Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Time The Gods Of Irony Smiled Upon Sam

Picture me.

Picture me clean-shaven, freshly-showered, and with a perfectly normal hairstyle. Picture me walking down the street wearing a snappy button-up shirt, matching blue sweater, and a pair of well-fitting corduroy pants notably devoid of holes or stains. Picture me carrying a backpack with the following contents: gloves, notepad, pens, and a clipboard with five crisp resumes. Yes, carefully written resumes, charming and witty resumes, resumes that could convince the most stodgy, uptight coffee-shop managers that I'm a man with exceptional "people skills." I'm a man who knows coffee, and knows how to make it even better. I'm a man who they should hire, today if possible!

Now picture me approaching the doors of a local Starbucks, the first stop on my coffee shop resume delivery tour. I'm confident. I'm prepared. I'm opening the door. I'm walking inside. I'm waiting in line. I'm still waiting in line. I'm glancing down at the stack of newspapers. I'm reading the headlines:

"Welcome to Starbucks, can I get something started for ya?" the man with the green apron chirped.

Now picture me turning slightly red, then somewhat pale while standing at the front of the line. Picture my eyes widening, motionless, deer in the headlights. Picture my lips moving, ever so slowly, grasping for words, but failing to produce anything other than a soft hiss.

"You alright?" said the green apron.

Now picture me, without explanation and for no apparent reason, offering my spot in line to the woman behind me. Picture me turning around and drifting out of Starbucks like a thief in the night, never looking back, never to return.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Seattle, Don't Be So Coy

So I'm here in Seattle, and I'm jobless. While my recent travels through Mexico have left me well prepared for this situation (the limits of what I'd call edible now greatly expanded, along with what I'd call expensive), I can't live for free (or even close to it). If I want to continue enjoying things like a roof, electricity, or indoor plumbing, I'm going to have to pay rent (or something similar) in the near future. Seeing as how I've grown rather attached to these modern conveniences over the last twenty-five years, a fact that was recently highlighted by my trip to Mexico, I must find a way to earn money. Fast. So far my attempts to prostitute myself, to sell my organs, and to panhandle by riding a trainer on the street downtown haven't made me a rich man -- people just didn't find my watts-at-threshold nearly as impressive as the guy spray-painted to look like a statue. Either that or my watts at threshold just ain't what they used to be.

My search has been two pronged: first I've been looking for more cabinetry work. Over a year ago, my job at Sustainabuilt practically fell in my lap. I wasn't qualified when I started, but after 4 months of working in Brad's shop, I now have enough of a foundation (or at least the audacity) to go looking for another carpentry job. I would pounce on the opportunity to build cabinets again, but unfortunately, the economy being what it is, that's not looking terribly likely -- especially since I'm still only able to commit to a part-time job due to my crack-habit/cycling commitment.

My other brilliant idea is to work in a coffee shop. Yeah, that's right, I want to be a barista. Getting paid to drink coffee, listen to cool music, and flirt with girls sounds like a pretty reasonable job to me. I've thus far been unsuccessful in landing that perfect barista job, but then again, my search has been limited to the coffee shops within a one-minute walk from my house. All seven of them. But I've got high hopes and all of the 80,000 Seattle coffee shops to apply at. One of them's sure to take the bait, right?


Friday, January 23, 2009

Walla Walla, I Sing to Thee....

Well here I am, back in Seattle. It's wonderful. The weather seems to be trying to help with my transition back to the bike: it's been mercifully dry (albeit bitter cold). I went on a long ride today, over three hours of rather brisk riding, with a trip up Cougar Mountain. I'd forgotten how amazing it feels to be tired like this! I'd forgotten that near-delirium immediately post-ride, that pleasing, dreamy fatigue that lasts the rest of the day. I'd forgotten how it feels to have a hard ride in my legs, in my lungs, throughout my whole body -- I feel like a junkie going into remission! No wonder some guys have *cough* such a hard time quitting this sport.

