A Few Chapters from My Novel
(c) 2003 David Lee Lang
All Rights Reserved
Travel Unexpected Places
No-Planning 101: What to Take; What to Wear
Well, the Yellow Pages was not going to be much help, except perhaps in the Hertz rent-a-camel department. I wasn't even sure I needed a camel. Where was I going? These really important questions are never answered in books like the Yellow Pages, or Encyclopedia Universalis or even 1001 amazing things on CD. National Geographic wasn't any help. It still has amazing pictures though. Made me realize that I needed to take my sketchbook and maybe even a camera.
No, I needed a guide. Someone who had traveled far; who had traveled into the deep backwaters of the places that harbored the soul and secrets of a people. I needed a guide to show me where I was going. I was traveling outside places on any map that Triple-A would sell me. I was traveling to unexpected places.
[In this spot goes Drawing #7<not yet finished> maps]
I felt like I was walking into this trip backwards. Maybe that should be my approach: send the "Wish you were here " postcards out first and buy all my supplies once I got back home. This made as much sense as finding a guide first and then the place for him/her to guide me through. Clearly I needed a person who was traveling, with me, to the beat of a different rock and roll band (definitely not disco).
While I futtzed with the thorny problems of just where I was traveling and how to identify my guide, I decided to take the other aspects of traveling firmly in hand. I had already burned up my mental clutch trying to imagine all those possible situations for which I would need a special this or that. A rather interesting problem: how to plan for the unknown. Rather like life, I decided.
So, what to take that is absolutely essential? How about a snake-bite kit? Do snakes live "There" and do they bite? And what kind of bite? Is it the "ouch" kind of bite? or the "Oh my God, I've got 10 seconds to live and 30 seconds of snake-bite-kit instructions to read!" kind of bite. Better get camel treats too....what do camels like? Are they as intimidating as horses? Well, horses intimidate me ! Any animal that I can't out-glare in my best imitation of Alpha Male is an animal that I prefer to see in the movies.
I tried to ride a horse once, no twice (read "slow learner"). It was the second horse ride that really got me in touch with my true and deep feelings about horses and other bigger-than-me animals. My horse was quietly grazing on the daisies in a thicket of trees and ignoring my rein-pulling, kicking her sides, and other "Come on let's go!" kinds of communication. Suddenly, she was startled by some bug or blade of grass. She went from zero to Godzilla in 10 seconds flat. By Godzilla, I mean, of course, that nothing in her way was going to stop her. This included the thicket of trees that we were in, remember? My screams of pain and fear, as I ricocheted off trees and other fast moving and unidentifiable objects, had no emotional impact on this creature. Screams are completely appropriate for a second time horse ride. After all, I had just barely learned Holding the Reins with Authority 101. Wild Gallop Through Trees was definitely a graduate level course. No "Black Beauty", no "Heart-of-Loving-Gold" animal here. This was a horse worthy of a Stephen King horror movie.
Annah still wonders why I resist the idea of a mule trip down the Grand Canyon. Just the way I want to go; casually catapulted over the edge, when no one is watching, by a mule looking for a bit of animal humor. Conjures up cartoon sounds for me: Wile E. Coyote making that long fall; that receding "Wa hoo ha ha ha ha"; the "bomb falling" whistle sound; and that "far in the distance 'Poof' " of a tiny dust cloud as I hit. Who says television is a wasteland? This, of course, explains the statistic that more people are killed each year by mules than by airplane crashes. A sobering fact that Grand Canyon Mule Tours, Inc. has been trying to cover up for years. Talk about conspiracies.
I don't know, maybe my horse saw one of those bugs that can break pencils. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt. I won't ride her, or any other horse, again, though.
[In this spot goes Drawing #8 <not yet finished> wild-eyed horse head drawing]
I realized that, in a way, my trip was planning itself: Healers and guides that need horses for access are out; countries that have used-horse-lots and used-horse salesmen are out. Probably the same applies to camels. Cross the camel treats off the list.
Back to essentials. A leather bound journal. Now there was an essential. No adventurer worth their special blister-free socks would be caught falling into the Grand Canyon without one. It has to be a classy leather bound journal; rugged, durable, magic symbols tooled in the surface (that only show up on equinoxes in the full of the moon). And a pen; no 3 pens and 5 pencils with erasers, a pencil sharpener, well, a pocket knife would do and serve other survival-in-the-woods kinds of things too. Pens, yes, those really great pens that write in outer space, upside-down and underwater. After all, I still don't know where I am going, so best be prepared. Do they make waterproof paper? Does leather shrink when it gets wet? And what to do with pencil shavings in outer space?
It really is the planning that exhausts me.
Yes, a leather bound journal. One without lines since I will want to draw and I don't like paper lines through my drawings. I still hadn't decided on taking a camera. I am a really good artist. I love taking a flat piece of paper or blank canvas and pulling three dimensional form out of it.
I am the anti-Christ of photography. The Anti-Kodak whose number is ASA666. The number of the bad picture of the beast. I am the guy who takes pictures with the lens cap still on an SLR camera -- the kind of camera that you have to take the lens cap off to even see what you are pointing and clicking at. Maybe I have a really vivid imagination. If only I were taking pictures of what is in my head. I have lots of pictures of my thumb, the ceiling, my surprised face as the flash goes off while I think I am still loading the film.
That's the other problem with cameras: film. Color film or Black and White film, prints or slides, 3 x 5's or 8 x 10's, UV coated and framed for grandma? Grandma takes great pictures. She has pounds of photo albums, each worthy of a Life Magazine special edition. "This is the photo I took of Nixon breaking into the Watergate Hotel. And here is where Jimmy Hoffa is buried." And, "Oh look, there is the one I took of Lee Harvey Oswald getting some assignment from J. Edgar Hoover. Now look here, this is a picture of your mother, isn't she beautiful.." "Now, this one is my favorite, your first potty training moment." She doesn't know I destroyed that picture after she showed it to my first girlfriend. Got the negatives too.
I should take Grandma along as a kind of photography sherpa.
Film. I believe that film developers have a secret network. Once they have your number as an Easy Mark and Bad Photographer, well, it's ugly. I have taken pictures, I have the negatives in my hand and the guy at the One Hour PhotoPhlash will look me in the eye and say, "Sorry, it wasn't in the batch, are you sure you took it?" Must be my vivid imagination. Which is why I don't trust film. I take all these pictures that never appear in this universe, or else they appear in some film developer's secret photo album titled "Worst Pictures of My Career as the PhotoPhlash Service Tech" volume 6. He probably has a couple of albums dedicated just to me. Fame of a sort, I guess.
Still, a camera, a cheap camera, might prove useful. I put it on my "maybe essential list" right after snake-bite kit and the crossed-off camel treats. Short list and I am already tired. Whoa, wait up pardner! I just read that more people are bitten by snakes in their front yard! Move that snake-bite kit to the Absolute Essentials list. And give up mowing the lawn.
"Just bring a drum" is what my guide told me when I asked her what to take. I knew I had found the right guide.