1. Took this photo at the feria¹ yesterday. It felt like the first time I saw ppl interacting in a certain way which made me think “I can ‘capture’ this photographically.” I’ve always been embarrassed pointing a camera lens at ppl [or having one pointed at me.] But these kids, the way the two dudes were wanking on the guitar and the girl pretended to be checking her text msgs or maybe she was checking them for real but everything about the way she was sitting was like “dios mio chicos, prestame atencion” or something that I could pick up 40 yards away but which the two kids didn’t seem to register or maybe they did but just felt like ignoring her.
2. I felt like I’d photographed something that told a story, but then when I saw it on the computer I realized I’d focused on the grass instead of the kids, which is actually a revealing mistake–I’ve always been distracted by and on some level more interested in vegetation / landforms / terrain than ppl.
3. I’m writing this while listening to Skeletal Lighting by Of Montreal which makes me think–along with what I just wrote about vegetation–back to a house party in Athens, Georgia where of Montreal played in the basement. It was Halloween and Michael Stipe was dressed as a blue gorilla. Filly² and I had eaten mushrooms before we went and there was this weird scene in the kitchen when Stipe pulled out a tray of cupcakes that had blue icing that matched the blue of his gorilla suit. He offered cupcakes to me and this girl who was dressed as a basketball goal. Later I went outside and looked at trees and Filly told these girls who stood nearby smoking “my man Dave here can name every tree on this street.”
4. Predictably, this is the part where I wonder what would’ve happened if I’d stayed in Athens and not, instead, followed this other trajectory which progressed into this latest form where, apparently, I’m attempting to photograph kids in a plaza in Patagonia.
5. Either way, Of Montreal is kind of hard to write to.
6. We have no washing machine. This morning I spent an hour handwashing clothes. The air is cold and there’s snow on the ridgelines. Not good washing [I started writing "writing"] conditions.
7. Later Layla was saying something that I couldn’t understand in this super excited voice. I followed her into the living room. A hummingbird was trapped in the living room, bumping along the ceiling. We opened all the windows and I talked to it in a friendly voice–”here you go, here you go” — while thinking “why do we change our voices when we talk to animals?”
8. I went back out to hang clothes on the clothesline and thought about how far this hummingbird has migrated³ to end up today in our living room, and how it seems kind of strange for people to call themselves “travelers.”
¹ in El Bolsón, PatagoniaArgentina.
² friend from Savannah, Georgia who I played alot of music with
³ Hummingbirds migrate thousands of miles from the Northern to Southern Hemispheres
i’ve been thinking about running some sort of contest here as contests tend to make people stoked.
i don’t know if this is something that will have a single winner–maybe everyone who “enters” will win. not sure yet.
as far as prizes: i don’t think there will be money in this. not in this first one. maybe if a lot of people enter this and it turns into something we could run again, maybe then we could have prizes.
[update 4/26--i've decided to create a mixtape as the prize for the winner(s). mixtape will be inspried by winning entry, and may have (perhaps) a recording of the winning writing remixed into the tape.]
the winning work will be also published here, with the winner’s (s’) byline(s).
this will be the first time ever that someone else will be credited with authoring a post at operating on stoke.
potentially, i might write an essay or a bit of literary criticism about why i chose the winner(s).
this is more about buena onda than anything else.
so here it is:
- starts tonight (Sunday, April 25) and ends noon EST on Thursday April 29
- you can enter as many times as you want: email your entry to email@example.com with ‘one sentence writing contest’ in the subject line
- one sentence, but can be as many words as you want
- the sentence should try to convey a particular feeling–ideally with some kind of stoke (or perhaps chance for redemption of stoke?) in it–about traveling (or a moment in your travels, or the beginning or ending of a trip) and your sense of ‘being on the earth’
i got the idea for this from the last sentence of on the road:
So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, and all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all the rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.
- if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section below
- make kerouac proud – ‘dumbsaint of the mind’
thanks for entering.
1. All knowledge and cultural reference is assumed. [Anyone reading your story also has access to Google, Wikipedia, and millions of websites and blogs.]
1.1. Therefore any explanation placed within the body of a narrative [For example: "He had on a boina, the South American version of a newsboy cap," or "He was listening to Outkast, a hip-hop group from Atlanta] tends to slow down or obscure the narrative flow and/or potentially alienate the reader (if he/ she already knows what the referent is).
1.2 Therefore the narrator should simply describe / narrate, and if necessary, add references via (a) links, (b) words in parenthesis, or (c) footnotes.
2. Emotions are never assumed [Ex: "She seemed happy that morning."], but can only be portrayed the way they were perceived by the narrator, [Ex: "She stood in the corner punching herself in the stomach."]
