Got lost in the Centro Historico – the Old Town – riding past crumbly colored houses stacked on hillsides, smushed breathlessly with a million other Quitenos on the bus. Accepting that I had no idea where I was, I tried to get off, but the doors shut sooner than I could finish climbing my way through the forest of thick sweaty limbs tangled together in the limbo between stops, reaching for steel poles and gasping for air. I got out at the next stop and walked who-knows-where – along a busy road strangling a vacant mountain – no people around except for in cars. Reminded me of long stretches of roads all over the U.S. with sidewalks unwalked on for ages – 15 miles to the next stoplight, islands of forest breaking up the homes from the roads – except that walking along the road in Quito I saw some abandoned building in the valley to my right; nothing really keeping me from the fall. About three walls survived whatever destroyed everything else – reddish, sandy pillars cascading in linear ruins overgrown with a wild green, hugged by a frothy river. The road curved to a bus stop and I waited there in the sun. Tons of buses passed by, men swinging by their open doors shouting destinations like superfast spoken word poems –Chillogallo Quitumbe Eugenio Espejo La Mayorista El Trebol todo el Colon; they stop and start with the coming and going of clients leaving great black clouds and whirlwinds of dust in their wake, all of Quito a terminal, the following stops all foreign; titles of books not yet read.
Planning on moving to Montreal by the end of the year. Any help (in the form of free room and board preferred – joking! kind of) would be appreciated! Already I’m thinking how – let’s use the word, ‘unwise’ – it would be to move to Montreal in the dead of
Very happy that my historical destination piece on Cuenca, Ecuador has just been published as the cover feature over at Travel Thru History. Check it out, yo.
Photo taken in Mindo, Ecuador.
Everywhere All The Time #1 is a radical travel zine featuring tons of color photos, sketches and writings from all ova the place, wrapped in a vellum cover and completely typewritten on my Remington Streamliner. Click on the ‘read the zine’ button to pre-order for $5 now and get free shipping; remember I’m sending this shit from Ecuador!
More on what the heck ‘radical travel’ is…to come!
I stood guard over Rocio’s pack and stared at the stuff being sold at the stands across the phone booths: long plastic bags stacked with small apples hanging from mysterious corners like appendages, lollipops of every color, fresh empanadas
, bread wrapped in brown paper bags stained with margarine. An indigenous woman with two long braids sat on a stool between the stands and stared nowhere. Rocio said the call didn’t go through and I played with a tiny white puppy for a few minutes, I think. Who knows? Time flies when you’re playing with tiny white puppies at the bus terminal.
To the West, dark clouds hung low over the peaks, full of storm. To the East, the sun shown in a light blue sky and fluffy white clouds stuck onto it like balls of cotton. How could the sky fit all this contrasting madness? I hurt my neck checking it all out. This is Quito.
So, an eleven hour bus ride. Rocio took the window seat and fell asleep. It took awhile escaping the city for it to transform into country – cows grazing on steep mountains, indigenous women sitting on stoops with green or black fedora hats, flowing blue velvet skirts and their faces in their palms. A deaf black man got on the bus and handed out little pieces of paper that read “there is no work for people like me.” I gave him fifty cents and he gave me tons of tamarind favored candy – hard on the outside with a soft, chewy center. I felt like they were the symbol of something foul. I felt guilty. I ate them all.
“I modeled Yunior clearly on my own experience as an immigrant kid growing up in NJ. That binary…of home/failure or away/success—I grew up with that shit all around me, the Scylla and Charybdis of my childhood. On one side you had the escape narrative that insisted that the only way out of economic social deprivation—the only way to advance, to make something of yourself—was to abandon your community and build a life exclusively in the larger (whiter) world (as if the reason one is poor and marginalized is because of one’s community). A narrative that was on me particularly hard as an immigrant, as a kid who had been designated as “smart.” The idea that I would maintain any loyalty to my broke-ass landfill neighborhood once I got to college was considered on all sides as pretty absurd. (Clearly I understand the desire to escape insecurity and hostile material conditions, but I don’t agree you need to erase the past that made you possible to do so. Any success that requires you to sacrifice your younger self over the altar of Advancement is no success at all—at least not to me.)”
“As an immigrant and an honors student (before I got kicked out of that track senior year) and as a kid who grew up deep in the neighborhood, I had both narratives on me to an oppressive degree. And felt a lot of pressure to choose one side or another: to either embrace home like mad or reject it like mad. Of course within each choice was embedded a whole set of expectations. If you stay at home, don’t talk too much about books, don’t try to get motherfuckers to engage in “intellectual’ discussions,” don’t talk about an ethnic studies course you took or the study abroad you did in Japan. Same thing: if you go away to say college, don’t dwell too much on race and certainly not on how racialized poverty and class are in this country. Don’t mention white supremacy. Keep your ghetto shit to yourself.”
“Over time I became very aware that people had a lot invested in you choosing sides. You had to choose one or the other but not both, not neither. Complexity was out of the question. Multiple loyalties were another way of saying betrayal. I eventually realized that these bipolar choices were not only ridiculous, they would also require me to jettison the essence of who I am. My multiplicity, my complexity, my simultaneity.”
-Junot Diaz. Read the Rumpus interview in it’s entirety here
. Photo taken in New Orleans, LA 2008.