Shrinecast. shrine craft.
small glass bottle. brown round acacia seed, smooth like a stone
tiny teeth and bones
small vessel made of shells bronzed lip and hinge
broken gyroscope, split crystal geode
bleach white coral, bits and pieces
lift a scent, sour sandalwood
coiled line and hemp, stones bound, suspended
working, typing in the wee hours. saturday tomorrow. Dex and I’ll to the pepper place market. vegetables, breads. Give me goat’s cheese. Give me sunburn. Sweat on the bike is the best facet yet. With afternoon, to forest. Build something tomorrow.
Since last we laid eyes;;
gracac, croatia. trainstation
Tuesday, July 19, 2011.
Sitting bare-assed in Laurel shade, Rhododendron, or some other waxy-cuticled, fuchia-flowered long-leafed shoreplant; resting and watching the early afternoon Pétanque. Here, the end of Nudist Central’s market street spills out of its tight walk into a small plaza of sorts. Bordering two slightly sunken sandgardens, designed for the play of this traditional French ball game.
This pit where I sit holds three full grown trees. Burly knotted trunks thrust out through the packed sand; Organic defiance of the carefully squared and cared-for Tetris. A combed, pruned rectangloid, twenty by fifty feet. Kinked like a Rook’s motion, sunken down eight inches below bricked walk-level. Where nude men crouch and launch heavy metal queballs; graceful backhand, up fifteen feet and down, cutting close angle on the outer edge near seated luncheoners. European to its roots, Pétanque, and old enough to have traveled with the colonizing empire. Played with folks in backwoods rural Laos, barefoot in powdered dust under stilted houses, now here with gray-haired, venerable old men. Tanned by the sun, limber yet; White stached, wearing fine shoes or shades, smiling and competing easily in the fine gusting wind and sun. A strong wind this day, and a strong man up at to throw. He’s playing the aggressive, aiming to drop a steep-arched grenade, to knock the spheres of the Others away from the target, out and away. Switching it up, this old man, aiming to move the center, rather than center the move. Now I’m actually sitting in kind of a bad place, these oversized steel billiard balls skitting across the surface of the sand in my direction. Looking up from the keys to watch them careen off the retaining wall at my toetips, pretending to be ready to dive aside at the last moment. Entertaining the delusion.
Old ‘Gressive is a real long-runner. You can tell because he is the only one with a bit of sports paraphernalia about him: it’s a hanging metal magnet housed in a nice egg-shaped cup designed to hide in the palm. It’s got a retracting line from which the mag can be dropped and suspended. After each match, during the post-match score-finding banter and Taunt, he will stroll over to his pair of metal orbs and snag them up without stooping, by use of this handy tool. Gives him added dignity and a certain image of seniority in the game; after all, he’s the only one with this added investment, the Egg-dropper lets you know: He’s in it for the long run. He’s playing for keeps. (How does he tell his sheep from the others, anyway?! Like a Namibian shepherd child..)
Other guy, of the younger team, has a fine clever mosaic manta tattooed across his chest plate, as if it had just glided up from low in his left ribs and was in the act of crossing over the right shoulder. Stands there amongst his fellow Euro Pans, everyone tanned and spry, masters of their easy vacation games. Calm and sipping espressos or chilled brews left to balance on the edge of the nearest bar table at the edging plaza bar. Note that one of the players is a bartender there; they all friends. Excellent. Had three Kros myself, earlier. Kronenbergs, the local little pony beers, maybe a German import, maybe something French. Doubt it by the name. Regardless..I’ve started to notice the men speeding a great many inquisitive stares up and over my shoulder. I wonder if there is some contoured topless goddess up there or some such other attraction to the masculine. Thinking this, a pretty, dark-skinned woman with a severe downturned look passes me by. Face like that seems out of place here, everyone so calm and easily self-indulgent in the soft sun. She must be on the job or something, playing an entirely different game altogether. Perhaps on her way to make up someone else’s bed. Strange to think, working a normal blue collar amongst a sea of naked retired Scandinavians. But I’ve got to look now, too many glances… ah, can’t see over this shrubscreen from my seated position. Rise, up and down the pints of blood roll, my eyes see black with the quick shift, and in the dark I thank the gods that I can press out a stand from seating Indian-style in the first place. Rank smell of Fear not so far from my nostrils still, the episode of Panamanian infection still close in my mind and memory. Yet, full power in left knee. Full power. Glory. Appreciate it every day.
Maybe it’s just a reclining naked someone, and they’re all just craning their necks and critiquing like so many schoolyard boys in their easy natural way. International, that form and role. Back to my bread.
I must look odd in my maroon plaid top, chest open and crosskneed in the nexus of focus, like a dog underfoot in the busy kitchen. But hey, I learned it from the best, Snoopy himself taught me the tricks. Find the love, where’s the party? Just rambling now, is that what we’ll call this style? A ramble? A journal entry, that’s what. Just publish that shit, call it a writer’s travel dialogue. The self addressing.
Each day, more natural, more actual euphoric I become, growing easy in the nude amongst so many. Confident of my body, as is right and good so to do. Pffft! Sound in my own skin. I can feel the grit of the ground with my sitting bones; How’s that for grounded?! “A puta, merci y mierde!” grumbled Young Nake, right before Wizened Aggressive rains a mercury grenade, smashing someone else’s ball away. Much tactic, Naked’s got a small scrap of green cloth that he holds in one palm, using it to wipe his bombs clean before each next toss, so as to keep the sanddust from interfering in his cast. Good form, down in the haunches, cloth and ball behind the back, held single-palmedly in the small of the spine, other shoulder rounding and casting the slow lob. Little old lady with beautiful wrinkles around her mouth chats through thick purple glasses to the Manta-chested youth on the sidelines; he politely holding his wrists behind himself, upright posture, listening attentively, eyes nevertheless on the game, as men. Bored husbands in the aftground watching with their glass-poured beers, turnip and beet shaped glasses full of blondebier, smoking in luxury and leaning back in the chair to watch the game. Wives and daughters chatting each other or friends, everyone really stoned with the sun and gorgeous weather. So easy, so fine. A wise man takes his time. Which implies that a foolish man gives it.
Strong wind swirls sand into the air, dust from the playpool. The nexus of the game, the wooden center targetball, no bigger than an egg’s yolk, tossed and bouncing unusually light at the beginning of each new round.. this way the game never consistent, the lay of the land coming into play, one man taking special care for the dips and angles, casting backspin or sidespin on his missiles, working with the topo. Some angryish, bullish, unibrowed and wearing black, fully clothed and smoking cigarettes. Many smoke cigarettes, however. Watched an Italian Gangster movie last night with ‘Enry, these guys look like stars. Littleoldlady just walked me by, I looking up into her smile and eyes, she bonjeuring me and tossing a short question over her shoulder, turning to laugh her own reply; probably about me sitting bareassed in the ‘dirty’ sidewalk. Not a car rides here, not a shoe. Dogshit, yes probably, but aren’t we all.
