researching ego

I sometimes consider a concept for months at a time. Sort of in the background. There are a few concepts that I have been mulling over for years and a few that I am still mulling. About twenty years ago I decided to study the concept of Ego. In the sense of "Wow, that guy has a big ego" as opposed to "His Id and Ego were ever flirting with one another." I had experienced a few people who had remarkably high opinions of themselves. I have come to the opinion that there were two types of 'big ego'. The most common type is by way of compensating for a person's feelings of insecurity. Because they feel inadequate or unworthy they self-aggrandize, puff up, and pose as some sort of badass - and tend to tear down the people around them in their scramble to stay atop their faux pedestal. The other type of 'big ego' is when someone just happens to know that they are a giant among their fellows. They didn't plan it, they didn't even particularly want it, but who are they to deny their obvious magnificence? The director of the division in which I worked at Microsoft was one such self-considered giant. I read a biography of Picasso and a biography of Frank Lloyd Wright while I was considering the dynamics of a 'big ego'.

researching fear

One night when I was young I took the kitchen garbage out to the dumpster.  We lived in a condominium building and all the condos shared the dumpster. When I came back up the stairs to our door my older brother asked me with genuine curiosity "Aren't you afraid of the dark?"

"No." I answered truthfully.  I had never given it much thought.  Until then.  Then my mind starting playing a pretty much nonstop game of "what *scary things* could possibly BE in the darkness?"

A few months later I found myself entertaining the concept of a legion of cat people spying on me from the dark woods.  In this construct of fear they were deciding if I was too close to discovering them and thereby in need of elimination.  I imagined their leader's oily golden eye fixed on the back of my neck.  He was measuring just how hurriedly I was walking away and assessing if it meant that I was truly aware of him and his legion.
It wasn't until then that I stopped and turned to look at the seemingly menacing dark forest and thought, "There is nothing in those woods right now that wasn't there in the light of day.  It's the same stuff, it's just dark."

My fear of the dark melted (mainly) completely away.

Fear is the imagining of what horrible things may befall us in the future.

I have seen somewhere the acronym F.E.A.R.  "Future Events Already Realized"

In my teenage years I started to test my ability to face my fears.
I also started to wonder what fear has in common with caution or prudence.

I would walk in the dark a lot.  In my own house I would try and see how well I could operate as a blind person - eyes tightly closed.  I would notice what pictures fear would paint for my mind in the dark.
Someone hiding in the closet?  Around the next corner.  Or was someone in the corner watching me with golden oily eyes as I fumbled around quite near them?

We fabricate constant fantasy - spinning it out around us in our imagination to patch the holes and set us at our ease.   It is like set design in theater except it is constant and ongoing and convincing enough.  Easy to swallow illusions to distract ourselves from the gaping dark holes all around us - the unknown, the unsavory, and the fearful.

I once heard a man quote some famous explorer as having said, "Man's greatest self deception is a world small enough that he can understand."  I thought that was brilliant.  Later I amended it a little bit to "Humankind's greatest self deception is a world convenient enough to understand."

We also holoproject horrors in every nook and cranny of existence when we allow Fear to be too much a part of our process.

Cat people in the woods?
Phantom killers hiding in my bathroom?

Nothing convenient about that.

So Humankind's other great deception is horrors that will never exist.

I am a Lumper and not a Splitter.  In biology a lumper might say there are Black Bear and Brown Bear and maybe only 'Bear' since they can mate.  A Splitter would say that there are 300-350 subspecies of Bear some of which may not be known yet.

We don't have five senses.  We only have one sense and that is touch.  Every other so called sense is a matter of particular nerves attached to particular feelers which eventually involves touch.  You have no sight unless photons touch your eyes.  Hearing is the vibration of (usually) air molecules against our inner ear.  Scent is a matter of particles touching our olfactory bulb.  You get the idea.

Well I think we only have two emotions.  Love and Fear.  Every other emotion is some nuanced flavor of one or both of these two elementary feelings.