But before I made it to the Emerald City, I took a day to reconnect to the place where it all began: Walla Walla, Washington. Yes, that charming, historic town east of the cascades, home to the sweet onion, a booming wine-industry, and of course my alma mater, Whitman College. My sister is now a student there, and since I was absent over the holidays, I was excited to see her. I spent over twenty-four hours in the tiny hamlet, and I've collected a few of Walla Walla's top cycling-related news stories:

Allegro Cyclery Moves
New Main Street Location Sure to Boost Business

The Allegro Cyclery has moved to a much larger corner location at the intersection of Spokane and Main. The exact timing of the move has yet to be determined, but it most likely took place before the new year, an area man guessed. Formerly crammed into a shared-space further down Spokane street, the Allegro Cyclery is undoubtedly Walla Walla's best full-service bicycle shop. Their new location boasts roughly three times more floor space, and upon entry feels like a real bike shop, instead of a strange carbon fiber and aluminium meat-locker.

Whitman Cycling Team Kicking So Much Ass
If I Weren't So Proud, I'd Feel Threatened By Their Success

The Whitman College Cycling Team is absolutely thriving. This news is a great relief and a source of great pride for former team president Sam Johnson (and undoubtedly every team president since the team's inception back in 2002). After graduating in the winter of 2006, Sam was naively concerned that the team would suffer due to his absence. "I just remember how much work I put into the team when I was at the helm; I was worried that nobody would step up and keep the program healthy and strong," Sam lamented. Current team co-president (and total badass) Colin Gibson thought Sam's concerns were wildly misplaced. "Sam totally underestimated the team -- we're doing just fine. In fact, we don't like to tell him this to his face, but he was kind of a crumby president. Things got much easier once he was no longer there to slow us down," Gibson said. The team is more organized than ever before, as evidenced by their sweet new website (complete with shoutouts to alumni like me!), their full calendar of both USCF and collegiate races, their multiple community service projects, and their unwavering commitment to helping those newer to cycling learn the ropes quickly and easily. Whitman College Cycling Team, my hat is off to one request is that you please join Hagens Berman once you graduate -- you know what they say: if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

Tour Of Walla Walla Course Changes
Washington's Best Stage Race Now Even More Awesome

The Tour of Walla Walla stage race has made some exciting changes. Remember, you heard it here first folks (unless you didn't):

Stage 1, Kellog Hollow Road Race: Friday's stage will kick off the racing unchanged from the last two years.
Stage 2, (unnamed) Time Trial: Saturday morning everyone will be treated to a new time trial course. Starting at the Walla Walla Community College, racers will head east up Mill Creek road to Five Mile road. After climbing up and over a short, feisty little hill, the course winds its way through scenic wheat fields for a total of ten miles (two miles longer than previous years).
Stage 3, Walla Walla Crit: The new crit course is crazy! From what I can tell, the new course starts right in front of the Allegro Cyclery on Main Street, continues up Boyer Avenue, past the Reid Campus Center on the Whitman College campus, before turning right on Park st. (which will showcase the college's brand-spankin'-new art building). Another right turn on Alder st. will lead racers to 1st street, and a final right will bring them back to Main. This means there will be a LONG start/finish straightaway (roughly five blocks), so the sprint will be longer and the speeds will be higher. I'd expect a closer GC going into the crit than in years past, giving guys who might not make it up the tough hills of Sunday's road race a chance to snag the leader's jersey thanks to time bonuses. Yippie Kay-Aye motherfuckers.
Stage 4, Waitsburg Road Race: Finally this epic final stage will be where it belongs, at the end of this epic race, the decider, the capstone. Last year, the GC has been solidified before the final stage -- the crit more of a festivity than an opportunity, a chance for redemption, but not a chance for retribution. Not this year. The Waitsburg road race will shuffle the deck (as usual), and what a sweet spot for a podium presentation: atop the mighty Lower Waitsburg Hill.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cycling Update