I’ll pick this whole baguette apart and eat it from its thin paper wrap, tucked where it rests, vertically on its own tail in my new (for me) military sack, spoils from the fields of Knebworth, post-festival scavenge-score. Floor score. Explained that concept to young Mort and Larie. Kids on the block. Second glanced and backstepped into a bakery breadshop on the tunnel through the town’s core, drawn in only by the ensnaring smell. Lovely smiling aproned woman came from her workshop amongst the ovens, greeting and holding my eyes; “I can’t speak French and I’m just here for my nose,” but she replies with two recommendations for the best bread, this or that. Split open in baking, both crusty-lipped sexy baguettes, like idols of yeasty fertility, each a euro ten. So I bought one, the one with the descriptive word that sounded more like olive. Also cause it was even darker and crustier than the other. ‘Course I like the crust, now it’s down to the nub. Yummy.
Everybody groans laughing has Strongknee Oldie knocks someone’s ball closer to the target, all delighting together in the fault of the bestman. Nothing unites like a master’s blunder. ‘Notherwords, everyone cheers when the lead-walrus bumbles. Well, he is, big ol’ salt and pepper moustache, carving a permanent frown, bald head just as bald and slick as the billiards themselves, tanned brown like the wooden core, like a ship’s mast. He’s up again, regaining his position; ‘s got a fine, gracefully-curled backhand, weighted and ballast, acts as his counterbalance.
Need to sit and watch everyone with everyone else, so’s to watch the others’ eyes, learn the market value of things. How’s the Eurofolk quantify their good lookers? Now I find it, they’re all watching someone get fucked on the top-floor balcony in the building complex behind my head. Behind the wall that I now lean on. All faces, sunflowers, watching and watching, so many boys in the park. Good on ‘em.
Sitting on the far side now. I took the opportunity of the wooden target ball landing nearer my feet on the sand border’s edge to get up slowly and walk a square circle to the farside of the patch. Now I can see what they’ve all been watching all along: the couple was at the top, visibly gallivanting on a blowup mattress on the porch, the blowup factor making their motion clear and animated even for the blocking railings. But now I see also that there is another couple on the same porch, sitting at the breakfast table, having drinks and watching on, naked. Fucking right, Sex Holiday! Good to see healthy adult swingers, or at least good enough friends, watching each others’ lovin in the sun on a public porch. Sure they thought it was less public than it is; actually, l’m not very sure of that. In retrospect, of course they were exhibitionists and delight in the fact. But now he gets up from her, from where he’s been having her from above, the shapes and shades of bodies, directions of feet painting the position’s picture; he stands to sit at the breakfast table, facing his friend couple and taking his tea. Aha! Here now the grins really blossom on our new friends’ faces, the sandlot billiards men; for our platinum blonde, our busty heroine has come up from her altar and sat in the lap of her man. She leans way, way out over the table, reaching for a glass of drink from the farside near the friends, then sits back into his lap. With familiar intent. The metal balls never cease their reign and accurate raining, but all eyes less those of the then-lobbing lobber cease following the game, turned up instead at the lap-pummelling that she now unleashes upon her lover. Whoa. Tall guy in jeans and gold chain laughs to me, following my samewise gaze, laughs something brief about “how about the naturalism?!” to me, I smile in response. We all in on the same joke. I look just beyond the sandbox edge, past the treeshade into the plaza, fearing for the mothers and daughters, the awareness of the crowd at large. But they seem oblivious, caught up watching the walkers, not reaching for the Stars. The avenue of trees creates an island canopy, marching over the popular sidewalk, blocking their upward view. But not so with the Billiards Boys, attentive and amused.
A beautifully-breasted lass strolls by with a bun in her arms as the clouds move over, shady cover. Warm-colors sarong wraps her swinging hips: crisp. The couples upstairs are clothing their bodies; I think to myself, “Keep an eye out for Platinum in pink. What’s she look like up close? And how doth the fresh eye twinkle?” Ha. The men wait their turn, clink their pair of metal spheres behind their backs, sounds like prayerballs, croaks like frogs. Game goes on, day turns over, just another lazy midsummersday on the sex-strange planet of Cap D-Agde.
Weekend of Sonisphere at Knebworth was insane. Really, actually insane. Consider: The total anticipated count, by sales of tickets told to me by logistics master Martha, was fifty-one thousand people. Fifty-one thousand. That’s something like thrice the population of my home town. Except that, instead of a citizenry leaning towards retirement, lawn-mowing and a slow, quiet lifestyle of Christianity and sweet tea (Diabetus!), this entire population was composed of the wildest, vilest, paganist, metalest bunch of raging crazy Melon Farmers that central-southern England has to offer. Even further than that: We met, during our daily swims amongst the manswarm, fine young cannibals from Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Canada, California, Australia. Imagine the degree of fanaticism necessary, so strong you could almost feel it simmering under your feet, to be so compelled by a lineup of Metallica, Mars Volta, Slayer and Slipknot that you must cross entire oceans, nay continents, and under great expense, in order to join in on the raucous happenings here on the fine expansive lawns of Knebworth estate. Seems some will go to any length in order to sling their ecstatic corpses to the sounds of heavy metal grunge. Ferocious, I say. I saw grown men with tattoos of their favorite classic metal bands scrawled on the sides of their naked skulls. Saw bikers and writhers and punks, Big Black Wookies in leather, near-naked football rioters. I saw one guy with the image of a goat’s head etched right into the flesh of his chest, from clavicle to hip-wing, all hand-done and with a fine evil concentration by the looks of it, the scarring raised and angry red. Snapped a clear picture too, ha! And, he didn’t kick my ass for taking it, neither. Double ha. Wouldn’t put sudden violent outburst past a guy like that, if you know what I mean. Had to take the picture though, you don’t see conviction of that caliber often, satanic or otherwise.
No, actually, I had little to fear. At that point I was still worrying over my knee, (read A Tale of Exquisite Pain) my relic of injury from central America a week’s fold earlier. But by the time the Friday of the concert came I was feeling limber and solid enough to test it with a little midday moshing. Doc had told me to massage it and work it as deeply as I could, so I just made an effort to keep the fight in my arms and out of my legs, so to speak. Anticipating against any sudden jolts or stumbles, the better to guard my stilts, ya’ know?
You have got to try it out sometime, the mosh scene. It’s actually a wonderfully therapeutic catharsis, a real Ouster of pent-up energy. Little push here, a dodged elbow to the ear there, no hard feelings, just the anonymous fray of humanity working itself out. Dancing itself clean. The misconception is that these big sweating goliaths are out for blood; Not so. Actually, you’ll never see a more vicious lashing then by the defenders of the Fallen: When (inevitably) someone loses their balance and goes down headfirst (or, perhaps they thrown themselves headlong and horizontal into the Eye of the Storm), the generally random skirmish of our dear rioters will become immediately concentrated and intentional, the collective goal being to get the downed kid back on his feet as fast as possible. Really warms your heart to see it; Even more so to feel it firsthand. Sometimes the hoard of heathen hands reaching down to help are so excited and united that the lift becomes more of a throw, sending whomever from face-down-in-the-mud to flying-over-the-fray in a half a second’s time. Beautiful, really. An inspiration, after all is said and done.
