Unsteady Thoughts

These are the unedited thoughts of a man dehydrated, under-nourished, and reflecting upon his decisions and life from a tent on the roadside, the night before a momentous ride into the heat and wind of the Patagone. They are not particularly well-written, but well reflect the state of the man and how the heat and wind and sun have changed his body and affected his thinking.

They will say it makes no sense and they will not understand and they will not want to try to understand it. To choose difficulty above all else, insecurity, poverty, loneliness, hunger, debasement, and to wander ever closer to death’s threshold they can understand, but only in the context of the experience being sold. But to have no profit motive for this dangerous decision--to refuse to sell this experience at any price, this remains incomprehensible to them.

Because everything they do is for sale and it is foremost their time that they are selling. They will trade years of their life for an amount of money. They will give up their youth and their strongest years in the service of another. They will buy insurance and plan for a retirement. And so they will not be able to understand a man who chooses not to sell his youth but to live it out dangerously, and to keep this experience for himself and to refuse to sell it.

It becomes a self-less act finally, and it only concerns himself. He does it to show himself that it can be done. Because he cannot make clear to them who sit and stay in their homes and trade their time for money; he cannot make it clear with the language they also use of the pain of the road late in the day and how it overwhelms him; the sun is low in the west and in his eyes and how it has burned his skin because he has run out of sunscreen; how his water supply is dangerously low and he is only drinking a sip every 10 km to conserve it; and how the wind torments him and slows his cycling to a crawl.

Yet he does not curse the wind. The wind is his companion. He will not ride through Patagonia alone because the wind will be with him or against him, the wind will be present. The wind stops at night as he does, and the wind and he awaken in the morning. They will go together, some days as combatants, some days as comrades, to the south.

A writer writes to publish and to sell books. A painter paints to hang his work in galleries and to sell it. A trader trades to amass dollars. Another man moves freight in the night for a large corporation. The accountant does another man’s debits and credits. To do something for money, whatever it is, is careerism. It is all the same. A man sells himself, his time, and the best of his talent for an idea of security.

You will have to pay incredible amounts (or nothing) to see these works and to read them. And this money will be given to my mother, who will hoard the money and not spend it and she will not give it back to me until she dies. Then the State will give it back after taking its cut. The careerist will say this is a stupid plan, that I should keep the money and avoid the tax. But I say this is the only plan when it comes to money. For an excess of money is a poverty of the spirit. An excess of money will insulate my life so that nothing happens and no adventures are possible and I will be able to buy my way out of any difficulty and danger.

Things stop happening to the man with money.

He will no longer take the risks poverty and hunger and insecurity forced upon him and he will think this new, predictable life superior and his fellows will congratulate him on his success and women will tell him how responsible and respectable he is and some will encourage him to make her a child.

If you have it and cannot get rid of it to your mother, then go where money does not work. In Patagonia you will find such a place and you will find yourself with little water, a deep uncertainty about which way the wind will blow tomorrow and how strong your legs will be. You are on the Patagonian plain, a desert-like area of scrub and thorn bushes and there is no shade from the sun.

You are still many kilometers east of San Antonio Oeste. You rode hard today into a terrible headwind and stupidly believed the map which said there were three towns along Ruta 3 where you could purchase food and water. But those towns existed once and exist no more and now you have dwindling food supplies and only enough water for 45 km and you have at least 70 km to the city. You remember the long shower you took with the water bladder the night before, and now you think of all that potable water wasted and how you need it now.

But these are the days you have chosen and asked for and now you have them. These are the challenges you knew were possible and now you will see what your body can do. You will test your spirit and you will look even deeper than you looked today if tomorrow the wind blows harder and all the water is gone.

They will say then that I have risked everything for nothing. But is it not the other way around? They who sell their strongest years for a wage--is it not they who have risked everything for nothing? For it is I, and not they, who understand exactly what I risk and exactly what for.


Intro to Sex Tourism (Part 3)

Previously: Part 1, Part 2

While we ate Rocky began to talk about the Jews, Hitler and the Holocaust. The Jews were clearly a favorite topic and I was trying not to listen to it. He got Sofia to look up from her texting and asked her if she knew who Hitler was. She didn’t. She had never heard of the Holocaust or the Nazis. Rocky began to explain the second World War to her. In his version the Jews had brought it upon themselves.

