Right, so this little sojourn, to which you are invited, is predicated on the ongoing exploration of the idea that there are two fundamental forces in the universe, namely fear, (withdrawal) and love, (expansion) and that we get to chose in which direction we lean each and every moment, mid pandemia or otherwise. Like every day, all the time. (There is a third principle concerning power/greed, but that’s perhaps more anthropocentric and less universal and I’m not going there.)
You cool with that?
Then we shall begin.
I am now called the African, but I am not from Africa, nor from Europe, nor from Arabia. I am also called the Granadan, the Fassi, the Zayyati, but I come from no country, from no city, no tribe. I am the son of the road, my country is the caravan, my life the most unexpected of voyages. My wrists have experienced in turn the caresses of silk, the abuses of wool, the gold of princes and the chains of slaves. My fingers have parted a thousand veils, my lips have made a thousand virgins blush, and my eyes have seen cities die and empires perish.
From my mouth you will hear Arabic, Turkish, Castilian, Berber, Hebrew, Latin and vulgar Italian, because all tongues and all prayers belong to me. But I belong to none of them. I belong only to God and to the earth, and it is to them that I will one day soon return.
– Leo Africanus (Amin Maalouf)
And so it is. Well, perhaps not quite so many virgins, though my own journey began in Granada, many spins around sol past, and we may come back to that in some other journal, but for now we kick off in rural Japan, where I found myself during the advent of the novel corona virus, and where, after 6 months of ninja training – I decided armageddon outa here.
I could not get a flight to Baja California, which was plan A at that time, so decided to go home to ground in London.
Two outward bound flights were cancelled back to back and it was indeed looking armageddonesque but, outta the frying pan into the fire perhaps, the skies opened and I made it back to Ol’ Blighty, of course, just in time for lockdown.
Lockdown in London, as it turns out, was truly fabulous. Spring and summer were glorious this extraordinary year of our lord 2020, and I found myself meandering daily, on my bicycle, as one does, through the neighbourhood, across the heath, along the river, making friends through arbours and exuberant rose bushes, with those who would normally not have the time of day for some random wanderer, but wander and wonder one must. There is magic whenever and wherever we slow down and pay attention, I swear it. I heard a plenitude of simple stories, a 20 year devotional love affair with a magnificent crimson clematis, the architectural homage carved into a householders gable, about Victor Schauberger and Steiner from a paunchy sunburnt Austrian, playing haunting guitar music on a bench by the Thames. I followed the airwaves echoing across the water till I found him. After a moment outside of time, basking in liquid, sunlit, high tide shimmering bank to bank equilateral, I complimented the man on the ethereal music – and that was it, another life affirming, deep dive through the looking glass of an English summer afternoon. He tells me about the ancient artesian spring, Caesar’s Well, right by my very own place of shelter near Putney Heath, and this becomes my new source – not only of vibrant, fresh sweet water, but meetings with remarkable people all summer long.
Meanwhile, as shit gets more real, or surreal, and pandemia penetrated the minds of the populace, more and more drowning in the media kool-aid, one couldn’t help feeling ever more inclined to turn off the news feeds and just get on with life, right? We needn’t get into the contentious issues of epidemiology, the human virome and all that fervent ground, but as you may already know, I did find one cure – at least it worked for me.
Yet as pandemia did not abate, and I got bored with wanking, I thought to myself, as one does, I’ll just go and rent a farm house and grow kind weed and make some hard cash for the game plan, til all this is over.
Thus, after finding a cool car, and a couple of months exploring the curious Midlands and the magical West country, I finally found an absolutely gorgeous old farmhouse, in way north Somerset, with a huge barn, and got ready to sign all the concomitant contractual obligations, relinquishing any remaining rights to fiscal liberty. But you know… something just didn’t feel quite right. That quiet little voice is my best friend. So… we think, fuck it, let’s cut our losses, do a 180º and reinvigorate that Baja plan. Besides… winters are crap in the UK. Time to fly.
