.

pic 2- A night out taking in the Flamenco culture in Sevilla.

pic 3- Views of the Alhambra with Granada in the background.  

pic 4- Inside the Alhambra grounds.  Reflections on the past...

pic 5- Cheers amigos!  Drinking Alhambra after a day at the Alhambra.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sevilla Sevilla

Ahhh, life is good in Sevilla. I am in the travel groove and loving Spain. I met a fine Irish lad named Gary, who it turns out has had the same surgeries as me. He´s got a j-pouch and travels the world. Having a great time with him, his Spanish friend Rosa, and her friend Sandra. Here´s the past few days in pictures:

Tapas, the look says it all.

La Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza. Many bulls have soiled the ground with their blood here. I was disappointed to find that the bull that kills a matador does not win its freedom.

La Plaza de España in Sevilla.

View from the Torre Tavirs in Cadíz.

We took a drive to Cadíz, what a lovely town jutting out into the Atlantic. On the left is the town´s yellow-domed 18th century cathedral.

On to Granada and the Alhambra tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Portuguese Nutshell

Nov 18th:

            I’m on a five-hour bus ride from Lagos to Sevilla.  In my ear are some freshly acquired tunes from DJ Susie Sanchez.  Portugal’s been an up and down, but I’m sure as I get further and further away the best of it will remain in my mind.  I’m just over the halfway point of my Mediterranean voyage, the days are getting shorter, but the glimmer off of the whitewash residences seems to be getting brighter.  I continue to adapt to the mystery of time and place.  So much to see, only so much time to spend, and there’s making sure you find a certain grace in how you do it all.  For my own sake I want to review the 17 days and four phases of Portugal.

            Lisbon: My first impression is one that will stick for decades to come.  After a superb connection on the overnight rail with Luis (a local Lisbonian with so much interest and enthusiasm to share with the foreign travelers) and Grant (super cool MD originally from Prince Edward Island who I have so much respect for, and who I related with for hours, and who granted me honorary membership in the Canadian StFWC!) I landed in the early hours of a Sunday morning.  After the hustle and bustle of two major cities the desolation of the A.M. air was haunting.  No striking architecture, just intricately cobbled streets and tile faced storefronts.  Not but one single soul, an old Gandolf styled figure looking lost or bored and simply standing in the middle of the street.  As Grant and I passed, wearing the hunter’s orange of tourists, he stopped us with a subtle shift of wrist and opening of palm.  “50 Euros” as the sight and smell of 3 stogie shaped hashish sticks hit.  I casually assessed the barren environment in an attempt to shake the surrealism, shared a silent laugh with Grant, and moved along with a smile.  Not a day of rest for those working the underground.

            The accommodations at the Easy Hostel were just that.  I was delighted with another well run, cheap, clean, convenient, and easy to rest in hostel.  I played tag-along with Grant and his married friends John (a surgeon in New Brunswick) and Brenda.  It’s always interesting to inject yourself into the lives of others and stay an impartial, non-parasitic, and an entertaining investment.  I had a great time with the trio though I’ll admit I spent some time analyzing the psyche of John as, of course, one who has spent plenty of time analyzing the removal of really important organs, lymph nodes, and other ooey and gooey things.  It was quite refreshing to not make decisions, just flow along through the sights in Belém, the Museu Calouste Gulbenkien, and especially the Castelo de São Jorge.  The views from the castle were phenomenal on the warmest day I’d experienced in about a week.  The highlight was appetizers and my first Super Bock from a large sun swept patio with comparable views.  Sometimes the mark of a great beer is not simply the taste, but where and who you were with when you enjoyed it.  Do you remember where you were when Obama got elected?  Why, yes.  Do you know where you were when you had your first Super Bock?  Mmmm Hmmmm…

            I have to admit, short term the satisfaction of the Super Bock was better.  I woke the morning of the 5th at the Alto Golf and Country Club in the company of my mom’s brother Greg and his wife Carol.  My aunt and uncle were capping off a 4-month European adventure and I was grateful to rendezvous with them on the southern coast.  However, I could not share my joyful emotions of the election results that morning.  We quickly established, and I explained to many Brits who enthusiastically brought it up to us over the next few days (to my gleeful satisfaction), that we don’t discuss politics or religion.  We simply enjoy the sights, the sounds, the food, the beverages, and the company.  And we did, remarkably so.  We frequented Peppers, undoubtedly the best restaurant I’ve experienced the entire trip, walked the beach, and took a tour from Cabo de São Vicente (the end of the world) to Monchique and Silves.  Carol and I shared war stories from the classroom and we vowed to carry the mentality of travels into our daily home lives.  Colorado and New Mexico aren’t that far away from each other, but it took Portugal to bring us together for the closest connection we’ve ever really shared.

