Living on the run, right here in the California sun

Jambo!  Yes, I have just spoken Swahili to you my dear readers.

I would like to apologize to all my friends and acquaintances, though, because I feel like Africa is all I’ve talked about for the past two months.  There is nothing more annoying than someone about to go on vacation while you’re stuck at home or work. I just haven’t been this excited since I used to have multiple girls sleep over in college.

The other night, I was flipping through some of my books, laboring over what I will read while I am on safari.  Carefully browsing my collection for which writer will travel with me,  I came across an old memento, and how funny I had just mentioned this a few posts ago.  I keep a lot from my past, old letters, pictures, ticket stubs, and I cherish the nights when I can sit Indian-style surrounded by my books, finding these old treasures that I once used as bookmarks.  Tucked inside with Rimbaud’s poetry, a note from my then teenage sister waited, yellowed after more than a decade.  I hadn’t seen this piece of paper since sophomore year of college. As if fated, the note emerged just after the memory, although her handwriting and reference to Goldfish crackers made it all the more real.  (Alas, there was never a question of what writer would travel with me, Hemingway has been packed for two months).

Note from my little sis

As each day passes, our upcoming adventure to Africa creeps closer.  I have prepared by not only reading everything I can get my hands on about this new, strange continent and the countries we will be visiting, but also by slowly collecting, piece by piece, the needed gear for our trip into the wild.  Now, of course Africa is not like the days of old when the first Europeans explored or, even later, when Hemingway found such solace in the jungles and the plains of this great land.

"All I wanted to do now was get back to Africa. We had not left it yet, but when I would wake in the night, I would lie, listening, homesick for it already."

But this trip will still be our most exotic and dangerous yet.  As each new trip approaches I begin to experience a prolonged adrenaline rush that grows stronger as the months and weeks whittle down. I start to feel the pulse of the world beat loudly through my body, the need to go, to be new and anonymous, the need to reinvent myself.  I think this comes from my constant movement while growing up.  From my mom’s house, to a neighbor’s, to my grandparents’, and on to the lovely Abraxas for  most of my senior year of high school, my childhood was spent in transit.  Even years before I graduated Penn State, I was preparing for my move to California.  I had nothing out here, no family or job prospects; it just always seemed natural to move away.  Was I running from my past, from old painful memories?  Maybe.  But, I think the main reason was to prove to myself that I could take on the world, I was running towards more than away.  I had become accustomed to, and quite frankly enjoyed, the art of travel and the chance at reformation.  After ten years in the same Redondo Beach apartment (the longest I’ve ever lived in the same place), I anticipate my trips more than ever before.

“Those who race toward death, those who wait, those who worry,” Jim Morrison once said.  These words have stuck with me since I first read them at twelve.  What would I be?  What was I now?  I know being safer was not my way, and I know that sometimes the decisions I made were hard on friends and family, but I don’t want to wait.  And I don’t want to worry.  I decided that I wanted to race.  Not towards death, but towards life and living.  If you let your fear dictate your life, you will be trapped in a box.  I can tell you, it was pretty fucking scary moving out here to California with no money, no job and no way to get home.  The last night I was in Philly before I moved, my mom took my brother, sister and I out for dinner at The Olive Garden where we captured the moment on film.  She still has that picture on her refrigerator — I cringe every time I see  it.  There is fear in my smile, uncertainty, sadness in the back of my eyes, the knowing I was never coming back, leaving everything and heading towards nothing.  I wore a grey shirt and held my brother and sister close to my sides.

Ten years later and still I race.  Into the heart of darkness we run.  Africa.  My girl and I.  I don’t know what to expect, what I’ll find, I just know that the time of year has arrived again. The summer has come and with it, the restlessness within me.  When my soul begins to ache for experience, I know I must move.  Find new towns, new lands, new languages.  Feed my will, my want, to live.  It gets to the point where my soul seems to want to break out of my chest, climb mountains and scream as loud as it can just to feel alive, feel relevant.

Africa is a different trip though.  Filled with excitement and anticipation there is also some anxiety.  Many of the things that are the most beautiful are also the most dangerous.  Shit, the flight alone is 26 hours.  No camouflage, Malraia pills, soft sided luggage. We have been preparing for months and are finally on the precipice.  Colors in clothing are a concern though, and with my usual red, world-famous Philadelphia Phillies hat too bright, as it might distract the animals, I even had to search for a Africa hat.

Deflating soccer balls to take to the children in my new Africa hat

All bullshit aside, we are pretty pumped.  I haven’t been able to sleep all week and I am just dreaming of the road ahead.   I don’t know how I got here, how I’ve given myself the opportunities and led myself to this chance of a lifetime.  I don’t know if it was the old writers who inspired me, the tough times that pushed me or simply some Italian charm mixed with some Irish luck.  Whatever it is I am grateful and am ready to be set free on the shores of Africa.

Here I am on the Brenton shore.  Let the towns light up the evening.  My day is done; I’m quitting Europe.  Sea air will burn my lungs; strange climates will tan my skin.  To swim, to trample the grass, to hunt, and above all to smoke; to drink liquors strong as boiling metal,–like my dear ancestors around their fires.   

I will return with limbs of iron, dark skin and furious eye; people will think to look at me that I am of a strong race.  I will have gold:  I will be idle and brutal.  Women nurse those fierce invalids, home from the hot countries.  I’ll be mixed up in politics.  Saved!



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June 2011
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