Miles Goes To South America

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Soccer is Not So Bad.

Maybe I can´t say that I hate soccer. Hate is a strong word and soccer has certainly never banged my teenage sister. Its just that for me soccer is alot like other peoples friends from high school. Ive tried and tried but I dont think Ill ever get why theyre so great.

I have a tradition that I like to partake in during the World Cup. For the entire four weeks I just go on not giving a shit. It ends up being great practice for the 44 weeks in between.

Soccer is unfortunately a very popular activity for the backpacker. Much like indie documentaries, sustainably farmed hummus or Che Gueverra, soccer is something that you´re simply required to feign interest in (a charade you can accomplish with as little as one clever T-shirt).

Eventually, in an effort to apear likable and hip, you will agree to tag along to a soccer game.  Luckily travelers, I have discovered that this is actually not so bad.

I’m not sure about you, but for me, watching soccer in America means sitting in a bar listening to some hipster try to extrapolate the play they saw on Top Ten to the point where it sounds like they actually watched the game.

Did I see that goal against Argentina? Yeah I saw it. I saw it on highlights and it saved me from 89 minutes of looking at nothing.

Fortunately, South American soccer fans are awesome.  All you do is drink and fight and sing songs about the spanish word for ¨cocksucker”  After the game everybody has a riot.  In America the only time you get a riot is if your team wins the goddamn World Series. Even then it has be in a real city like Boston or Philadelphia. You can’t be in San Fransisco where everyone just goes home and tweets about it.

  totally throwing biodegradable                                                                                           confetti@police cars:) #mycitysfullofpussies

My father once told me that you don´t go to a monster truck rally to watch monster trucks, you go to watch people who are there to watch monster trucks. The point being that in the right atmosphere I don´t really care if I´m in Missouri or Medellin, or what the provided entertainment happens to be.

With a little patience, and a little luck someone below the poverty line is going to make a poor decision and get hit with a police baton.

Into the Wild #3: Women in Nature

Women have long been associated with nature - metaphorically as in ‘mother Earth’, for instance. 

Judith Plant, Green Line Magazine

I was just settling down for the night when I heard the murmured hush of low voices through the dark.  I had arrived at this shelter hours before and quite exhausted from a long day on the trail. Looking forward to a quiet night I had built a fire and enjoyed an elegant dinner of shrimp-flavored ramen noodles.

  My body needed rest.  I had hiked over sixteen miles in the last ten hours and ingested 70% of my daily dose of sodium in a matter of moments. But now I was alert, shaken from the peaceful tranquility of God’s green forest at dusk.  The voices grew clearer and my shoulders slumped as the figures emerged into the light of the fire. This would be no quiet night.

Middle-aged women.

Don’t get me wrong. Enduring a through hike lies heavily in breaking the daily routine. Most of the time seeing an actual honest-to-god woman on the trail is about as welcome a break as you can get.  As you might imagine, the social demographic that is “Long Trail Hikers” has a slight lack of female representation.  A serious lack.  You would probably find more women at a Taliban meeting than you would hiking the LT.  Either way you have to grow a beard.

 The majority of girls that you do meet on the trail are usually between 20 and 25 and easily placed into one of two categories:

A) Attractive females trying to deceive the guy they’re hiking with into thinking they actually enjoy the outdoors.

      or

B) Water Buffaloes.

Still, after you’ve been in the wilderness for a few days you’ll find that looks don’t really matter. A girl is a girl, even if she has a Jack Sparrow haircut and wears hobo pants.

Seclusion plays strange tricks on the eyes of men.  If you’ve ever seen the real life pictures of Pocohantas you know that hot mess from the Disney cartoon was a cruel mirage. I doubt she could even sing that well.  Truth is If you walk in the woods for a few days we all become terrible creatures.  We all look like shit.  We all smell like shit.  You might as well tell me about your humanities degree from Bennington College and why you decided to give up soap.

 Regardless of this, middle aged women are never to be trusted in the wilderness.  Their minds have been cruelly bent by years of grueling childcare and unaffectionate husbands.  They come into the woods with misplaced motives and strange agendas of feminine empowerment.  

As these women walked into the campsite I took a small comfort knowing that these two alone managed to toddle up the trail that night.  A pair of these women can be a bother, but an organized group can be an outright danger to a lone male in the middle of the woods. Had my luck been different I could easily have been overcome by a whole gaggle of these bickering hens. God forbid one of them have a bongo drum or a Sarah McLachlan poem they could have scooped me up and burned me over my own damn fire. Drunk on faded memories of the Lilith Fair and hungry for ritual male sacrifice. 