Then he asked Sofia what she wanted to do with her life. She smiled at him playfully. Rocky told her she was beautiful and 19 and not working and all the guys were chasing her--but what did she want?

She wanted to be a model, she said, and I realized then that she believed she was gorgeous. Had I cared at all and actually been annoyed by her texting, I might have said something nasty about her having no chance and pointing out all that was wrong with her, but I was thinking about how I needed a ride back to the hostel. I didn’t want to walk back with this hangover.

Rocky switched topics to another favorite, bee pollen. He claimed bee pollen was more powerful than steroids or human growth hormone and insisted that after taking it a few times a young person could grow an extra few inches and have his mind improved. Bee pollen was a secret supplement used by all the top athletes and he tried to convince Sofia that it was what she needed to improve herself. She could become a model or maybe a telenovela actress with it. Sofia listened to him carefully and seemed to consider it. Then she went back to her texting.

I turned to Rocky and told him I was going and stood up.

“Okay, bro, but Sofia’s really into you, y’know?”

I looked at his pock-marked pathetic face and smirked. “Yeah. I know.”

The girls got up too and we all walked to the car and left Chipichape. On the ride back nobody said anything and Sofia sat in front texting on her cell phone. Rocky and I got out and said goodbye to the girls and I went back to my room and fell asleep.

A few days later I was reading in bed when Rocky came to my door and announced we were neighbors. He had moved into the privado next to mine. Then he walked into my room in his bare feet and scratching at his genitals proceeded to tell me about some black girl who had given him her number.

I was horrified that he was standing in the middle of my room in his bare feet. I don’t like them real black, he said, but he was going to give this one a try. I was giving him the subtle signals to leave. A doorman at a hotel had gotten the number for him, he said. You should see the body on her though. I turned over in my bed and looked away. And she has a sister. Maybe you’re interested, bro. And Sofia’s been asking about you too, man. I closed my eyes.

But Rocky did not leave in time and my room would have his odor for the next few hours, part sickness and part decay. I had to keep my door shut after that. When I left for Argentina a few days later he was in the common area on his laptop and I said goodbye to him. He winked knowingly at me and I winked back at him. We did not have to say anything more. It was an exchange of winks that no doubt confirmed for him the special bond that existed between us.


Intro to Sex Tourism (Part 2)

Previously: Part 1

I was hungover from the night before and figured I would say hi and get a look at Sofia and take her number if I liked her. Rocky and I walked down to a beat-up sedan parked at the bottom of the hill. The windows were tinted and the girls did not open them and I opened the door to look in. Rocky pushed me inside next to a smiling pretty girl with braces in the backseat. An older fat girl was driving and had a little hairless boy standing on her lap staring at me and sucking his thumb.

“Sofia’s in the passenger seat,” Rocky said. But Sofia did not turn around. Rocky pushed in next to me so that I was wedged between him and the girl called Luna, and then the car started and we were driving somewhere.

“Where we going, Rocky?”

“Chipichape,” he winked. Chipichape was the big shopping mall.

My head hurt and this was the last thing I wanted to be doing. I tried to get a better look at Sofia but she was wearing big sunglasses and texting on her phone and didn't look back at me. Nobody said much as we drove the 20 blocks to Chipichape, but Rocky kept grinning at me and winking. It was disgusting to be pushed up against him in the little car. I could feel the heat of his sweaty body against me.

We parked and walked inside the mall and Sofia still had not said a word to me. We ordered lunch at a parilla with Rocky and it was expected we pay for the girls and the little boy. My head hurt and I was finding it hard to believe what I had gotten myself into. I gave Rocky 25 pesos.

After we sat down it became clear that Rocky wanted to use me to impress this girl Luna and to build his rep with her--that he was friends with a young, cool guy-- and maybe also for me to occupy the 19 year old and the older one so he could get Luna alone. But our table only seated 4 and Rocky had seated himself at the next table leaving me with the 3 girls, with Luna sitting next to me. I had expected Rocky to do most of the talking since he had taken these girls out before, but by choosing to sit at the other table it was up to me to make conversation if there was to be any.