No, I am a great proponent of the Mosh, often more so then for the music itself. Being specifically styled a “Metal” festival, the range of sound is pretty limited. I’m not complaining, I listened to that music back in highschool when it was the fiercest, most exhilarating stuff I knew. Used it as catalyst, a pre-soccer psyche-up, or as battle-rally in our rural teenage hysteria: bottle-rocket wars in the midnight streets, or epic, hours-long manhunt games in residential forests. Caffeine and nicked beers have nothing on the sounds of Slipknot or Limp Bizkit for inciting a riot. I’m not ashamed, it’s powerful music. That’s the bottom line: Energy. If music is a tool, either practically or emotionally, here is a genre with the power to galvanize. Works for me, and that was long before I’d ever heard of the SWARM that is Mars Volta. Christ. Gigi was actually there to hear the first set with us… Don’t think the sound sat to well with her grandmotherly stomach. Nor the stoned leadman’s crawlings and thrashings on stage. But what the hell, it’s still damn good music. Actually recorded some, sent it to a friend down South.
Sonisphere has always been outrageous. I was there two years back, in the early days of my self-designed ejection from the South, from the Southern society where I grew up. No offense towards Alabama, the home of much of my family and many dear friends. It is said that every man owes something to the society that brought him up. Yet, all people have the capacity for wondering and wide-wandering, naturally so. And a little bit of localized discontent can go a long way, both for the internal rebellion and the external escape. Finally, wherever there is an imposing system of heavy conservative norms, there will be a backlash. And so. My message is, Go. Play. Explore the wide world. Go as soon as you can, gather up your gall and courage, streamline your intent; no matter if the goal is yet unknown, just be smart about your money, be light about possessions, and Go. And good on ya’ if you happen to stumble upon a three day long music festival full of glimmering models of alternative Life, loud music, collective ritual, sex and drugs. Take it in, take it in. Ride that thin edge of discomfort, watch yourself, observe and come to know yourself well, and where you sense that deadly Hesitancy stemming from Fear or the Unknown, have a little scoff and push the envelope. Not dangerously, just enough to test. We’re in no hurry. You’ve got all the time in the world, just like everybody else. Be your goal joy, Force or awareness; speed, Grace or Liberation, make it so. Realize, and Act. Carpe Diem: Seize the Day.
Anyway, Sonisphere. Sometime during the first night, during Megadeth possibly, I ricocheted off the body of a troll, boulder of a man named Heine. What a fitting name, Shit! If we were still Vikings for a living, I’d want Heine to be my wingman. Kid was colossal, just looked like a round, robust five year old grown up twenty years, and two hundred pounds more. In the center of it all, smiling and invincible, thick-browed. I climbed back through the fisting bodies to him, clapped him on the shoulder and said, “Hey, were you here in the mosh two years ago?!” He fixed me a stare and shouted over the din, “Which show?” I said, “All of them!” I said, “I remember you, I’m Boone!” His troll smile erupted, he said, “Hell yeah, man! I’m Heine!”
Friendsies! And just about then some doof struck me in the middle back from behind with the flats of both forearms, himself just the victim of the same shit from the four next guys in line behind, all of us lurching forward like metal balls on string of some miserably wealthy executive desk, and with that shove the magic was secured. I’d made a friend on the battle field. I was very happy about this, I thought to myself while grabbing the shoulder of the guy still pushing me from behind and slinging him into the crowd. I’ve got a Heine on my side, I mumbled internal while mounting an uphill counter-attack into the crowd of pushers, putting my head down and just plowing through the discordant bodies. I made it about twenty feet into the sweatstink carwreck of pogoing children and looked up at the empty trail I’d left, and there was Heine smiling big at me from the other side of the Mosh. Yay! The Grench’s heart grew three sizes that day.
We churned the turf to mush and mud. It wasn’t like that the first night, Thursday night before the music started when dear cousin Ed and friends and I all had a wander ‘round the grounds, but after the gates had opened and the carnival had kicked off the terrain was soon to slurry. Edward is my aunt Martha and uncle Henry’s son. He’s twenty now, I believe? Going to music school in the Southern English stonebeach town of Brighton. He’s a damn good guitarist, having started at fifteen and quickly rocketing to academic and touring levels. He’s lead guitar in Glass City Vice, a four man band composed of his fellow students at Brighton. There is Josh, tall, blonde-haired model type on guitar and vocals, pasty-skinned dark-eyed Lawrie on drums, and tinymouse cool kid QJ on bass. Lawrie’s real name is Lawrence, so that’s what I called him, favoring long, elaborate names in a mildly teasing way. QJ’s real name is Quentin James Mortimer something something, in that epic long fashion of the historied English, so I called him Mortimer cause it’s fucking badass.
We made good friends, they all cool kids and sounding solid together; actually they played a show at a youth club called Club 85 in the nearby village of Hitchin earlier that evening. Got to see ‘em play live, sounded good and tight, well-practiced. Everyone was excited for that, Henry gathering personal friends and friends of the family to come out and support; Gigi was there, Martha, Henry’s parents and brother’s family, second-cousins that I hadn’t seen in a couple years. I sat and chatted with Geegers between the warm-up acts, sharing a Stella and feeling very like we were back around the dinner table on the thirteenth floor on 55th street, splitting a beer and telling stories like we used to, together. Love her. Hung out with my girl-cousin Morwenna and her boyfriend Phil, both wise in the ways of the fashionable Jet Set, living loud and, of late, in LA, and London before that, DJing together in posh clubs and working in the fields of modeling, fashion and photography. Well dressed, Mo always long in something strange and avant garde, Phil often in black, skinny designed jeans of someone I should be ashamed not to have heard of, pencil moustache, styled to the nines. Mo’s hair is blond and comes to her waist, the long English damsel of a modern age. I like them both; the Family at large is delightfully bizarre and convoluted, what a treat.
Hung out with Glass City Vice and had a sneaky beer at their merch table waiting for their time to come, chatting with the crew and meeting their friends. Leaning on a table where their black and white print tee-shirts sat stacked, bundles of circular stickers and pins, squares of disks of music. I took a pin and put it through the front collar of my shirt that night, then wore it all weekend (the same shirt, and pin amazingly still attached throughout the field of battle.) Little publicity never hurts. Although I don’t know how receptive the bleeders in the Mosh would be if they actually took notice and remembered (which is more of a stretch) to look them up. Psyche of the Bruiser’s breed.