            While in the good graces of my aunt and uncle a song began to form in my mind.  It may never be complete, but have a sample of the ode from a bleeding heart Earth lover to relatives of the right wing.  In the tune of Ebony and Ivory ala Stevie Wonder or Eddie Murphy (your pick), (which I heard more times in France than in 10 years in the states):

You are red and I am blue, what you think’s wrong, I think’s true,

We’re from the same fam, but the buck stops there, no sense fillin’ a circle with a peg that’s square,

When we get together, one thing’s perfectly clear, no politics or religion, we just drink beer,

We’ll never all be happy, with who’s in the White House, I suffered 8 years of Bush, now ya got “mickey mouse,”

you like to watch Fox news, I prefer PBS, at least we agree our education system’s really messed,

you’re inspired by Rush Limbaugh, I think Michael Franti’s the man, will we ever see eye to eye and walk hand in hand?...

(I don't know why this is blue)

            Phase three was promising to be an exciting experience, a work exchange on a solar-powered home front with a holistic healer and D.J.  Lies, lies, sweet little lies; on day two, the flu.  From snotty child, to Susie Sanchez, to your truly.  Much of this story has been told.  The mind trip of the sick and intestinally psychologically sensitive in an alien land with an unfamiliar friend…Susie the sweet, dietarily balancing bi-polarity, special dyslexia, 18 years of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and overwhelmed by the tasks of a simple existence.  No diet, no balance, no fun for either of us.  The energetics of the scenario are fascinating to those interested in such things as emotional and karmic layers.  And, as if universally prearranged, a random cranny stash of Mother’s medicine was provided by a previous volunteer in the cabin I cleaned out and stayed in.  Positive perspective as I regained my health in Susie’s own little private paradise.  Sunshine in the morning, wood fire by night, and the moon waxed, filled, and moved into waning.  One night as I stood in appreciation as funky blues riff came floating up the valley, live and rockin’.  I longed to join that gathering.  Up the road and down: views, beach, wildlife, and open land. In addition to multiple sea birds, prized views were a Bonelli’s eagle and a few flocks of migrating vultures (more majestic and full feathered than you’d expect from the sort).  And on my last night, as the setting rays of sun pinkened the ocean’s horizon, dolphins danced in the sea to bless me on the rest of my journey.  A treat Susie’s said she hadn’t experienced since 2005.  Truly, a blessing.

            “Knock, knock.”  “Who’s there?”  “Interrupting cow.”  “Interrupting co…”  “MOOOO!”  I’m getting tired of those kind of people.  Usually they’re old and alone.  Today in my fourth or fifth such conversation with the same guy at my pensão I interrupted him with, “I really really have to pee.”  I could have held it, but I didn’t want to, and I didn’t come back.  I’m trying to decide what’s a better thing to do, make an excuse or politely explain how miserable it is having a “conversation” with them.  That, by the way, was not the highlight of Lagos.  Mostly it was just more beautiful beaches and sunshine.  One story for the books starts with the examination of a fascinating English word and a word of advice.  The advice: don’t ever “grab a beer” with an Aussie and expect to just grab A beer.  You may end up like me, “pissed off” after getting “pissed on” while “on the piss”, so “piss off” (none of that actually involved urine, though I did have to piss often).  The pub is the place to truly meet travelers.  Interesting perspective on American doled out to me by an intoxicated Australian sheila.  Only 5% of Americans hold passports and 4% are obnoxious.  I had to work hard just to have that conversation.  I must be the 1% to have the kind patience to deal with her obnoxiousness. 

Cobbled streets, shope merchants, Brits with yachts, fishermen, sandy stretches of beach, sardines for dinner, and sunshine…so long Portugal.               

