CURRENT LOCATION : FAYETTEVILLE, AR

Prelude: Day 92. October 29,2002 : SQL in a day


COUNTDOWN 4 DAYS!

Alright, I'm going to come clean. The countdown is still technically 4 days, but it really doesn't mean a whole lot any more. I'm probably not heading out until Nov. 4th or 5th, now, and I probably work my last day tomorrow, so it's kind of a bizarre, meaningless halfway point, now. However, I'm going to stick to it, since in my mind it still will mark the official start of the journey, and in a sense it does literally, as well, since I have to be out of the boarding house by then. Well, I don't suppose I HAVE to, but I want my deposit back and no hassles.

So what that means is that for those of you who want a little extra HOT MIKE ACTION, the possibility exists for this weekend and THIS WEEKEND ONLY. LIVE AT THE I-40 SPEEDWAY, MONSTER TRUCKS, KICKING MIKE'S SORRY ASS sorry got carried away there. You get the point. As for the date, no worries. I have a plane ticket from Chicago to San Diego. That much is certain. That...much is...certain.

The really big news today is that I learned from Jeremy, my friend and host of procyon.com (the server I'm on, doofus) has just informed me that we now have MySQL and PHP active on the server. I'm sure most of you will react pretty much like I did not an hour ago when I said to myself, "Hunh?" but during the course of that hour I have learned incredible things. I have already created and edited my first SQL database and written my first simple php program, and the upshot of all of this is that if I learn and code at my absolute peak for the next ten hours or so, it is not unreasonable to suppose that at the end of that time, Productions vs. Spy will sport two fun new features, namely an actively updating travel log, which means that I'll be able to quickyl and easily update from anywhere that can connect to the WWW (which is, actually, not the case right now) and an actively updating comment board, so that all you crazy readers can add your despicable commentary, at will! If I'm quick and clever, I might even be able to mimic other such sites and allow you to start new threads and EVERYTHING IT'LL BE SO COOL!

Anyway, enough of this and more of THAT! THAT THAT THAT THAT THAT!

***

Prelude: Day 91. October 28,2002 : My Big Fat Mixed Blessing


COUNTDOWN 5 FREAKIN' DAYS!

So we're moving from the 'You'll probably be killed horribly in the first three weeks' stage to the 'Man, I'm actually kind of bummed that you're leaving' stage. This is the most amazing mixture of heart rending flattery and guilt generating annoyance. It's not a fair comparison, but the emotional state is not dissimilar to when a new lover says something like, 'you know if you left me I'd kill myself, right?' Not that anyone is saying that, but it's kind of weird to realize that people like you enough to be pissed that you won't be around.

Alright, a few thumbs up (and the next mixed blessing). First of all, Expedia.com gets a thumbs up for finally finding a truly cheap price. Let me tell you, I ran 'Chicago, Denver, San Diego' through every combo I could think of and got nothing, until finally, Friday afternoon, Expedia worked it out with Frontier Airlines who can get me from Chicago to San Diego for a mere $107, after taxes. So a big fat kiss to both Expedia and Frontier.

But wait, I'm taking Frontier's kiss back. You know why? Okay, check this shit out. $107 from Chicago to San Diego, right? Well, it turns out the flight has a short layover. Wanna know where? DENVER. Right there in the heart of Denver. In fact, Frontier's home office is IN Denver. So I call up to check about extending the layover, maybe a day and a half. No go. See, they do this flight twice a day (the one from Chicago to San Diego) but for some reason, the price triples if I try and catch it two days later instead of two hours later. $300 big ones to make what amounts to essentially the same fucking flight, just with more time spent in Denver.

So it's more cost effective to BUS to Denver, THEN BUS to Chicago, then fly to San Diego. Time effective, no, but cost effective, oh yes. That's modern travel for you. So Frontier gets no smooch.

Believe it or not, I'm stupid enough to be seriously considering trying to hitch to Denver from here. I figure what I'll do is begin hitchiking and then when things start to really suck, I'll catch a bus the rest of the way. I'm going to try and go through Kansas because it seems to me that you have a better chance of catching long rides towards Colorado without being dumped in some horrible tiny town with no through traffic than in Oklahoma. I REALLY don't want to be stuck in Oklahoma. Kansas has that nice, long, straight interstate that should be a cinch for hitchhiking. Of course, since I have zero experience hitchhiking, I have no idea whether I'm actually right or not. Ah, experience.

Alas, it looks like my mom has taken back her earlier offer, but to make up for it, the parents offered up a little cash, so there may be a few more of you as get off easy, but I wouldn't hold out for that. Send in your pennies. Get it off of your back. You'll feel better afterwards.

***

Prelude: Day 88. October 25,2002 : Guest of Honor


COUNTDOWN 7 DAYS!

Well, I've never been the guest of honor at a dinner before, at least to my recollection, and not including birthdays. Larry, one of the two owners of the business where I work (Jaeger + Haines, Inc.) and his wife held an exquisite dinner for my departure, fed us fau grau and crab cakes (among other things, including a small but excellent selection of cheese!) We drank german dessert wine, indulged in cheese cake and just generally had a most excellent night. I sat at the head of the table and felt mildly embarrassed and greatly honored by the whole affair. At the end, they gave me a card, which I include here and so appropriately sums up my whole attitude about the upcoming experience that I'm actually amazed.

The card, in case you can't read it, says :
"Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing." - Hellen Keller They also gave me a 'get out of jail free card' which, alas, was taken back since it belongs to someone's monopoly game, but I am going to get my own copy because it was so damned funny and because I want to have one. Finally, they donated $100 to the cause which left me feeling very touched and has rescued another 9,993 people (there were seven at the party, and I counted all of them as paid for) from their penny obligation. That's 13,000 people less that still have to give a penny thus far, and I must admit, when I think about it that way, it seems like I'm really getting some national feedback, here. Awesome!

I have, as most people know by now, some business to take care of in the states before I head out into the world, and let me tell you, traveling around the U.S. is a nightmare, at least where 'I' want to go. It seems like if I were only traveling from Kansas City to Boston to San Fransisco, I could do it on a dollar or two, but no, I want Denver, Chicago and San Diego, so no go. The 'discount' ticket companies are no help, and have actually failed to so far quote me a price that is even reasonable, much less in the same ballpark as what the airlines themselves are charging. Literally, with a little hunting I can get from Chicago to San Diego for about $140 before taxes. Most of the 'secret discount tickets for flying crap empty flights' companies never got under $210. Bastards. Bastard chiseler swindler cheats! I can't wait to get down south where they steal your money honestly, at gun point, without trying to trick you. You hear that travelone?!!! I'd rather be robbed at gunpoint than buy one of your absurdly overpriced tickets!!!

Looks like I'm a gonna be hitchin'. That being said, if you're heading north between Arkansas and Chicago and you see some cold, annoyed 6'2" retard with a bamboo cane, a backpack, a pony tail and no common sense, give him a lift, eh?

***

Prelude: Day 84. October 21,2002 : Hertz can take a long slow drag on the flesh pipe...


COUNTDOWN 11 DAYS!

Hertz car company can suck it and suck it hard. Their idiot website is one of the most bulky, hard to use, slow, idiotic things I've ever encountered. It reloads after EVERY, EVERY freaking entry and demands entries for everything, so literally, you select your pick up state, reload, then pick up city, reload, pick up LOCATION IN CITY, like they can't even recommend one, reload. I was wondering what I was going to write about and by god the bastards at Hertz gave me something. Even worse, the end result is that it appears to be entirely impossible to drive from the CENTRAL United States to the WEST FUCKING COAST. I dunno, I don't rent cars a lot, but I was once of the impression that there was a precedent for renting a car in one location and using it to travel to another. Maybe I'm wrong. The website certainly seems to think you can do it, but the webmaster should definitely be held under a horse trough for a few minutes. Or at least learn some of the simpler aspects of interactive web design. I mean, MY code is tighter than that.