Just as they were getting ready to go onstage, Henry took my ear and asked my help: to lead the pogo and motion up front, knowing my thrill in vigor and wanting a rowdy crowd for the show. I agreed immediately, of course, and heartily, although I must say, I was still entertaining doubt about what my knee was capable of. I had (thanks gods) been well enough to manage the epic day-plus transit from Central America, bouncing off the Dominican Republic and Frankfurt before landing in London, but there was still swelling and sensitivity with the exertion, especially with standing still. Blood pooling around the lingering internal scar tissue. It’d been a constant mind-fuck for over a week, two by the time I wanted to dance in Hitchin, but I went about it consciously, with care and attention. Waking the next day, the first day of the festival, and discovering that the exertion and effort of the previous night had actually helped the knee, I was stoked, elated. Oh, when Play is Solution…
The festival! Friday evening found me in the forefront of the mainstage press, awaiting the much promoted “Big Four”: Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica. They played one after the other, consecutively, and on the same stage, “for the first time all together in England.” Each a good show in their own stead, but the much whispered and hoped-for culmination was in the final minutes of the evening, when members from each of these classic metal groups gathered mainstage to play together. Such a pileup of golden manes, spiky black guitars and rancid testosterone I’ve never seen before. The sight was much more impressive than the sound. Not exactly my cup of tea, but impressive in more of a historical context; epic in the sense that you regard the moving and rollings of political figures, or the scandals of your parent’s friends; something that must be recognized as important and consequential, but not for you specifically.
Was there for the full entirety of the show, bound out of a guttural need to experience every single bit possible, like the queen teach, never quitter. There was a promotional group on site buying empty cups back from the crowd for ten pence per, and after watching and slicing thin and precise the aspects of the deal, I realized that I could gather the necessary forty cups in a matter of five minutes or so, and while taking the same path from primary stage to secondary stage as usual. So I did it, my speed aided by the fact that, being in the mosh, you are surrounded by the contained: those drinkers who come in double-fisting, muscle up close as they can, slam ‘em both and throw down the empties. I just pull a shuffle step while being washed away from stage with the masses, and whala: four pounds, the exact price of the next Tuburg from the bar. Drank for free all afternoon. Then, after the final epic Four, actually went all out about it, gathered up muddy cups like “a filthy peasant” or “scum,” as two passers-by exclaimed. Walked to the redemption point with two stacks of cups taller than I could easily manage, braced back and arching over my shoulder like flag-masts. It took me maybe a half-hour, maybe only twenty minutes to do the collecting, but almost double that waiting in line with like-minded opportunists. Got front, got something like twenty five pounds in return from the cute cutie working hard to count my rims all a-stacked. That’s like thirty-five bucks. Add the four four-pound pints during the day and the change, round fifty pounds. Good I was a filthy peasant on the first day while it was still dry(ish), cause it started raining Saturday and didn’t stop for the rest of the weekend, enough to liquefy any paper left to be trampled underfoot. Ran back to the house with a pocketful and found scraps of the family lounging out in the kitchen. Such luxury, to jog in from Metallica, wet and worn out, dehydrated and famished, to step into a kitchen warm with the heat of a giant Aga stove; shed to socks, whip up a sandwich and put the kettle on. Yes. Then the kidsize ratpack rolled in with Nora in tow, all present and accounted for. She brought me kisses, congratulations, all ready for weekend’s rampage. Dressed so gypsy, packing her hoolahoop, Nora back at Knebworth, reunion in the kitchen. She brought me traffic, teeny jam jar shaking with adoration. Thanks for friends and friends of theirs.
A hive of activity, the Cobbold Kitchen any night of the weekend. At first day, I found the lineup of shows just too solid to knock a chink in, so I was out there moshing and shouting for the full extent of it, an all-out intensive. Miss nothing. Every bone thrown. But wearing on in the whalloping weekend, I got into a stop-start rhythm of recognizing physical fatigue and shouldering a gap into the lineup, just big enough to allow a half hour speedwalk back to the house to grub and gabble with the other merrygoers. Developed a kind of intuition for the musical sentiments and attactments of our Clan; got where I could guess the likely gaps, returning to find the kitchen filling, the family reconvening. Everyone would come back in waves, travelling in groups depending on their interest. For example: Ed and his brohans, Mo Phil and Co., Parents and Geegers; seems leadership or fellowship determines the parties, as much as ears do.
Nora and I spent all Saturday together. Got lost from everyone, but not from each other. At one point early in the afternoon I find myself dancing with her on my shoulders. Lawrie was there too, we were all watching You Me At Six, the band for which his big hair big brother squeals lead guitar, his blonding cousin on rhythm guitars too. Crazy family of musicians. Crazy successful, by the looks of it. The lead singer saw the flashed breasts like everyone else, shining fangirls riding their boyfriend’s shoulders in the crowd. He saw them just like the camera man, and thus everyone else of the thirty thousand assembled.. A rush cheer each time she smiles, huge in the screens, and flashes her cheek. But the lead voice for Six, he kept at it, egging it on, “Hey you! Yeah, you on the screen. Show us your tits.” Spotlight girl smiles and flashes, crowd roars, singer says, “Yeh, do it again.” Heads snap to screen, same girl same game anew, the rising “AYE!” of thousands of adolescent throats united in singular conviction. Singer, “Yeh, do it again.” Same girl, same thrice! Hysterics ensue. How’s that for a warmup? Everyone in the crowd is smiling ear to ear before the music even starts. Brilliant.
Sprinted to Weezer on Sunday. Knew it was coming, an early enough show in the day; all the guys were there in the kitchen making pickle and cheese sandwiches, drinking lemon currant squash, elderberry, or else downing Stellas. Watching the minutes drop off the clock on the wall, biding the seconds and then, suddenly all assuming one and together the Mission; rushing into the foyer hallway and throwing on sodden shoes, boots and wellies all in a rush, out the door and rounding the eastern turrent. It was there at the shady field gate that the melancholy opening chords of Say it Ain’t So came echoing across the heavens. We’re all bunched up at the bottleneck of the small metal gate, fumbling keys and scrabbling at each other, then bursting through and off at a sprint, running down the gravel lane away from the great black gates, ominous and gothic at our back. “Somebody’s Heinie, is crowding my icebox…” crooned in sonic waves over the tenttops and treetops, the only other sound your own loud breath in the ears at a gallop to the entrance. Through, a rough splash into the Mass of people, eyes everywhere on the myriad faces, tattoos and colorful hairdos till those you ran with show up, all training into a running tail like a snake of Braves sweeping through the crowd. Left side, always along the leftedge wall, past the sitters and the wallflowers, then a hard angle right, cutting into the loosely-packed flank. Into the underbelly. With a few pushs we break through into a bubble ‘mongst the press, stare round at each other’s gawking happy faces, still red and winded as the Indiepop sound of the Weez takes frontstage, along with our attention. Singalong.
