In Stories From The Road 0 comments


The light from my cigarette reflects off the glass next to me. The orange ember that is, doesn’t signify, but is, fire. Fire triggers this strange, primordial switch in our brains that cuts deeper maybe even than sex. It’s raw power; the form of power we humans first learned to harness.
Once discovered it could never be unkept from the homonids that came before us. I don’t intend to publish this. This part, these words, the art of the craft and the only art that sets me on fire, this stays with and dies with me. These words have a way of flowing when I know they’re only for me.
There is some sort of distorition when they are written for others. The pen, the typewriter, the keyboard. They are all tools that still convey the exact same message. The attempt at implanting a thought, an emotion, in the brain of another human. Artists do it through strokes of the brush and the pen.
Musicians through breath, through strings, through vibration. Craftsmen do it through the melding of metal and wood and iron and fire. But all of it, all art, is an attemtp at communcation. Commounciatin the thoughts in our mind and a desprate attempt to intentioinally temper those thoughts and emotions and feelings and life enough to distill into a form of communcation.
The communcation is undoubtedly abstract, as it needs to be. It has to be decoded. Pure human emotion and feeling and fire is oto sacred to be laid plain before eveyrthing and everyone esle in the world. And through this piece I’ll attempt to convey my emotions and feelings and sentiments, and hopefully to mirror the neurons fired in my brain, to the reader’s, of what happens in my mind when I feel the Jungle.

The urge to kill a fish immediately upon capture seems to arise from both practical and primal purposes. Practically, it can be logistically difficult to carry around a bag of writhing fish gasping for air, dying a slow and agonizing death. They’ve very strong writhers, and there’s a chance that when you put your bag down as you’re nabbing another fish one of those slippery bagged writhers will pop out and slither over the sand to freedom.

Ah but wait, the Immigration Office. I went to Laos to renew my Thai visa. Travel in unfamiliar places seems to stimulate feelings of intense and agonizing wanderlust coupled with a sort of lonely romanticism; the full materialization of these feelings seem always at our fingertips no matter how far we stretch toward them. When you go to official government offices that act as the gateway to a new country you need to reconcile these near-transcendental emotions of traveling with the hollow-feeling metal reality that inevitably born from too many humans inhabiting the same physical space. This overpopulation inevitably leads, however slow and unmotivated, to bureaucracy.

Bureaucracy (such a red-tape-laden word to spell) springs up independently all over the world. It seems like the natural reaction when humans in one spot overwhelm our evolved ability to govern on a tribal level. This country before me holds vast amounts of beauty and mystery, people, jungle, strange foods, Communism, wonder and thought-provocation.
To experience these things one must first reconcile it with the beige walls, floors with unexciting patterns that some government-contractor found at a good price point, blank-faced customs agents, clocks that serve no aesthetic purpose, paperwork with no pens in sight and the overwhelming sense of unhurriedness that comes with Bureaucracy.

There is no overt suppression of wanderlust and romanticism at the gates of Laos, or any other country for that matter. That’s what makes it so much less human. At least the act of intended suppression is more human than a vacancy of emotion born out of apathy and a lack of intention.
As I sat and awaited the fantastically unrushed return of my passport stamped with a fresh Laos visa, I listened to the frantic and frivolous screams of travelers enduring various stages of agitation undoubtedly exacerbated by the lack of any real human emotion to bounce their own emotions off of. Their Euros weren’t accepted, the $50 USD bill had a wrinkle and because that particular customs officer working that particular window that particular day stepped on a thimble getting out of bed that particular morning, they decided they were not accepting any crinkled $50 USD bills from particularly agitated Canadians on this day.