So I dunno, I can bus to all three cities I want for a little over $200. $60 to Chicago, then $70 to Denver, then another $70 to San Diego. Still, that's a lot of ferkin' money. I dunno, I'll bet I can half it by taking my mom up on her offer to drive to Denver, THEN bus over to Chicago, then bus down to San Diego. It'll probably suck, but it can be done. It's also possible that plane rates between two hubs like San Diego and Chicago could be fairly low, as well. Yeah, $70 and $90 dollars respectifully, so there's that if need be. Just what I'm hoping for, two days crammed in a fucking bus across the desert or the rockies or some crazy ass thing. Cursed Hertz.

My father speaks of a day when businesses existed where the lone traveler could go and hire themselves out to drive a vehicle from one location to another, you know, when someone needed their car moved from, say, Washington to Virginia. Sounds like one of those "back when we were all hippies and trusted people and insurance companies hadn't ruined all worthwhile things" stories, a mere legend to my generation. I've looked, so far no luck. I may end up trying my hand at hitchhiking. That oughta be pretty damned amusing. Maybe I'll be one of those people who lounges around outside of bus depots clinging to their packs and trying to bum money or tickets off of passers by. "Hey, man, buy me a ticket to Denver and I swear you'll never see my ugly ass around here again..."

Seriously, the crap I have to do in the states is going to end up being the most expensive part of the whole damned ordeal, especially the travel. My downstairs neighbors, the two guys from India, were up late Saturday evening (technically Sunday morning) cooking and we sat and talked for quite some time about travel and the like, and they had good reports. They both recommended India as cheap and exciting. Apparently I can live at about the level I'm enjoying in the states right now for $2-4 a day, including housing, and less if I'm clever in the bulk food I buy. They also said that being able to cook simply and cheaply (which they learned that I can) is the most important skill I could have for a variety of reasons. I gave them the run down on my strategy and they seemed to think it was going to work out, although like most everyone else they seemed a little concerned at how comparatively naive I am about the whole thing. All I can say is, yeah, intellectually I realize that travellers world wide are the choice victims of the unscrupulous, but I can't prepare for it any more than I already have. It'll just be something I'll have to experience to really prepare for it or understand it. It's one of those, "I can tell you time and time again, but you're just not going to learn until it happens to you," sort of things. Still, as I said, I'd rather go and get robbed blind and beaten up and return to the states like a whupped dog than not go at all.

***

Prelude: Day 80. October 17,2002 : Mortality makes the heart grow fonder.


COUNTDOWN 15 DAYS!

Alright, I was wrong, I'll actually miss the town as a whole the most. As the final day approaches, I suddenly find myself really learning to love everything about my life as it is. Every aspect of my daily routine seems suddenly vivid and astounding. I was eating a Cable Car pizza last night with Nick (Happy Birthday, Nick) and I thought to myself, "You know, I love every ingredient on the pizza. They all taste so good." Vibrant is the word. All of life and Fayetteville seems so vibrant, so alive, to me right now that part of me thinks that I could simply explore Fayetteville forever and acheive the same level of enlightenment and realization that I'd get travelling around the world. And who knows, in the right frame of mind, maybe I could, but somehow I doubt it, and I certainly won't know until I've travelled around the world once.

It's not entirely dissimilar to the time I took mescaline. My senses just seem more responsive, my mind more aware and recepetive. I'm caught up in the details, afraid of everything I'm going to miss when I leave.

The dinner was excellent, and also made me feel happy to be here and sad to be leaving. Frank donated $30 further to the cause (that's 2,999 fewer people that have to cough up a penny to meet the goal!) with the charge, the geiss, if you will, that I visit at least one strip club or sex show per country. I think this would be a most excellent thing to...you got it, REVIEW !!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, poor fools.

Pete loaned me a copy of the SAS survival handbook, and let me tell you, it's morbid. This makes sense, of course, since to talk realistically about the art of survival you are almost required to describe events that would cause just the opposite to occur, but after reading over the parts about allowing maggots to stay in wounds to keep them clean and being careful when cauterizing serious wounds because sometimes the shock can kill a person, I was ready to go find something fun and light hearted to read.

Kara also gave me a poster of the protozoan that causes malaria. Ha fucking ha. My friends rock.

***

Prelude: Day 78. October 15,2002 : I'll miss the free meals most.


COUNTDOWN 17 DAYS!

Not to sound like I'm taking advantage, because I'm not and I swear I appreciate this phenomenon more than anyone involved will ever know, but I'm in a special sort of heaven right now. The 'time to take Mike out to dinner one last time' offers are beginning to come in. I may have already mentioned that my soon to be ex-employers are having one last bang up for me (IT and guests only), and tonight pretty much everyone else is gathering for a mop up at Asahi, our premier sushi restaurant (and, indeed, some of the better sushi I've ever had, even at the coast.) My only hope is that I can somehow port this concept into the field. If I can somehow concoct that sort of swashbuckler persona that causes people that have just met me to want to buy me meals, you know, just because what I'm doing inspires them, that'll be my ticket. Regardless, thanks, guys. These dinners help make it that much harder to leave (or easier, depending, since after I've been stuffed on other peoples' tabs, they're gonna be a little hacked if I don't clear out.)

Got the malaria and typhoid pills. The typhoid are a vaccination which I have already begun taking, and you do notice them. It's not much, but I'd say about an hour after you down one, you get a little dizzy and a tiny bit quesy, or at least I do. The typhoid had no clear indication as to how long the immunity is supposed to last. All things considered, I should probably have waited until I was about to leave, but the Doc perscribed them knowing the amount of time I'd be gone, so they must last at least a year.(I'm still hoping the malaria pills cause me to have nightmarish hallucinations.)

I have to start seriously considering what to do with everything I haven't gotten rid of yet. I think this weekend all things not related to the trip get put on ice. Computers, plants, books that don't further my immediate goals, and so on. If I want entertainment, I'm going to have to make it. That's all there is to it. I'll probably make a few tapes of music to keep me entertained, and I'll still have library books to read, and my journal to write in, and friends to pal around with. I dunno, it's like half of the goal of the trip has already been accomplished. I've already really started to reappreciate my life and my world again. Suddenly I find things to explore and do everywhere I go. Still, so much more so on the road, eh?

***

Prelude: Day 77. October 14,2002 : I am left and go from place to place...


COUNTDOWN 18 DAYS!

Alright, the socks are Smartwool and Brigdale's A.T. Leisure (or A.T. Leisure's Brigdales, I'm not really certain, but they're 'the ultimate in sock performance', doncha know? Have over half of my shopping done, but the most expensive things are still unacquired, namely the malaria pills, those greedy great fucks. Oh, sure, these wealthy bastards will donate literally millions to build a sports arena, but the cause of making the war against malaria affordable? Hell, no! Well, I intend to become a carrier. That'll show the bastards. A few little outbreaks here in the states might bring that price down to more reasonable levels. Also, the glasses. Glasses perscriptions expire, it's true! And my last eye exam was over a year ago. The result? I'll have to drop another $60 on an eye exam in order to get fitted for glasses that are pretty much certain to run another $80-100. Snarl.

Still, my funds are already low enough that I'm going to have to either find work or learn to subsist on tree bark to make the goal, so what's another $400? I'll tell you. It's a MONTHS LIVING IN COLUMBIA, THAT'S WHAT! A WHOLE MONTH, POSSIBLY MORE!