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Last (Portuguese) Supper

Nov. 17th:

            There is so much that crosses my mind while on the solo sojourn; humorous, contemplative, memories, and daydreams of the future.  I guess that’s part of the point for such a sabbatical, the processing and realizations, ghosts, gremlins, and greatness.  Wrapped up in it all is the awareness of lack of awareness, the comprehension that I am too often slipping in the meditative challenge of being in the moment.  Here I am experiencing what once I dreamed yet here I experience dreaming.  I guess it’s obvious what I am.  There are songs written about me. So, in a valiant attempt, here’s an ode to this very moment:

            I sit the far starboard side of outside dining.  The tables are three rows deep, yet the middle row, basking in piloted heat lamps, is the only non-vacant.  My ass has begun to tingle on the synthetic wicker patio chair, and awareness!  There’s a nice fuzzy fleece throw slung over a chair at each table and…ahhh, my ass is cush.  I have been eyeing the ambiance here at the Caravela everyday as I pass on the ever-amazing cobbled rua, directly across from my digs, the Pensão Mar Azul.  The direct heat and blend of casual lighting has my head glowing, my eyes almost radiate a hum.  A semi-erratic music mix is hit and miss, but my ears approve of the mellow Indian-influenced grooves.  The voices of young Portuguese squeals, adult bantering, and foreign critiques with British and German accents merge softly, and ebb, and flow. 

My Golden Bream banquet, grilled full body from snout to tail, was undoubtedly retrieved from the sea this very day.  I study through trial and error the best way to eat it without ingesting the delicate yet impending bones.  By the second half my knife and fork commingle with grace and flakey flesh floats from plate to face.  I personify the mini-toothed creature’s jaw lip-syncing the words to Abba’s Dancing Queen (bad DJ).  Luckily the turn in tunes comes after a truly a satisfying meal, one that should have stopped before dessert.  How rare for a plate containing a chocolate concoction to remain unfinished.  It’s a much better sensation for sight than salivation.  And now that my belly if full, the fleece is failing my ass, and Abba just won’t go away, I think it’s time for me to.  It’s only about 68 strides to a dark chocolate square, a splash of tawny port, and a diagonal night of sleep.  Tomorrow Portugal becomes the past.       

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lisbon Pictures

  I may soon catch up to where I currently am on my trip (Lagos, Portugal) and write a review of Lisbon, but until then here's some pictures:

  A monument to the explorer, headed by Vasco de Gama, as you're leaving Lisbon towards the Atlantic Ocean.

  The Castelo de São Jorge.  Ya know, I was fresh up on its history a week and a half ago.  There were killer views of the city and my imagination played with who was hanging out there 3 centuries ago.


  Lisbon cityscape.  To quote my Lonely Planet, "The city is a heady mix of crumbling pastel-coloured houses, grand squares and a maze of narrow lanes and alleys.  Spread over seven hills on the Rio Tejo and crowned by a castle, the modern center is contrasted by the Alfama's tangle of cobbled streets."

  First morning in Lisbon fresh off the night train from Madrid.  Dr. Grant (my Canadian travel buddy) and I at the Plaza do Comércio near the waterfront of the colorful Baixa region of town. 

Journal Entry 2

I write happily tucked into a quaint single room in the heart of Lagos.  Today’s shift back into action is so welcome after nearly a week of illness and recovery.  My spirit is positive and the movement is slow.  Here’s a journal double-header:  

            As I wander this morning to this rocky and stained ocean front precipice my mind turns through matters of spirit and nutrition.  With improved health and vitality, and so much perspective over-chewed in past days (like stiff and flavorless Trident), my confidence is renewed and my enthusiasm is somber.  I count three Portuguese fishermen to my left, separately nested into their own nooks of iron-infused and ordered rubble.  They sit for hours watching their lines and listening to the rhythm of the ocean.  I wonder, is it like television static or a meditative OMMM to them.  These litter-strewn rocks remind me that what is new, mystical, and sacred to one is easily worn, monotonous, and trivial to another. 

I move on today, these last moments I take in are likely my last gazes of this corner of Earth.  In the view there is relief.  There is humbling.  There is clarity.  There are more lessons to learn every time I come back to life.  There is fear to be forgotten.  Ahead, in the far distance, I can see a third jutting peninsula, there is more civilization there.  To the west the second reaching and crumbling finger of rock is the last; it’s the end of the world.  The surf pounds, like a tease, like thunder, for eons of time.  And how this ocean could swallow you up.  It’s immensity and mystery always so daunting to me.  I embrace its energy from the shore and shallows.  I adore the sun and surf.