Mulege coastline, BCS (you can hear the kayakers voices over a mile away in this solitude)
So. Baja California Sur is the peninsula that extends below the Mexican border south of California “Norte.” It’s the last frontier, wild, impoverished Sonoran desert. This long narrow appendix, crosses the Tropic of Cancer, harbours the grey whale spawning grounds of the Gulf of Mexico on the east side, and the wild Pacific romping grounds of the humpback off the western edge. Bought a hectare in an oasis here with the ex-wife and my mate Mark who won the football pools and put down some cash in 2004. That all didn’t work out as planned… so we begin again. And of course, this is where I may be found now, in a retro-fitted, solar powered, trailer-home, expropriated from the Burning Man ranch in desolate bum-fuck Gerlach, Nevada, and hauled all the way down here. That’s a long road and a journey in itself I can tell you. I might. But for now, let’s just have some bullet points.
- Recalibrate all previous and variously waylaid plans
- Go to California
- Recalibrate again after being proffered a 2005, 9.75m (32’) long trailer-home from my inimitable sister, 24hrs before leaving the UK.
- Find truck with capacity to haul 4.5 tons (10,000lbs) for under $3k
- Buy 2002 6.0L V8 Chevy Suburban ($3.6k)
- Figure out weight distribution hitches and trailer breaks, for real.
- Pick up forlorn trailer from abandoned storage lot in remote high Nevada desert.
It’s October 2020. On the journey from Monterey (California) to Gerlach (Nevada, via Petaluma to pick up solar panels off a decommissioned commercial install, see, we’re thinking ahead the whole time…) I slept a night in the back of my new Suburban (big enough indeed for a whole neighbourhood, but it was just little old me.) … forgetting, the Black Rock desert is high desert, and after having become accustomed to day/night temperatures of what, 20/16ºC, it dropped to -3ºC (27ºF) but what a dazzling starry desert night it was, a little too invigorating for my blood type nonetheless. Of course it was too cold to shit when I got up before dawn, so fired up the bestial Tonka toy and set off on final stretch to the BM playa. (In case you are not familiar, the Burning Man “playa” is the vast open plane of a lake bed, flanked by apparently modest, though in fact massive (given deceptive scale of landscape) red mountain ridges – think Martian planes and you’re there.) It was, like, totally deserted. Came across not another living soul in days. Like, the whole desert, from Reno to the playa, except for when I finally decided to pull over to take a dump in a gulley below the road, when of course I hear a vehicle slow down and pull over while my trousers are round my ankles. It was, wouldn’t you know it, a cop. Busted with my pants down – how about that. He was just checking to make sure I was OK. Yeah, well. Wished I’d got a shot of him actually. Big fellah. Immense muscly police man, tattooed all over, wide grin. Fairly surreal, Twin Peaks moment to be sure. Anyway, driving through this god forsaken, harsh and remote country without 10,000+ free spirited revellers in hot pursuit – not even one – well, just the one, was exceptional, it must be said.
Dawn on Pyramid Lake, Nevada
Long story short, well lets do some more bullet points:
- Haul trailer back to Monterey. (That was a dramatically long haul, way over the high Sierra’s, tranny and engine braying, endless no where to stop long central valley home stretch)
- Sort out (two years of) playa exposure and the dust (this is infamous, high desert lake bed, alkaline, super fine, clingy clay dust – it never actually goes away – it’s antimatter.)
- Order solar charge controller, inverter, hammock, hat, shade structure, bulk supplies (mostly looseleaf Earl-grey.)
- Hit the road proper.
As timing would have it, I spent my last footloose night in California on a lone desert bluff, just north of the Mexicali border, Jupiter and Saturn on high. Dawn was the morn of the day of my birth – how bout that. I crossed the border into Mexico that morning and how could you not help feeling that was auspicious. Nevertheless, the really quite cute and sexy customs lady officers in tight fitted uniforms took all my money. Well, not all, but a good slice of my diminishing pie. Rebirth has always got to be a bit uncomfortable I suppose. Cunts. (No broader insult to the fairer sex there, just customs cunts.)
Wow. Mexico. Borders. The shocking contrast across a political high fence. A dramatic and charged line dividing culture, landscape, opportunity and liberty. This border presents a brazen contrast between poverty and wealth in stark relief – and depending on how you attribute all of these terms, I am not yet sure which side of this divide is the richest.
In fact, a man has to go far, from everyone and everything he knows, to be truly alone, to find himself, and that quiet voice, on a far away desert beach at dawn, waiting in stillness for sunrise, the divine whisper in the lapping waves…
I heard a voice say, a cup of fucking tea wouldn’t half be nice right now… could have been God’s voice, we were that close, but think it might have been mine – hard to say. Though I happen to know God does drink earl grey.
You read this far! Might as well subscribe for the next episode…