2.1. Any changes effected by or perceived by the narrator either (a) within him/herself or (b) outside of him/herself, must be placed in temporal context* [Ex: "Right now she would be around 6 months pregnant and we’re both grieving this in our own ways."]
2.1.a. *unless it is fiction.
3. Narrators should be self-aware and transparent about (a) their connections (and / or lack of connection) to the subject, (b) the temporal / historical context of the subject, (c) the potential effects of their writing on the subject, (d) their acknowledgment of using various mimetic or diegetic devices as storytelling “vehicles.”
3.1. Logical fallacies, incorrect information, hyperbole, and other potential “issues” are all “ok” as long as they are recognized transparently.
4. Narrators should develop / operate from a lexicon faithful to the way they speak / think in real life.*
*mine is stoke / anti-stoke.
She gives us the Argentine sign [ arm / hand swung in the direction of the road ahead, then held up] for “do you want a ride?”
She does this without smiling.
Through the passenger side window we look at each other’s faces for a second. Then I nod. “Si.”
Layla and I get in to her dented van. Her small feet are pushing the clutch and brake pedals.
“Sorry about the dust,” she says. “Last night we had to take these dogs home. They got loose in the storm.”
“No, no, por favor.”
She’s maybe 43.
“They were roaming all over the place and our dogs were going crazy.”
“Which dogs were they?”
“A black lab, well taken-care of, and a doberman.”
“I always see those dogs along Camino de Los Nogales.”
“Where do you live?”
“In the chacra back there where it says ‘ceramic workshop.’ What about you?”
“We live next to Los Colque,” I tell her.
“Oh. Did you buy a place?”
“No, we’re renting. But we bought a little terrenito on the other side of the arroyo.”
“Really? That all used to be our land.”
“Si. We had 5 hectares. Then in 2000–you know about the crisis right?-we had to sell it or lose everything.”
Her eyes fill up with tears.
A few seconds pass. The van is rattling forward on San Martin. We’re all looking through the windshield. It’s been raining and windy for the last 2 days.
“Yeah, um, we bought it in 2005,” I say. “When we came back this year nos dio tanto bronco .. . I mean bronca . . at how they’d cut down all the forest along the arroyo.”
“Si si si. Imagine: we planted that sausal (willow forest) so it wouldn’t erode.”
“Oh. Can you drop us off here?”
We were just about to the Feria.
Somewhere back in the last minute the road had switched from dirt to pavement.
text: “Flow Chart of Divergent Distracted Thinking. “
[A chart with three columns designed to represent textually how my mom and I communicate sometimes.]
(a) dialogue, (b) internal thought, (c) internal reaction to internal thought
“We’re going to a 50th wedding anniversary tonight. This couple’s kids live all over ¹ but they’re all in town this weekend…
1. they probably couldn’t stand their parents → 2. no, don’t think like that.”
i published this along with other excerpts from my current journal at the traveler’s notebook
On the way back home it’s getting dark and I’m walking by la casa de los colque. They were here before this place started becoming barrio. They’re the only family that still works the land, the chacras. The house is all unfinished block and concrete and shit just falling apart. Some of windows are taped up sheets of plastic. Then my eye catches this glint and I see them again in a little storage area: rows and rows and rows of soccer trophies.
We moved to Patagonia because we thought we could raise our daughter here in a culture and in a way that didn’t exist back in the US.
That doesn’t mean that we “like it better” necessarily.
There are things I like about here more than I like there.
There are things I like about there more than I like here.
When I say “we live in Patagonia” people form certain images in their minds.
Before we moved here, whenever I thought “damn, we’re moving to Patagonia,” I formed certain images in my mind.
The images I formed were mostly wrong.
I believe the images that people form are mostly wrong.
A couple days ago a TV producer described me as “being down in Patagonia in your bliss.”
I feel like this is wrong.
But I feel like this is so common.
People don’t want the truth, they just want the particular concept or brand you represent that they can “resonate with.”
I’ve written a lot about the Colque family that lives next door.
Layla and I were just walking around with two of the little girls, Fatima and Abril, and one of the little boys, Anton.
We were out by the road picking apples. On the other side of the fence, the older Colque kids were playing soccer with a half-deflated basketball. One of them dribbled it around the side of the house and then another one was screaming “Faggot, faggot” (Maricon).
Over the last couple of days someone has dumped a bunch of trash on the sandpile where the kids play. Today I pulled out a board with this gnarly nail stuck through it. I showed it to them, more as a way of saying ‘watch out’ than ‘throwing trash is wrong.’
The truth is that people throw trash on top of kids’ sandpiles here.
the truth is that the kids chase each other screaming “faggot!”
This is the truth about Patagonia.
There’s no “bliss.”