Was standing back a ways with Mortimer at my side, preparing to go for a beer when all of a sudden there dropped a few eerie impossible notes and they began a cover of Paranoid Android. We’re all going crazy, people all around freaking out like a car crash. Excellence, it made the show for me, although I heard plenty of criticism later, ‘bringing the energy of the set down’ and whatnot. Rubbish. Few groups have the respect or skill to cover Radiohead. And cleanly, sounded just like the album. Midst of that blue shock, whilst the grinding bounce “Kicking, Screaming, Hush little Piggy?” Nora bursts onto our side, grabbing my hands and facing me smiling, her scruntched impish grin coming up at me from below. “Gigi’s here!” she tells me, and sure ‘nuf up comes Lady Gray herself, striding through the busy sun. Hey! Kisses exchanged on either cheeks all round, and after a moment we two’re sent off for a round of Tuburgs, the only beer sold at the massive dual bars stationed either side of the field. Line for a while, (actually, I learned the first day to bypass the wait, simply walking to the edge and making friends with the nextmost guy in line. It’s no hard favor to ask, simply to order a few more beers than you were gonna’ in the first place, press the bill into his hand. Friendly, no worry. Save you fifteen minutes, and that’s a lot when the driving bassline of Hash Pipe starts climbing into the sky.) Hugged Nora when Gigi eventually bowed out and retired to the Production tent, some halfway through The Mars Volta (it wasn’t really her make or flavor, she assured us). She had jumped me just in the nick of time back at the Weezer stage, Nora had. We three laughing, I climbing up the gap between their shoulders, Volta climbing across the stage, ragged and blackened. Their sound was anarchic, unsquareable, difficult to categorize. A livid voice amongst a fever of sound. Straight pushin’. I recorded fifteen minutes of it on somebody’s phone, ‘cause I got a special friend down South who wants to hear, and I told her I’d catch her some anyway.
That was before I lost my camera (and sound recorder) in the massive circle pit of Gallows the second day, but what the hell, it’s just stuff. Actually had uploaded everything the night before, so nothing too dear lost. Moral of that story: Lash down your shit like there’s gonna be a storm at sea, before you go into the Mosh. And really, expect everything to be broken in battle, unless you’re guarding it with your own clenched fists. I walked around the festival with a black Sharpie’d sign, “200 pounds for the camera you found in Gallows pit” bolded on both sides of a scrap of cardboard. Figured it have to be a pretty temptation to lure out the Finder. Never came to nothing, even though I kept it raised for hours, got in the eyes of thousands. Guy who caught it up wanted it for keeps, ‘cause I didn’t find any scraps in the turf. Though I made a pretty good show of it, still flipping folks in the core of the mosh with my sign still raised in one hand. Made some good conversation with sympathetic demons too. Always surprising, the jux between a person’s character and their costume.
Sometime in Sunday’s early afternoon, the in-between-shows-time when everyone wanders around stunned, bumping into each other on their way to alternately buy more beer or piss it out; a single man walks out on stage and a voice rings out over the whole of the festival. I can’t quite quote the massage, it was brief, rude even; a sharp call to silence for something unexplained. Unexplained, but respected nevertheless: the entire fifty thousand assembled fell into total silence. Looking around, almost frozen in place, almost no one was even moving, just standing, arms crossed, silent as the grave, like a vast zombie army. It was the only quiet that weekend ever knew, and just two minutes of it. A thanks, then, like nothing had happened, like the play button had been toggled from pause, the mobscene resumed. Eerie, that’s what it was, off-setting. Found out later, it was orchestrated by the members of Slipknot, who were headlining for that night. One of their band members, Paul Gray, had recently died, (overdose I think, something narcotic) and they asked two minutes of silence to honor his passing to the void. Hours later, after the nostalgic hype-up jump-around of House of Pain and Limp Bizkit, Slipknot’s lead singer, fully decked in his signature deathmask and dayglow orange jumpsuit, took up the mike at the climax of their show. He said, “This music isn’t about negativity. This is about positivity, this is about celebration, and WHOTHEFUCKWANTSTOCELEBRATEWITHSLIPKNOTTONIGHT!?” People were screaming and crying in the crowd even during the deafening roar that rose up from the gathered sea, while the other bandmembers brought the suit and mask of Paul Gray up to forestage, hung long and empty on a mic stand in front, like an empty skin. A powerful feeling, the unexpected sense of empathy in such a seemingly harsh, blunt environment. Like a flower in the rubble, but the respect was there anyway. The living masked men picked up their instruments and hammered into the music, and by the time the final encore came around it was complete and total pandemonium.
In the end, in the big wet exhale after it all, I came away bent with exhaustion, dripping sweat and exhilarated. Met up with cousin Freddy as we walked back to the house, weaving through the trickling crowds, shouts and laughter lifting sporadically in the wet night. It was raining and my body was tight after three days of abuse, but my knee was whole and well, my blood steeped in serotonin from such rough play, and thoughts of stretching out on the surface of the warm pool latenight carried my spirits further. Hell of a romp, the whole of it. ‘D come away undoubtedly healthier than beforehand, product and promise of the great uniting ritual of battle and Cain.
Let me tell you a Tale of Exquisite Pain.
Boquete, Panama. Last week of June, 2011.
This week has been black and white, pleasure and unbelievable circumstance coupled with breathtaking,
shocking pain. Started back at Bocas del Toro, back on Carenero, where the water’s dirty and full of
human shit, I heard say. Heard say once I started paying attention, and dearly did I pay. Started with a
small whitehead, an insignificant little zit like you might catch on your face where fingers stray
out of stress or absent habit, perhaps along the undersides of the jaw in a beardstroking manner,
or along the downlines of the mouth and chin. Little one on my left knee. Popped it out of rhythmic,
natural self-grooming impulse and thought nothing of it, till the next day when it had become larger,
refilled and surrounded by a ring of blushed hot inflammation. Small ring, but I pay at least my body a lot of
attention, and took note. R had just shown up, just appeared lovely into our lives (another
story in and of itself) and we took a walk around the island, a photo excursion that led us through the
swamp of demontrees, those growing in the shallow brackish forest that throw their white roots out and
writhing across the tepid surface. Make for beautiful silent heavy moments, and fine black and whites.
Started getting onery after that. Day later, started smarting, enough to cause concern, so I took off for
the hospital in Bocas, cause I heard that it cost nothing to go there, and because I had consulted the
pharmacists in their shop on the main drag and had made friends of them, meeting respect for our
shared understanding of lightweight antibiotics and the importance of a sound immune system while
being foreign and travelling in a foreign land.
Got to the “hospital” and walked through the broken chainlink gates, stepping over wild clumps of
crabgrass in their ER driveway. A single level, no entrance, no signage; a blinded-windows building on the
edge of town, humorously situated alongside both the retirement home and the cemetery. R was with
me. Chose one of the dingy unlabeled doors and met a confused nurse in a hallway, told me to use
the next door. Back out, next door is locked, but the next yielded a reception. Five or six people, locals
sitting transfixed and in various pitiful states, staring into the overhead television where a show about
most shocking accidents and robberies was playing . One nurse, sitting in white on the opposite side
of the counter asked for my name and passport, which I realized I had foolishly left at the house.
