Wednesday, June 23, 2010


nuestra senora de guadalupe, ruega por nosotros

something about those bright colors
would always make you feel better
but now we speak with ruined tongues
and the words we say aren’t meant for anyone
i'm gonna give you only one reply
i know not who i am.
conor oberst

"At least in Fawcett's mind, what he had been taught his whole life about the superiority of Western civilization clashed with what he experienced beyond its shores. 'I transgressed again and again the awful laws of traditional behavior, but in doing so learned a great deal,' he said. Over the years, his attempt to reconcile these opposing forces, to balance his moral absolutism and cultural relativism, would force him into bizarre contradictions and greater heresies."

David Grann, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

white light white heat

We were next to each other on one of the most crowded buses I have ever been on, as it only is in Bolivia, and I barely knew him but he was basically forced to sit on top of me. His English was really elementary, and most of the time he addressed me in soft Spanish with accompanying hand gestures. He started explaining the sprawling rainforest landscape, and I understood almost all of the narration- he spoke slowly enough that I could understand nearly every word. He barely broke eye contact for the ten minute bus ride, so I didn't either. For some reason there wasn't the usual amount of communication lost in translation, resulting in a rudimentary understanding of each other. It felt like something was gained- like someone had taken the moment and plugged it into an electric socket. That the only parts of the conversation that were there were the ones that were conductors, and everything around us was coated in waves of energy. If I touched anything a jolting buzz would emanate into my blood. Not in a way that would be painful, but in a way that would make me feel alive. I didn't touch anything though, I just watched the current pulsing around and listened to the foreign language, intermittently nodding with "Sí, sí, entiendo," until we arrived at the río.

so i look for your eyes, and the waves of light that pour right out of them.
yo la tengo

Monday, June 21, 2010

cuz you're the places that i wanted to go

can i kiss your dopamine?

There are chance meetings with strangers that interest us from the first moment, before a word is spoken.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment
i don't need drugs. i am drugs.

places to go:

tel aviv
upper peninsula

the preceding photos are mine, the following are not.

i refuse to give up my obsession.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

things fall apart

What I'm trying to say is that I wish things had worked out better for you. I wish it more than anything in the world. When I look at you now, the circles under your eyes become more pronounced every day. It's as if time has added to your fatigue as continuously as it adds each passing hour. As relentless as time. If I could undo it, I would. I would give my livelihood to you as fully as you needed to get by yourself. If I could drain my vitality to give yours back, I would. All that I want is for that to be enough. Your happiness means more to me than does my own. I would rather have you than have myself.

fairground doctor

For the first time since all this happened, I feel my understanding of the world start to shift, as if it's only now- now that I know this is all true- that I can allow myself to start answering all the questions I have: to start adding up all the pieces of information and all my experiences.

I am suddenly sure that the moment when you catch someone's eye, or the moment you think someone's looking at you, or the moment when you think of someone and then they ring, or the moment when you start getting lost in a building you know so well because most other people in it are lost- these aren't accidents. They relate in some way to the structure of the physical world, to the fact that all our minds are as connected as everything else.

Scarlett Thomas

you don't know nothin about where we're from

Three weeks ago I took a flight 4,407 miles away from home alone, to be greeted by people I had not met before. I have had some of the most eye opening experiences of my life, and days that have made me feel both intensely frustrated and satisfied. However, I have not felt more far away from home than I did Monday night.

Monday night at dinner, after a German girl stated that it had always been one of her father’s dreams to settle in the United States, an older man from another European country joined the conversation.

“Why?” he asked. “Why would anyone want to live in such a god-awful place? It is the worse place on the planet. They are killing thousands of people. They made George Bush, and now they have made Obama.” He elaborated about his stance on the deployment of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The man then looked directly at me and said it is the last place that he would ever want to visit.

The Bolivian girl disagreed with him apprehensively: “I fell in love with the United States when I was in Washington. The people were so nice to me. If you had said that about Bolivia, that all Bolivians supported Evo Morales or it was an awful place, I would be very angry.”

“Good people in a country do not make a good country,” the man said.

I didn’t say anything. I have traveled enough to know that it is typically not advisable to speak about American politics in different countries. I stared straight at him and waited for him to finish his rant. It was obvious he wanted me to disagree, and generally I have no problem with arguing. However in the middle of South America, being the only person from the United States at dinner with people from five different countries, I was at a loss for how to handle the situation. It takes a lot to offend me, but by brazenly insulting the United States and failing to make any differentiations between political disagreement and personal insult, he accomplished it.

Earlier in the conversation, when the man learned that I was from Chicago, he looked at me with an expression of disbelief and said “Wow. I thought that the last of you had fled out of here. It is not common to meet Americans in Bolivia.” Unaware of what was to come in the conversation, I had told him that I have heard that his country is absolutely beautiful. It takes a special kind of arrogance to openly insult someone who you have just met, and who was not only friendly but complimentary.

I have traveled fairly extensively for my age, and this is the first time I have directly encountered unprovoked, direct hostility from someone of another country. Of course, I have witnessed obvious anti-American sentiment, however I have never personally been offended. I have met many foreigners in the US, and I can’t imagine ever making a derogatory statement to them about their home country, no matter what it is. Typically, I have found my acceptance and appreciation for people different from myself to be met with a similar attitude.

I have always felt appreciation for my American citizenship and home in Chicago, however it is even more evident when it is challenged. When the man said that, I wished that we were in Chicago, and he could have absorbed the repercussions of his statement there. The reality of the situation was that I felt more alone than I have in a long time. I am lucky to say, however, that this event has been the most ostracized I have felt in my stay here.

I love America.

Friday, June 4, 2010

tropic of cancer

I have been in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia for 10 days now. I wish I could write more frequently, but it is hard to articulate all the things that happen every day.

I love South America. The people are beautiful, and the city seems to run in a manner very near to chaos. At first this frightened me, but it is becoming more and more liberating. I love the way Bolivians say my name, 'Cah ro leen.'

There is a simultaneous wildness and modesty that is characteristic of los cruceños, and I appreciate it more every day. They seem to have a lust for life far less inhibited by consumerism and bureaucracy. I love the way that some people look at me here, like there are hundreds of things they want to say, but are prevented by the translational gap. I feel that they are able to communicate more to me than they are aware. I wish I had a book by Pablo Neruda here.

and one by one the nights between our separated cities are joined to the night that unites us.
pablo neruda