I cracked open Aldus Huxley’s “Doors Of Perception”. Sitting in a bolted-to-the-floor blue plastic chair identical to the other hundred in the room with exposed industrial steel scaffolding towering above me, I read Huxley’s words, “Reality remains unshakably itself”. I became fiercely aware of my ventricles and aorta expanding and contracting, entirely out of my control.
My reality is this heartbeat. My reality is everything I’ve been gifted to see through these eyes and hear with these ears and taste and touch. My reality is the remembered electrical impulses that have been routed through my brain, engaging and passing through various neighboring synapses and other bundles of brain matter. I know nothing else but what I have experienced through my reality.

I don’t know what force in the universe provoked such an existential realization, but I had an inner-body experience where, for a brief moment, I fully conceptualized my mortality and how my reality both meshes seamlessly with and simultaneously runs entirely counter to the much larger collective Reality.

Thankfully a lovely, thoroughly pissed off Brazilian girl screaming at the pan-faced customs officer snapped me back to the present moment. Oddly enough it wasn’t her screams that grabbed my attention…

The Jungle. That’s what I came to talk about. To kill a fish instantly you have to pinch, hard, at the crown of the head just above the eyes. Not enough force and it just creates agony for the already doomed creature. You’ll know the moment you crush the brain. The fish goes limp, there is a little bit of blood on your fingers, and there is an occasional flailing resulting from stray electrical impulses sent without any way to return to sender.

Look at you. Now you have your fish. A couple more and you have dinner for your and your friends.

After spending a couple months here it is my opinion that everything in this goddamn Jungle wants to kill you. There’s no room. Carrying capacity is supersaturated and your presence is the single grain of sugar that jars the entire solution loose. It sends everything to the bottom. It sends them all in an emotionless rage toward you.
You’re an extra form of life that requires life to survive. Not only that, but you have the audacity to walk into this no-vacancy jungle as a goddamned Apex Predator. Not that you, Suburban Boy, are any kind of Predator. Your immunity to jungle wasps and bullet ants is nil, and an organized offensive against you will leave you on the floor of this unique ecosystem to feed the detritivores.

I know a couple people who see it different. I’ll detail them in later writings. But where I see death and horror and things that make my actual amygdala’s asshole clamp shut in a cold sweat, they see opportunity. They see the chance to take their place in this explosion of life. Sometimes in order to make room for themselves they understand they have to take some of the life there.

The Jungle is bursting at the seams with life, barely able to contain it’s own vitality. Its spirit is, I feel, violence. Not a malevolent violence, as human on human violence is. It is violence in its most pure and amoral form. Violence for the simple sake of violence. Life taking life in order to keep the bubble from bursting at the seams.

Along with the practicality of killing this fish immediately, there is something in my monkey brain that felt as if it got one full breath. I’m unsure how to explain it. This was the first time I killed something where I cannot point to the mechanism of trauma as being anything but my body with intention. A bullet didn’t kill this fish. There was no cold steel blade involved. I can’t even point to the blunt force of smacking the fish on a rock, and thus relegating blame for the fish’s death to a billion-years-old small chunk of Earth. Between my two fingers this fish died. I didn’t take joy in its death. I didn’t agonize over its loss to the other fish in the ecosystem. It was a sort of non-eventful event. It just happened, and that was the end of it. But I felt like there was a place in my animal brain, shielded by higher-level cognitive function that felt vindicated. Like I earned my spot as an apex predator.

What I’m getting at is that the jungle is harsh. I’m not used to the output of violence necessary to sustain life there. But with all the Yin and Yang, there’s immeasurable beauty in this violence.
The quiet mornings where mist hangs low on the trees and shelters us from the sun’s intense equatorial rays, where birds fly above a canopy that guards the Jungle’s secrets from those who don’t venture into the trees; it adds an element of mystery and beauty that is rivaled only by the other extremes of nature. Howling winds shielded by clouds that blanket mountains. The unyielding and uncaring riptide of the ocean. The raw power of invisible current that lies just beneath the surface of a river. Beauty found in the quiet places of the world where we humans have not yet made our mark.

Why don’t I spend all our time in these places? Because it’s very hard to find beautiful Brazilian women shouting Portuguese in these places, for starts…