Gave her my name, took a good guess at my passport number (it wasn’t correct) and also told her I was
twenty-three. She took my tempterature by thermometer under the armpit, while R and I talked openly
in English about freezing and panicking when confronted by situations of authority, why I had reverted
to the more familiar answer. Haven’t been asked my age much recently, I guess. Pretty surprised she
would even process me without any identification, actually. Less surprised as I sat and watched the state
of affairs. A young black mother standing and frowning, cradling her infant daughter who first silently
vommed up a clearish liquid to fall the standing distance to the floor, then again. The infant’s worried
brow of concern looking comically mature; her mother idly kicking the sick from her bare foot and flipflop, getting
smart and leaning a bit forward for the consequential jettisons. Then a ten year old boy hobbled in with a large treble hook buried barbs-deep in the ball of his foot, barefoot. No word between anyone of
the Sick on the floor, just looks of pity and mild misery on faces all. Ten minutes pass in heated silence,
the television droning, beconing to its obedient zombies, all of whom happy to be provided any
distraction from the present reality.
Minutes pass and nurse calls my name, I leave R in her plastic orange stadium seat and walk around the
corner to the seeing room. There, a large local woman in a white smock sits and lifts her eyes to
me, and impatient look on her face. I begin to explain to her in my best Spanish about having a bite that
has become infected, regurgitating my friendly pharmacists conversation (his name is douglas) about
the balance between needing to be well, and needing to maintain high immunity while traveling in the tropics. She hears me out and then explains to me that I will have to come back the following morning at six
am to the opposite side of the building, explaining that my case doesn’t merit a visit to the Emergency
Room, and that I will have to take a number and wait in line. When I reiterate what I already know, that I
believe it to be a simple case of antibiotics and Neosporin, she suddenly changes her mind and scribbles
me a prescription for amocyciclin, a mild antibiotic. Mildly offput by the fact that I had just swayed a
professional medical officer in not my mother language, I took the receipt, thanked her and left.
Back in the waiting room, I find R speaking with a man whom I had met before. He’s called Tony, from
Jamaica, tall and Englishspeaking, having lived in Virginia or some such for a number of hears. I explain
to him about the situation, he agrees with me about the alt medicine angle, suggests bathing the bite in
lemon juice or garlic, and then mentions colloidal silver. We immediately bond when I tell him that I am
familiar with it, even have a bottle with me; we say our peace and part in good favor. Walking back to the pharmacy,
R and I stop at the baseball field as the sun is going down. We buy some jungle grapes from an old man
in the street and stroll towards the familiar faces at the pharmacy and I am feeling much better, feeling
that I have communicated effectively and been proactive in handling a medical issue before it took off.
That was maybe five days ago.
Now, dear reader, you find me lying on my back on a rented bed in a hostel in a village called Boquete in
the central, mountainous region of Western Panama. That same left knee and the thigh above it are just
beyond the screen of this laptop, elevated by pillows and yet swollen almost circular, like an elephant’s
leg. Like a tree branch. I’ve no discernable kneecap in sight. What I do have is an infected, abscessed
socket where once lay that lowly pimple, and a swath of hard, angry, reddened flesh that stretches
from the knee down almost to my groin like a colorcoded regional map. It’s wrapped now, professionally
and expediently by Dr. Canadero’s nurse Lubeyka, the same who administered that most hellacious and
incredible procedure some four hours ago when I hobbled down the block for the third day of antibiotic
injections into my ass.
A sentence of backstory: R and I arrived here (me on the Bocas’ prescribed meds) and had not
stepped foot in the hostel (or city, for that matter) more than three minutes, when suddenly a spunky blond German girl named Manya invited us to join her in that night’s
twenty-mile nocturnal trek to the top of Volcan Baru, Panama’s highest point and the central attraction
of Boquete’s adventure outdoors sector. Of course, we jumped at the opportunity, pausing no more
than thirty seconds to consider the worth of sound sleep over a six hour trek to the top of the world, to watch a
tropical sunrise above the cloudforest. A unique, incredible adventure, make no doubt; yet possibly a hasty decision in retrospect. Anyways, we are young and risk-prone, and I’ve never dealt with an
environment of such intense infection potential before (excuse of no precedent, in this court). Also, there’s no clairvoyance here. Who’s to know that all it took to escalate a mild infection to a full scale scary medical emergency might be a single night and day’s hike in dirty pants, coupled with an ill-conceived notion to pop the raised head on the fatigued trip down, thinking that the pain might be alleviated by simply releasing the pressure. It didn’t.
Instead it provoked a sudden and startling exacerbation of the thing, an acceleration to pain, fever and a miserable fearful trip down to the local clinic to get it checked out a day later. (Again.) First thing the nurse said
was, “esta si feo” (yea, that’s ugly).
Anyways, all was stable after a rapidfire Spanish conversation with the very professional and respectable
doctor Candanero, with whom I’ve come to trust and share, when he heard out my story three days
ago. Told me the nurse in Bocas had prescribed me a weaksauce antibiotic in the first place, that yes, it
is always a mistake to reopen an infected wound, and that yes, we will need to keep you for a week of
antibiotic injections and meds. Fine, until this morning when I ambled over in slow motion.
Cadanero was standing large and present in the doorway to the clinic when I came into sight at the
corner. He saw the slow trickle of blood that had made it all the way down to my ankle from the gauze
and bandage at my knee before I even felt it, and immediately shouted for his nurse, ushering me
through the peopled waiting room into the back of his office. They were moving in syncronicity as they
sat me in the room, as Lubeyka propped up my leg, took off the bandage, and immediately spaded both
pointed hands into that most sensitive and hardened flesh immediately around the wound.
I cried out, the pain like a monster.
An abscess, he told me, watching her work. Talking quickly through gritted teeth, cursing in both
languages, I asked them about the procedure that was already well underway. Such incredible, intense,
electric pain like I’ve never experience before in my life, something indescribable. Like grabbing a live
wire and holding. Like pressing the whole of the thing into boiling oil. I have no idea, felt like something
reserved for the battlefield. I found myself shouting out, cursing and swearing in both Spanish and
English, and in tongues. They shouted back to bear the pain, I responded, “Si, puedo hacerlo, pero voy
a gritar tambien!” Fine, they responded, amused. I saw Canadero actually chuckle through his intense
survey of the situation, hovering over his nurse’s shoulders. His laugh became my laugh, and I turned
to see the horror-stricken faces of several small children watching me through a gap in the curtain. Must
have been a nightmare, being a six-year-old sitting in the waiting room and seeing my livid face turn to
meet their eyes; the high, maniacal laughter pouring out, lashing out of me like a madman.