I went for my first bike ride of the 2009 season yesterday. I was in Sun Valley, Idaho. Considering how much I've been on my bike over the last two months (exactly none), I felt great! I rode for upwards of 45 minutes -- without stopping!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sunday, January 18, 2009

San Cristobal de las Casas


I was expecting a difficult journey, one fraught with long waits and confusing chicken-bus transfers. Instead we made our way to Xecaguic, a small village of two hundred, without a hitch. The ease of our transit made me entertain the notion of abandoning the tiny embassy (myself and three others), and returning the the lakeside paradise of San Marcos de Laguna so I could play and relax along with the majority of TEMA; however, once our group actually arrived at the home of Isabelle Tum, relative of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchu Tum, and met her family, I knew that I'd made the right decision in going to Xecaguic.

We rounded the corner to her house and were greeted by a small woman in traditional Guatemalan dress with a beach towel wrapped around her head. We'd arrived on Saturday, bath day, and Isabella and her family were bathing. The grandchildren were shy at first, but Isabella greeted us like we were family, despite having never met us. Her face was deeply winkled, but once she unwrapped the towel on her head revealing over three feet of beautiful hair, her actual ago of fifty-eight seemed more believable; she'd never cut it in her life, and it was jet-black all the way down to the roots. We put our packs down, and while Isabella combed her luxurious hair, we started talking.

We communicated exclusively in Spanish – a second language to everyone (their native tongue being Kekchi Maya). Most of the adults in Xecaguic had received no formal schooling in Spanish; it was mostly a business language, used when negotiating prices or buying things in town, but we all understood each other well enough to get our points across. Katie (the trip's leader) knew two of Isabella's sons, Diego and Enrique, who fled to the US during the war. They sought political asylum, and Katie helped them plead their cases, successfully.

We were served lunch: a single egg, tomato sauce, and fresh made tortillas (from home-grown corn). The meal was meager even by TEMA standards, but the way the family watched us eat, the way their eyes attentively followed every bite as it traveled from our bowls to our mouths, told me that eggs at lunch time was an offering of hospitality. I expressed resounding approval but declined more food when it was offered. I was satisfied, not by the food itself, but by the way I felt while eating it.

The eight grandchildren, aged fifteen years to seven months, quickly warmed up to us – the younger ones figuring out that I make a particularly good human jungle-gym. For the rest of my time at the house, I had at least one, but often as many as four children climbing on me. If any of you have ever been to a Johnson family gathering you'll know, as the eldest of nine cousins, I was right at home.

After lunch we toured the new clinic with Baltizar, Isabelle's third son. He was a bright-eyed, intelligent man. I needed only to shake Baltizar's hand to know he was a respected man, a leader of his community. He'd built most of the clinic himself. The building was over a year old, but looked like it had seen little use since its completion. Boxes of medicine and supplies were stacked, often unopened, in shelves in the main entryway, waiting for someone who knew what to do with them (the clinic was only recently able to attract a nurse for bi-weekly visits). The two large side-rooms were completely empty, save a stack of wooden crates covered in cardboard that served as an exam table. Our group's arrival served as a good occasion for a meeting of the clinic's board of directors: Isabelle and Baltizar Tum, and three other men from the village. We exchanged greetings, unpacked our donation toys and clothes, and discussed what we were there to do.

They wanted a fence around the clinic. We brought with us $200 US dollars, roughly a fifth of what was needed to buy the cinder blocks and fencing. Besides, we arrived on a Saturday afternoon; businesses that sold building materials wouldn't be open until the following Monday, and by then we'd be on our way back Lago Atitlan to reunite with the rest of TEMA. Through lack of organization and preparation, our original goal of fence-building was snuffed. Feeling frustrated and impotent, the TEMA group and the board members walked down the hill to the nearby town of Chicaman where, after a quick brainstorm, we bought paint for the clinic's unpainted roof – it wasn't a fence, but it would be an improvement. We gave the rest of the money to the clinic board, hiked back up the hill to the village, and started painting the roof.

