Seven Years Old

“Mom, how old will I be in heaven?”

“You’ll be whatever age you choose to be.”

“And I’ll be that age forever and ever?”

“Forever and ever. Any age you choose.”

He remembered that conversation with his mother. He was five years old then and had decided he would be eternally five when he went to heaven. Then, during his sixth year, he realized being six years old was even better and decided he would be eternally six when he went to heaven. But now, in this his seventh year, it was going so well that he decided to be seven eternally. He could not imagine any year going any better and he promised himself that however good being eight seemed he was not going to change his mind. Seven years old was it. He was going to be seven years old for eternity.

But then he thought of a problem. What if his friends chose different ages? What if they chose to be much older in heaven? They wouldn’t be able to play together. What if there were no other seven year olds? He would have no friends and nobody to play with for eternity. The problem began to really scare him. He needed his friends to agree to be seven years old eternally with him. It couldn’t be that hard. He had already gotten his friends to agree to become astronauts and go to space with him. Before that they had agreed to be cowboys with him. He had good friends and he wasn’t worried. They would all go to heaven and be the same age together forever and ever and everything would go on eternally for as good as he was having it now, in this, his seventh and best year on the earth.



42. The less skilled a man is the more money he will require to make up for his lack of skillfulness. He must employ others to be skilled for him.

59. To be skilled is to have a security more secure than any amount of fiat currency.

63. The desire for money is an expression of his passivity. One wants to be secure enough to no longer do anything, to no longer feel anything. Verily, money obstructs the motivation to learn new skills.

67. A man of great and varied skill is fearless and confident. He knows he is ignorant of nothing. He requires neither money or other men and his life and his happiness he makes for himself. But the wealthy man is always fearful for his wealth, for stripped of his money he becomes helpless, unable to call upon those with skills to act for him.

86. Some skills: cultural (languages, customs, geography, etc.); physical (strength, speed, endurance of pain, coordination, self-defense, street smarts, experience against fists, knives, guns, etc.); technical (medical for his own body, bicycles, motorcycles, small engines, electrical, plumbing, etc.); economic (Austrian economics (von Mises, Hayek), history of fiat currencies, central banking and its effects, inflation/deflation dynamic, the carry trade, the yield curve, trading knowledge to protect any assets, etc.); survival (constructing shelters, water, fire, hunting and trapping, foraging for edible plants, farming, fishing, etc.); weapons (rifles, pistols, knives, etc.); intellectual (Plato, Stoics/Cynics/Epicurians, Sophocles, Augustine, Montaigne, Wittgenstein, Nietzsche, Heidegger/Sartre (one should be versed in some highly technical philosophy--it enhances discipline), Tolstoy, Hemingway, Hamsun, Celine, etc.); hard sciences and philosophy of science (from Feynman and Heisenberg to Feyerabend and Popper and Kuhn); miscellaneous (understanding women and their different motivations and handling and directing them, legal defense skills, prison life and survival, horsemanship, painting, music, writing, photography, ethology (Lorenz), etc.)

97. To be free is to be comprehensively skilled. To be free is not to require the skills of others. Indeed, it is in part that money may act as a substitute for skills that makes it anti-thetical to freedom.


A Wounding above Zaragoza

He lay in the ditch. He had fallen. The brakes had failed and he had gone over the bars and into the dirt and rock wall. But he had not gone off the mountain. He was not slain. He was only wounded. I will lay and bleed a little, he said aloud. Then I will get back up and true this mangled wheel and I will ride down from this mountain.


Stare at the Gringo

The Colombian and Ecuadorian both stare long and hard at the blue-eyed gringo on the strange bicycle. But their gazes are different. The Colombian looks upon the blue-eyed gringo and his funny bike with surprise and curiosity. He may smile. He wishes to know more. There is thought and wonder behind his gaze. The Ecuadorian, however, looks upon the gringo and his strange bike with bewilderment. The Ecuadorian’s look is empty. There is nothing behind it, not even the dimmest of curiosities. He is speechless before the gringo. He looks and thinks nothing and could say nothing if the gringo stopped and spoke to him.


Ecuadorian Pullups

At Canoa out front of the hotel restaurant on the beach is a pullup bar. It was a surprise to see it when I arrived and I looked forward to seeing how much of my pullup strength I had lost since not performing the exercise in almost a month. But there were weed smokers and bongo playing hippies around the bar and then some skinny idiots among them were doing jerkups to impress some girls. They did two or three and acted like he-men. I didn’t want any of those fools to be near me when I was working out. They would no doubt disrupt the timed sets I perform. I decided to do my workout the following morning.

I got out to the bar at 8 am, the beach around it empty, the sky overcast and the wind blowing big, crashing waves onto the beach. I warmed up with 30 slow, deliberate, perfect form pushups in the sand and then did slow circles forward and back with my arms outstretched in an iron cross position, 50 revolutions in each direction. I busted 50 mountain climbers to get the blood flowing. Then I started into the pullups, doing sets of 5 strict and very slow with a pause at the up and down position. I felt pretty good but just to be sure extended my rest time between sets to 45 seconds instead of the usual 30.

