On the back of the airplane seat, directly in front of me, is an entertainment console with music, movies, and diversions.. If I hit a flight tracker button on the console, I can see the path of our current flight in midair, the wind speed, plane speed, miles traveled, miles to go. A little symbolic airplane, on the screen in front of me, is following a perfect white line that connects where I started this trip and where I am ending this trip. Right now, my plane is half way across the Pacific Ocean.
Checking the flight tracker has become a flight habit of mine.
The worst thing about this flight is that I will have to wave at Denver as we fly over it and then board a plane in Minneapolis to fly back to Denver which adds hours to my journey. My car is parked in a Denver International Airport parking lot. If I was a parachuting guy, I could pull a D.B. Cooper and bail out, without any money, just to save hours off my trip.
One of these days, Scotttreks will fly around the world without having to backtrack, take all direct flights, and eat caviar in First Class.There will be plenty of leg room and all stewardesses will be knockouts, hired entirely for their hourglass anatomy.
Scotttreks has become my own personal flight tracker.
Keeping track of where I am, in space and time, is a project I can’t, in good conscience, leave to anyone else.
Keeping track of my travels is not a chore or a responsibility, but I do call it a healthy obsession.
Sitting at a computer and juggling words doesn’t cost me a penny and traveling to see the world isn’t a bad way to gin up things to write about.
Some tunnels are rabbit holes, some filled with pack rat vaults. Some tunnels are underground, dark and womb like, leading to gold and silver leprechaun caches. Some tunnels are constructed with giant boring machines, go under seas and through mountains to large impressive cities. Through some tunnels we enter this world, and through others, leave.
This horizontal escalator is a metaphor for our times. Pampered, we need to walk, but aren’t forced to.
Two girls pass me, in a hurry. One lifts her phone and takes a selfie.
This gleaming tunnel moves us all steadily forwards. We go where we are told,are put where we are wanted, are entered on flight lists, and ring up charges on our credit cards in a debt-centric world.
I think I’m in a rabbit hole and, like Alice, trying to find real and valuable isn’t always easy.
This flat escalator, if I stayed on it, could roll me right off the edge of our Earth.
When I come to the escalator’s end, I pick up my little suitcase and get back to walking like i was designed to do.
“Watch out for the stone, ” the short order cook says, as he slides my meal across the counter to me. ” It is very hot.
I look at a dark stone shaped like a huge pill on my plate, then look at my under cooked meat next to it. The hot stone, it appears, is used to finish cooking the little slices of steak, as us customers desire them. By placing each slice on my own hot stone, I can cook my steak rare, medium, done, or well done, just like I like it. I am not just a consumer of a product, but a participant in it’s preparation.
I’m sure this cooking technique has been around for thousands of years in Japan, but it is new to a trail tired New Mexico cowpoke.
The whole process makes it twice as long to finish my dinner,as it usually takes ,but I enjoy my food more.
Hearing meat sizzle on the stone reminds me of summer backyard barbecues and cooking over a campfire.
At the end of this meal, I am happy with my steak, and, if I have to blame anyone for it’s cooking, it has to be me.
That, I figure, is the final exclamation point of this entire culinary and writing exercise.
There were trains for getting around before there were planes. You have to walk before you can fly.
The first trains were big, lumbering, uncomfortable, dark, and were powered by men shoveling coal into fireboxes to heat water and using the created steam to turn gears and wheels. Train tracks were wide and it took the help of thousands of Chinese immigrants to lay down track from one side of our American continent to the other.
Modern trains are sleeker, well lit, aerodynamic, fast.
Waiting for the Number 8 bullet train in the Narita Airport,we commuters stand religiously at our proper pick up spot.
When my train stops and its door opens, I step inside and take my seat and hope I haven’t gotten on the wrong slow boat to China. As we make more stops,new passengers, that have no seat, grab rings hanging from the ceiling with one hand, hold on to their purse or suitcase firmly with the other.
The ride from the Narita airport to the Haneda Airport is two hours through pastoral Japan countryside, and through medium size cities.
The streets and countryside are all well swept, the architecture a mix of old Japan and new. Occasionally, through the train windows, I see ancient looking Japanese temples that have survived destructive wars with their unimaginable consequences.
My commute gets me to the Haneda Airport and I grab my carry on bag. I have four hours to get from one airport to the other, get my boarding passes, get to my right gate, and board the right plane. Two and a half of those four hours are already burned up in transit.
Japan has captured my attention.
Coming back to Japan, one of the things I want to do, is to take Godzilla to a Sumo wrestling tournament.
I think he would enjoy seeing two big men wearing diapers and trying to throw one another out of a ring not much bigger than they are.
