Fear and Loathing around the World: a Gonzo Traveler’s Manifesto for Madness

travel-tattoo   “There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda. . . . You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . . And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .” – Hunter S Thomson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Hunter S. Thomson wrote of a certain spirit, a particular perspective and approach to life that is in its own unique way, absolute madness. It is electric, like having every single one of the nerves in your body plugged into the moment you’re in, shooting a thousand and one watts of energy into your spirit, and feeding off chaos. It is a glorious maelstrom of seediness and absurdity, a healthy dose of weird, all blended with a heaping serving of cynicism and true grit (and we were chock full of that, man). As he so earnestly recounts his infamous adventures in Las Vegas alongside his perpetually zonked Samoan side kick/lawyer, Dr. Gonzo, Thomson instills in generations to come an insatiable zest for adventure and a taste for the extremely weird (because of course, when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro). It would be putting mildly to say that Thomson has deeply affected my understanding of life, love and adventure. I believe that I live my life according to the teachings of Hunter S. Thomson with the same fervor most would attribute to a religious faith.

Knowing all of this, knowing how incredibly magnified every moment of life has the potential to be, makes sitting still an almost impossible task. I find a lot more ease in the notion of booking an impromptu solo trip to Prague than to sign a one year contract for an office job. The latter terrifies me, the prior sets my soul alight, igniting a fire in the part of me that craves adventure that feeds and survives off it. Landing somewhere new is an absolute high. A euphoric feeling that cannot quite be penned – it’s an internal excitement, one that doesn’t quite translate to words. Meeting a new set of people in another country alone is exhilarating – and connecting with them on things you never really knew translated cross culturally, is truly something. It’s like meeting a new set of characters in a pilot for show you know is going to be great. A traveler is serene and at peace with the mundane, because he knows what lies beyond his borders. He has seen the others, and their mothers. He has dined with them, he has experienced with them and he has been the other.

Gonzo travelling is that sense of childlike infatuation with life; the notion that excitement and adventure are always around the corner, just a trip away. It’s wanting more out of life, wanting to stretch and milk every moment for everything it’s worth. Pushing buttons and limits right left and center and picking up all the freaks along the way. Raoul Duke describes Dr. Gonzo as “One of God’s own prototypes. Some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production.” Be that mutant. It’s about wandering, not aimlessly, but for the sole purpose of kicking up dust and leaving impressions on people that will last long after you’ve moved on. That’s Gonzo. It’s rabid and raw, and offers no apologies.

So whether it’s knocking down local brews in dusty Beirut bars, passionately singing along to Dylan under dim lights reliving an era you never actually lived, or sightseeing in Madrid at 3 am with some glorious local misfits, or reading in the park in Berlin while buskers fill the jovial summer air with their adorably mispronounced covers, or surviving the cold after a night out in Camden, audibly gasping at local kids run around in tee shirts and leopard print miniskirts, or lying on your back in a cemetery on a hill top in the south of France, watching a meteor shower with some starry eyed international kids, or even taking that long overdue road trip into the Arabian desert – find madness. I believe in madness. I believe in the absurd. I believe that life guides you along with fleeting hints, and if you’re too entrenched in the mundane those hints will be lost on you, and soon, they will give up and become few and far between. Don’t become another disenchanted youth, don’t squander your time, and don’t settle. To travel is to live, and to accept madness into your mind is to let go the tension created by the desire for order. Life is not ordered. It cannot be mapped out nor predicted. You cannot foresee heartbreak or everlasting friendship. Trying to control everything is akin to desperately trying to force a square peg into a round hole. There are no rules in Gonzo. And so I preach: accept madness, embrace adventure, and write it all down; because you can’t take anything with you, but you certainly can leave it all behind for others to find.

Response to Palestinian ZARA Shorts outrage

This is the article being responded to:

http://smpalestine.com/2014/06/12/zara-makes-shorts-out-of-stolen-palestinian-kuffiyeh-design/#comment-103491

This kind of attitude genuinely bothers me, and I made my feelings known:

I don’t know. Fashion is fashion, and is inspired by everything and anything, and every once in a while a certain print or fashion unique to a certain culture breaks into the mainstream and nobody blinks. What do they mean by “without offering any context, credit, or hint of sensitivity”? Should every pair of moccasins come with a book on Aboriginal and Native American history? Should every aztec looking print from Forever 21 come with an attached brochure on Aztec and Mayan art and culture? Seems like much ado about nothing. I on the other hand, need me a pair asap cause they cute as sh*t.

I hate the headline “stolen palestinian kuffiyeh design”, inno you and your mom are not the only people to own a kuffiyeh, nobody broke into your safe and stole it. Its a very popular print in it’s own right, and I myself can be very uncomfortable about things relating to cultural appropriation, I just don’t know if this is an example of that. If nothing else, people who buy these and wear them thinking they’re just cute, will be more likely to find out at some point where that print originates, shedding light on an issue or a culture that might be lacking that exposure in parts of the world.

Native Americans have a long and bloody history with “settlers” in their lands. I’m positive some native girls would have the exact same things to say to a picture of Mary-Kate Olsen rocking a tiger-lilly-esque outfit or Mischa Barton in knee high, suede frill moccasin boots. Theirs is a “cause” if I ever saw one, one that has been going on for a much longer chunk of history. That being said, everyone from Bon Jovi to Beyonce, and anyone who’s every shopped at Forever 21 or Zara or anywhere for that matter, has at some point rocked some form of Native American fashion statement, without a second thought. Because you’re wearing a trend, or shoes, not a long bloody history. It’s not cause for outrage. It’s irrealistic to think we pause and ponder every item of clothing we put on before we put it on.

