gatineau morning.

gatineau morning.
photo by douglas mcarthur.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

travelling ticks me off.

i'm not actually fond of travelling. i've done that, been there. i like my home. at this point, i would go so far as to say i like like my home.

the last time i flew to india i decided to at least take a stab at travelling in style. i wanted to fly business class. first, i looked into how much such a ticket would cost. a normal ticket was apx. $1500.00, round-trip. by 'normal' i mean smudged into a small, uncomfortable seat for many hours so tightly one is fortunate to survive without a 'deep vein thrombosis'. however, business class would cost about $165,000.00 and my first-born child. any child of mine would almost certainly have severe learning disabilities but, since i was already over sixty and not quite the thing of beauty i once thought myself to be, producing one at that point seemed unlikely. the difference in the fares was the deal-breaker.

anyway, as the time approached i phoned the airline company. someone had told me they might offer to bump me up just before the flight date, perhaps with just a little extra cost. i was informed that they'd be glad, more than happy, to bump me up... for $164,500.00, only i could keep the kid. it just seemed outrageous.

lastly, once i was at the airport and checking in, i simply asked the attendant to bump me up on compassionate grounds. he asked me what was wrong and i sadly informed him that my grandmother had died. he was very sympathetic, offered his condolences and asked when it happened. i told him she died about 45 years ago, but that i still really felt it.

so i didn't get bumped up, only the fellow promised to find me a nice seat, and at first it seemed as though he really had. i found myself beside the cutest little indian girl i'd ever seen. i usually found myself beside a smelly, obese creature who slumped onto my shoulder and snored all the way. i was so relieved. we smiled at each other. almost immediately after take-off, however, an extremely obese sikh gentleman approached from beyond the curtains accompanied by a lady just slightly less obese. the lady commanded the little girl to go with her and, next thing i knew, i was sitting beside a smelly, obese creature who slumped over onto my shoulder and began snoring.

the last time i travelled with my teacher he blessed me. guruji hadn't gone anywhere for ages, even years, before deciding we should travel to the khaylong pass. we rented three busses and i was the leader of one. guruji drove in the ashram car.

eventually, we stopped and guruji gave a discourse on the side of the mountain beside a chai shop. monkeys flitted through the trees off the side of the road. cars and trucks motored on as we listened. afterward, we piled back into our respective busses. i sorta had to pee but, being the leader, i thought i could just ask the driver to stop if it got too bad. but, at the last moment, guruji jumped in and sat down next to me. everyone in the bus clapped and laughed and began singing as we rattled back down the highway. meanwhile, nobody could actually hear a word guruji was saying except me. the old rickety bus was way too noisy. so we chatted and i knew the others were terribly jealous. after all, i was having a private talk with our beloved teacher. i felt great, and terrible. i had to pee.

guruji began going on about how fantastic it was to be travelling again after so long. but i had to pee. it was getting bad. trying to act normal i asked why he didn't really travel any more and guruji immediately launched into a long diatribe against travel of all sorts. he ranted on about how one gets bound the moment one leaves ones own home. he talked about being unable to get into a bathroom during flights, not being allowed to stop while in someone's car or bus. by then i was in pain. i really really had to 'go.' meanwhile guruji went on and on, telling me stories of times he was travelling and not allowed to relieve himself when he needed to. everyone on the bus saw how animated he had become and it looked like i was the luckiest guy in the world while really i was freaking out.

the situation had become critical. i heard guruji say something about not being allowed to do your business and i blurted out: "guruji, i'm in that exact situation now! can you ask the driver to pull over please?" to which he replied... wait for it... wait for it: he said 'no.' "NO?!" i was shocked, horrified. he said we'd be at a beautiful waterfall in just a few minutes where we would stop to make a video. then guruji happily began describing the waterfall. he talked about how big and fast-flowing it was, as i squeezed my legs together.

actually, we almost immediately pulled up beside what was indeed a beautiful large waterfall. we piled out of the busses and i scuttled as fast as i could up the highway to some bushes. when i rejoined the group guruji was in the throws of a discourse. he interrupted himself, pointed over at me with a big smile: "oh see how blessed nathan looks. we had a really good drive together."

the last time i drove through new hampshire i stopped at a friend's place, whom i had known in india, to meet his new wife and his parents. i stayed the night at their beautiful country home. the mother was adamant that, when i passed through massachusetts, i meet her brother whom she said i reminded her of so much, so much. it was, apparently, uncanny. in fact, she phoned the guy to tell him to expect me in a few days.

he was a tall, thin, even gaunt, rather intense-looking fellow, a little unkempt, with long grey hair tied at the back. he was carrying a bag of muffins he had just bought. i soon realized why we met in the town. i followed him along country roads i never would've found. we drove over land that would've confused the kalahari bushmen, through marshes, logging roads and fields. his home was a pretty mean shack surrounded by tires, trailers, barrels, an old rusted-out truck. the windows didn't close. there was no plumbing, no electricity, and what furniture there was made the bed in the back of my truck look like a fine hotel suite.

i sank down into a faded over-stuffed sofa chair that had a long rip on one arm with stained yellowish cotton spilling out and a block of wood under a leg to prop it up. my eyes fell on a rifle leaning up beside a rough heavy wooden platform that served as a kitchen counter. at the same time, as my host cooked something on a camping stove, he told me about his constant battle against local wildlife. then he told me how he'd been struggling with lyme disease for the past couple of years. i had never heard of lyme disease back then, but his description of what he'd been going through sounded truly horrific.

looking around at the rough, messy furnishings, the dirty kitchen area, the open windows, the loaded rifle, i felt a creeping sense of fear or dread course through me. i asked how one gets the disease and he told me about deer ticks. i asked how one gets deer ticks and he told me about the deer all 'round his cabin. the ticks could be anywhere, he said matter-of-factly, on the ground, the grass, the bushes, "even in that old chair."

"travel no longer holds any charm for me. i have seen all the foreign countries i want to except heaven and hell. and i have only a vague curiosity about one of those." mark twain (1891).

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