Such as this quote illustrates :

"Grief, I've learned, is really just love. It's all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go." - Jamie Anderson

mexico : a guatemalan basket

mexico : we’re all going to die

We worked all one summer to save money for a three month trip through Central America.  Siri and I painted an apartment building on Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill - just the two of us.  I was the maintenance man for that building and I set it up that we each got paid $17.50/hr for the time it took to paint the building.  We did an excellent job and it completely bankrolled our trip.  We rounded out our hiking equipment with new sleeping bags, tent, backpacks, boots, first aid kit - everything we might need.  We went around to university professors at the UW and got three of them (each) to sponsor us so that we could earn college credit while on our trip and in return we submitted papers and gave talks to classes.  We were ready for our adventure and flew out of SeaTac Airport.

We landed in Puerto Vallarta and made our way south and east via bus. In Tulum, Mexico we bought a banged up Mazda GLC from some Texans.  $1000 and we drove away with the car with Texas license plates and into Guatemala and parts south.

While we were in Costa Rica, at our most southern point, we were just about out of money - which was fine because we already had our return ticket back from San José.  And we had our little car to sell for spending money in the meantime.  But we weren’t really ready to go back to Seattle yet.  Not ready to leave the days of freedom with no jobs and no responsibilities.  So, we decided to flip it around.  We refunded our tickets, had Matt get the checks, forge our signatures, cash the checks, and then wire us the money.

For a few days we had to subsist on star fruit and coconuts. It was a strange experience to be at the furthest southern tip of our trip, in a so called 3rd world country, and not have enough money for even a meal. At this point nearly everything that we owned had been stolen from us. We had a couple of changes of clothes each, our toiletries, our money belts with our passports, but not one penny between us.  We had a car, but only enough gas in it to make it to the gas station.  When the money from our tickets arrived we celebrated by going to our favorite restaurant for lunch.

Our plan was to drive north all the way to Seattle from our most southern point Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica.  We made it as far north as Mexico - crossing all of those Central American borders for a second time - when our plans were overcome by events.

We had picked up a video camera and we were documenting our return journey.  Driving past a very cool looking church I realized that Siri had her seatbelt off and was hanging out the window with the video camera to get a good shot.  You can hear me saying on the video “Hey, get your seatbelt on!” and Siri’s response “Oh, we’re all going to die, we’re all going to die.” 

Not five seconds after she had sat back down and clicked her seatbelt there was a loud screeching sound. I looked out my window to see our own car’s hood passing us in the other lane - in fact our whole car.  The tie rod had broken on the driver’s side which caused the front driver’s side wheel to snap to a ninety degree angle to the car.  We had been going about 45 miles per hour and around a wide turn which skirted a ravine.  The car performed a quick 540º spinout as we left the road at speed and then commenced to rolling down the hillside three full times.  I am still quite proud of myself because when we were upside down for the first time I reached forward and turned the engine off.

The little Mazda GLC landed right side up.  Two tires had come off their rims, neither door could open and the radiator had been stuffed back into the engine.
Siri had banged her knee on the dashboard a bit, but other than that we were physically fine.  The video that followed had lines running through it (the camera was damaged during the crash) and my voice is about 4 octaves higher than usual.

We had just bought a very large basket in Guatemala.  We put everything we owned into that basket and tied it to the middle of my staff.  We each put an end of my staff of our shoulder and, with the basket swinging between us, hiked up the hill to the road.  Before we headed off I had taken the license plates off and pried the VIN number off the dash and the driver’s side door jamb.  I didn’t want to be fined in any way when we left Mexico without the car we entered with.

Just as we reached the road a farmer came along in a newer Ford pickup truck with two men in the cab and two men riding in the truck bed.  He stopped, looked down at our car, and then at us with a question.  I had seen how south of the border there is not much waste.  If an object or machine has any utility then it will be put to use.  I knew that the engine in the car was likely fine and certainly a lot of the parts.  I said to him “ ¿Este carro? Este es tu carro.”  Which means “This car?  This is your car.”  He replied in excellent english, “Do you want a ride?”  He gave us a ride to the airport and Siri’s dad lent us the money for tickets to his place in Santa Barbara, California.

mexico : church & video camera

costa rica : the police and splitting up

costa rica : starfruit and free floating

costa rica : robbed

costa rica : staff

costa rica : weed

We camped one night on the golden sand beach of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca in Costa Rica.