The older girl spoke mostly to the one year old Juan-Jose and Sofia sat across from me still wearing her big glasses and texting. Luna, the girl Rocky wanted, was the only one who spoke and she would make little jokes to me and touch my shoulder. But since it was the girl Rocky was after I smiled at her and didn’t say much.

By the standards of Colombian women Sofia was not a beauty. She was not well-dressed and was already top heavy with a badly done breast job and I could see a few dark hairs poking through the poorly applied mascara on her cheeks. She was not at all the great beauty Rocky had made her out to be.

“Sofia’s like that, man. With the texting. Take her out a few more times and she won’t do it as much.”

“A few more times?” I said. “I should break that fucking phone right now.”

Rocky smiled. The man had no game and this was the shit he not only tolerated but paid for to get laid.

For awhile nobody said anything at the table. Rocky stared at the girls and smiled and winked at me. Sometimes he said something in English about how cute Sofia was. I tried to enjoy the awkwardness of it all. I studied the other tables of Colombians and wondered if they recognized what was going on and had picked Rocky and me as sex tourists. I made faces at little Juan-Jose and made him laugh.

Under the table Sofia’s foot would touch mine and she would hold it there. She still had not looked up from her texting and I would make a slight movement to see if she would take her foot away but she did not. She did this throughout the meal and I supposed this was her way of telling me she was interested.


Ride The White Line

The names of the places are all that will matter. There are only sections of map and you must ride them. Signs, roadposted names, the number of a road, if it is big or small or made of dirt, if it rained that day or not, the heat or the cold, the wind and which direction it came from, the roadkill on the roadside: was it armadillos? or the prairie dog? or maybe a snake or that big lizard you see dead sometimes?

And did the wild dogs come after you today or were they too tired in the heat to chase out from the shadows? And was there a petrol station at the intersection of the 2 roads and if there was not, did you have enough water and food to go on?

And did you struggle with the windstreams of the trucks as they barrelled past you? Did they run you off the road? Did you almost lose the bike in the gravel? Did you curse them in Spanish?

Did you talk to yourself today? What did you say? How did you respond? And where did you camp? Was it a good spot, secure and undisturbed? Did you feel good inside your tent, your gear spread around you, the home you put up and take down after each night somewhere along a road, somewhere on the map in Argentina.


Intro to Sex Tourism (Part 1)

There was a older American staying at the hostel. He was 6 ft 5 with graying black hair, beady dark eyes and a pock-marked and badly ravaged complexion. His nose was strangely pushed off to one side as if it had been broken and left un-repaired.

On some days he had a smell about him. It seemed to come from his whole body, as if something was rotting. The German girls complained to me that he had one night stunk up all three rooms of the upstairs with his odor.

The American man arrived 2 weeks before I did and planned to stay another 2. He sat all day in front of his laptop in the common area and did not seem interested in the events of the feria or even to be aware it was going on. He rarely spoke to the young people at the hostel. There was something sick about him, debauched, and I did not want to know more about it.

From my room one afternoon I overhead him telling the Israeli girl that Jerry Seinfeld was the least popular comedian in the United States; that his humor was Jew humor and incomprehensible to most Americans; that his show had continued only because of the manipulations of Jews in the entertainment business and that now Seinfeld was broke and unable to find work. He told the Israeli girl that Seinfeld’s humor would work in Israel and that he should go there. The Jews of Israel would find all his jokes funny.

A few days later I was going out for dinner and needed him to lock the door behind me and he asked me where I was going. I told him. “I’m hungry too, bro,” he smiled. I paused at the door and thought about it. Then I invited him to accompany me. I was wrong to do it and I knew it.

The American and I sat down at a restaurant a few blocks from the hostel. His name was Rocky and he lived in Los Angeles. He had been coming to Colombia every year since 2004 and he told me he had Colombianas in all the big cities. He met them online after paying a website for their pictures and personal information. He paid $12 per girl.