Kim and Ellen drop their packs and announce to me that they have come to the forest in order to liberate themselves from the cruel tyranny of their husbands and children.  I can immediately tell they are proud women and they detest me for being there.  Happily ignoring me they start unloading their bags while loudly vocalizing their inventory. I have noticed this is a strange trick women play in order to reenforce the invented idea that they are having some sort of crazy time.  

The charade is repeated many times and usually would go something like this:

Kim, grinning like a lunatic, holds up a white box apparently garnering some sort of special announcement.

"DO-NUTS!!"

Ellen demonstrates her approval in an odd sort of sing song dance with her shoulders and head. She then pulls socks with individual toes out of her bag, and the ritual continues

You would pity me if you could wrap your head around how much dumb shit you can fit in a backpack.

The list goes on and on and I soon realize my dreams of going to bed early will soon be be shattered by a strong supply of smoked sausage, wine in a carton, and unbridled feminine angst. 

After strewing all their worthless garbage across the floor they unwrap two sausages and stick them over the fire. They tell me they are eating sausages because they can splurge.  I think they are eating sausages because it involves roasting phallic objects over an open flame. Castration is a realistic fear however and I do not say this out loud.

Once the girls are full of sausage the wine comes out and they begin to regale each other with stories of domestic tragedies. My Husband Expects Me to Make Dinner. The Basket of Socks Without a Match That Sits in the Living Room by the Sofa.  These injustices are laid out like Greek plays.  I have come to the understanding that middle aged women can talk about socks for well over an hour.  And not just like a socks in general or a “socks of the world” sort of discussion.  I’m talking about one pair of white fucking socks for 90 minutes.

The drama of socks weighs heavier and heavier on their cheap wine soaked brains they begin to gesture wildly with their plastic cups, cursing these misfortunes for stifling their free spirit.

It is at this point I first think about hanging myself.   

I think this discussion will go on forever but the wine and self pity is a powerful concoction and the conversation begins to take a turn.  Becoming sullen over their oppressive home lives Kim and Ellen began to rally themselves around their triumphs as “working mothers”.  This is a strange practice I soon learn involves discussing some sort of maternal shortcoming followed by the phrase “but that’s how I make it work”.

"I can’t go to every soccer game, but that’s how I make it work"

"My kids eat chicken nuggets and microwave peas 3 times a week, but that’s how I make it work"

"That basket of socks in the living room has not moved for four months, but that’s how I make it work"

Somehow this swells the women with a strong pride. They are brought back to a sense of revelry and boastfulness and they begin to discuss how much money they could be making were it not for the oppressive factors holding them down. These factors take many shapes. Familial duties and ungrateful management are mentioned often. “Actually working harder” does not enter the conversation though I suspect I should keep this revelation to myself.

As the wine flows and the hour becomes late, the conversations start to run in circles. My eyelids are drooping and I can no longer listen to the wisdom that surrounds the fire.  In the morning Kim will reluctantly ask me through red stained teeth how to put her camp stove together. She can’t figure out the “nozzle thingy”.  

At the moment however I do not know this.  I pull my sleeping bag up and close my eyes.  The last thought I have before drifting into a deep sleep is how nice it would be if we were all eaten by bears.

Into the Wild #2: I’m Scared of the Dark

Pray why are you so bare, so bare, 
Oh, bough of the old oak-tree;
And why, when I go through the shade you throw,
Runs a shudder over me?

                                                                 Paul Laurence “The Haunted Oak”

Before I left on the trail my brother told me a story.  His professor in college once knew a girl that hiked the Long Trail by herself. At the end of the trip she got her film developed and when leafing through her photos she found two pictures that terrified her.  They were of her as she slept in her tent.

 I laughed and told him that that was the cheesiest story that I had ever heard and he was an idiot if he thought it was true.

My first night in a cabin alone I did nothing but suck my thumb and wonder when this photography enthusiast was going to show up to cut off my fingers and shove thumb tacks in my eyes. Every time I heard a twig snap I peed a little bit and shut my eyelids tighter.  

Once it gets dark the forest is scary as fuck.  Call me a pussy but you try spending the night alone in a cabin in the middle of the woods.  I may not be a scientist but just about anyone who knows anything knows that cabins in the woods are for getting raped in.  Have you ever seen a movie about a guy who goes in to a cabin in the woods and has a real swell time?  Unless your idea of a real swell time is forced sexual exploitation from a giant monster then there are no movies like that.

Do you know what you hear in the woods at night? Nothing.  Its terrifying. I will swear on a bible that a Grizzly Bear, Sasquatch, and The Blair Witch sat outside my cabin on the full moon thumb wrestling to see which two got to Eifel Tower me.