Around 7:00 PM that night, with the first coat of bright yellow paint drying, people started to gather at the clinic for an impromptu meeting. We didn't really know what to expect; we just realized that we were unable to provide the help we'd wanted to, and hoped to gain a clearer picture of what was actually needed in Xecaguic by hearing first-hand from the villagers themselves. We also hoped capture on video a few testimonies of what happened during the war, illuminating for those back home some of the reasons why this community needed help.

Most of the village's residents had lived on that same hillside all their lives, except for a few years when everyone was forced to scatter into hiding during the war. The Guatemalan Civil War is complicated, but essentially, battles between a guerrilla insurgency and the national army careened into the highlands. For several years during the late 70's and early 80's, the Mayan villagers in Xecaguic were caught in the crossfire. They were (like many other small villages in the region) brutally massacred by forces on both sides of the conflict. When we asked if anyone wanted to tell their story for the camera, we did not expect the response we got: one by one, nearly every single person the packed room told their stories of loss and survival. Many of them had the same basic elements:

"They killed my parents, they killed my brothers and sisters, they killed our animals. They burned our house, they burned our fields, they burned everything. I escaped into the forest."

The people in the room never showed the slightest sign of emotion while they told or listened to each other's stories about the massacres. An old women speaking through a translator (she only spoke Mayan) described the murders of her children. Baltizar spoke about getting captured, about getting tied up and beaten, and about the constant back pain he still suffers as a result. A woman in her thirties told us about witnessing her whole family's execution. She was the lone survivor. She was four years old.

In the years following the war, the remaining residents of Xecaguic slowly trickled back to their shattered village. The post-war government listened to the plight of the villagers with deaf ears, largely ignoring their requests for land, for roads, for better schools, or for healthcare. Now most of the residents of Xecaguic scratch out an existence as subsistence farmers – the local job-market unable to provide more than $30 Quetzals (under $4 US dollars) per day, hardly enough to feed a family. When we innocently asked what they wanted to make their lives better, or what could be done to bring justice to their situation, our question was met with another: what can you and your organization do to help? It hurt to explain that TEMA's resources were limited, that we weren't really an aid organization, that couldn't do much, that we are basically just a bunch of tourists who want to lessen the impact of our tourism.

When Katie's videotape filled up, I practically leapt at the opportunity to walk back to Isabella's house to retrieve a fresh one. I spent the rest of the meeting outside, entertaining the twenty or so children who gathered outside; nothing brings a smile to Guatemalan children's faces like a goofy, tall gringo man with a cool headlamp. As a middle-class American, I don't have much experience with atrocities – well-made movies about the holocaust being the closest thing I can think of. That these people could have suffered so much loss, and yet maintain such warm, generous, welcoming hearts was as confusing to me as it was inspiring.

After the meeting, we returned to Isabella's house for dinner. This time, instead of being served by the Tums, everyone ate together. Fifteen of us packed into their simple cinder-block kitchen, a 20'X20' windowless box with a mud floor. Most of us sat on the ground. Earlier the TEMA crew purchased some ingredients at the market, so we contributed mashed-potatoes and guacamole to their meal of chicken soup, beans, and of course tortillas. The mood was celebratory. The food was salty. We received lessons in Mayan, which is filled with guttural, back-of-the-throat sounds that were difficult to reproduce.

"I love you," in Mayan is pronounced "Kwaa-Pa-Waatch".

We finished the meal with a round of sweet coffee. At last, much to the disappointment of the children, we went to bed. As we brushed our teeth and changed our clothes, we overheard Isabelle and her daughter singing to the children in the room next door. Musically, it was unlike anything I've ever heard; the voices of Isabella and her daughter intertwined and overlapped, independently singing, chanting almost, the same verse over and over. Either a prayer or a lullaby, the song was haunting, charming, beautiful and exotic.

