One thing about working at a Cafe in San Blas that specializes in western food is that you meet a lot of travelers. As often as not, they are students on holiday, or just recently graduated. They come from all around. So far we’ve met Netherlanders, Germans, Scots, Brits, Swiss, Norwegians, Dutch, and tons of Australians.
But we’ve also had the occasion to meet several people who fall outside the category of “holiday traveler.” These are people who live to travel. They have sold most (if not all) of their possesions, most of them have some kind of job they telecommute to, and they just travel.
It’s pretty awesome. These people are crammed with incredible stories, travel tips, and just a general aura of badassness. Today I had breakfast in the cafe next to TD and Kim, who saved up a bunch of money and have been traveling for the past two years. For some it seems really intimidating (myself included). Yet there is something kind of amazing about being untethered, a continuous pilgrim.
Kim and TD are coming to the end of their journey. They are planning on being back in the states sometime this fall (because they don’t have jobs, their trip is unfortunately constrained). I asked Kim if she how she feels about re-assimilating into the corporate world. She said what basically amounted to “I don’t know if I can do it.”
If you want to read about Kim and TD’s adventures across the world, check out anotherfuckingtravelblog.com.
I can tell you the exact date I became a fan of The White Stripes: April 23, 2003. I was fourteen (coincidentally, the same spring that I read Catcher in the Rye). I was at Coachella music festival wading my through a huge crowd, trying to see the Blue Man Group (somewhat of an obsession of mine at fourteen). To get to the BMG I had to pass the stage TWS were playing on. I stopped to watch them play three songs, “Black Math,” “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground,” and “Jolene.” It would be the only time I would ever see them live.
I went home, bought both their first album and Elephant, and have loved them ever since. Despite the fact that I came on board kind of late (six years and three albums after they got together), I was still the first among my friends to listen to them/extoll their endless virtues. Even when I would only listen to a band of it had both screaming and breakdowns, I still loved them.
Meg White was my first, and most enduring, celebrity crush. She is the only female celebrity to grace my walls or the background of my computer. I never got anyone’s gripe with Meg’s drumming. It’s brutal and simple. It’s the essence of rock, almost punk in its ferocity.
Personally, I think Jack White is the greatest/most original rock and roll guitarist in the last thirty years.
I also happen to think The White Stripes are probably destined to be known as the last great rock’n’roll band.
Part of me has no idea why they decided to break up now, and part of me knows exactly why.
I’m sure you don’t care all that much what I think about The White Stripes, and are more interested in what it’s like here in Cusco, but in a way I feel like my dog has died.
The following video is a digital art piece I have been working on for the past few weeks. Part of it was done while in the states, the rest being done here in Cusco. It is the first work made based on a thought process I have been working over since September or October. It should be seen as the beginning of something and not the end result.
To best experience this piece, use headphones while watching the video.
Don’t get me wrong, this place is beautiful.
One of the exciting things about Cusco is how it, somehow, is this place full of seekers. There is something about the city that draws people who are looking. American’s searching for some kind of ancient wisdom about healing plants or rituals or spirits. Young people from all across the continent looking for a way to practice a craft and make enough money at it to get by (or at least get high). Quechua villagers looking for a way to make a better life for their children. Tourists hoping to see something more authentic or “real” than what their day-to-day lives offer them. Shoot, this city brought me here, someone seeking a way to do something that has more meaning than making a living answering phone-calls.
But there is a lie here. I know this, even though I’m not sure what the lie is yet. I know there is a lie, because there is always a lie. In the U.S., the lie is so slick, so pervasive, so apart of everyday life that most people are as aware of the lie as a fish is aware of the water. I’ve got a pretty good handle on the American lie. But here, I’m not sure. There’s got to be a reason why so many people are drawn here.
Where there is a lie, there is also truth. If we seek the truth (genuinely seek the truth, not just seek what we think we want) then we’ll find the lie.
And so we seek together in Cusco.
1. Only photograph places you have been before (the exception to this rule being one time trips to historic/scenic locations, e.g. Machu Picchu, but in such instances allow yourself as much time as possible to absorb the place).
2. Whenever possible, shoot to the side. Do your best not to allow the camera to get between yourself and your subject (this will obviously be difficult while doing street photography).
3. Avoid irony, it is a trap.
4. Adopt a Vivien Leigh attitude when photographing people. Avoid a bourgeois perspective of old/poor/foreign people at all costs.
5. Do not be afraid to waste film. Failed work opens the door to successful work.
6. Follow your intuition, even if it means breaking one/all of the previous rules.
So starting Tuesday, that’s going to be my new home. Right over there on the right side, where those blue balconies are. The Plaza San Blas.
I’m going to miss my home in Nampa. I know people are always surprised when I tell them how much I love it here, but I really do you know? It’s obviously not because it’s the most beautiful, or the most hip or the most happening place. But there is a wonderful spirit and a wonderful people.
But as my friend Mickey the Jump once said, everything will fade, and it’s time for a new setting (at least for a while). I’m excited and nervous, and ready to face this new adventure.
Stay tuned for dispatches from Cusco friends.