Rocky told me sex stories throughout the meal and I had a hard time eating. Bogota was the best he said and he spent $200 a girl at The Castle and La Piscina. Those were clubs right next to each other and nobody knew about them and all the best looking girls in the country went there to work. I shouldn’t miss Bogota and Rocky encouraged me to go.

The other girls he saw lived with their families and he had to spend money on the entire family to have an opportunity with them. In Pereira he stayed with a 20 year old girl in her room, with her brother and parents in the same apartment, and Rocky took them all on a one week vacation to a finca in the mountains where the father at last let him have his young daughter.

The stories did not stop and I tried to change the subject to football. But Rocky then began to tell me about the mental inferiority of black quarterbacks and how they were unable to read defenses and audible at the line of scrimmage. He presented this as common knowledge and instead of disagreeing with him I quickly finished eating and asked for the bill.

The following day, after having the almuerzo at the panaderia down the street, I returned to the hostel and Rocky told me Sofia was asking about me. Who was that, I asked him. It was the 18 year old sister of Luna, the girl he was after. He had told Sofia about me saying I was a 25 year old American friend of his. “She wants to meet you, man,” he grinned. Oh, I said. I didn’t think much of it and went to my room and took a nap.

When I woke up Rocky was waiting around my door. I could see he was excited. “They’re coming, bro. They’ll be here soon. You should see the tits on Sofia. She really wants to talk to you, man. They’re driving here right now.” An hour later Rocky told me they were out front of the hostel.



“I would be happy to have a girlfriend,” I told her. “But I would also be much unhappier.”

The German girl nodded as if she understood. But that, of course, was impossible.

She wanted me to come to Berlin and to stay with her. I told her I would, because it is easier that way, but I did not intend to go.


Thomas the Dane

I received an email from Thomas the Dane. Everything had gone to shit in Pereira and he was in a desperate situation. He asked me to call him as soon as I could.

I did not respond immediately. It was the middle of the Feria de Cali and I did not know him well enough to give him an immediate response and I also did not wish to get involved in whatever trouble he was in.

A day later I emailed him asking what was going on. He wrote back that he had borrowed some money from a friend in Lima and was on his way to Cali. He would explain in person what had happened. A few days later I awoke to find him waiting for me in the hostel.

Soon after I had left the Pereira hostel, Thomas had left his backpack at the hostel to spend a couple days in Armenia giving English lessons, fully intending to return. But when he arrived in Armenia the student canceled on him, leaving him with not enough money to pay his bill in Pereira after he had paid for bus fare back. He called the hostel owner in Pereira and explained the situation (Thomas had stayed for months at the hostel a year earlier and knew the guy). He was told it was not a problem, just return to Pereira and it would be worked out.

But the next day Thomas received an email from the hostel owner charging him with running out on his bill and that he was reporting Thomas to DAS, the Colombian government section that tracks foreigners in the country. Then sometime later Thomas received another email saying that a camera had gone missing at the hostel and that all the evidence pointed to Thomas having taken it.

It was not exactly clear to me why Thomas had come to Cali other than the fact that I was there. I told him that since DAS was now probably involved he would need to contact the Danish Embassy and have someone there represent him.

We spent some time on the internet and found the address for the Danish Embassy in Cali and I sent Thomas there. He returned some hours later. The information we found on the internet was wrong and the Danish Embassy no longer existed. No one knew where it had disappeared to. There were two other consular offices in Baranquilla and Bogota but Thomas seemed pessimistic the Danes would help him. The attitude of the Jante Law meant that Danes looked down upon other Danes who traveled abroad and lived differently. They would not want to help him.

Thomas explained that he wanted to get out of South America, but he had no money to buy a ticket. After 7 years in Peru and another 5 years in other countries he had had enough. He talked of an American friend who had gotten the US Embassy to loan him money for a ticket home which he paid back later, but there would be no chance the Danish Embassy would do this for him.

I told Thomas he first needed to deal with the hostel owner in Pereira and to pay his bill and get his stuff back before he considered going anywhere. Whether or not he had been reported to DAS, his embassy needed to be informed of the situation. Thomas agreed with this and began to think seriously about how he might get to Bogota.