I have a lot of Indian inspired tops, but I don’t pause to think of Gandhi’s plight, or Imperialism, or Bollywood before getting dressed in the morning.

This kind of stuff would be cultural appropriation if it was done maliciously – but it totally isn’t. Outrage has no place here. It’s far too butthurt to scream culture thief cause someone with a different nationality wants to wear something of your culture – whether they are aware of that fact or not. It’s claiming an element of culture as your own. It cannot be extended to using a certain print on an item of clothing, ZARA isn’t claiming to have made it up, nor are they implying that it is a traditionally Spanish print. Everyone needs to calm their hummus this kind of overly sensitive belligerent nationalist attitude is what antagonizes others and makes them less empathetic to a very important and worthy cause – something I think we can all agree on.

Indulge me for a moment

Some thoughts on fleeting moments of bliss, as inspired by Beckett.

Beckett had the right idea when he talked about how ephemeral and fallible the human body really is, and how miserable our existence is as a result of that. Granted he was a severely clinically depressed suicidal lunatic, but nonetheless, there is truth to his words. We live our day to day lives waiting for Godot and yet we don’t realize Godot comes around with every success and every crush and every song. Godot is around when we’re with the ones we love, in the place we love. We wait and we wait and we wait for something which we already have. Maybe that’s what Beckett was actually trying to say. Maybe it wasn’t. He did always refuse to comment on his work and now his secrets are, to his great amusement I’m sure, forever buried with him. Maybe it’s a good thing though, that our minds are a feeble as he tried to make us realize. When we suddenly realize how many times Godot has come and gone in the past with us blissfully unaware of his subtle presence, our souls are crushed. You know, when you go through old poems you’ve written, or recall conversations you’ve had, or better yet go through pictures of another version of you from an era now dead and gone doing things in places you vaguely recall being home with people you no longer know? By then our bodies would have already undergone full cell regeneration to recreate us thrice over, but the mind is an amazing thing. Those triggers set our minds back to the setting they were on in that point of our existence. System restore. Feelings flood back, memories, scents, successes and music all rush to our finger tips and for a split second we are transported in time to the state of mind of a person we used to be. In the time that it takes to smile at the nostalgia of it all, it’s gone. We are now painfully aware those times are no longer relevant. We are no longer that person. I am no longer that girl. I am but an older version of what I used to be and not necessarily a more evolved one. In fact regression is a dreadful possibility.

If these moments of agonizing awareness of the past were to take place simultaneously for every era, for every phase and every friend, and if they were to occur often, they would impede our ability to function and live on. What I’m saying is Beckett was right to illustrate the weakness of the human mind, but the point he failed to grasp is that maybe it is a very good thing we cannot constantly recall every detail of our lives, because the realization of all the Godots we’ve ignored whilst waiting for Godot is the true tragedy. Our minds being feeble might be one of our greatest defense mechanisms. In fact this might be the worst catch of all time. You spend your life waiting for Godot not realizing he was there all along. You turn around and he’s gone, but in reality, he’s just hiding. When future you looks back at current you, they will see Godot lurking in the background. And so on. Is there, therefore, no way to be happy living in the present? And I don’t just mean happy, I mean truly content. Remembering all the times that now seem so far away, hurts. It hurts because we want them back. The good old days. Why can’t today’s days be those good old days without having to wait a few years for them to become so? In any case, whatever Beckett was trying to say in between suicide attempts holds a painful truth. We do live our lives eagerly expecting Godot every day, not knowing every moment we spend breathing on this earth is one spent in his unsuspecting company. His message might not have been that grim after all. Live for today, not for tomorrow and not in yesterday. If we take full advantage of today, we will hopefully long for our yesterdays a lot less. Godot is in your fingertips. In every smile. He’s around every corner and in every line of every song that incites that smile just waiting to be noticed, just wishing you would stop waiting for him.

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Reality is Relative

Reality is relative. I see poetry in life. Dramatic irony. Little things happen to us everyday that are in and of themselves poetry. It doesn’t get any more real than reality. Life has a sense of humor, it drops us little hints everyday to remind us that we are living. Granted, sometimes its sense of humour is dark, but its almost like these things are a wake up call to to remind us that we are living, breathing things, and that life is finite. You only get one shot. Losing something almost serves to remind us that we are still here, engaging in the activity of living, reminding us that everything we do, every decision we take, everything we say – is a part of our story. Life is over all else, lonely. Even when it is, it is still worth it. Life is poetry, and sometimes poetry is tragic. Most people pass off these little reminders as mere coincidence, but some choose to see them for what they are. Our entire existence is so incredibly short relative to time, which of course, is infinite. If we squander away what micro fragment of time and space we possess, we’ve wasted the only thing that really matters. People stop living everyday, not ceasing to exist, but no longer engaging in the activity of life. People stop taking the time to think, to ponder, to enjoy the simplicity of even the most ordinary of existence. How’s your life? Are you living? You’re in your present right now, a present that becomes past with every passing second. Are you making it count? Are you making your past worthy of your story?