I've reached the 'holy shit, time's suddenly running out and I'm not even remotely prepared for this' stage of the trip. Fortunately, I've been here plenty of times before, and I'm used to it. Usually, the best thing to do is just ignore it and let things work themselves out. Of course, this has occasionally lead to embarrasing incidents like showing up for a river run sans towel, contact case, food, water, and so on, but then, things worked themselves out anyway, so I'm going to stand by the philosophy.

I realized yesterday that, along with all my other handicaps (like confusing the approriate use of soy and estoy, poor grammar, worse vocabulary) in regards to the spanish language, I can only speak in the present tense. I have no idea how to express future intent or past condition. The best I can do is suggest a desire or belief that some things WILL happen for future, and the past is flat out. Anything prior to the moment of speaking might as well not exist, as it cannot be described. If you think about it, that's almost ironically symbolic. I should probably embrace the notion from a philosophical standpoint.

***

Prelude: Day 74. October 11,2002 : They're probably just trying to get rid of me...


COUNTDOWN 21 DAYS!

Can you believe it? I actually got my passport! Either I'm not a terrorist or the U.S. Government is desperate to get me out of the country by any means necessary. I won't be able to scan it until next week, but I must say that with the gloss and the holographic 'watermarks' and the like, it looks a lot better than the photos by themselves did (I think they may have touched them up, added a bit more lighting, whatever, as well). This makes me happy. I mean, not that I expected to be denied or anything, but really, that was the big thing. Between my yellow fever vaccination and my passport, there's nowhere I can't go.

Today I'm going to try and clear out a good deal of the rest of my list of things to buy. I want to be good and ready to head out come crunch time. 20 days! Twenty days! Twenty(20) days, man! And then I'm free (and cold, and starving, and exhausted. It's gonna be so COOL!) I dunno, I still have some work to complete in the States before it's all said and done. I have friends in Chicago who have recently had a child which I'd like to visit, some grandparents to pay my respects to, and with any luck a couple of other friends to rumble with in southern California (I dunno, at this point are you supposed to capitilize 'southern' in relation to California?) before I finally depart. We'll see how THAT all works out.

I'd also like to point out that the current political situation in the United States has grown entirely and unforgivably intolerable. Bush an' Company are now OPENLY violating your civil rights, your constitutional rights, people. And those rights aren't there on a lark, they are there to protect you from tyranny, abuse and all other 'non-freedom' activities, such as those being done by Bush n' Co. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, trading freedom for safety makes you a grade A idiot. Seriously, there's no point. It's a waste of time. If you want to suffer abuses at the hands of your government, then we might as well just invite the Taliban to take over. That was their real winning point. They brought Afghanistan peace, at the cost of freedom. Show some balls. Take the risk. If you people would devote the same energy to saying to Arabs and Muslims and all other people you consider 'other' that you don't hate them and want to coexist with them, that you do selling yourselves out to politicians and demanding that we bomb everyone and their brother, you'd get a lot more accomplished. So, anyway, I'm going to be gone for a year, and when I get back, I expect you all to have sorted this out, or I'm going to start cracking skulls, get me?

***

Prelude: Day 73. October 10,2002 : "And then I took my internal clock out back and SHOT IT"

So anyway, I was sleeping on my really fairly uncomfortable little one person, lifeless mattress in my house, taking a cat nap, when my watch alarm woke me up. I had slept soundly, despite the mattress, and decided to grab a bite to eat. Nothing was immediately appealing, so I grabbed a few carrots and chomped them down. Then I wandered downtown and just hung out a bit, climbed around, wrote a little in my journal, and grabbed a beer. Then I snoozed a bit near the rose garden and so on and so on and then I realized that all the rituals and aspects of luxery my body had come to rely on in the last for years have been effectively PURGED. I am ready to travel, at least in that sense. I will not have trouble sleeping whereever sleep is offered, I will not have trouble eating whatever is available to eat, and I will not have trouble entertaining myself, regardless. My internal clock, gone. My comfort and bedding needs, gone. In fact, anything remotely resembling a bio-rhythm has been eliminated. It's great. Such habits and patterns, while moderately more effecient, are also often more time consuming. Further, they force a certain level of responsibility on a person, and we don't want that, oh no.

It actually feels really good. I mean, it took me almost two months to reach this stage, but I've finally done it. I had to get used to getting rid of materialism, I had to get used to the idea that I didn't actually have anything I HAD to be doing, so I could be doing anything I wanted, and I had to get over the funk brought on by my filthy ex-fiancee, but after all that, I've finally started to both consciously and emotionally come to grips with the fact that I'm FREE, about as free as a guy can get these days without either going insane or living on a raft in the middle of the ocean, or at least I'm very nearly to that stage of freedom. I'm not actually there YET, but in my heart, I have felt its tugs and I'm at a high enough peak that, looking down, I can see that vast and cheerful land stretched out before me. I only have to JUMP!!!

***

Prelude: Day 70. October 7,2002 : Since when does a free pair of hands have to SPEAK SPANISH?

Alright, I've begun exploring the possibilities of working abroad and it sucks. The first place I checked, www.workingabroad.com, wanted me to pay them to consider my application for VOLUNTEER WORK. I dunno, maybe I'm confused, but that sounds like an outright con to me. More likely they just want people to be reliable, but even so, screw that. I'm not doing this to deal with that level of bureaucracy, and if I decide I am, I'll bloody well fight my way into the peace corp.

No, honestly, I'd much rather get a job gutting fish by chance than pay some company in Britain money to 'consider' me for volunteer work, especially since I'd probably have to pay my own way there (not that I don't intend to, anyway, but even so.) Still, that seems like the best kind of deal. I'm on the lookout for organizations looking for volunteers, namely organizations who are willing to provide food and housing. I mean, that'd be choice. I'll happily go bust my ass 40-50 hours a week for a month or two in Brazil or Paraguay or whatever for free food and housing, thus allowing me to enjoy the culture and area on next to nothing, while at the same time really getting my hands dirty and even, Dobbs willing, actually doing something that improves the general lot of humanity. I'd like to think that people offering that deal wouldn't find it too hard to find work. "Hey, feed me and house me and my back, hands and mind are yours for up to half of my waking time." That sounds like a SWEET deal to me.

I have found a few volunteer sites that seem really good, but a lot of them focus on younger people, students and people with (pheh) skills. No, fuckers, I don' speak spanish yet, nor do I know how to perform major surgery. But I can STILL DIG A DITCH. I can STILL BUILD A FUCKING HOUSE. I can, with no more than a week in the field, probably learn all sorts of other things.

The real killer, of course, is that I don't really speak Spanish. I'm hoping that by the time I make it to, say, Peru or Brazil, I'll speak enough to be worth taking as a volunteer (of course, Brazil is Portuguese, not Spanish, but you understand my point) and many places I've looked at suggest that so long as you don't piss any of the locals off, getting under the table work as a laborer isn't actually that hard. That's what I really want to do, you know, a month on a plantation picking beans or whatever, as long as it's work, indoctrinates me into the culture and saves me money. With any luck, such hands on effort should help whup me into even better shape, too.

Still, DAMNED THEM AND THEIR 'EXPERIENCED VOLUNTEERS'!!!!! The unskilled need work, too. And it's not exactly that I'm unskilled, it's just that I don't see much work for 'Alpha Basic Coder' in Peru and I don't think I'll find anyone who really needs someone to hook up their microsoft network for them.

Of course, the real dream is to get a job bartending or even waiting in some tourist resort or bar or something in Brazil. That'd be freaking peach. Of course, that puts me a step away from the culture, but I really don't think that it'll be an obstacle I can't overcome outside of work. Deal with mostly tourists during work, then hit the streets. I figure the fact that I'd be working with a native population would more than overcome that problem. Plus, better tips, man. Hell, I could actually probably make money doing that, actually come out on top. Still, volunteer work would be da bomb.