He only had the clothes he was wearing and a small rucksack. He had a few thousand pesos, nowhere near enough for the bus fare to Bogota. I gave him 20,000 pesos and told him to pay me back when he could. I knew it wasn’t enough to get him to Bogota, but I did not know him well enough to do more for him.

Then Thomas changed his mind. He would rather try for Quito, Ecuador. He would get to the Danish Embassy there and work out the problem in Pereira. I explained to him that should DAS get him at the Ecuadorian border it would no doubt be assumed that he was guilty of running out on his hostel bill and possibly stealing the camera. It would be hard to claim innocence when you had been caught trying to get out of the country.

Thomas agreed with this and for a moment seemed to return to the idea of going to Bogota. I bought him a beer and we sat around my room and he talked over the situation again and again. I was getting tired of this and had plans to go to a concert that night and I did not want to get stuck with this guy. One of the Swiss girls stopped by my room and asked me about the concert and I said I’d be ready in an hour.

Then Thomas got up and said he was ready. He was going to Ecuador. The border was loose there and he would cross in the night, maybe on New Year’s Eve. I wasn’t going to argue it further and told him it was a good plan.

He figured that if things went wrong and DAS got him then the Danish Embassy would be forced to act. Maybe they would buy him a ticket back to Copenhagen. I agreed with this reasoning and walked him to the door and wished him luck. The 20,000 pesos was enough to get him to Popayan and from there he would need to hitchhike to the near the border and take a cab through the checkpoint. I hoped things worked out for him but I was happy to see him go and I did not expect to hear from him again or to get my 20,000 back.



When I was caught up with the caleña at the concert at the Barrio de Gaubal I missed some things.

Alejandro told me that the Swiss girl Romaine, who I already knew had gotten brutally drunk again, had during the concert walked over to 2 different Colombian guys and without a word taken from them the chorizos they were eating and eaten them herself in front of them. Neither of the Colombians protested. Later when Alejandro found Romaine dancing with a known thief, who was certainly looking to steal from her, he tried to get her away from him and she refused. Alejandro finally had to pull her away.

And later, with the 4 of us squeezed into the back of the cab on the way back to the hostel, with Romaine passed out across his lap, the other Swiss Francoise passed out with her head against his shoulder snoring loudly, I did not know it but the caleña I had picked up--who was sitting on my lap, my head hidden in her hair against her neck--she began to stroke Alejandro’s hand thinking it was mine. We do not know how she thought his hand was mine, but she certainly did and stroked it gently and sensually using her fingers and her nails while I was touching and kissing her. Alejandro told me he knew I would fuck her because he turned his palm upwards and she touched her index finger lightly into the center of his palm, a signal of sexual intent in Colombia. And with that knowledge, Alejandro carefully withdrew his hand.

I learned of these stories last night while drinking rum cocktails on the roof before the New Year. Romaine did not remember the taking of the chorizos or the incident with the ladron, and she did not want to believe Alejandro. To test Romaine’s memory and to use the opportunity to retell a funny story, I asked her if she remembered the first night she had arrived at the hostel. She said she knew she got drunk and threw up all over the outdoor area of the hostel and that Derek the young American had tried to clean it up. Yes, that was true. But did she remember what she did earlier at the concert at the Panamericana? Romaine and Francoise looked at me funny. They had both been with us in a group there and they did not remember anything other than the concert.

I told Romaine that she had gotten hungry and gone and purchased a large plate of French fries which she then squirted with ketchup. She returned to the group and put the plate of fries on the ground so that she could kiss the young American. She surprised the young American with her kiss but he did not resist her and they held the kiss for a time. But then she must have felt tired and told the American and she sat down right where she was standing, sitting down on top of her plate of ketchup covered French fries. She then laid down on the ground and passed out with the plate of fries beneath her. She had not eaten a single french fry.

Alejandro and I were laughing and the Swiss girls looked at me and did not believe it. Francoise had been too drunk to remember either. Romaine considered it and then said to Francoise that this now explained all the red she had on her dress the next day. We all had a good laugh together. They were both fun girls, but they both drank too much.
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