Sunday, April 24, 2005

Going to the Waterfall

number twenty-one

I have decided to change everything and move away from my city, my friends, and my family. I am in the middle of thinking about that now. 921 words.

[KY]—There’s a story that goes here. About ten years ago—it would have been late November or early December, 1995, when I was first in Mexico—I traveled to a little place called Palenque. I had already seen a lot of Mexico’s Pacific seaboard, and I was moving on to the basin of the Yucatán Peninsula, which is mostly filled with the rain forests the Maya used to inhabit. The name Palenque identifies a little town in northern Chiapas State, as well as the dramatic site of a ruined Mayan city, smaller than the famous ones at Chichén Itzá and Teotihuacán, but more romantic than any (save maybe Tikál, in Guatemala) for its dense jungle location and its perpetual state of mid-discovery. Here there were places where it was possible for me to feel like I was finding things that had actually lain dormant for a thousand years.

I liked the little town of Palenque, too. It was a muddy, butt ugly enclave that looked much the way I imagine a gold rush town to look. Lonely Planet calls it “scruffy”. Shockingly temporary-looking corrugated buildings and stone piles, which had obviously been in use for decades, served as little restaurants and post offices and the like. There seemed to be some trouble with the addresses, as nothing much seemed like it mirrored what the travel guide said it would be like, and I got the impression early on that maybe this town re-arranged itself frequently like maybe a bazaar or a flea market.

The bus station was located on a wide, almost modern-looking avenue off the highway, which served the town as a shopping center, as well as a sort-of utilitarian zócalo, or public social park. From there one walked into the town, which was filled with trees headlining daily fights between birds and bats at dusk, lots of swampy, jungle flora, and, again, mud. I had a good time there. I had an excellent time at the ruins.

On the way out of town, I discovered that my information regarding the bus schedule was a little off, leaving me with all of my baggage in my hands, and several hours to kill with the youth of Palenque on what is rationally to be considered the Palenque mall: this area around the bus station. This is an area that I had not really explored, so I was game about looking around in shops and things until the bus arrived, but didn’t want to get too distracted and chance having to rent a room for another night.

After a while, my bag was getting heavy, and the Yucatán can be a sweltering place where the shade has been cleared away to make room for things like avenues, shops and bus stations, so I sought out a dark restaurant, and I settled in to write some postcards and wait it out. Near me two young women wearing bikini tops sat drinking Cokes. Soon enough they began to ask me what I was doing, and where I was from. One of them was from San Antonio, and the other from someplace in Mexico, and they were here visiting extended family. They seemed to know their way around pretty well. After their drinks, they said, they were going to drive down to the ruins—which were closed on Sunday—to a spot they knew where you could get under the fence. From there, a short trek would take them to a waterfall not far away. The said that the waterfall was beautiful and tall, shady and cool, and was the best place in the world. They asked me if I wanted to come.

I was forty-five minutes away from getting on a bus, and I had everything that I owned in the world clutched beside the table and weighing a lot. I didn’t know these women, and I was a little wary about the possibility of nefarious intent. I apologized and told them that I couldn’t go. They looked disappointed, but said okay, and then continued chatting for a little while longer as they finished their Cokes. Then, waving farewell, they made their was out of the restaurant and down the avenue, out of sight.

I waited for my bus, it arrived after a while, and then it took me to San Cristóbal de las Casas, or somewhere. I continued to think about the women and their waterfall throughout the day, through out all of Mexico, I guess. I’ve returned to it, this decision that I made, a thousand times in my mind. Somewhere along the way, I began to use the story of the waterfall as a fable of star-crossed grand chance, where the road that wasn’t taken might have lead to something really worth getting to. I began to use the phrase “going to the waterfall” as shorthand for dodging a missed opportunity. I dimly remember several drunken early mornings, standing in the wind shouting a promise to the sky that I would never, ever miss out on the best place in the world again.

Last night, I spent my last night as a regular at Café Europa. I saw many of my friends, and had a wonderful time, spent doing my usual kind of socializing with my favorite people. When it was almost over, it got really difficult to carry through, and then I had to get in the car and leave my home.I just wanted to find the words to somehow explain how it is I could possibly do that.

Quiet Reading Room

This is a quiet reading room. Often, I find it is uncomfortable to digest long tubes of columned text directly off a computer screen. This journal is dedicated to the collection, percolation, and ultimate integration of my personal experiences. Subjects that I want to examine and then talk about--sometimes talk a lot about--€”are presented here. This central content can tend to thousands of words, maybe millions. I was afraid that readers were leaving the presentation boggled, spinning, googly-eyed. Or perhaps when confronted with twenty-four inches, or yards, of monitor sprawl they were just giving up. I am not even certain that I have necessarily solved this inevitable content problem of modern information enjoyment, but here is what I have done.

After long and highly scientific routines manipulating double-blind control- and test-subjects, peer reviewed journal publications, and hours and hours of hands-on experimentation, I have crafted this quiet reading room. There is no scientific way to control the length of the articles I write, but careful handling can somewhat soothe the contextual presentation. In other words: I have dropped the traditional speculation about lexicon, and attacked the question of the matrix itself instead. Brilliant. After years of diligence what I eventually crafted is this reading room.

The walls are contoured to relax instead of constrain; the paper is made to soften instead of reflect. The light is dimmed--just so--€”to prevent strain, angled to prevent umbra, and color-coded to soften harsh red lights and deepen wimpy light reds. There is nothing I can do to control aural environment, but my recommendation is that it should be kept quiet. About ambient sound: these entries are probably best read as far as possible from emergency vehicles, preferably from beneath the muffler of a vintage fire fighter pilot's scarf, puffy old duvet, or snow that is still falling.

My theory is that the wide web world is filled with potent and material opportunities that are just too difficult to digest for many people to take part. Enjoyment of this stuff is regulated to the routines of crawlers and robots at the peril of humankind's peaceful future survival. In an attempt to delay this likely outcome: welcome to this quiet reading room. It is for people like you to relax, kick back, and hate my content for better reasons than the dizzying vertiginous specter of its lousy dpi presentation.

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