And that truth is stronger than any “message” I might try to give them about trash or their language.
Any “message” I might deliver is equivalent to that TV producer’s concept of this place being my “bliss.”
It may exist as a concept in my mind, but it has no truth at ground level.
And thus to try and “apply it” is a way of reducing or obscuring truth instead of recognizing it.
But I believe this–trying to apply concepts–is the way most people think.
And it is always the way thinking is “attributed to” more than one person, say a group or party or organization.
The packages and categories allow one (or many) to add or subtract things to truth and thus “use it for their own purpose.”
They use it to gain power over others.
They use it to lie to themselves as a way of justifying things.
They use it because “hey, it’s business, not personal.”
They use it because it’s “company policy.”
They use it because “this is how it’s done.”
They use it because it’s a “commandment.”
They use it because it’s “in the bylaws.”
They use it because it’s “marketable.”
They use it because it’s “hip.”
They use it because it’s “moral.”
They use it because they’re afraid.
There are things I can do though.
I can pick up the trash.
I can stay at ground level.
I can tell my story.
These are unedited excerpts of recent emails from Segundo who does not want any internet ‘presence’ but who is a bro I love and miss and whose writing I just want to share anyway:
-just got back from the pueblito (now city) where my pops grew up–went with my last 2 uncles-94 and 87–the last of the 18! my cousin drove us for a trip down memoria lane–the house they grew up in is now a motorcycle shop–there was one ancient lawyer friend who we visited still at his desk on x-mas with piles of papers that got more dust on em than i dont know what— he remembered me though asked me if i had dreads last time i was there to sign papers about 8 yrs ago–went to the cemetary and but a rock on my pops grave from my medicine bag…… visited some more of my uncles friends –everyone says i look igualito a mi papa aun el pelo malo– saw some murals of the mirabel sisters(las mariposas) schoolmates of my dad—i’ve had enough city for now–families of 4 on motoconchos drinken presidentes-music blaring tight clothes dark skin and potholes…..ahhh latina america—
–so much flowen through the head—seems to happen when im down here–hangen with my dads bros–mis tios— one of em leopo who is 94 is like looking at the spitting image of my dad–down to the way his fingers curl and his nails–the way his hand feels in mine–it bugs me out–i wasnt really close to him either–he was always the quiet uncle or the”slow one” as the family used to say–no family ,no education, no job, just always lived at home and roamed the streets visiting people with his blue eyes and smile saying shit like ”yo soy el flaco flaco y tu el gordo gordo” then just laughen–like a buddha or something…he’s gonna out live everyone—i remember him walking off down the street 10years ago after my fathers funeral–he seemed so sad that the memory has always stayed with me–visiting folks today and seeing their reactions when they saw him just cracked me up–”eh leopo el flaco flaco” —its good to have the memories though and the weed i picked next to the grave and stuck in my medicine bag–i love how it grows out of the cement–just goes to show you cant stop la madre! pues…hasta la proxima ramble–
As always it’s the split life. Yesterday we had it all put together for a bit as we explored the Rio Azul for the first time as a family. We got dropped off above Camping Dona Rosa and then hiked upstream to Hue Nain. This is the section of river where Cristian Ferrer runs commercial raft trips. It’s mostly class 2 but exceptionally beautiful, not to mention potable.
Back to work this morning I found several market leads for MatadorU, including several writer’s residencies hosted at National Parks. It occurred to me that were we not here right now, this is probably what I’d be trying to do–applying for one of these residencies.
For example, here’s the blurb for the North Cascades Artist-in-Residence Program:
“The awesome landscapes of the American West have inspired artists for generations. From idyllic paintings, sepia prints, soaring musical scores, and pastoral writings, artists have prompted the public and politicians to establish national parks as an enduring heritage. Their art introduced this natural world to people who might not otherwise experience such places. Artists are invited to become part of this well-established tradition through the North Cascades Artist-in-Residence program. Selected individuals will discover and interpret this landscape through their own creative projects. They are hosted by national park personnel and have opportunities to explore, hike, and become a conduit for the local community to understand resources in new and unique ways.”
Just getting funded somehow to spend time exploring and writing and creating in the wilderness has always been the ‘goal’. This seems like a good option. Anybody had one of these residencies?
After yesterday’s post about placefinding, along with the immediate response I decided to cook up a really simple blog which you can find here: Placefinding.wordpress.com. The premise is really simple-it will explore the way people connect and reconnect to place via their lifestyles, writing, art, and other expressions as well as just placefinding as an ethic and ethos that seems to be somehow within, outside of, and underlying our cultural lexicon all at the same time.
Please subscribe and let me know how you like this project. I’m looking for ideas, perhaps starting with this one: how do you define your relationship to place?