Into the Wild

"We can never have enough of nature.  We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and titanic features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, the thunder-cloud, and the rain."

-Henry David Thoreau

Nature is kind of dull.  What Hank Throeau doesn’t tell you is that in between writing poems and jerking off up at old Walden Pond he probably spent a fair amount of time bored fucking senseless. Seriously the woods are beautiful but unless you’re oddly fascinated by trees then after a while you have to find a way to pass the time.  A lot of people seem to like to whistle but unfortunately I’ve never been smart enough to figure that trick out.  Its fun to dig a hole and poop in it but if you do that all day you’ll never get anywhere.  Personally, I like to pretend that I have been tasked with disabling the shield generator on the forrest moon of Endor so the Rebel Fleet can destroy the second Death Star. You’re pretty much in the middle of the woods by yourself so you can make speeder bike noises or whatever.  Its kind of awesome.

I tried to convince some other hikers that we should all walk the trail dressed as the characters from The Lord of the Rings but everyone wants to be Aragon and I called being Aragon like right off the bat so fuck those guys.  I mean Gandalf’s pretty sweet but I certainly don’t want to be one of the hobbits or that limp-wristed fairy Legolas.  I ended up just walking through the woods alone singing the theme from the attack on Helm’s Deep.  

"Ba na naaaaaaaaaaa bum bum bum"

Home

So due to money and time issues with traveling to Panama, I decided to cut the South America trip a few weeks short and arrived home the other day.  Ill be in Southern Vermont for about a week before I leave to hike the Long Trail for about 25 days.

The Long Trail is the oldest hiking trail in the United States and the inspiration for the Appalachian Trail.  It spans about 270 miles from Massachusetts up to the Canadian border and I’ll be attempting to drag my sorry ass up the whole thing.  Im working on recruiting travel companions for certain parts of the trip but thus far it would appear no one enjoys my company anywhere near enough to walk through the woods with me for 3 weeks.  Even my dog is too fat to come.

Despite the fact that it is no longer aptly titled, I’ll try to keep the blog going because some of you have said you like reading it and frankly you should all know better than to encourage me.

I’ll be hiking through some of Vermont’s extra rural-y areas and in my experience the wonderful residents of my home state make for anything but dull conversation.  Once you get the talk about the weather out of the way of course. So anyway, I hope I can keep this interesting.

If all else fails shitting in the woods is always good for a laugh.

May 5

To the Israeli Who Asked Me to Take His Picture on the Boat from Playa Blanca:

I dont usually ask random people to take my picture. Im self concious and I think it makes me look like a tourist. I dont mean to insinuate that theres something wrong with asking. If you dont have a hang up then by all means knock yourself out. I will however say that if I did beg the photographic services of a bystander, I would certainly never have the intention doing anything but step back, look into the lens, and smile like an idiot.

But you Israeli, you are different.

I remember sitting near the front of the boat when I happened to catch your eye as you pulled the camera out of your backpack. Though we dont speak the same language you cleverly gestured the camera in front of my face. The international sign for “Will you take this picture of me?”

After I accepted you began a pointed instruction on how I was to take the picture. Thank you for this by the way. Technology remains a mystery to me and I surely never would have guessed that your shutter button is located on the top right side. Just like every camera in the world.

Confident that I had been enlightened by your tutorial you handed me the camera wearing a broad smile.  This smile I assumed you felt was satisfactory enough to grace your photographic keepsake.

But I was wrong.

You took a step back towards the bow and straightened the green Armani Exchange tank top which I have come to believe are simply issued with your machine gun. Here on the bow your bright smile suddenly faded away. You turned into the setting sun and gave what is no doubt the the most riveting “hopelessly searching for lifes answers” face I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. I even peered up from the digital view to witness the stark reality with my own eyes. Standing puzzled for only a moment, I wondered if this was your intended pose or some sort of indigestion brought on by the rocking waves. It soon became clear that this bemused expression was the image you wanted preserved for a lifetime. I quickly snapped the shot and handed back the camera, flashing my own polite grin.

After squinting at the cameras digital image you gave a quick nod and handed it back to me. You raised both eyebrows and held up a single finger.  Another sign that knows no borders.

One more.

At this point I thought you wouldnt possibly resort to the same troubled stare from a moment ago. This would be the real picture. The one where you look into the camera with a bright eyes and a Christmas card smile.

But there aint no Christmas cards in Israel boy.

Jumping back on the bow you maneuvered your face into the same mysterious squint and gazed back at the sunset. This time bracing your elbow and shoulders against the railing in an awkward lean. You are a pillar of contemplation, and the vast weight of the worlds worries fall upon your shoulders alone.