***

Prelude: Day 66. October 3,2002 : Work of this caliber cannot be forced!

It can, however, be cultured. As in, grown from a culture. No, seriously, even though there are, I believe, five people who read this site with any degree of regularity, some of those have already begun to complain (KARA) about how rarely I update. (The remainder have tidbits like 'So, you can essentially be summed up as hating every movie and loving every alcohol ever made?'). Still, when you suddenly realize that people are paying attention to what you're doing, you're inclined to pander to them, so I hereby declare that updates will occur in periods of time no longer than three days. So you can pretty much rely on a new entry in the travel (or pre-travel, as the case may be) journal as well as some new addition to the rest of the website every three days, if not sooner, at least until such a time as I depart. Since that's less than a month from now, I am promising you no less than ten! (10) updates before I leave!.

And it is only a month. It still hasn't hit me. It's weird to notice, but believe it or not everyone seems to start asking, independently (I think), the same questions around the same time. Last week the last of the 'so when are you leaving' people got their question out and now everyone is shifting into 'so are you getting excited yet?'. This question strikes me as being not entirely dissimilar to the question, Ďso, are ya HIGH, yet?"

So far it hasnít hit me. Itís still Ďsomething thatís going to happen, somedayí. Itís really not much more different than back when it was a still a rough possibility, rather than an impending reality. Well, thatís not entirely true. One thing has changed. About two weeks ago I was still agonizing about money, and my poor language skills, and the fact that I donít get along well with most people that Iíve just met, and how unlikely it seems that Iíll actually make it around the world, and then, suddenly, it all went away.

It was replaced with a certain degree of honest exuberance. I suddenly thought, "who cares if I have money? Iíll be slumming it in Columbia! Thatíll be so cool!" and, "so what if I canít speak the language? When I find someone else who speaks English, itíll be so COOL! And until then, I get to act like a mime, and thatíll be so COOL!" and, "what kind of retard would travel over half the world and bitch about not making it the full trip? Not THIS retard, let me tell you. Any travel at all is gonna be so COOL!"

So basically it boils down to the fact that no matter how it turns out, Iím going to be doing something incredible that Iíve always wanted to do that, so long as I donít get arrested or killed, is going to be almost constant ROCKINí! I mean, hereís a good example. At first I was really agonizing about transportation. I was like, "hmmm, I can either spend too much money to fly or bus from one country to another, or I can spend months hiking on the road." At first, for some reason, this seemed like a real problem to me. And then I realized, "Wait a minute, itís not exactly like I have some kind of time limit here. If I can get from Mexico to Peru cheaper in two months of hitchhiking than two days of flying, then hitchhiking it is! And thatíll be so COOL!"

So, thinking about it, yes. Yes I am excited to be going. It just hit me. Fuck, I canít wait another MONTH! Auuuuuuuuugggghhhhhhh!!! So you can pretty much disregard my previous answer.

(Oh, and don't worry. I'm still intending to make it around the world. I'm just saying that if I only get as far as Greece the first time, I'm not exactly going to bitch.)

***

Prelude: Day 55. September 23,2002 : Please give money!

Someone pointed out a few days ago that if some ditzy chick who did nothing more than rack up an insane credit card debt can convince thousands world wide to donate her money for no other reason than to cover up her irresponsibility, then I should have no trouble convincing these same citizens to donate a spare dollar here and there to fund my trip, SO COUGH UP, YOU CHEAP BASTARDS! What, you think wandering around the world without a care in the....well....in that same world, is FREE? It costs MONEY, and worse, that money can occur in many different and confusing FORMS, so you have to be prepared for any contingency. If everyone in the US pitches in a penny, I'll have more than enough to complete the trip. So let's see those pennies, people.

It was also pointed out to me that bringing a pair of glasses instead of two sets of contacts would be wise, since I rinse my contacts in water and, well, water. You know... water? That stuff you drink and take for granted and think to yourself, "My god, it's only one of the single most abundant chemicals on the planet and we need it to survive so, well, it's your friend, right?" Right, that water. Well, it turns out that for us weak, sad Americans, most foreign water can be HORRIBLE AND DEADLY and there's a good chance that exposing my contacts to it, and then my eyes to those contacts, could leave me with one helluvan eye infection.

I'll tell you this, time has swung back down to early grade school momentum. A year ago, the idea of waiting a month for something would barely have phased me. If anything, I'd consider myself pressured. Now it seems to be taking forever to come to conclusion. It's like Nov. 25, age seven. I'm sure the last week will go by pretty quickly.

Of course, this means that I have to get this stupid web page prepared for my departure. I'm thinking I'll just link to both the prelude and the actual trip from the front page, which will make it easier to deal with. I'm also thinking of trying to get a friend to watch over it a bit.

***

Prelude: Day 52. September 20,2002 : Web Journals Read Up, You Tit...

It has been pointed out to me that these days, for time and space reasons, latest entries go to the TOP of your average web journal and work down. Yeah, okay, I guess that makes sense. So anyone who's reading this, well, you don't have to scroll down to the bottom to read the latest stuff anymore. It's at the TOP! Where it BELONGS!!!

I love my backpacking equipment. In the short time we've known each other, we have become almost inseperable, and I now feel like something's missing if I don't have it with me. You know how you feel after you've gotten used to carrying your keys and wallet for several months or years? Even when you forget one of them, some part of you knows it's missing, and you feel incomplete. And even if you leave them behind intentionally, you always find yourself unconsciously checking for them and freaking out when you can't find them. That's almost how I already feel about that pack and stick. I was going out this morning to meet my friend Pete, who was giving me a lift to work, and I couldn't help but feel that I was making a mistake by leaving them at home.

I've compiled the list of what needs to come, draft one. I can't help but suspect that a decent portion of this won't make it to draft two, but we'll see.

List of supplies :			Status
---------------------------------------------------------------------
Clothing:
Good boots                          Acquired. Asolo AFX 520 GTX
Backpack                            Acquired. Alpine Lowe Oriph M
Three shirts                        Acquired.  
Three pairs pants                   Acquired. One doubles as shorts 
One pair shorts                     Acquired
Four pairs underwear                Acquired
Four pairs of socks                 Acquired
Pair of light sandles               Acquired
Hat		
Handkerchief                        Acquired
Poncho                              Acquired 
Walking Stick                       Acquired (doubles as flute)
Spare wallet                        Acquired
Money pouch (or hideaway of sorts)  Acquired
Glasses


Hygeine and Drugs:
Deoderant                           Acquired
Contact case                        Acquired
Contact solution                    Acquired
Soap/Shampoo                        Acquired
Hairbrush                           Acquired
Razor                               Acquired
Toothbrush                          Acquired
Toothpaste                          Acquired
Beard trimmer                       Acquired
Washclothe                          Acquired    
Towel                               Acquired
DEET                                Acquired
Typhoid Pills                       Acquired
Malaria Pills                       Acquired
Vitamins                            Acquired
Product Case                        Acquired


Documentation and Paperwork:
Passport                            Acquired
Vaccination Record                  Acquired 
Debit Card                          Acquired

Equipment:
Cooking pan
Fork/Spoon/Spork                    Acquired 
Small pocket knive			
Lighter                             Acquired
Small flashlight, lamp or torch     Acquired
Watch                               Acquired
String/line                         Acquired
Sleeping bag (maybe)
Insect Netting
Books (Limit: 4)                    Acquired, sorting...
Pencils                             Acquired
Sharpener                           Acquired
Umbrella                            Acquired 
Translator                          Acquired

Some things, like the towel and washclothe, may be more reasonable to acquire along the way (although washclothe is probably a good idea, light and useful). The umbrella probably won't make the final draft, as I have the poncho. I'm still not sure what to do about a coat. Once again, I'll probably just pick one up if and when I decide I might need it. Four books might seem like a lot, but I want to bring my journal and at least one language book, and something fun to read. I think it'll end up being my journal/sketchbook, beginners spanish, spanish phrase book and either a spanish fictional work or Umberto Eco's "Foucault's Pendulam". Most of the hygeine stuff I technically have, but I'm using it, so I'll probably purchase seperate items for the trip. We'll see. The nice thing is that most of the really expensive stuff (save for the #$%#$^% pills) has been purchased, and I might forgo some of the pills. Like, as an example, the diarrhea pills, I might just go ahead and suffer. We'll see. All in all, I'd rather not cut costs there, but it'll be close. The goal is to start in Mexico City with over four thousand to my name, which may sound idiotic to some people, but, well, a mixture of faith in my abilities and blind ignorance regarding my world is what I'm relying to get me by, not money. It's worked before.