I fell asleep before they finished.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Never Play Chicken With a Chicken-Bus


Where do I begin? Perhaps the best way to familiarize you with the shear madness that is the Guatemalan public transportation system is to describe an ayudante ("helper" in Spanish). Part baggage handler, part ticket agent, and part Spider Man, ayudantes have possibly the coolest job I've ever seen. Imagine you're waiting for the bus to Quiche (a town on the way to destination city of Xecaguic). You see the brightly-painted, chrome-covered bus come trundling around the corner. As the bus slows down, the auydante is already on the ground hustling the new passengers aboard. As a newcomer to this process, I'll admit I found it scary: the bus never really stops! It merely slows down a little.

The ayudante yells loudly the whole time, "BUS TO QUICHE, BUS TO QUICHE! GET ON, GET ON! GIVE ME YOUR BAGS! HURRY!" If you've got luggage, the ayudante will rip it from you with one hand, and scramble up the ladder with the other, practically vaulting himself and the bag up the side of the still-moving bus. He's be back down for the next bag in less time than it takes to read this sentence. Prospective passengers jog alongside, trying to gain purchase on a handrail and pull themselves aboard. The bus will undoubtedly be stuffed to the gills already, but that won't stop the ayudante – he'll shove people through the front door until it's overflowing, people leaning out the door, hanging onto the rails with one hand. Once he's confident the front of the bus is bloated to capacity, the ayudante zips to the back and opens the emergency exit where, if he needs to, he'll physically stuff any stragglers inside.
Once everyone's on the bus (or at least has a solid hand-hold), the driver guns the engine, and the ayudante vaults back onto the roof rack to secure any loose baggage with rope. Driving in Guatemala is crazy. The condition of the pavement ranges from bad to awful. The drivers are impatient, aggressive and heavy-footed. And the terrain -- the terrain is downright ludicrous: the road-biker in me was salivating from the moment we crossed the border. What gorgeous mountains! What steep grades! What perfect, countless switchbacks! The fact that the ayudante spends most of his time crawling around the outside of the bus or hanging out the door on roads like these suggests two things: ayudantes have excellent grip-strength and short life-spans. Once he's finished, the bus now moving at full-speed, the ayudante comes swinging down the side of the bus like a monkey, reaching for handholds he can't see but knows are there, dropping neatly through the front door where he begins sorting the new passengers and collecting money.
"PUT THE KIDS ON PEOPLE'S LAPS, AND PUT THE BAGS UP ABOVE – I DON'T CARE WHOSE KID IT IS, JUST GET 'EM OUT OF THE AISLE!" he'll shout. Then he'll bust out a wad of cash to make change, and, wading into the throng, yells "OKAY EVERYBODY, TIME TO PAY – FORK IT OVER!"

