Art by Tom Swanson

What We’re Searching For

5/30: Why take a red bull and vodka and when you can eat an oxy and drink a frappucino? Resting would’ve been the best choice but I don’t like taking days off from exercise.   Surfing, however, was a no-go:  Turning my head gave me jolts of pain.  I’d probably had five good falls in the past 3 months where my head whipped in one direction or another.   Severe aches in my muscles and sharp pain in my joints had recently prompted me to search for the symptoms of MS.  So today I killed the sensations with part of an oxy, followed it with a frappucino to overcome the lethargy I was feeling, then jumped rope and did push-ups. 

Beny had made a habit of stopping at Casa Zen or messaging in the mornings when he was heading for a surf.  A week had passed since I’d been in the water.  It was a record.  Today he’d come by and said, basically, ‘this is your last day full day – let’s go surf’.  He knew my neck was jacked and that I was generally falling apart but I mentioned my rash as a new development in the last couple of days.  He looked at it and said, “Dengue.  You’ve got the Dengue”.  Of course.  It all made sense.  Beny’s wife had come down with it and they’d taken her to the hospital when she hit the worst part.  I’d fallen for a common misconception i.e. getting Dengue a second time means  that you’re completely hosed.  A simple internet search yielded some truth.  Ultimately, a blood test is the only way to get confirmation that you have Dengue but it’s rare that people do that because the list of symptoms presents itself pretty obviously.  There’s basically no treatment except keeping the fever down with tylenol, resting, etc.   

Instead of resting I spent the day with recent yoga teacher training grad Lonne and was generally piss-poor company despite having some laughs.  It was my last chance to sprint the hill to Horizon Yoga Hotel and the little devil on my shoulder said, “do it”. Surfing was out but sprinting was g2g because it didn’t require my head to turn much.  The angel on my other shoulder cautioned me before we headed to the hill, and when we reached the Bakery for a feed afterward it said, “I told you so”.  I was pretty wiped and grabbed a seat next to some friends.  Before sitting, a brief look behind me confirmed that there was a chair we could pull over from the next table; we would need an extra seat since it was a table of four and we were now five.  Instead of asking the people at the table if we could join, or offering the available seat to Lonne and getting another for myself, I simply plopped down on the open seat and left Lonne to fend for herself.  The courtesies had gone through my head but I wasn’t firing on all cylinders.  The thoughtlessness was embarrassing and distracted me from conversation as I considered it.  I should’ve been somewhere else resting.  

There was no space at Casa Zen for my last night so I stopped by to say goodbye to Julio.   He and another guy didn’t seem to believe I’ve had Dengue… “Dengue is strong,”  Julio told me.   Actually there are four types that can range from a mild flu-like feeling to bleeding out the ears or worse.  Once you get one of the types you become immune to that one.  Two down, two to go.  Julio’s friend said he had the cure for my rash – a local plant that takes care of allergies.  ‘That would be great if it were an allergy’, I said, and thanked him. It had been a minute and I was already tired of him.  Julio and I talked a few moments then the guy with the beer in his hand said, “the best medicine is in the mind”.  No shit, but the mosquito did bite me.  Despite dubious medical qualifications he was quite sure of himself. Ignorance and confidence are one of my least favorite mixes.  My eyes rolled slightly and I took a small amount of satisfaction in letting him know how moronic I thought his info was.  There was nothing I was going to prove to these guys; after a slight gesture of throwing up my hands, I reached to shake Julio’s hand and thank him for the vibes of the past three months. 

5/31: Lonne walked up the driveway at Casa Pampa when I was waiting for the cab.  It was 7am and she gave me a Dutch farewell, waving me all the way out.  It was a very sweet gesture.

A peaceful flight from Tambor to San Jose, then a quick cab through a quiet Sunday morning brought me to the house of a friend I hadn’t seen since 2007.  Paul and I never spent a ton of time together in Eugene but the vibe was there and I finally made good on the invite to see him in Costa Rica. He’d met and subsequently married a Tica while living in Austin and they’d moved down to Costa Rica.  The US seemed of little interest to him anymore.  Their house was a beautiful artist’s creation with bonsai and gardens, paintings done and in progress, walls painted of bold colors, beer brewing, etc.  We talked all day until evening – a rarity for me.  Paul took care of me:  After a good stirfry and delicious smoothie of fresh pressed oj, ginger, acai powder, kale, and vegan protein I went off to bed early.  My neck was still jacked and I thanked my lucky stars for the Vicodin friend had sent me with.