There was nothing else to do! Knew it had to be done, trusting them both, impressed with their concern
and expediency, but goddamn! that pain was like nothing else in my life. Thinking I was just gonna
walk in for a routine injection and being rushed through into the operating room, a sick mix of crimson
and white chunking out of me less than thirty seconds after having crossed the street. Just had to hold
on, the sweat and my pulse thumping right out of me, bullets forming fast and falling heavy from my
Couldn’t have been more than three minutes that she pressed the abscess out, but Christ! if I didn’t feel every single one of those seconds go by like a year. Some super-heightened state of awareness, the most awake my
machine is capable of, like a flashbomb, exquisite. She worked the whole area around the now open
wound, forcing the sick out and wiping it clean. Release, drew a full breathe of clean mountain air, then
she fit a blunt-nosed plunger of hydrogen peroxide into the socket and emptied half a vial into this
newly vacated space under the skin. The result was like a science experiment, the one with vinegar and
baking soda in grammarschool. Pink foam billowed up and out of my knee, frothing and building until it
tumbled down my leg, entirely audible in its bubbling cascade. Heinous, I know. You don’t have to read
this. But I’ll be damned if I don’t write it, a fucking Hell of a story and one I’ll be sure not to send home
until the whole thing is healed up and history. It’d make my mother sick to her stomach with worry,
besides the gory description, I’ve no doubt. But there’s no error here, no stretch of the details. Shit was
just ridiculous. And after all that and the peroxide too, Nurse Lubeyka took a pair of polished metal
needle-nosed clamps and began to rather aggressively dab and clean the mouth of the abscess with
a big piece of gauze. This seemed like cake after all that had just transpassed, but then I saw that she
meant to clean deep. “Adentro?!” I asked in disbelief. (Inside?) She met my eyes and confirmed, then
proceeded to force the better part of this four-inch square gauze into the now-empty vacuum under my
kneeskin, telling me that the gauze itself was antibiotic and would help. This was the worst to watch,
seeing the metal tip disappear and nose around under the skin, dragging it’s white net flag behind, but
she was quick about it, and was soon wrapping the whole of the thing up with that stretchy medical
fabric and fluffy clean gauze.
She assured me that the piece under the skin would be the best thing for fighting the infection and that,
by the time I returned tomorrow, I would be feeling much better, the worst already behind. She stood
me up, asked me for the eleven dollar service fee (!!) and sent me on my way. Doc Candanero slapped
me on the shoulder as I went out the front door, telling me to take it easy and that he would see me
It is Sunday. It is the Twelfth of June. Last night a storm came. It teased twice during the day, once at breakfast and again at noon, one quadrant of the sky turning over to darkness; but never yielding.
Did a raindance. Rene’, the strange friendly hairdresser downstairs neighbor, the manager, she came in the morning banging on the glass while I was still waking up, standing and staring into space naked in the kitchen, when she came banging on the glass and waving like a psycho. “Fifteen gallons of water,” she told me. “We’ve got fifteen gallons of water left in the cistern for the whole house. If you don’t have to flush it, don’t.” Then she left. It was eleven in the am and cooking humid. Dirty dishes. Salty sandy sheen. We begin to dance.
Darkness fell on a parched Carenero. Houses all over the island down to little reserve. We made a collective decision to turn on the cold tap of the shower. For twenty seconds. A line of five forms in the small bathroom, a ‘Ready, Set..” is said, then kshhk—water on and first one splashing fast as can move in the jet. Second, eight seconds, third, fourth, fifteen seconds; Fifth person jumps out of the stream and pulls the handle to. Nineteen seconds. Never a greater wave of comfort from a the whole household, never a stronger shared experience in days. Standing, blinking and smiling toe to toe on the wet tile, dripping wet. Darkness has full fallen, and suddenly a flash of light in the ceiling, bouncing up through the windows and getting caught in the curtains. Lightning. No sound follows, but we’re out on the long thin wooden pier in less than a minute. The wind is up. Standing, still dripping but now being blown cool by the strong wind. To be chilly, a novelty. A foreign feeling. We wait.
Bats carve parabola and only flit into sight inside of ten feet, a little light bouncing off the green water at the next dock over, where the man that sells petrol lives. The house built over the water, the one with the small cactus garden nestled into a precarious nook on the outside of the house wall, suspended over the splashing waves, all spines and prickles. Same house whose chickens are kept in an elevated coop. They, too, actually the whole family and structure, live in suspension over the sea and crabs, the sergent majors and yellow tangs. Chickens cock-stepping around in a meter squared cage built out from the railing on the sideporch. Ingenious, really. Safe, clean and easy to reach from the kitchen window. Some mornings mama of the house will be spotted opening the cage door, taking each bird out to give it a hug and to whisper it some sweet nothing, one by one.
Lightning fills the sky and strobes the bats at a stutter: here, a foot on, another, dark. Fragments of a moment, the full bay and Islands of Solarte and Bastimentos further on, lit up. Clouds filled like bulbs for series of seconds, stutter stutter stutter pop// and the bottom falls out.
Stand, shouting and hands raised, palms up, mouths open and laughing! A real deluge, water falling hard enough to douse and deafen. Scatter and run for our porch, to watch and feel from the swinging hammocks strung high, but J and I sprinting for the tarp and jars.
Water sees scarcity on Carenero. Buying it daily for weeks, there’s a door in the kitchen that, if opened, will release a trap of falling plastic jugs. Some three liters, some five, all out on the floor and decapped, sprinted back into the storm. We’d built a star from cane earlier in the day, a triangle five feet each side to angle the tarp on. Toyed with it for a minute, then just threw it into a small inflatable dingy on the wide dock and watched it begin to fill. Quickly. Lightning flashes and I see a milky pool of mercury sloshing around on the flat canvas roof of a docked boat. Run for a bowl. Spooning it up, a puddle neverending. Agua dulce, water potable, falling through the atmosphere and filtered by the sky.
It rained for a hard twenty minutes. All splashing and spooning, soaking to the skin, then it died down. We’d collected a dozen jugs, something over thirty-five liters. Water for a week. Rich like kings.
6.9.11 Thursday, J and I got up, made coffee. We’ve got a maker that doesn’t exactly function like the way it should, one of those dead-end appliances that would be, should be thrown away already if it wasn’t in a place where appliances are a rarity. You can’t just walk down to the store and get a new one. You can walk down and get a pound of fresh tuna for a dollar seventy-five; you can get a coconut oil rub to ward off the Chitres, the ravenous no-see-ems; you can get a case of Balboa for nine dollars plus a deposit on the glass. You can get unrefrigerated eggs, or crackers, bananas or plantains for frying into chips. Few mommas on the block will sell you frozen fruit juice in a plastic bag called Duro for fifteen cents. Pineapple. See the children in the street with them, dripping from their faces with sweetness while running the bases. Baseball, omnipresent. A Caribbean pastime.
Anyways, coffee. And the broken shambles of our maker. It’s the hose that’s cracked; wake up stumbling to pour water into the plastic belly, and twenty minutes later the counter is dripping with most of it, a half-cupfull of doublestrong joe all that’s actually made it into the pot. Now we just pour piping hot water from the tap into the filter itself, makes out just fine. Of course, we’re told we aren’t supposed to be able to drink the water from the tap. When I arrived here, two weeks ago, I was adhering to that recommendation. But with time, and wet washed vegetables, and cubes of ice late night, and open-mouthed showers, and brushed teeth not entirely spat, the fancy begins to blossom that maybe it isn’t so deadly to swallow. With the coffee maker, the premier daily morning ritual, we are drinking it from the tap, hot but not boiling, and strained through a microfilter. Doing alright, so far. Doin’ alright. Fancy a growing immunity.