Guatemala is not a country designed for tall men. Most of the time, chicken-bus rides are miserable for me. My femurs are a solid inch longer than the distance between two rows of seats, so I am unable to sit like a normal person. My options are to sit side-saddle, to curl my legs into a pretzel below the seat, or to double-up like a diver in a tuck – none of which are comfortable when crammed for hours into a bus where people are packed eight-abreast: three sitting in each seat, two standing in the aisle. I prefer to stand. On the bus ride to Xecaguic however, I was granted a rare treat: I was the last person to make it through the front door, and seeing as how the aisle was completely full, the ayudante instructed me to sit on a box at the very front of the bus, just to the right of the driver. It was spectacular. I could stretch my legs! I could see the whole road! And for the first time, I gained a full appreciation for how bat-shit insane chicken-bus drivers are!
God, I hope we were behind schedule (not that chicken-busses run on any sort of perceivable schedule). I hope we were racing someone (or something). I hope the driver's mother was on her deathbed, and we needed to get to our destination as fast as possible so he could say goodbye forever – I just hope we had a reason, any reason at all, for driving like that. What I'm afraid of is that he drives like that all the time. If that's the case, I pray that the gods of vehicular safety never leave that man's side.
We drove like the hounds of hell were nipping at our heels, passing every other vehicle in our path without hesitation, or for that matter, a complete view of whatever was up the road. No matter, sight is secondary to intuition for a chicken-bus driver. This driver knew what he was doing: he knew every curve in the road, which ones tightened up and which ones he could float through. He knew every passing opportunity, accelerating to attack speed before he could see if the lane was clear. He knew his machine well, both its abilities and its limitations.
We passed a small car while it was passing a water truck at the same time, plummeting three-abreast down a narrow ravine, just before the road funneled into a one-lane bridge – make that an occupied one-lane bridge; we threaded the needle between the oncoming traffic and the water truck with watchmaker's precision. While jouncing over a rutted dirt road we passed four cars in one go, among them a police car; our driver was taking a call on his cell phone at the time. We tailgated an ambulance with its lights on, the ayudante leaning out the door yelling "GO GO GO, NOW NOW NOW, YOU'VE GOT IT!!" despite us clearly not "having it". We were constantly dodging goats, children, bicyclists (often carrying two or more people), road damage, tuk-tuks (often carrying eight or more people), landslide rubble, donkeys, vendors (selling ice cream cones, pop-corn balls, nuts, candy, fruit, tamales, etc), dogs, chickens, and lots and lots of topes (speed bumps).
Through all this madness, I found that we were never the ones to adjust our heading for other vehicles; the other drivers always seemed to be the ones who slowed-down, yielded, or moved out of the way. I guess the lesson to learn from driving in Guatemala: never play chicken with a chicken-bus.

