smileytraveler

Things I learn about the world from 13 years of continuous travel.

Hotel Bar – Dublin, Ireland

Bad wine, good people. There's a wedding today so the place is filled with ruffles, sparkles, organza, and color.

And hats!!!

Oh, the hats are f'n killing me.

We don't have hats like this in the States – not even on the Palm Beach society types. Hats, yes. These hats? I've only ever seen them on the covers of British royals dirt mags in the supermarket checkout line.

Ruffly, wired numbers in flower shapes, pinned to the side of the head. I didn't realize common folk wore them. A-fuckin-dorable! I need to get me wonna those.

And there appears to be two brides? I'm so confused...

The women are so sparkly. I don't ever see sparkles, either. In the States, generally, you only see sparkles at Latino affairs, such as quinceañeras, or at...

Um...

Fuck it. “Lower class” shindigs. Let me put it this way: where I come from, if you are not Latina, there is no acceptable level of sparkle before you're trashy. One fuckin' sparkle is too many sparkles.

Here? I dunno. First time here and know fuck-all about Irish culture.

The women are incredibly beautiful, though and are having a great time.

Speaking of the women. I don't know if it's this family in particular but I can't help but notice how large the women are. Not large in a Midwestern kinda way, but in a linebacker kinda way. Thick and tall. Solid looking.

It works, though. They all have absolutely beautiful faces with killer bone structure.

And the boobs. Oh, lawd. All of 'em, I tell you! Ginormous, luscious, round, puffy, (American) football-shaped boobs, shoe-horned into bodices that make the boobs appear not to be attached to them, but rather are trying to suffocate them.

When I first got here there was a group of little girls playing in one of the booths. One of them looked like she couldn't have been more than eight, but she had this enormous, fully-formed rack. I thought holy shit. It made me uncomfortable to look at her. (The long press-on hooker nails didn't help either. But who am I to judge someone else's culture? We're the prudes.)

I figured it must be something in the food. Maybe like, I dunno, weird hormones in the mass-produced dairy?

But after seeing their moms and aunts it became crystal clear.

It's genetic.

Paper journal entry dated May 16, 2018

Man, these hipsters sure know how to depress a bitch.

Switch station to “Akon Radio”, where ballin', working hard, and taking pride in your talents are flaunted. No whining. No fucks given. Just what I need right now.

Trying to reconnect with people who make me happy. I'm blinded by powerful love.

It's absolutely true that love and loyalty will make you ignore all the bad and only see the good in people. And sometimes people know that and take advantage of this love.

For a little “insult to injury”, they'll also take advantage of your willingness and desire to forgive.

Well, it's immoral, disgusting, and it hurts.

First, there's realization. Then rage sets in. Then it's just plain hatred and avoidance.

Loyalty is absolute, then it evaporates into nothingness. There is no in-between. A nuclear bomb unleashed in a lush forest.

There is no slow burn.

My ability to forgive is boundless, but my willingness to give of myself and my limited minutes on this earth has clear limits.

Those limits depend on love. How intense it is.

Its intensity will cause me to hold my fire for one more precious day. My heart softens, my weapon lowers, and I march back into war unarmed. A little less trusting.

It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.

To have had the bliss of the feeling is worth the humiliation, confusion, loss, and shattered sense of self.

So here we are.

Dublin, Ireland

No camera at all on this trip. Packing light doesn't even come close to describing my setup for the next couple of weeks.

Regret set in almost immediately once the plane took off, but I stood firm and chastised myself mentally, as always.

If you want to create art, describe shit! Photos (snapshots) aren't art, they are simple, meaningless diarreah!

Describe shit.

Let's see how much I can “art” with just paper and pen.

Dublin, Ireland

“Clinical depression” is an odd state of affairs. Not sure I believe it's a real medical diagnosis, but it's absolutely a real thing.

A bad thing?

It depends on what you are trying to accomplish with life. For example, I've never met or heard of a genius artist who wasn't at least a little batshit. Masterpieces aren't created by those fat, happy, content, and simple.

What if you don't want to live and don't want to die?

Yes, depression feels like shit, but in my case it's a very particular kind of shit. Always has been. I first figured out the exact feeling in high school:

Imagine being in a very long, narrow, windowless hallway. You're in the middle and you want out. There's a door at the end so you run toward it. In front of the door there's a thug with a machine gun who will shoot you if you try to escape. You turn and run to the opposite end. Another door, another thug who will shoot. The hallway is life. The thugs are death. Both choices suck but you persist in running from end to end because that's called “living” and there's no way to stop.

The only option, then, is drugs. They're called anti-depressants and are quite aptly named.

They work. But they literally produce “anti-depression”. Not happiness. Not contentment. Not vigor for life.

They make being in that hallway a neutral affair. Not good, not terrible. It's an emotional neutrality that's extremely hard to describe, although I've heard a lot of people describe it as “numbness”.

I stopped crying every day for no reason, so I got that going for me. However, I was incapable of crying at all. I could not do it. Watched tear-jerker movies and realized I should be crying and would will myself to do it. Not a tear could I muster.

It's an odd feeling...anti-depression.

From a paper journal entry dated August 3, 2017

On a plane. Thumbing through NY Times magazine. See an ad.

There's a chick in an infinity pool looking longingly out at the turquoise ocean. A palm tree. No coconuts.

Simple, stark, white copy proclaims:

“Give normal a few days off.”

Awwww! I think. So nice.

Look at the bottom of the page:

“visitflorida.com”

All of a sudden “give normal a few days off” has an entirely different meaning. If you've ever lived in Florida you know exactly what I mean.

From a paper journal entry dated August 3, 2017

“Why doesn't anything ever look as beautiful in photographs as it does in person?”