Now used to our routine I focused the camera and snapped another picture. Smiling once more, you stepped down from the railing as I pressed the camera back into your hand. After checking the second image you again raised your hand, this time in a silent approval.

Thumbs up.

"Thank you.", you said.

No my friend. Thank you.

May 2

The Dirty Old Man, The Dream, and the Wrong Road

Mark is, in most ways, just a regular guy in his late 40s. He has a normal job and two kids. He pays his alimony and child support on time. Mark is different from regular guys in the way that he spends all his free time on-line chatting with middle aged South American women in order to arrange strings of lurid sexual encounters. Whenever Mark has a vacation he hops off of Skype and onto a plane and spends a week or two cruising the continent for weird tail. The details of which he chooses to share with me as I sit in the hostel kitchen trying to eat what was already a not-so-appealing bowl of macaroni and cheese. People tell me I look like a good listener.

Mark is not alone travelers.

The truth is most of the people you meet on the road are just like you. The energetic youth trying to carve out experiences that will last a lifetime.

Some people however, come to South America with the sole intent of using their social status as a wealthy white American as a means of tricking Latin women into sex. In fact its a little disconcerting how many burnt out old men are diligently trolling Latin American countries wearing unbuttoned white linen shirts and strong amounts of cologne, tirelessly searching for strange ass.

The truly frightening realization is that they represent one possible evolution of the young backpacker. These dirty old men did not begin as domestic perverts eventually forced to carry their vices on to foreign continents. The unfortunate reality travelers, is that they started out just like me and you.

They were once young and ambitious wanderers chasing their dreams to far off destinations. At some point the flannel shirts gave way to silk. The artesian jewlery became gold chains. They chased the dream down the wrong road and lost their way.

Be wary travelers, and remember this as you look into the smiling faces of the people you meet along your journeys. Most of us will eventually end up in warm, quiet houses with our wife and kids. On restless days we might pull open drawers full of memories and think fondly upon the adventures of our youth.

But for some us, and maybe even for you…

The dream will never die.

Traveling on Your Lonesome: Backpacker Book Reports

The book Im reading now is called Colorado! The exclamation point having been included not by me but by the talentless author of this shitty excuse for literature. If this review somehow peaks your interest you can check out some of his other books: Oklahoma!, Nevada!, Idaho!, Nebraska!, etc… The list goes on. Again I dont want you to think Im making this up. This guy Dana Fuller Ross actually devoted his life to writing shitty books about places that noone cares about.

This is where Im at right now.

Wade Fulton and his daughter Susanna are awakened by a blast in the middle of the night. Someone has set fire to a powder keg and destroyed the front of the Denver Sun newspaper office. Who the devil could the tyrant be? There sure are many a scoundrel in this rough Denver frontier, though most likely its Willie De Berg, owner of a local brothel and gambling house. Willie surely wasnt to pleased when Susanna wrote an article accusing him of cheating the hard working miners that come into his establishment, and he isnt one to mind getting his hands dirty.

(This is actually my own synopsis, the book is so unpopular I couldnt find a review online. I think I did a pretty good job. By the way I read a little further and it indeed was Willie who blew up the Denver Sun. What a dick.)

If youre the type of person drawn to old timey wisdom and like watching paint dry, then this book might be for you. Its easily the most boring book Ive read on the trip and unfortunatly Im nowhere near being done with it. Once again Ive included a picture of the author below for your viewing pleasure. Talk about your simple simons. In a way were lucky he writes shitty books about the frontier because otherwise he would definitely be a serial killer.

Dana Fuller Ross.  Admittidly he is wearing a nicer looking shirt than fantasy guru Terry Goodkind but I think the child molester glasses might be a trump. If this guy doesnt own at least one cat Ill eat my shoe.

Dana Fuller Ross. Admittidly he is wearing a nicer looking shirt than fantasy guru Terry Goodkind but I think the child molester glasses might be a trump. If this guy doesnt own at least one cat Ill eat my shoe.

Editors Note

So last week I installed StatCounter on the site so to see how many people felt sorry enough to actually read it.  At this juncture I have managed to amass an incredible 7 (seven) individual followers on Tumblr.  Im not exactly looking into hiring a secretary is what Im trying to say here.

Amazingly however, about 150 of you have visited my stupid blog in the last week.  I have to say Im a little concerned that so many of you are reading this.  This cynical dribble cant be good for anyone.

Anyway, I am humbled knowing that despite the productive and worthwhile things you could be doing with your day you instead spend it reading my dumb bullshit.

So thanks.