***

Prelude: Day 51. September 19,2002 : When your backpack is your car.

I have rid myself of the car (I'll miss it, that Darwin car...) and replaced it (replaced?) with a backpack. The backpack is an Alpine Lowe Ophir M which I picked up for about $130. It's an internal frame pack with a fairly nice support system and a good space to size ratio. It's large enough to easily hold everything I intend to take, including sleeping back or sleeping roll, without being so big as to potentially annoy me or, more importantly, other people in crowded areas like buses, hostils, when hitchhiking, etc. Basically it's all the backpack I need without being any more (and boy were there some monsters in the store. Thanks to Uncle Sam's in Fayetteville for the help and the pack). In addition, I picked up a good pair of nylon pants and a couple of shirts. The pants (White Sierra) are very light, very compact, apparently can be easily washed in a sink and dried by twirling them above your head for about ten minutes and, most importantly, convert quickly and easily into shorts, and do it without looking completely idiotic in either form. The shirts are Duofold, a dupont polyester shirt that is probably the lightest, most comfortable fabric I have ever worn. I love them already. Of course, everyone should bear in mind that I'm not exactly a hiking heavy weight here, and my wardrobe is geared far more for cost and immediate requirement (I am required by law, work and climate to waar clothing) than comfort or practicality on any detailed level, so if you happen to be someone experienced in these things, please realize that my reaction is that 'love of the new thing' most aspiring alcoholics enjoy upon their first good binge. In the same way that any young drinker is likely to love whatever alcohol he or she first got blitzed on, so do I love these Duofold shirts, although that's not to say that they might not also rock ass in and of themselves. Anyway, I intend to keep a performance review on ALL of these products.

Now without vehicle, I have begun hiking practice. While I have managed to convince one of my friends and coworkers (same person) to take me to and occasionally from work, he doesn't get back into the office until next Monday. So I decided,"What the HEY GREAT PIG GOD" and hiked the distance myself. Approximately five miles distance for me (probably a little less, more like four and three quarters). So far I've hiked each way once, both times with the backpack (although admittedly it didn't have much in it.) Takes me about an hour and forty-five minutes right now, although I hope that time can be improved on a little. This morning was a little more telling, as I hiked in the backpack, boots, with my walking stick while carrying an umbrella, as it was raining. It wasn't actually that bad, although I will say that by the time I got to work I was exhausted (last half mile is a sharp uphill) and starving, and I annihilated my breakfast in something under a minute. Food intake is down, exercise is up, this ring of fat that clings obstinently to my torso will DIE, and if I have any say, it will die BEFORE I begin my voyage.

***

Prelude: Day 49. September 17,2002 : But I LIKE rice and beans...

A friend of mine has purchased a book for me, Lonely Planet's 'South America on a Shoe String.' It's darned informative. My only concern is the pricing I'm still looking at, but apparently if I'm willing to forgo virtually all luxery for at least five days out of seven, I can usually get away with $10 -15 a day, maybe less, depending, and that fits within my budget. It helps that I'm not going to be doing a lot of shopping, no souvenirs, a few articles of clothing, etc. Virtually all money will be spent on travel, lodging, food and hygiene, so I think I can make it work. Of course, I should also realize that South America and Africa will probably be my cheapest stays, although Iíve heard good things lately about ex USSR states and east European satellites, so who knows. I guess I will, in about 5-7 months.

I have definitely decided to focus more on moving by foot where itís possible, although I have confirmed that you can apparently take river boats from Peru into Brazil for a fairly cheap price, and I think thatís right up my alley (although Brazil is a pretty damned big place. Where exactly they take you in Brazil is still open to question.)

In other relevant news, I shall shortly be without a car. The car I was driving was actually (both in title and loan) in my filthy ex-fianceeís name, and my original intention was to pay on it until such a time as I could use it to finish off my US related business and then ditch it, but I have decided that a: Iíd rather not get involved in that sort of thing and b: that Iíd rather not continue to pay on the thing, so I am allowing the company to repossess it, which I think is ultimately a lot easier and less legally dubious for everyone involved. This, of course, means that Iíll be without standard transportation for the last month and a half of my stay here, but Iíve suffered through worse. The problem here, of course, is that it may curtail some of the last minute visits I wanted to pay people in the states. Weíll just have to see how things work out (and how much money I have when I finally clear out). It also means, depending, that I may begin my trip a tad earlier. It all really depends. Certainly I wonít be leaving any later, however.

Iím also going to try and start walking from work just to get into the habit. I figure it might be better if I can get into the hang of moderate distances (about 8-10 miles) while I still have time to recoup from the experience than just break right into long distance hiking without any real recourse, you know, learn the tricks to not completely destroying my legs and feet while I have a chance.

In a strange way Iíve already begun to feel the isolation Iíd expect to suffer from on the road. This is odd, considering, in truth, Iíve rarely also felt more liked or supported than I have in recent months. Friends and family have all been excellent, and in general I feel about as loved as I ever have, but at the same time, I feel distant from the whole thing.

I guess the easiest way to explain it would be that itís as if these people merely disappear when they arenít around me. As I get more used to the idea of a schedule-less, unplanned trip, it creeps into other aspects of my life, until most of the world outside my own perceptions seems kind of hazy and dreamlike; unimportant even. The backlash of this is that I also end up feeling like Iím more isolated, like my world is smaller and more lonely when no one is around. Part of this is undoubtedly due to suddenly finding myself single, no longer having a cat, and living in a hovel where I feel like a visitor instead of a place I call home, but these are only minor factors that add to the over-all experience, I think. You might compare my mental condition to what a samurai might experience upon first Ďdeclaring himself deadí. My life suddenly has no future, no purpose, no focus, no influence, but it does have direction, namely Ďoutwardí. I am flotsam, direction without purpose.

In his book Journey to Ixtlan, Carlos Castenada quotes Don Juan (the teacher the books focus on) as teaching that one can, to a degree, free oneself (or at least this is what I took from reading it) from the rigid reality of society by losing ones focus of identity. As long as you donít know yourself, others canít hope to Ďknowí you, or impose you into the generally accepted reality. In a way, you might say that it feels like I am inadvertently achieving this state, slowly losing my own identity and losing, with it, my anchor within what has always been my chosen accepted environment.

***

Prelude: Day 44. September 12,2002 : This oughta make getting back IN to the USA entertaining.

Check it out! Here are my passport photos. When I had these made, the guy that did them said, upon their completion,"Wow, good passport photos." By 'good', I can only assume he means 'actually looks like me'. I hadn't shaven, I'd just gotten off of work, my clothes were dirty, my hair was a mess and, well, let's face it. I look like a thug. I've started wearing my hair down more often since I witnessed these. I mean, is this what I look like to other people?

