500 Words

Santiago, Chile.

Wine. Red. Terra Andina. Merlot-Syrah. A fly. Hovering around the glass. Swat. Afuera. Regresa. Repeat. Try not to kill. Keep swatting.

Earlier. Human Rights Museum. Tragedy, Hopelessness, Hope. Criticisms. Confusion. “Mentira.” ¿Es verdad? ¿No es verdad?

Days ago. Completed Waiting for Godot. Question everything. Laugh at it all.

Why so serious? The Joker echoes in my brain? But how can we laugh? All this tragedy?

-It’s how we cope.
-It’s how we belittle.
-It’s how we overcome.
-It’s how we forget.

Laundry hangs outside, the patio. Nitza’s house. We met yesterday. Starbucks. Chance. Invitation to stay. Share: thoughts, time, food… Pinochet vs. Lefties. She prefers the former. Bed. Showers. Her friend in prison. War crimes.

Like Isabel. Buenos Aires. Crying, saying goodbye. Remaining in touch, Facebook. Her husband, in prison, war crimes, would’ve killed us if we were alive and in Argentina 30 years ago.

How can one make sense of any of this? Processing, or beginning to. Still: a foreign country, in motion, navigating the side of the road with a thumb, plodding about in a second language. Marveling. Inebriating. Tiring. Waiting. Absorbing. Wringing out.

The internet here is strong. The infrastructure here is strong. The strength of the dictatorship. The economy. The backing of the mighty United States. The red. The white. The blue. Lots of red. Bodies in rivers. Batons to the heads of the bold. Torture. A group of soldiers stomps a teacher to death on the floor beneath the chalkboard of his classroom. September 11, 1973. Never forget.

Graffiti on all the street corners. Across the street: “Tu comodidad avala la pobreza.” The beating heart of the people. It bleeds. It continues to pump blood. Hasta la victoria siempre

Why write? I want to scream. I want to throw fire. I want to bite off ears, hurl rocks, spit in the face of every helmeted buffoon with a gun and a twisted notion of honor coinciding with murder.

Where are the badges for the peaceful? True, maybe we should not reward those who simply do what everyone ought to do. Like praising the man for not beating his wife. But now Chris Kyle is a box office boom and I am too confused, too deflated, too thoroughly neutralized by awe to even have the energy, the conviction, the clarity to be angry, to throw fire, to take a side.

Are there sides? Yes there are. Whose am I on? Give money away. Get some more. Give  a homeless man a coin. We talk. Approach a woman in a cafe. Ask for food. Receive cake, coffee. Wash the dishes. Later, buy carrots, onions, potatoes. Cook soup. Eat, chat. Nitza has never been to Human Rights Museum. Says she will go now.

Soon: Lima. Then Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver. The journey ends. Or does it? When does it end, begin? “La vida es un viaje” – so reads the title of a future blog post. We shall explore: time, arbitrary designations, meaning.

– Jesse


What are you looking for, Adam?

This isn’t one of the five most common questions we get, but it’s one that tends to make me think, so now, apparently, I’m writing about it. We’re obviously looking for something, right? Well, everyone’s looking for something, probably plenty of things, I guess. The man with the yacht is looking for a distraction from his caring, unexciting marriage, or looking for the feeling he gets when the breeze pushes him and his knees wobble with the bouncing of the waves, or maybe looking for a bigger yacht, or looking for a yacht-purchaser, his large white boat a careless whim requiring too much maintenance. You get it. If you’re not looking for anything, it’s probably hard to find much purpose. Maybe happiness is looking for what you already have and finding it, repeatedly, like a dog with his squeaky toy or a baby playing peekaboo.

I wonder what Pacino’s looking for…

But as to us, we’re not looking to get away from anything. I love the people I’m so often so far from. And yes society is fucked, but frankly it’s fucked in our favor, so I’m not running from a pile of injustices. Getting away itself isn’t going to make the world any better. So if we’re not looking to get away from something, we must be looking for something out here on the road. I don’t think I’m trying to “find myself”. I know who I am, more or less, and I even have a pretty strong set of beliefs about the world. Am I just looking for fun? I don’t think so. I like fun, quite a bit, but I think there are probably things that are more fun than hitchhiking and talking about society. I know I want to learn, so am I mostly curious, looking for knowledge? I really like learning, but what’s drawing me specifically to learn about the variety of people out here and these places? I’m not looking for a free ride, by the way, despite not using money. There are way easier ways to live than this.

I think I’m trying to figure out how to change the world.

What the hell does that mean? I’m not the smartest person in the world, and I’m never going to be the most powerful. I could study linguistics (as I did in graduate school), but it’s very unlikely I’d do anything super relevant. I could teach 8th grade social studies, and I imagine I’d be slightly better than the guy I’m replacing. I think that would be a good thing. But I think it might be possible I could be even more useful to society than that. I’m intelligent, I care, and I’m more able than most people to be OK with sleeping in parks and getting into cars with strangers. So what do you do with that combination? Well, there’s more. There’s your analysis of what better is and how to get there. If you’ve read anything on this blog, it’s pretty clear that for us better is a world where more people have more well-being, and we get there through personal and systemic changes that make for more love, more cooperation, and more access to needs and desires. We think the ideas of the political left – from progressivism to socialism to anarchism – are fundamental to this change. So is just being really really good to people, but that’s one that anyone else can help to bring about probably as well as we can, and we do try to do that. We think the ideas of the political left shape our society more if we’re taking action to put them in place. And so, we think being an activist is one of the best things a person can be. Every human is an activist to one degree or another, but some people spend a lot more time on it than others. And some activists spend that time a lot more usefully than others. I think being a Young Republican is a particularly poor use of activism time. So we’re looking to learn how to be the best activists we can, by combining our passion and activism experience with a bunch of unique perspectives gained by living a particularly intentional and different lifestyle that we’re maybe unusually suited for and definitely have the privileges to facilitate. I’m really glad there are people pouring over Marx, Kropotkin, and Piketty right now. I think their study is really important. I’m glad our friends in Athens are working to organize an active leftist movement there. I’m glad someone’s rewriting the curriculum to more accurately portray the incredibly terrible Christopher Columbus. And I’m looking to broaden my experience and knowledge in such a way that I can contribute something particularly significant to the building of the windy road to a more reasonable society.

That was quite the paragraph. I also put a lot of words in Jesse’s mouth. And what are you looking for, Jess?

I’m looking for more, too. I’m looking for variety. I crave the mental stimulation of newness. New things to process. New challenges to my ideas. New people to love. My neurotransmitters reward me when I build maps of new cities in my head and when I articulate ideas I didn’t have before. It’s so hard to do things our neurotransmitters aren’t into.

Oh, I’m also looking for hope. I want so badly to get to Uruguay and find it a society that’s actually moving toward something really better, without the moral noise of the United States in the time of income inequality and gay rights. (To be absolutely clear, income inequality = bad, gay rights = good.)

On the most superficial level, I’m looking to get better at Spanish and get a better body. For the latter, I don’t want to die of diseases, I want girls to like me, I want to run really fast, and I want girls to like me. We’re all just animals.

I want every human to have food to eat, much like my dad wants everyone to enjoy themselves when we’re at a football game. I guess I’m looking for the best tailgate organizer I can be.

– Adam
from Miami Beach, FL, USA

This was written in Fort Lauderdale where I spent the day playing in a pool, for what that’s worth.

This was written in Fort Lauderdale where I spent the day playing in a pool, for what that’s worth.