costa rica : cocaine

costa rica : wedding planner & bartender

costa rica : exorcista tres

costa rica : robbed in san jose

honduras : oregon

honduras : big boss

honduras : kindling and kilns

nicaragua : tree in a skyscraper

nicaragua : pockmarked buildings

guatemala : frat boy and the three year old girl

guatemala : tikal

We were driving through Guatemala and heard about Tikal - amazing ruins of an ancient Mayan city discovered in the jungle.  In 1853 a man was hiking through the jungle and came to realize the hill he was climbing was actually a large stone structure.
We were driving the little Mazda GLC (stands for 'Good Little Car') that we had bought from some Texans near Tulum, Mexico.
A few people had told us that we wouldn't be able to drive to Tikal unless we had a 4 wheel drive truck. The Mazda had front wheel drive and I was twenty-two and I thought we probably could make it through so I started asking people about it.
"Why do we need 4 wheel drive?"
"Because your car will get stuck in the mud."
"But it hasn't been raining for a while..."
"It doesn't matter - you need 4WD."
"But why...?"
"The roads are all red mud and the logging trucks create deep ruts - you need really good clearance - it's bad mud - a car will get stuck."

I discussed it for a while with Siri and finally convinced her that we should go for it.
The promise I made that tipped the scales was that a) I wouldn't get us stuck b) I would be very careful, but mainly c) if we came across a tough patch that she didn't think we could make it through then we would turn around.

So we headed North from El Cruce towards the jungle and Tikal.
It was a dirt road right away, but the going was pretty smooth for quite a while.
It had been dry for about a week, but you could definitely see how the road would be very muddy if there was rain.

Then we came across the ruts.  The road had no shoulder on the left or the right - just jungle growing right up to the road.  I was carefully looking ahead as we drove at about 35-40 MPH tops.  Looking ahead I saw something that didn't quite make sense at first.

The road had a big ridge of mud right down the center.  About 3 feet wide and 2.5-3 feet tall.  Really the 'ridge' was at the same level as the other ground around - really there were two huge deep ruts gouged out of the road by logging trucks.

When the road had been wet and muddy the logging trucks had slogged through - sometimes a bit to the left and sometimes a bit to the right, but always dragging their axle in the middle and digging the ruts deeper as they passed.

Right now there was no muddy mud, there was perfectly dry and packed mud, but with this huge ridge that the car would never be able to straddle - at least not with its tires on the ground.

guatemala : children with machine gun

guatemala : japanese traveler

guatemala : rebels blow up power station

guatemala : book for a kid

belize : plywood sailboat

belize : fucking whitey

My college girlfriend Siri and I were travelling through Central America.  We had been forewarned by travel books and personal testament that Belize City is to be avoided as it is a dangerous place for travellers.  If you have to go through it, common wisdom held, then get through it quickly and do not linger.

A little on the history.  Belize used to be known as British Honduras and was considered by Europeans to be a British Colony.  The British had made treaties with Spain for lumber rights and were specifically after Mahogany lumber.  English and Scottish loggers enslaved Black Africans and brought them to [then] British Honduras as labor to log the Mahogany.  It was a British colony from 1749 to 1964.  While slavery was officially abolished in all 'British Dominions' on August 1st 1834 we know from history that the transition away from slavery is not fast or smooth. British Honduras became a self-governing colony and was renamed Belize in 1964 and then in 1981 Belize gained 'full independence' (quoted because the British have a way of keeping their finger in the pie(s)).

So fast forward to 1989 and Siri (a black woman) and Keldon (a white man) show up in Belize and specifically Belize City.  We were headed out to Caye Caulker on the second day.  We found gated and guarded parking for our Mazda GLC, found a hotel, and had dinner a block from the hotel and then went straight back to our room for the night just to be safe.

We had breakfast at our hotel, put our colorful packs on our backs and started walking down the street which led directly to the docks where the boat waited to take us to the small island.

A couple other things to bear in mind.  I was (foolishly in retrospect) wearing a black and white bundeswehr tank top and carrying my 5'6" birch staff / walking stick.  I had learned in previous Central American countries that it was best for me to walk behind Siri who drew a LOT of attention for being black.  Black people without American, Canadian, or European passports were not allowed into any of the countries surrounding Belize.  When Siri walked behind me there was an amazing amount of cat calls and 'negra! negra!' directed at Siri.  When I brought up the rear and kind of looked stern there was only about a quarter as much bullshit that Siri (and I) had to deal with.  Some weird intersection(s) of sexism and racism that was not enjoyable for us.