I'm seriously thinking about posting it on singles websites with the following write up:

Hi, my name is Michael Heaney. I stand 6'2", weigh 230 lbs and hold a national medal in my weight class and level for kung-fu. My ethical code could be accurately described as 'fickle' and if you don't agree to go out on a date with me, I will track you down and feed you your own arms.

Think it'll work? I dunno, maybe it's just me, but I look a lot more brutish and mean in those pictures than my personal self image led me to envision myself.

I think the whole 'trip' thing is starting to wear thin on other people. They keep asking me 'so WHEN are you leaving, again?' and when I tell them not until the end of October, they get this kind of 'hurry up and LEAVE' look on their face.

***

Prelude: Day 43. September 11,2002 : Reborn, or at least older...

Most excellent things have occurred in the past week, not the least of which includes the acquisition of my new boots! The Asolo AFX 520 GTX Gortex hiking boot. They seem to get fairly favorable reviews, although they aren't the lightest boot in the world. They aren't the heaviest, either, and they seem plenty durable. As long as no one cuts my legs off to STEAL MY EXPENSIVE BOOTS they oughta work out fine. I've run `em through a couple of tests so far. I wore them through an average work day and I went on about an hour hike in the woods with them, and noticed no problems except that they're tight enough that if I'm already suffering some minor foot irritation (in this case where I trimmed a toe-nail too short) they accentuate the discomfort. Still, the obvious lesson here is `take better care of your feet'.

Equally trippin' was the birthday gift my parents got me, a bamboo walking cane that is also a bamboo flute. It may sound silly, but to my way of thinking it's excellent. It looks nice, it's sturdy, the flute, if having a range slightly under your average recorder, still has an excellent tone and is fun to play, and will really give me something to toy around with. Plus, I figure it's a fair conversation piece. It also has a compass on the top, but it's fairly unreliable, and apparently slightly misaligned (although since I know how many degrees off it is, I can still effectively use it if I should ever need to, which I WON'T because I'm fucking BRILLIANT).

This all, of course, revolves around my birthday, which was September 5th. I am now 29 years of age. My emotions are conflicted around this. I'd say that this is the first birthday where I seriously considered both my own mortality as well as `what I've accomplished so far', but I didn't focus too fully on either, and spent more energy enjoying myself and my birthday party which, despite my fears, turned out to be most excellent. A fair number of people attended, and the party lasted until well after midnight. We burned a life-sized effigy of me in what amounted to good, clean pyromaniac style fun in the guise of a simple `death and rebirth' ceremony, and managed to get the fire department called. Of course, it was a call made by some foolish and easily panicked (or prone to confrontation) old lady who lives next door to the boarding house (which might explain her over-reaction). Anyway, a couple of tiny mpgs were apparently taken, which I hope to post here soon.

Many of my friends, realizing that I no longer want or need for much in the way of material possessions, brought me instead copious amounts of alcohol; more alcohol, I think, than I shall probably be able to consume before I leave (without help, at least, but help is never far away.) I also got some mescaline chocolate which provided me with a very pleasant yet vivid trip through the wee hours of the party and after-party.

This was, by the way, the first time I've ever used mescaline, and I should say that after taking it I am completely and utterly amazed at the fact that it's illegal. Seriously, while I don't think it replaces a good, intense acid high, a light mescaline trip makes you feel how you always SHOULD feel. It doesn't do much in the way of impairing the senses or facilities (although towards the beginning I became exceedingly sensitive to a variety of sensations, especially tactile). Essentially I was able to operate quickly and accurately, holding lucid conversations, moving quickly and steadily around, even when I was forced to charge full speed down a large dirt embankment in the dark to put out the grass fires started after we tossed a mortar off a train bridge. What the drug did do was increase my sensitivity to, and appreciation of, my environment. I was acutely aware of everything around me, from fish in the water to the breeze to the crickets to the people letting out of the bars, and so on. It's that state I always try and achieve through meditation and concentration and exploration, but can rarely reach. Truly joyous. Plus there was literally no down time. The drug just eventually wore off and I was back to normal.

Jenny and Byron also purchased a 5 language translator for me, which is most excellent. I'm struggling with the Spanish right now, and trying to learn how you ferkin' PRONOUNCE words in French. I need some French language tapes. In any event, I suspect that my first month down south is going to be one hell of a trial. Everyone keeps assuring me that enough people speak English world wide that it won't be THAT much of a hassle, but I can't help but suspect that it'd be pretty stupid to rely on that to get by, and besides, I figure I'll endure myself outside of the nation a lot better if I at least attempt to communicate in the common local tongue, or tongues. However, there are limits. I mean, when I wander into deepest Africa (I lie, coastal Africa), sure. I wouldn't mind picking up a local African tongue, but if I'm in, say, Togo, I'm probably going to focus more on French than Ewe, for the simple reason that after Africa, it's up to Europe, where the one will serve me more effectively than the other.

***

Prelude: Day 35. September 3,2002

The passport will cost me $85. Those greedy so-and-so's. I was a little surprised to find out that the Post Office was the place to go for passports, although I have to go elsewhere for my passport photo. I've managed to find a boarding house for my remaining two months that rents rooms for $190 a month, all utilities paid. Of course, you get what you pay for, but actually it's not that bad. One of the neighbors is an old guy named Ed who seems slightly paranoid but has an excellent memory and loves to talk. The other guy's just your regular Gen-x/y cusper who has a fairly nice room and friends who like to drink, listen to music and watch TV. No one has stolen my food (yet) even though I've chosen, unwisely, to leave it sitting in the kitchen. All in all, it's a shit hole, but I love it. Plus, man, cheap.

My room is a tiny little (synonym for room) in the upstairs of a six room boarding house. Upstairs only has two rooms and the good (meaning fairly clean, tidy, working with shower) bathroom. Since I'm going spartan, I have a single (meaning both one and literally 'a single') mattress to sleep on, a lamp and a clock on the floor by the mattress, a few books, a cheap boombox, a dresser that was already in the room, my computer (which I've placed on a 'desk' fashioned out of the drawers from the dresser) and my plants. It's kind of amusing. I've plastered my remaining posters and pictures on the walls and purchased some candles to give the place a little tiny bit of character. No air conditioning, but actually a box fan blowing out of one of the windows more than does the trick, and at night it gets out and out frigid in there.

My parents, bless them, have agreed to watch my cat for me, so I'll be trying to take her down there this upcoming weekend after my birthday party. Thursday I turn 29 and Friday night I hope to have a symbolic death and rebirth party in which I and friends drink liberally and burn myself in effigy, sort of a phoenix notion of death and rebirth, the purging of the old and the heralding of the new.

Further advice I've gotten :

Asolo boots have been recommended and well reviewed by more than one source. I'll probably pick up a pair sometime this week, since I know where to find them.

My friend Kara has made it clear that everyone should be made aware of how important bug repellant is. And she's right. Apparently there are two equally important fronts in the disease prevention front, the first being immunization and the second is doing your best to keep the damned mosquitos and flies and the like away. From what I here, nothing in the world works entirely, but the fewer bites you suffer, the better the odds of avoiding insect borne infection.

***

Prelude: Day 25. August 25,2002

What is most enjoyable about the time leading up to the trip is the support of those around me, from friends and family to coworkers, business relationships and complete strangers. I swear if I could somehow work the fact that I shortly intend to travel around the world while being mugged, we'd end up having a drink in a bar someplace.

"Give me all your fucking money, and no funny stuff!"

"Ah man, I need that money. I'm about to try and hike around the world and every cent counts, you know?"

"You're gonna travel around the world? Fucking AWESOME, man. I'm so jealous!"