The nautical miles click by and Marinduque disappears.
The Philippines move into memories, that funky place where facts get forgotten, emotions get heightened, truth gets obscured, and we turn experiences into what we want them to be instead of what they really were.
Montenegro lines will get us safely across this pond and when we dock it is still a four hour bus ride to Manilla, a throbbing, bustling metropolis that even locals want to avoid.
Tomorrow, early, I take a plane to Japan, then Minneapolis,then finally to Denver. Time zones will be barreled through like a NFL lineman going after a quarterback,
There is a saying that ” Wherever you go, There you are. ”
There is another equally powerful old saying that, ” Travel changes you. ”
The water is still and opaque.There are islands we pass that wave at us and seabirds glide above us, their extended wings riding the drafts. A sailor takes a last puff on his cigarette and flips it overboard with his forefinger. In the sitting area a kung fu movie is kicking and those that can sleep, do. I hug Alma and say my goodbyes.
Travelling by boat is not fast but I have learned not to be in a hurry.
On this day, Gwen graduates from kindergarten at a local community center.
It takes some urging to go on stage with her aunt April, but she walks on and is recognized.There are recitations by some of the kids, comments by teacher’s and invited guests, a small lunch afterwards.
We have no crystal balls to know the future.
We hope she has many graduation ceremonies, has dreams and achieves them, takes advantage of her abilities, compensates for her shortcomings, finds people that love her.
By the end of the ceremony, balloons are broken or fly up and away into the coconut trees.
Proud parents and relatives walk home with one hand on a paper certificate, the other holding the hand of their future.
Albert and Bella are two of five dogs at the house.
There are also two cats plus a new Kitty who joined the wrecking crew last night, abandoned in the road and following us home. Next morning it is curled up against one of the dogs on the front step, unaware that cats and dogs are supposed to be enemies, not friends.
There is a horse tied up in the next door vacant lot, two roosters, three hens and nineteen eggs hatching. There are eight pigs, lizards climbing on walls, two new parakeets. A cow grazes close by. Fish are in the river, pigeons are in coconut trees, a spider web is growing where the trunks of two trees meet by a back fence.
Yesterday we saw a Komoto Dragon eyeing the chicken coop but he disappeared when Alma threw a a stone at him that just missed.
This is, Alma says, ” my Gilligan’s Island. ”
I haven’t seen Gilligan but I expect he is hiding out in the hills living off his Social Security, smoking weed for aching joints, and trying to get organized.
As Sunday afternoon grows close, the roosters crowing takes on more urgency. On Sunday afternoons, a stadium in a local neighborhood opens for business and men pay for permits to fight their birds.
The fighting cage in the middle of this stadium looks small from the bleachers and the birds inside it are hard to see.However, you can tell how the match is going by listening to the rise and fall of waves of sound. Sound rumbles at the beginning of the fight as birds are primed and hawkers take bets. It crescendos during the match, if it is a good one. At the end, there is almost a silence as the referee picks up a dead rooster who has lost and presents it to the owner of the winning rooster to take home and put in his cooking pot.
Fighting is both human and animal history.
Martial Arts cage fighting makes the old Friday night television boxing matches look tame. Gladiators in Roman extravaganzas bled in the sand and crowds watched the Emperor’s thumb to see if a man lived or died. David and Goliath was a spectacular Biblical fight.
This early round is over quickly and a new pair of animal contestants and their human trainers enter the ring.
I bet a thousand pesos and lose, but next week will be different.
This event, for me, isn’t entertaining.
Betting on life or death isn’t a wager I like to make, especially when animals are involved.
Men of all ages bring their favorite fighting roosters to this stadium, pay a fee to enter, put their rooster and their reputation on the line.
These battles are to the death, and, to ensure that, roosters have a finger long barbed metal spike attached to one of their legs just before they are set on the ground in the stadium ring and their owner, and trainer, step back and leave the fight to fate.
This stadium is filled this Sunday afternoon and is a series of intense moments broken by stretches of boredom.
People stand on the seats, move as close to the cage as they can to see better, wave or nod at bet takers who are yelling at them, raising fingers, making eye contact, scratching their right ear. Vendors move through the crowd selling food, snacks, drinks and cigarettes.
I have been told there are a few birds who are favorites but it is really impossible to tell which rooster will be ready to fight when it is time.
The noise in the arena grows deafening as the two roosters start pecking at one another, jumping into the air with outstretched wings,striking out with their talons.
The fights last most of the afternoon and emotions are live wires, as feathers float, in the air, in the cage.
The best statistic to remember is that half of the roosters come out of the war alive.