During my rest period after the fifth set a squat middle-aged guy with the typical Ecuadorian gut comes waddling over with his fat wife and little son and he walks up to the bar. I didn’t think he could do a single pullup and figured he wouldn’t be much of a disruption. He must have seen me doing pullups and wanted to show off for his fat wife and little boy. Maybe he remembered the one pullup he had done in his life long ago.

The guy looks up and reaches for the bar but it is much too high for him. Then he jumps, just getting his fingers around the bar, but not enough to grip it, and his feet are gone from under him and he’s falling backwards and me, seeing this happening in slow motion, watch him land flat on his back, his head banging off the corner of the cement foundation of the left pillar for the bar. Blood is pouring from his head into the sand and he’s laying there, this confused look in his eyes.

Stay down, stay down, I tell this fool, putting my hand on his chest. But my talking seems to awaken him and this idiot sits up and pushes my hand away. He’s back on his feet. This idiot has got to do his pullups. He’s got his arms outstretched and is going to try to jump for the bar again. Stop, stop, I tell him, you can’t reach the bar. I push a cement block under the bar so he can stand on it. He doesn’t thank me and stands on the block with his arms outstretched, looking up at the bar. The back of his t-shirt is red from all the blood running down his neck.

I look over at his fat wife and little son. They don’t seem at all concerned by this. They haven’t said a word. Perhaps this is part of his pullup routine. Perhaps a head wound and bleeding is all part of the warmup.

He jumps for the bar and I’m ready to try and catch him this time, but he gets it. He hangs for a second and steadies himself and then jerks his legs and his midsection and his shoulders just come out of their locked position. His chin has maybe moved a few centimeters upwards towards the bar. Under his breath he mutters Uno. He jerks again, and his gut shakes. Dos. He takes a longer pause and again does the jerking. Tres, and with that he drops down from the bar.

He turns and walks over to his son. He slaps his hand and gives him the awkward fist bump that for some reason passes for a handshake among people of any age and gender throughout Ecuador. They finish this celebratory flourish by extending their thumbs and touching them together. He then puts one arm around his son, the other around his fat wife and the three stagger off slowly across the beach in triumph, the back of his head still pulsing blood.


La Poeta Negro de Ibarra

It was early morning and the other bars in Ibarra had closed for the night. But on the far side of the city there was a small, one room bar that stayed open for men who were committed to their drinking. I was there at this bar, drinking bottles of Club Verde, seated at a wooden table with an out of work carpenter, a belly dancer, a very drunken photographer, and the Black Poet of Ibarra. The carpenter was called Pablo Guerrero and he had brought me to this bar after the one we had been drinking at had closed.

The belly dancer smiled. She was not at all ashamed of her bad teeth. She wore a green sheer dress and sparkling bikini top and had just performed her belly dance. At the other table four old men looked over at her longingly. She was very much enjoying the attention.

The Black Poet of Ibarra stood up and announced that the poem he had been writing for me was now complete. He asked that the pastilla music be turned off. From the pocket of his corduroy jacket the Black Poet produced a piece of broken glass. It looked like the bottom of a Coke bottle. He held the shard of glass to his eye and looking through it he began to read the poem he had written on a small square of paper. The poem he wrote for me was titled “Pedro.” 

The Black Poet was old and sad. His wife of 28 years had just died. We talked of Augustine. We talked of Nietzsche. We talked of the Pre-Socratics. We talked of how life might have been before men became reasonable, before the myths were destroyed and the gods exiled. The Black Poet agreed that logic and science were regional and that these regions were much narrower than men believed. I told the Black Poet that the line in his poem about my having pockets filled with wind was going to stay with me a long time. The Black Poet lived nearby and I slept a few hours on his couch until the sun came up.


With Pedro Moncayo

It was hot in the sun at the plaza. It was good to be out of the cold of the higher mountains. I sat on a wooden bench and watched the Ecuadorian hippies making music. One played a guitar and the other a bongo drum. They were dirty and shoeless and looked in my direction longingly. In the plaza center pigeons alighted on the head of the bronze statue of Pedro Moncayo. There were two pigeons sitting on his head and one defecated and the feces ran down his forehead and slowly down the bridge of his nose. Another pigeon defecated and the feces ran along the same line, a grayish glob collecting at the tip of Moncayo‘s nose. A third defecation caused the feces to grow too heavy and it dropped to the stone base of the statue.

A filthy little black boy with a big, unkept afro was wandering around the park. He was coughing heavily and spitting. He sounded tubercular and seemed to take delight in walking near people and spitting up his phlegm. He would come very close to them and start coughing and spitting. I watched him as he came up from behind me. Beside my bench the black boy got down on his knees and spit up a great quantity of green mucus onto the stone path. Then he began to trace his finger through the mucus making some sort of design with it. I moved to another bench. I was immunized for tuberculosis but I did not want to chance it. The black boy continued to outline something in his phlegm. He was very serious about it.


Security Notes for Bicycle Touring

[This list was originally written for Maximin and is by no means complete]

1. Make copies of your passport. A photocopy to carry with you as well as a picture on your netbook and emailed to yourself in your email. (Also note that US passports sell on the black market for 10k, so should you be really hard up for money it can be sold.)