And you get the idea. From my immunologist to the lady who I rented my storage locker from, everyone has been not only been supportive but also apparently genuinely excited and enthused. In fact, the amount of good will and interest others devote make me wish I would come back with something which might justify this attitude (in my mind) on a less personal scale, like say reports of a fabulous new land prepped to trade exotic spices and the like.

This excitement manifests itself in two forms, vicarious empathy and nostalgic empathy. In either case, I tend to get plenty of feedback and advice, much of which I'm going to try and record here. Now. At this time!

First advice : Pack light. The storage locker lady told me (and I have since seen this repeated) that the trick is to pack, and then at the last minute get rid of half of it. This seems wise. As I've already written, I'm rapidly embracing a 'less is more' philosophy.

Conflicting Advice : You must see/must avoid Argentina. Initially I intended to try and see Argentina. While I still may, I must confess that reports of the citizenry dismembering injured cows for food struck me as a pretty sound vote for 'give it a miss', at least until their standard of living creeps up a tad.

Advice : Avoid Columbia. Sorry, Columbia, but you seem kind of hostile and unsafe. Probably fly over. But who knows. I'm trying to save money and gain experience... experience....

Advice : Vinyl pants. Apprently they're light, durable and dry quickly. In the same veign, while a couple of people pointed out that at least a few years ago jeans were an excellent standard of barter, more have pointed out that they're very heavy and bulky to lug around.

Advice : Pretend I'm canadian. This is probably sound advice, but I'm just not going to do it. I want to travel and gain experience relevant to who I am, not who I pretend to be, and besides, while I'd like to think I'm a good liar, I'm really not.

Advice : Buy a pair of really good boots and break them in. This is probably apparent to most people, but it was advice I was given and it seems sound.

Advice : Avoid the local market food. Eat in clean seeming restaurants. Sorry, folks, no can do. This weakens both of my primary goals, which are spend little and experience the local culture. Now, once again, I'm naive and unprepared, and you may see, sometime come December, an entry in which I struggle to type without blasting my entire intestinal system across the room in which I retract this foolish posture and warn all who come after me to heed this advice, but right now my thinking is 'Christ, I'm going to be out there for a year, trying to save money and embrace the reality, I'm just gonna fucking eat the food the people around me are eating and deal with a couple of weeks of shitting blood and hope my body gets the hand of it."

Advice : In most of Africa, lookey but no touchy. I was insulted at length by a guy from Canada (because Canada is actually apparently much much different from the US when it comes to hygeine) about us 'paranoid american hypochondriacs' and how we have to spray everything down with lysol before we touch it and all, and I also don't want to show an ignorant or overly hostile mentality towards any part of Africa, but yeah, when a nation or locality breaks 20% in the 'contracted AIDS' department, I figure celebacy's probably a safe bet even in the unlikely event that an alternative is offered.

Advice : Go to Poland. Enjoy Poland, as apparently Poland is actually very very easy for a visitor to enjoy.

Advice : Get a round the world ticket. I thought about this one long and hard. And I talked to others about it. And so on. And in the end I determined that it was a: not sufficiently conducive to the nature of my adventure and b: too damned expensive.

Advice : See if you can write for trade journals or find anyone else that can take advantage of (for money) someone travelling the world. To this I say 'okay'.

Advice : Apparently (and this is not the case where I live, so it was news to me) most bars world wide happily serve free snacks (like real snacks, not just peanuts and beer-nuts) to people drinking. This means that if you were intending to drink anyway, you can get what amounts to a free meal out of it.

Advice : Buy most needs, including clothing, etc, as you move rather than carrying it with you. This makes an incredible amount of sense, when you think about it, since first of all it will allow you to look more local, secondly, apparently basic clothing is usually pretty damned cheap outside of the US and certain other '1st world nations.'

***

Prelude: Day 14. August 14, 2002

Another minor complaint. Has anyone noticed that these days it has become entirely impossible to get an identification card, passcard, credit card, verification paper or much of anything else that doesn't have a mistake in your personal data? I just tried to use my debit card and realized they have my first name misspelled.

When I tried to shut off my water, I discovered that they had both my driver's license number and my social security number wrong. Even my driver's license has my middle name misspelled. In fact, thinking about it I don't think I have two forms of identification that can exactly verify one another. I can hardly wait to see what errors crop up on my passport.

About five years ago I tested my 'office skills' at one of the local temp agencies in an attempt to find gainful employment. I'm beginning to understand why a typing skill of 40 wpm with only a single mistake a minute caused the desk girl to spontaniously orgasm.

***

Prelude: Day 12. August 12, 2002

Alright, I'd just like to say that all branches and affiliates of the current US Government are staffed by complete and total retards, and the laws governing them the construction of blithering chum-brained idiots. I have decided to acquire a Post Office box to forward my mail to. Right? Right? Since, obviously, I have no current address and will not have a current address any time soon. The best reason for wanting a post office box, right? Right?

So anyway, the chick at the post office says that I'll need to fill out a slip with my current address and, get this, show ID confirming this current address. I inform her that I don't have a current address, nor any ID that would demonstrate this, and that I don't intend to get one for quite some time, excepting the post office box. So she says that a current residence with confirming ID is REQUIRED to get a post office box. So, in essence, to get my mail sent to a PO Box would mean that I was expected to go, rent an apartment and then get a new ID that said I was currently living there. According to her, this was so that, "if the PO Box were used for any illegal activities, I could be tracked."

What the hell goes through people's minds?

I mean, seriously, I'm traveling the world. They can't fucking track me anyway. Further, even if I weren't, they aren't supposed to be digging through my mail, , so unless I do something like BLOW THE FUCKING MAILBOX UP then they shouldn't ever know that I'm doing anything illegal, so they have NOTHING TO TRACK, AND, if for some strange reason, the FBI or whoever had ALREADY INVESTIGATED ME ENOUGH TO WARRENT A SEARCH OF MY MAIL BOX, THEY HARDLY NEED MY LEGALLY LISTED ADDRESS TO TRACK ME ANYMORE. And if I blow the mailbox up, I'm not gonna exactly hang around the house.

FURTHERMORE (AND WE'RE IN ALL CAPS RANT MODE AT THIS POINT) ANYONE CAN ALSO DO WHAT I ENDED UP DOING, WHICH IS TO SAY GO TO THE NEXT NEAREST POST OFFICE AND USE YOUR OLD DRIVERS LICENSE AND FAKE YOUR CURRENT ADDRESS. So, seriously, what the hell's the point? Essentially what we have is a completely useless, meaningless fucking rule that serves no purpose except to hinder honest citizens in the pursuit of reasonable, even essential tasks. Only we're not honest citizens anymore, because to engage in a perfectly legal, even essential behavior, I have been forced to COMMIT FRAUD. So basically you have one of two choices. Be an honest idiot and stay home or be an intelligent criminal, just to get a PO Box.

Suffice to say that the U.S. Postal Service is the first guest star on `Idiots Mike had to put up with when traveling the world." When I get back, I'm going to spend a few days outside picketing just for the hell of it. Heck, I might do it before I leave. Retards.

This is the inevitable result in any society where bureaucracy has been used to replace conscious thought.

I have concluded that I'm just going to let this sad fucker run on and on, rather than trying to make extra links for it. I figure, what I'll do is when the prelude is complete, and the actual journey is underway, I'll move the prelude to an archive and keep flowing with the journal. I'll try and learn the use of anchors by then so that it can automatically be linked to the latest entry, but since I may have to be editing this thing on the road, I figure I'll make it easier for me. If I manage to find some chump to handle the web page for me while I'm gone, they can do as they please. Sort of.