6/1:  A cab arrived in a flash and the taxista was extremely friendly.  He might’ve had a ton of coffee and I was tempted to ask him about it just for fun.  Traffic was no match for him.  He made quick work of swerving around anyone who wasn’t driving to his standards.  It’s sometimes best to just surrender to the experience when you get a driver like this.  We wished each other well at the airport and I got settled with some internet since I had almost four hours before boarding for Denver.   After security, I sent a message to a friend in Washington; I was supposed to visit in September but she and her partner are a busy couple.  If I could see them on this trip, then I could  go to Europe in early September while the weather was still good. Someone had just urged me to get to Amsterdam and Berlin before the rains came, so I was feeling like going to the Pacific Northwest was a time crunch.  My friend sent back a message that we were still on for September but she and a number of crew members were meeting at a gathering called Big Stick Shindig  in 4 days.  The event is public but you have to get an invite through someone on their email list.  Each person agrees to be responsible for the behavior of people they invite.  I love the idea.  Did I want to go, she asked as we messaged,  saying that she’d send me the link. I opened the link and there were 50 tickets left.  A cursory look at the page was just a formality; the website confirmed suspicions I’d had about the festival based on who was going.  I’m sure the music would provide some danceable beats but the motivation to be there was to see my friends.  I bought the ticket and emailed another friend the link once I asked my inviter if he could join us.  I would need to cancel my flight to Denver but that was just a symptom of a greater change.

The jet had pulled out from the gate but it took me some time to realize that we’d stopped before reaching the runway.  We were sitting there for a few minutes when I noticed how unimpressed I was with my departure.   Pulling away from the jetbridge often starts a cascade of introspection:  Even if something was left undone or an item left behind, the movement from the gate signals that there’s nothing more to do in this country (whatever country it was).    I had two surfboards in STCR, a deposit down on an apartment, and was likely to be back in a month.  I was fairly feeling resigned to it all.  Resigned, not necessarily happy.  A deep breath usually comes as I sit on the jet and I begin to pricess the journey.  There’s always transformation from travel.  There are parallels between travel and psychedelic experiences: we take ourselves out of our normal frame of mind and become open to perceiving what’s around us.  I’m usually touched by this profound sense as I sit on a runway, especially when it’s to go ‘home’.  The uncontrived nature of the ritual is something I’m grateful for, so I noted with some interest and concern that I’d nearly forgotten it.  I take some things for granted now that they’ve become my norm.  When I’d gone to Chacahua in southern Mexico the previous July, I remember thinking, “It’s just another beautiful beach”.  Chacahua often blew people away.  I’d seen a lot of them and Chacahua didn’t move me.  Back to the present…  What was going on that had caused me to forget to process 3 months in Costa Rica.  3 very good months.

Emotional intelligence is something I value, so I try to maintain perspective on how I’m feeling and what drives me.  As we sat a little way from the gate, what I really felt was that I had no home and was just ‘going’ vs ‘going home’.  The US feels like my cultural home and a place where many of my tribe resides but I’m detached from it.  I happened to be going to the US and as of  hour an before had purchased tickets to dance my brains out in a box canyon in Norcal with a bunch of trippers.  The ticket and how it came to be created a feeling of spaciousness that was in stark contrast to recent weeks.  Instead of a sense of spontaneity, my thoughts in the past few weeks had been dominated by scheduling and how a new business would fit (or not fit) into my lifestyle.  There was a sense of obligation that I should line up everything I ever wanted given my complete freedom.  ‘Should’ is a slippery word.  The body was kind of beaten up, making me a little depressed, and the mind hadn’t truly opened to the new chapter i.e. the house was sold… and, really, what now?  I was kind of thrashing around and feeling lost.  The truth is that when I arrive in the US I’ll have to deal with putting down Mango dog.  But I’m prepared as I can be. He had a great life and I’m content with what we’ve shared.  Mango’s last day will be as good as it can be and I’m immeasurably richer for his companionship.   

Now is my chance: I had some money and no responsibility.  There was nothing I could even pretend was holding me back. The ticket for Big Stick was the moment I went from thinking I was free to knowing it.  It’s amazing.

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