Midday is too hot to be bareskinned, for me anyway. You gotta be nimble in the sun when you’re of Ginger descent. Threw on pants and a tee-shirt, grabbed a mask and we’re out the door, J and myself, jogging left along the beach-hugging path. We pass through out of the settlements in minutes, past the funny, cartoonish expat bars and bungalows, past the stilted tin-roof local homes, weathered to the color of driftwood and just as covered in crabs, past the raked sand and shady palm grove at BiBi’s where we go for lime drinks some afternoons, or rent longboards. Run right on past that till breath finds rhythm, and the act of locomotion becomes the whole world. Stride and breathe and swing of limbs all become synchronized and a singular complete motion. On and on till the path breaks up and becomes littered with the razor-edged lava that forms the island’s baserock. Till a hyperfocus on placing the next step trumps runningform as the most important game at hand, saving feet trump saving breath. Reach the briny forest where the deviltrees grow, tall black and white trunks that splash down into a spaghetti of tangled, writhing roots. Locals I’ve walked with speak dislike, distrust for these trees, claiming the folklore that demons live amongst those snakelike roots. Not a hard stretch of the imagination, and you can be sure that I’ll be a believer when a misplaced running step rolls an ankle or breaks it, worse. But we are good at our game and run on, untouched by demontwine, coming through and reaching the first high point. Run up the steep embankment to the small grassy crown before slowing to a stand, and there lookout over the morning’s calm Atlantic. We are in the middle of a ten-day stretch of glassy seas (a la chagrin of our surfers and csers) but it makes it damn fine to snorkel. Or look down into the sea and examine the layout of the under-surface. In this case, to spot a sandy landing point at which to aim the feet for launched aerial entry. Shed bandana, empty pockets, tiptoe to razor-rocks’s edge, and cast out the mask. The first game is retrieving it and clearing it underwater, like putting on eyeballs although the salt won’t burn them. So jump!
Five minutes in the turquoise waters with the masks on and we find an underwater cave into the bluff from which we plunged. Never’d be able to see it from the surface, but drop under the glasstop and the shadow of depth extends back and back under the rock’s lip, no end in sight. We get to the shadow’s edge, sit amongst a school of flashing baitfish and wait for the eyes to adjust, peering. A noise of deep distant sucking, the wave action pushing and pulling air through an invisible passage in the rock somewhere, gurgling like a sleeping monster. Creepy. We push each other to dare and start holding breath and swimming into the dark. Then spy the liquid metal bouncing on the cave ceiling: a trapped air pocket, an epic discovery. Swim into the dark tunnel and pull long, come twenty feet and look up, eyes and hands through the glassy bubble, and find room to press a kiss to the ceiling. Pull air. Breathe. Magic.
We find space to put our faces through the superficie and breathe normal. The air tastes right, but it doesn’t stop me from a split-second blackfantasy of the air being stale, and what it would be like or if I would even feel it when the suffocation took place.
We saw the Spanish mermaids come around the point frm through foggy breathy masks from back inside the cave. Topless and immaculate, they came oblivious, searching into our tiny cay. Aback, taken aback by our sudden emergence from the solid wall itself like Jonathan Livington Seagull.
Broke smiles and conversation while treading the eight feet. Story of hidden bubbles, they came, one friend too scared to go, both returning to beach where we met after scaling the razor wall once more. A last lunge from the top? Twenty five feet down into six by six by six, but also out ten or so, a ballsy one. Clean, nevertheless. Jrand says, “How is your confidence in landing on me here, from there?” “Perfect.” “So.” Done.
We met them smoking and topping, told them of the point and better snorkels. Went, all together and rushing through the dense-mosquitoed inner island part, necessary to reach the good reef. Preserved there around the bend of the island, guarded by it’s shallows and the spattering of tiny two-tree islands breaching the surface. Where I had come before with the longboard that one day, that second day, alone. Where I had come days later, days ago, and seen the Brown-footed Boobie watching me from that furthest island, settled there amongst the bones and paint of his fellows, the swallows wheeling forever in orbit.
Blue sponges. Toxic nematodes, sea slugs. J took a sting to the knee from a brush with the bottom. I’m there in three feet of water, thin white ribbons of green kelp tickle my stomach and test the attention as I look to place feet and toes on this rock or that, dodging between the black urchin spines and holes unknown. “Alright?” Blink:Think: what will I do with him when he starts seizing and convulsion on some super toxic tropical fishtoxin? Drag his ass back to the shore and jog home with friend slung across shoulders? Shrug it off. It’s nothing. Invincibility, or something like it. I like to name it Will. Like it was said, Everything by its right name.
Perhaps a brush of coral. Heard talk of fire coral in the area, saw what I thought it must be in the shallows before. Now, watching the small spade-shaped fishes, the torpedo wrasses and sharp yellow and blue tangs, the frog-limbed guppy types, hidden rock bass, and those more familiar builds that I attribute to the edibles class, now the morning is realized. An occasional pink and chartreuse parrot fish, that sand-maker with the hard lips. Seafans retract their beige and cream plume of flower into stalk in a flash of a second. A fraction of one.
Jrand climbed the rocky tiny island with most delicacy, for the surface. The razors here even less dulled by passage, inhabitants only birds and the crabs feeding on their waste. Found out about the bones visible from the water. Pelican skull like that crown of Lord Dream, conjured of Neil Gaimen’s Sandman series. Long and alien, a sunbleached featherlight skullwand. Beak dewdropped from the fragile complexities of the skull and facial cavities, a full sixteen inches in length, maybe longer, and so graciously curved along the long axis. Throws it to float, I place it back on shore. Wedged for the bless of the next rising sun, Carenero’s proudest point’s guardian.
To shore. WE’ve spent the morning in waking coffee, sprinting and cave breathing, swimming, darish leaps and now mermaids at the point, and one takes a moment to note the ubiquitous diamondshaped seedpod resting in the sandy forest hubris. “Look, almonds,” she says in passing, strong Spanish accent lilting the words lovely, casually. “No.””Yes!” We take them apart and find the wild skinny nut inside, eat and become believers then and there. Almonds! Everywhere! On a tree with low winding branches, wide waxed circular leaves like the seagrape I knew before. Tested, tasted and then the slow aftertaste of almond sneaking up, and no sooner have I tied off the arms and neck of my wet shirt and filled the better part of the cavity with the woody flaking pods, our new bounty.
Hours and days later, we are in the sidewalk of our house stoop, foot of the steep stairs, and a swirling swarm of local kids feeding on the frenzy of wild almonds freshly pounded free. Trying to hide a minute pile from their small hands, watching the older ones following suit and picking rocks to pound with. Sun sets red on our party sipping Balboas, fishing with cane and pier’s-end-diving into the darkening waters.