On the Road…Looking…Into the Eyes of the Tenorman…Down into the Abyss

More than 2 months have passed since my last blog post, and I’ve had the urge to write, but the problem is, I haven’t been able peg down a solid topic. The days come and go, and a well-focused blog topic – as opposed to new songs, which are flowing fine – has eluded me.

Since my last post, I’ve uprooted from Rio de Janeiro, seen a good part of Bolivia (Santa Cruz, Samaipata, Sucre, Potosí, Uyuni, La Paz and Rurrenabaque), and now I’m in Arequipa, Peru, after a pleasant week in Cusco. Oh, and I’ve read On the Road twice. So tell hell with it, if I can’t decide on a topic, I’ll just write what comes to mind. I’ll channel the ghost of Dean Moriarty as best I can and see what kicks we get. Deal?

Warrior. Am I warrior? Or am I not? That is the question. Move over Shakespeare. It’s time to question our existence, and contemplate whether or not we are warrior. Are we? Are we not? Am I? Or am I not? I know I ambut what does warrior mean? That’s what you’re asking yourself, right?

It’s hard to explain, but I’ll just say this: My friend Michael Cunningham asked me to take “warrior” photos as a favor while I traveled. He said he might want to use one/some photos for artwork on a music album he’s working on. I’m always willing to help out friends if I can, so I was game. However, at first, I was rather baffled, much like you probably are right now. So what does taking “warrior” photos actually mean? I struggled to grasp what he was getting at, but over time that’s changed. Now I know, rather I feel what he means.

I’ll try to explain: As I stood atop giant red rocks in the salt flats of Uyuni, Bolivia – rocks I had just climbed with my bare hands and a pair of old, worn black Dockers – I posed victoriously, arms raised in my best Daniel Bryan pose, under the blazing desert sun, thankful I hadn’t fallen and injured myself. Below Klas and Vindar, my new Swedish warrior companions, and Dietrich, my new Seattle warrior compatriot, took photos as I gazed beyond, into the endless white landscape. Looking toward the horizon, it’s as if I was staring straight into the eyes of the tenorman in the little Harlem on Folsom St. and Dean was staring into his eyes too, urging him on, “Blow man, blow!” On Dean’s cue, I did too: “Waaaaarrrrrriooooor!!!”  Klas, Vindar and Dietrich answered my call, “Waaaaaaarrrrrriooorrr!!!” What a feeling. That was it. Or should I say, that was IT!

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That was IT. My warrior call faded in the distance, and my surroundings came back into focus. Klas, Vindar and Dietrich were all signaling for me to climb down – our tour group was heading to the next stop. We had to keep moving. As we piled into our jeep, people were conversing by I was off in my own world. I could feel IT resonating within me…

The climbing didn’t end there. The warrior call beckoned still. Once in La Paz, I joined a group of adventure seekers and mountain biked down the Yungas Road, Bolivia’s famous Death Road. Riding down was amazing. We started at dawn around 4,000 meters, shivering as we put our riding gear on. We sped down the initial paved stretch of road, avoiding intermittent traffic. Then we hit the dirt part of the road. To be honest with you, the rocky dirt road didn’t even seem that narrow. Yet there were reminders of the danger: crosses erected along the road, observing us as we descended. At one point we stopped to take pictures, our legs hanging over the edge of the cliff, our feet dangling innocently in the air. Everyone was in good spirits. I looked down into the canyon, and all I could see was a dark green abyss looking back at me, an enormous Venus fly trap ready to gobble any one of us up should we take a false step. The sensation was vertiginous but not overwhelming. I heard Dean whisper in my ear, “Blow man, blow!” When Dean talks to you, you damn well listen. And I did. I rode the fuck out of that tortuous, rocky death-trap-suicide-rap to the very end.

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But I do have a pang, an arrière pensée lurching in the back of my mind, bouncing around among all the bubbles in my brain, keeping me in check: some days later, fellow travelers informed me that only a few weeks prior to my ride, 3 riders in one expedition had fallen off the road, one of whom died. As I write this, I’m still dumb struck by it. And I’m moved by it. I find it unfathomable while, simultaneously, I accept the tragic fact. I don’t know who those riders were, but I still carry them with me. And not only that, the night before the ride, I learned a close friend was to undergo brain surgery. That was on my mind as I descended. There can be no doubt: The pale rider is making his presence known, but for the time being, at least, he’s keeping his distance.

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A few weeks have passed since the ride, and I can still sense the pale rider over my shoulder, his icy breath tickling the nape of my neck. But at the same time, I hear Dean, good old Dean, Dean and his kicks. And not only that, I feel Dean, and I’m grateful for his presence.

What does it mean to be warrior? What I’ve just described is really all I can tell you. I hope it’s enough. For the rest, you’ll have to feel it yourself.

Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, I hope you’re doing your best to be as warrior as you can.

And to Klas, Vindar, Dietrich, Michael, Dean. Warriors. From the top of the rock and the edge of green abyss, I salute you.

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