Belize City's population is predominantly black.  Belize itself has a greater diversity, but you could walk down most streets in Belize City (at least in 1989) and only see black people.  This was a first for me.  I had never been so clearly a minority before.  So, I am walking down this dirt street with raised wooden sidewalks like in the old west.  I am wearing a german army tank top and carrying a big stick.  My black girlfriend is walking in front of me.  We only need to make it down to the docks at then end of this street.  Our ability to do that came into question right from the start.

I was doing my best to look affable and relaxed -  despite the fact that nearly everyone is turning to glare at me as I walk by.  Because I didn't want to look like I was scared or hurrying I was walking at a relaxed pace while Siri was walking at our normal pace and so slowly pulling away.  The the first person says, not too loud, but loud enough that nearly everyone heard, "Fucking whitey" in a sort of tense through-gritted-teeth sort of growl.  I see that everyone hears it and I just keep walking, but I start to be actually scared.  The thought that I might get beat up, roughed up, or even possibly killed starts to grow in my mind.  After I walk about five more paces someone further away from me and louder says "FUCKing whitey!" with real anger and everyone starts to slow down, stop what they are doing and watch the situation which is clearly escalating.  My head is on a bit of a swivel and so I was looking a bit to the side and back when a very large man steps right in front of me so that I have to lurch to a stop not to run into him.  He was probably 6'5" (to my 5'9"), his shoulders are nearly twice as broad as mine, his hair is a big bunch of dreadlocks and he is also wearing a tank top.  He folds his arms such that his thigh sized biceps bulge and he fairly bellows accusingly in my face, "FUCKING WHITEY!!"

Now by this point in my life I had been to 22 different schools including college.  In fifth grade I went to five different schools.  When you change schools that often and are the new kid that much you learn some coping mechanisms.  I had learned how to fight, but even more (and certainly more importantly) I had learned how to be funny.  Humor can solve a lot of problems and diffuse a lot of situations.  So as I lurched to a stop in the dirt road and my new friend was proclaiming his challenge of "FUCKING WHITEY!!" into my white, blonde face and while every single person stopped what they were doing and turned to look at us in the middle of the road my brain had leapt into hyperspeed and very quickly I thought to myself, "humor is your only chance".

I yelled at the top of my lungs "WOW!!!" and then shaking my head in exaggerated mock disbelief (and taking a half step back) I yelled even a little louder, "WOW!!  You are BIG!"

There was a tense second or two and then the dreadlocked giant smiled, tipped his head back, and laughed with genuine deep belly laughter.  Without wasting any time I said, "You are REALLY really big..." as I side stepped around him.  And he let me go.  And the tension in the moment was gone.  And they let us walk down to the docks and get in our boat without any other incident.

It all happened so quickly and well behind Siri's back that she wasn't exactly sure what had happened.  She said, "What's going on?" I said, "Let's just get to the boat quickly" and there must have been something in my voice because she didn't hesitate to ask any more questions.

Once in the boat my legs and hands were shaking - and not mildly.  I had the biggest dose of adrenalin my body could serve up coursing through me.  We were halfway to the Caye Caulker before my hand mainly steadied.  I had honestly feared for my life and my humorous gambit had been my only chance.  Every time I tell that story I get a little worked up to this day.  I will never forget being the fucking whitey in Belize City.

belize : banana shakes

mexico : throat infection

mexico : mcdonalds and beef

mexico : cockroach(es)

mexico : chicken feet

mexico : muy feo

mexico : puppies on a garbage pile

mexico : police pickup

mexico : lightning storm

stealing from a drug dealer


alaska : bethel taxi driving

alaska : bugh

alaska : midnight sun

alaska : northern lights

alaska : gas fumes

alaska : moose

alaska : keith

alaska : bon fire w halibut and beer

alaska : weed

alaska : staff fight

Pete was from Soldotna.  Most of the people working in the fish cannery on the Kenai Peninsula were not from Alaska. Not Pete - and he was self-conscious about it. Maybe that was why did his best to seem like a bad ass.
Pete would stomp through the crowded camp of closely arranged tents with a dour look on his face.  He would be stage muttering things like “Mother FUCKER” and “Son Of a BITCH” and “Fucking [heavy exhalation]”.  He offended my .

alaska : slap boxing

alaska : brenda

alaska : log rolling

alaska : cia