2. Power of attorney. You can give it to someone you trust in the USA. Can be useful for any banking issues as well as tax problems and medical issues if you are incapacitated. Simple power of attorney forms can be gotten at your local library. Also very easy to terminate.

3. Your bank card is essential to survival. Always carry it in your secret pocket and have the international phone number of your bank emailed to yourself and on your netbook so you can cancel the card if stolen. You also need a USA address on file with the bank that your new card can be sent to. A person at this address can then send the new card to you in S America. This is easier if you have given power of attorney to this person. Also tell your bank of your travel plans. This way they can monitor your card use and put a hold on it if used irregularly. Additionally, many banks if not notified of a S American trip will immediately put a hold on your card or cancel it. Set daily withdrawal limits and credit card daily limits. No doubt the default daily limits on the card are much too high for S American bicycle touring.

4. Adaptor connector for camping stove. This allows you to use the needle-headed butane canisters that are sold in hardware stores. The adaptor screws into the stove and then twist-locks onto the top of the butane canister. Essential when traveling by bike as camping stores are often hard to find to purchase the specially designed screw-on camping butane canisters. Also, hardware store butane canisters are cheaper than the camping canisters. I lost my adaptor and don’t think I’ll see another one outside of Argentina, a country of people who enjoy camping. I consider this my most serious loss of gear. 

5. Another well known security precaution in hotels is to leave your TV on while out of your room. Make sure its loud enough that someone putting their ear up to your door can hear it.

6. A knife is a good weapon. A switchblade is best since it only takes one hand to pop it. You can slowly bring out money from your left-hand pocket with your left hand--getting the thief to watch that hand--while bringing out the switchblade in your right from your right-hand pocket, popping the blade and keeping it hidden by your thigh, and then, as you slowly hand the money towards the thief, handing it to thief’s hand holding the knife, you stab the fucker in the throat, while pushing his knife away from you with your left hand. But only do this shit if you feel you must. Switchblades are also good for cutting things when camping and for cooking too, as well as cutting your cardboard boxes for transporting your Bike Friday. Switchblades are illegal in all states except for New Hampshire. It may be something you purchase when arriving in S America.

7. A better weapon for defense is a sort of heavy stick that unfolds and you can whip people with it. I don’t know the name of it and I wish I had one. Perhaps they make them to fit in pockets. With this you can whip it out and keep a knife-wielding attacker at a distance while you fuck him up. You should strike for his knees or shins first, bringing him to the ground, then you can hit him some more or begin to stomp on his face and kick him. Then, later, if you’ve taken a particular dislike to him, you can get out your switchblade and cut into the bitch. But keep in mind that if you should bring out your knife you had better be prepared to kill with it. This is true especially in Colombia where letting a guy live is certain to mean a life-threatening future problem. He’ll be coming back for you with all his friends and well armed.

8. Carry a bit of money in your regular pockets to give to a mugger. A wallet with a few bills in it is even better. Its always best to avoid violent confrontations. Most of these guys are professionals.

9. A good pair of shit-kicking stomping boots. These may be heavy and you would only wear them when off your bike, but they are great for fighting. Just kick a motherfucker in the knee and he’s going down. The groin is a good spot too but can be hard to kick just right, so go for the knees or shins (shins are very sensitive). He’ll go down (or at minimum be unable to walk towards you) and then you can stomp the shit out of him. You should always attempt to get a guy on the ground first, especially the big guys. Got to take out their legs. A good pair of shit-kickers does that easily. Then stomp until he’s no longer a threat. You can also kick further than you can punch, meaning a kick is an offensive move that also keeps you protected, while a punch always leaves a man open to the counter. Perhaps you can purchase these boots when you find a place you want to stay after touring for awhile. Obviously its really a luxury to carry these things in panniers while touring.

10. In any violent encounter in S America be prepared to fight 7 guys. Miguel the Ninja of Buga told me this and I believe it is a good rule to follow. So get the lead guy down and then be quickly turning to take on the next guy. You need to work quickly, and that is why getting a guy in the knees and getting him down is important so you can turn and fight the next one.

11. Be aware that the thieves with knives and guns often look for couples. Its an easier robbery to grab the girl and then rob the both of you. Be aware of this when walking with a girl. You’re actually safer without her.

12. If the thief has a gun give him what he wants. Don’t fight.

13. Some robberies may involve them stealing your clothing, including your pants. This means your secret pocket and its contents is being taken too. You may indeed choose to resist depending upon what you’re carrying and your assessment of the attackers and situation.

14. Walk on sidewalks at the edge of the street, not against walls or buildings. That way if someone comes at you from in front or behind or from an alley they’ll have a harder time pushing you against a building or into an alley to rob you. You also have an opportunity for escape by being able to run into the street. Also, a cop in a car has a better chance of seeing the robbery.

15. When walking at night back from the bar or club or walking in a bad area I have often put a good-sized rock in my back pocket. If you can throw hard and accurate it makes a great weapon against a guy with a knife. Hit him good, then run.
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