Thursday, August 06, 2009


I don't know what I'm doing here. It took thirteen hours to cross 800 miles west on I-10 up 285 toward Ruidoso, New Mexico, to pop a squat at a little spot on the tail end of the Rocky Mountains. Besides wanting to stop one thing and start another, I'm not sure what else to do. The problem is that I brought myself with me, and it would be really nice to get a break. Coworkers: Vanessa. Roommates: Vanessa. I'm looking at the woman in the mirror all the time and asking her to make a change, so I took her to the mountains to see what we could do.

The other day I caught a marathon of "No Reservations" on The Travel Channel, a show hosted by Anthony Bourdain, chef, writer, restauranteur, and pugnacious critic. Tony is really a philosopher, which makes his profession perfect--he immerses himself in visceral and anthropological pleasures by day and night. (The woman in the mirror just perked up.) Tony's show follows him on world travels, often to remote parts of Malaysia or whatever country he is visiting at the moment. He is an observer and participant, simply there to experience what he hasn't known before. At the end of the Malaysia episode, he gives an audio commentary that runs over scenes of him watching a helicopter come to pluck him from the longhouse where he's been staying. It's a summation of where he's landed by the end of his journey. He says that living in the village for those days had changed him. He says that travel should do that. He says that a place so far away and different than the world from which you've come is intoxicating. As you watch his mind traverse all that is new and see the twinkle in his eye, you want to know all the more what he's thinking. What's it like? And why is Tony so smitten, this world traveler and purveyor of the tastiest cuisine, from five-star to street vendor? Malaysia looks ordinary, the water muddy. It must be very close to the other side of his moon, and by definition, then, the apex of the journey.

The monotonous can be good, though. Habits can be good. People say it takes 21 days to make something stick. Hopefully you've chosen mountain biking instead of meth. What I know of this is that if you busy your body you can free your mind, through repetition of action you get a release. I'm sure we all experience this on different levels. For some, being surrounded by the comforts of home can shake off the stresses of the day. Others meditate. I'm more like Bourdain. It requires flipping me upside down like a salt shaker to find that release.

Getting back to the "changes you" part that Bourdain whispered, going some place new changes you, he says. Like this is religious wisdom from a guru, I eat it up. Or maybe it was the unmistakable look of blissful satisfaction on his face that told me it was true. Actually, it was simple recognition. I know it. When you get away from what you know for awhile, you see the world differently, see yourself differently. Possibilities expand so that you might have some new thought or direction or experience or feeling. Like Italy, don't you just want to dive right into it? Take me away! Escapes are not as much about what you leave behind as they are about what you gain. Progression, simple motion, is a guide to the apex.

And that brings me back to these mountains. It's not as different as I need it to be. Coworkers: Vanessa. Roommates: Vanessa. But, when I leave these four walls, slowly, trepidatiously out on my own to find the lake at the Inn of the Mountain Gods, and run along it, or chat up the locals, have a meal by myself, and open a new book instead of sitting in front of the television, a little something something happens. I'm going to keep at it a while longer.