The Poopman Cometh

So I'm back in the good ol' U.S. of A, and it feels great. Don't get me wrong, I miss TEMA dearly, but I'm also glad to be back, and happy to be on my way to getting this cycling season a'started! But first, some tales from the road. I have a backlog of stuff to clear, so here it goes:
Let's begin with a bit of humor, shall we? Let's begin with a topic that for some of you (the more infantile) counts among your top-five favorite topics to discuss: poop. We all have our own tales of intestinal distress, many of them supplied by the perils inherent in international travel, but there's one thing we can all agree on: diarrhea is awful in the present, but fucking hilarious after the fact, especially when it's not happening to you. Well liquid-shit fans, buckle up – this story is for you!
We begin in El Salvador. I awoke near a beautiful, tiny crater-lake with the need to relieve myself at the forefront of my mind. My intestines had recently been relatively cooperative, so I headed to the insanely revolting nearby potties without fear (or forewarning) of what was to come. The shitters near the lake were pretty repulsive – picture strange openings that resembled Forest Service shit-buckets, only much smaller, and covered in human feces – so I carefully hovered my ass over the opening and was disappointed to learn that I had the runs. Ten minutes later (and every ten minutes after that for close to an hour) my butt was again the victim of unholy liquid violence. By the time we left the lake, I'm pretty sure my anus was dry-heaving like a freshman frat-boy on pledge night.Uggggh.
"This is no big deal," I told myself with confidence, "I've had diarrhea before on this trip, and Immodium cleared it right up." Little did I know....
I popped two caplets, and drank some salt-water to replace my lost electrolytes. I also took a valium; we had a long drive ahead of us, and I needed to rest. We packed up the bus, and headed north, towards Guatemala. For most of the thirteen-hour ride I lay, curled in a ball, drifting in and out of sleep. Whenever we'd stop, I'd amble to the restroom and without fail, shit my brains out, the Imodium having no noticeable effect whatsoever. I counted a total of ten episodes that day, and by nightfall, my body's failure to absorb nutrition was beginning to show; I was starting to feel weak and achy.
We were supposed to drive all the way to Lake Atitlan that night, but in classic TEMA style, it took us an order of magnitude longer than we'd planed. Earlier that day, we'd said goodbye to two of our best drivers, leaving us with exactly two people capable of driving the bus at night, one of whom was drunk (Tony), and the other (yours truly) was debilitating sick and possibly still on valium. By sunset, we'd made it into Guatemala, but barely. We refueled the bus in a border town. With daylight running out, we needed to decide where to sleep.
In classic TEMA style, we held a useless meeting. I personally couldn't care less where we slept – I just needed to avoid crapping my pants. I excused myself from the decision making process, and asked some local kids if they knew where I could go to the bathroom. They pointed towards the bridge and told me to just shit in the river. Oh Guatemala. How quaint. I ended up finding a convenience store who let me relieve myself, and returned to find that we'd chosen to park the bus alongside the main road for the night, right in front of the small central plaza, and within sight of the police station.
Now let me be clear: this was not a nice town. It was a horrible cess-pool of a town! Dangerous, ugly, and brutish, this was the kind of town that travelers are advised to avoid stopping at for any reason, even for a taco, let alone to spend a night camping on its streets. But we had a policeman watching us all night, and were without a better option. So in classic TEMA style, we made the best of the situation. We even put on a show for the locals, who loved the music and fire-spinning. In my weakened state, I did my best to play a drum, but couldn't summon the energy for anything else.
I ate more Immodium and went to bed on the bus, lulled to sleep by the sound of big-rigs roaring past us.
Please Note: here's where things get really funny for the reader, but decidedly less funny for me.
I was awakened by the sensation of letting out what I thought was a fart. It wasn't. It wasn't much, but it was a lot more than just a fart. With every hair on my body standing on end, and unsure of the extent of the damage, I lunged for a fresh pair of underwear and a roll of toilet paper. My movements were not unlike a geriatric senior citizen rushing for an emergency exit after someone yells "fire:" jerky and poorly controlled, yet somehow delicate.
I burst out of the bus in a panic, sweating. I didn't have much time. I shuffled about ten steps before urgency overcame decency, barely making it out of sight of the police station. I removed my boxers and squatted, now stark naked. From here, things go very, very wrong.
First, a car alarm across the street went off for no reason whatsoever. I was now directly in-between an on-duty police officer, shotgun in hand, and a screaming automobile. I wanted to move, but there was no time.
Then, just as I was about to release the (rapidly failing) death-clench I'd placed on my sphincter, I felt another horrifying sensation: in the darkness, I'd chosen to squat directly over an anthill. Its residents had sounded the alarm, and were all-hands-on-deck attacking my feet with the ferocity only seen by animals defending their homes and families.
The next few moments were somewhat of a blur. Picture, if you will, a naked, six-foot-four-inch gringo. He's in a Guatemalan roadside parking lot, dancing what mildly resembles an Irish jig while swatting madly at his feet, uncontrollably spraying himself and his surroundings with diarrhea. It boggles the mind, I know. Now factor in the car-alarm, the rapidly-approaching, shotgun-toting police officer, and the fact that said six-foot-four-inch gringo is trying his best to remain silent and be discreet during this whole gruesome episode. I only wish this kind of thing came from my imagination.
The date: November 31, 2008. I dare say it was my finest moment of the year. Possibly my finest moment ever.
I crab-walked to a more hidden location, and did my best to clean myself up, the last of the ants still between my toes, stinging me mercilessly with their last hateful moments on this earth. I slunk back to the bus, thankfully undetected by the Guatemalan cop, where I slathered my feet with cortisone cream, and collapsed in bed, exhausted, violated, totally depleted.
I'm not sure how many Montezuma's Revenge points this is worth, but I'm pretty sure I'm still winning. Or losing. Whatever.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I Am Still Alive

Oh wow. Things have been crazy. I don't really know how 9 days fly by like that, but they did. For those who were worried (mom, aaron), I'm just fine. I'll be back in the states in no time, so just sit tight. I've got lots of good stories to share, but this isn't exactly a great time either. We saw Mayan ruins today.