***

Prelude: Day 9 . August 9, 2002

It's weird, but when I date these things, I keep wanting to put 1999 as the year. I have sent off my request for my birth certificate, which I need to get my passport. This runs another fifteen dollars, total cost to acquire my passport should probably run a little over $50. I am now staying at my sister's house, and beginning to feel the detachment that inevitably comes from losing any realistic grounding. It's kind of a neat feeling, and I'm afraid that it becomes rather addictive. Already, I'm looking at the meager entertainment I withheld from my storage locker and saying, "this all can go." This is probably another good thing about the comparatively long time frame of the prelude, since it gives me a couple of months to weed out all the crap I don't really need.

That's some serious advice right there. When many people start these things, I suspect that the desire is something akin to the attitude I had, which was to be prepared in a manner befitting Mel Gibson as Mad Max in The Road Warrior. You want the good knife and the gun and the binoculars and the spoon and so on and so on. Of course, what you forget is that most of the essentials to survival will already be provided you, unless you actually intend to take the severe, challenging and often illegal route of reverting entirely to a feral state. So you don't need most of this garbage. You aren't going to be fighting hoards of mutants or battling bikers for drops of gasoline or clutching blindly at cans of dogfood. I've gone from a pretty full plate down to next to nothing already, and I still have so much to get rid of, either literally or from my list of acquisitions. I should probably post both my list of wanted/needed goods as well as the list of 'advice I've received so far' here soon.

Anyway, the point is that you don't need much stuff, and once you get the taste of abandoning the material in your mouth, it can become addictive. I have always been the classic packrat, and my last girlfriend was even worse. When she left, she abandoned half her crap, so I had a large house full of garbage to sort through. It hurts to toss out some of those little nick knacks with profound nostalgic significance, but once you've taken the first cut, it gets easier. I imagine that even now, when I come back and first start unloading my storage locker, I'll be appalled at what was spared. There's a real appeal to minimalism, especially when you've spent the last decade in the exact opposite frame of mind.

The biggest surrender is the music. For awhile I thought about grabbing an mp3 player or something, but I've concluded that in this instance, music could become too much a tool for escapism. I want to experience the world, and I shouldn't give myself any back doors when the outside reality starts to get threatening. I know there are going to be times when I want to hide from it all, just lie in a bed wherever I'm staying and listen to tunes. No can do, Mr. Heaney. There'll be plenty of time for that kind of crap afterwards.

***

Prelude : Day 6. Aug 6, 2002

The very first real step towards the trip itself (as opposed to everything up to this point, which has mostly been closing up my affairs) has been accomplished, the first round of immunizations. These suck more than you're told (big surprise there) but less than you fear. The biggest blow is to the pocket book; immunization is not a cheap experience. Further, those brilliant fuckers at the insurance company (Blue Cross Blue Shield, for me) aren't big fans of preventative measures. By god, if they're gonna pay to have you treated, they want you to at least suffer through the experience. I can sort of understand that.

I have, so far, received four shots: The first in a series of three hepatitis B shots, a polio booster, a tetanus booster and yellow fever. Let's review them...

Hep B. : Fairly painless, no real side effects, cost unpleasantly high (and two more at another $135 or thereabouts a shot yet to come.)

Polio : Entirely painless, no side effects, really cheap.

Yellow Fever : Fairly expensive, mild pain, gave me a terrible headache all Monday night and essentially laid me out. I went to bed at 10:30, for chrissakes. Of course, I'll admit that I'm ASSUMING it was the yellow fever, I mean, it could have been the Hep B. or something, I'm assuming this based on other reports I've heard and the way it made me feel.

Tetanus : Cheap, but not at all painless. In fact, about three hours after the shot, your arm muscles lock up and get sore. It's kind of funny, actually. For those of you who are mildly allergic to some stinging insect or another, the experience is almost identical. Effects last, to some degree, for two or three days (for me).

The doctor, one Stephen Hennigan, was a fun guy. I honestly couldn't tell his age because, well, he acted more or less like an excited kid when he learned of my game plan. I swear, he was rolling back and forth across the room in his chair while he talked to me, fidgeting the entire while. It was great.

What was NOT great were the prescriptions he gave (recommended). These things cost an unbelievable amount of money. The malaria drug he prescribed is known as Mefloquine (Larium) and when I first looked up the price, I was under the impression that I took this stuff daily while in a malaria area, and would continue for four weeks after leaving an area. At a cost that runs between nine and thirteen dollars a pill, I was looking at a price tag that could have easily exceeded $3,000. Since then, I have come to believe that you take it weekly, not daily (daily only if you've already contracted malaria), so the cost goes down. We approach something slightly more akin to the affordable but hate myself for spending the money range. Still, if I pick up enough for, say 14 weeks worth then I could get away with only spending one to two hundred dollars. Now, that doesn't include the money that I need to throw down on the OTHER Hep B shots, the Hep A shot, the typhoid, blah blah blah. The total cost of this first round of shots was $305.00 (the doctor was kind enough to wave his office fees). The prescription drugs will probably run me another three or four hundred, and I have another three hundred worth of shots. So the $400 I had planned for immunization has turned into close to a thousand, including antibiotics and the like. If you're planning to travel, then let this be a warning to you!

Of course, on the up side, a lot of this crap is essentially one time. In the future, getting outside of the US shouldn't be quite such a trick.

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Prelude : Day one. Aug. 1, 2002

I was writing a friend of mind yesterday and began to contemplate the changes that I'm making in order to take this trip. Generally the human attitude is that change is good, but not too much change. We like a steady diet of change, but one which is served alongside three to four meals a day worth of complacency. We want to control the direction the change takes. When too much change occurs at one time, most consider this a stressful thing. People lose notions of stability or control, two things they tend to cherish.

I have, in rapid succession, abandoned my apartment of four years, turned in my notice at work, started giving away my material possessions or placing them into long term storage, made plans to abandon the car (HONDA DUNE BUGGY!), lost my fiancee and announced my departure to my friends and family. By the advent of 2003, all of these things will be nothing more than memories, but more importantly, memories that aren't being replaced. There is no grand search for the next romantic interest (although this is something I sometimes have to consciously remind myself of), there is no search for more long term lodging, I'm not trying to get another car, etc etc. There are many instances where this degree of change would basically advertise someone who should be avoided lest the fickle hand of fate which has been slowly crushing them in its grip suddenly be re-directed your way. It's the sort of sob story that makes everyone else in the bar suddenly really appreciate their own lives.

For me, not only is this not tragic, it is essential. The path I intend to take, for better or worse, requires the elimination of all possible restrictions. Past that point, that change threshold, I suddenly feel the freedom of no connection. The stress of excessive change, along with the stress of all the rest of our modern life, suddenly vanishes. You embrace your potential in favor of your actuality, reassessing energy usage, both mental and physical, and switching the priority from the bizarre mixture of present and long term we usually suffer from to a more reasonable focus on the `near future'.

Now, to be entirely honest I must admit that this is the first, and lightest stage of this change. I mean, in the last week I've switched my sleeping arrangements from bed to couch to cot, and the cot sucks ass, so I may demote myself to floor for the remaining couple of days before I move in to house-sit for my sister, at which point I'll be back to bed, only it won't be my bed. Or it may be a couch. Who knows? Either way, this rapid fire rate of change in sleeping arrangements alone has started to get a reaction from me. Sleeping on the couch was an amusing change, but man, that cot just sucks. Now, translate this to a situation where I'm suffering almost perpetual culture shock, often in places where my pampered self isn't likely to enjoy the same level of amenities as I do in the states, and even when I do, I'll be, as a result of my own choices and financial limitations, be unable to afford the same amenities I did prior to my trip. So I expect that in about four months, there'll be a couple of days where I might re-read over this entry and say aloud, "FUCK change." And let me tell you, if I have to sleep on another tiny, cramped uncomfortable cot....

But seriously, I'm actually looking forward to that stage in a way. Except the cots.

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