Just talking to myself.

Photographers who claim cell phones are going to put us out of business have no idea how valuable skill, personal aesthetic, and experience are.

The best photographers are, quite simply, talented artists who work with cameras.

You know who you are. And you ain't worried.

I tried being a hipster once. Unfortunately, I failed. Apparently I should learn to take myself a lot more seriously.

Scene: Bagel shop. Somewhere in Florida

Enter, me.

Enter, Mr. H Skeez.

I'm reading a local magazine (made of PAPER!) and skimming through the adorable events section.

Me: Oh, look! Odesza is going to be here in concert this month. That's so cool! Can't believe they are going to grace us humble folk with their epic presence.

(I mean, we're not technically po-dunk. But, certainly not Manhattan.)

Mr. H Skeez: Oh, yeah? What's the date? I'll see if I can still get tickets.

Me: Yeah, love, love, love them. But, seriously, how does one “watch” an electronic music group perform?

Mr. H Skeez is puzzled.

Me: I mean, what do they do?? Just stand there and put a track on. Do they dance? Tell me there will at least be a laser-light show. Those are cool! Otherwise, I'll be pretty bored.

Mr. H Skeez is even puzzled-er.

Me: Maybe I could bring glow sticks. I think that's what people do to entertain themselves at these things.

Mr. H Skeez wants to laugh, but can't because when his facepalm hits, he's afraid he'll knock his teeth out.

Mr. H Skeez: You know, they do actually play instruments at these things. Like...a real band.

Me: What instruments? Isn't everything done on computers?

Mr. H Skeez: They actually use real instruments, along with synthesizers (<– I had to look that word up after misspelling it three times) and other types of electronic equipment.

My eyes go wide.

Me: Hahahaha! I never knew that!

I crack up.

Mr. H Skeez: Yes. They stand on a stage, all line up and perform. Just like any other band would.

Me: That's awesome! So that's what those weirdos in helmets are doing up there when they're twitching and bobbing their hands around!

Mr. H Skeez is looking all kinds of perturbed.

Mr. H Skeez: Yes, “those weirdos in helmets”...and I think the name you are looking for is Daft Punk...

Me: That's the one!

Mr. H Skeez: ...they do things a little differently than what I just explained, but...yeah, we'll just go with that.

Y'all, I am officially young and hip! 'Cause I know things.

#humor #personalstories #music

As the sun rises on my 38th year, my mind wanders to a conversation I had with my dad a couple of years ago:

Dad: Getting old sucks.

Me: Oh yeah?

Dad: Yeah, everything hurts. ALL the time.

Me: :/

Let the games begin...

Prep is over, time to work. My goal was to ride the entire length of the state of Florida, which means I should have started somewhere just south of Saint Mary's, Georgia. Jacksonville is the best I can do for now. Perhaps I'll ride the remainder when I get back to make up for it.

Since it's late January the weather is divine. Not a cloud in the sky. Temperature makes me want to hug a kitten. Glorious.

Today will take me through downtown and east to the ocean. The stretch of A1A between the two cities is a favorite: gorgeous houses, tall ocean grasses, velvety marshes, and roads that go on forever.

Song in my head: New Day by Celine Dion.

Since it's my first night out, I have no survival skills (yet), and I've never camped alone before, I decide to spend it at Anastasia State park. Love this spot.

The ride is exactly as I'd envisioned. Breathtaking, serene. I manage to have lovely thoughts and look at nature. And, of course I believe that this is how every day traveling by bike will be. I chuckle now at this.

I cross the last bridge into the nation's oldest city, downshifting on my way up the steep stretch of concrete. A loud grinding noise, but nothing I've not heard before. The wheels lock up.

Chain came loose, fell off, and got lodged between the spokes and a plastic guard. No problem, proclaim I, I'm prepared!

I worry not, for I have all the bells and all the whistles. The tools, and the lubes, and the things to tinker and prod.

I quickly realize this is no ordinary chain situation. I can't seem to dislodge it from its position and it's holding on for dear life. Well, darn. I flip the bike over and begin the surgery. The surgery does not go as planned.

Thirty minutes. Forty five. That chain decided it wasn't coming out. Not for me, not for nobody. Frustration commences. Kid-gloves come off.

After an hour it's settled. I'll cut the *&#$%@ thing off, and take it to the nearest bike shop. Not a good start to my fantastic adventure, but hey, this stuff happens.

Little did I know, one cannot simply cut a bike chain off with a multi-tool. (Insert your favorite meme here.) They're made extremely strong for a reason. They will not be cut. They will not be broken. They will not snap when you hit them repeatedly with blunt objects while pulling, jerking, sweating, and f-bombing.

They will not dislodge for strangers, either. That nice man had to give up after 20 minutes with yours truly on the bridge.

Plan B. Attack the chain guard. Turns out these are not easy to cut either, especially with a tiny pair of scissors. I throw every cutting implement in my arsenal at the sonofabitch. Many f-bombs later, I rip its mangled corpse out of the frame.

The wheels move, but I've destroyed the chain. And probably a lot of other things. Off to the bike shop with me. It's 45 minutes away and I'm hoofin' it.

I realize quickly walking is stupid. I have a thing with wheels! So I hop up on the seat and sort of “row” the bike through the ancient streets. Big foot push, roll. Other foot, roll. I look like a lunatic.

If there's one piece of advice I can give my past self in this moment it would be: get used to looking like a lunatic.

The nice hipsters at the bike shop fix me up and it's back to the races. I have no time to do anything because I've spent half the day battling the fearsome Chain Lord. It's time to meet a friend for dinner and get my ass to camp.