Zigzagging an empty room. Tracing low ceilings with fingertips, confirming ease of reach. The man before me palmed a lightbulb as we glided through. “Tu pasaporte.” Stamp. “Gracias.” Arrived. Her surprise. Hugs and cries. Then out. That same burnt smell. Quiet arteries of a city, meeting at congested joints. The whites of his eyes stared at me, paced, as I ordered my morning coffee. Three aproned women stood up to shoo him away. “He said you’re beautiful because of your blue eyes and I am not.” A foreigner again. Hidden sugar. Expanding bodies. “He asked me if I was gay… Apparently being over 30 and skinny in Mexico means you’re either gay, or… not living, not married…” Inhalations that choke. Blue toilet water. Fabuloso and Glade plugins. Hives across my neck. He accidentally ran over her foot outside the Casa Azul. Quite a lot of stuff for a communist. Heavy Suburban doors. ¿Bulletproof, por que? I never close it tight enough. A smiling man with long hair in a VW van—full of dogs. Coyoacán. “I went to school there for a year, then they kicked me out.” Down the street from Cortes’s mansion, and La Malinche’s. They must have been fucking. Shivers at the oldest church in Mexico. I touched its wall. I don’t know why. Mezcal. 80s MTV, a cantina where grown men sleep. Huitlacoche, escamoles, caldo de res, elotes, tacos. Up a 1930s elevator, through a hall of agave and aloe, onto a rooftop terrace, an orange sky + mountain view. Some beers, some cocaine. Good people, good conversation. She’s escaping European lockdown. Lived in Berlin her whole life, but still, says they can sniff out her difference. Her high cheekbones, the in-tact femininity. A further East scent. “All the women in my family; PhDs in leather mini skirts.” Then into the tiny penthouse. Full of herbs and handmade clothes and trinkets, two busts, from a friend who passed, towers of books, an AR-15 in the bathroom, or was it an M16?, toothbrushes in an I <3 BERLIN mug, frames collected from all over the place, without intention, recklessly/beautifully. In a small circle, calm. Everything we need for now. I shared a leather chair with her as she trimmed her herbs. We spoke about lineage, sexuality, past knowledge, pain, the chaos of the modern world. What led to this. “Eventually, a future generation is just going to go absolutely bonkers again, orgies and everything.” “The kids today aren’t even fucking—-maybe their kids then.” “It’s going to be a fiasco.” I’ll be back in a few weeks.
The process of transformation consists mostly of decay and then of this crisis when emergence from what came before must be total and abrupt.
But the changes in a butterfly’s life are not always so dramatic. The strange resonant word instar describes the stage between two successive molts, for as it grows, a caterpillar, like a snake, like Cabeza de Vaca walking across the Southwest, splits its skin again and again… Instar implies something both celestial and ingrown, something heavenly and disastrous, and perhaps change is commonly like that, a buried star, oscillating between near and far.”
A Field Guide to Getting Lost
The flight attendant kept winking at me as we flew from summer to winter. Maybe he knew I was high from the sunrise in my eyes. So many Australians, so many snowboards. I said gracias to the customs agent but luckily he didn’t hear. First kiosk out the gate: sesame onigiri. Train tickets rubber banded together with origami. ♡ Kind and meticulous. Spiraled into a pink bathroom. Heated Toshiba toilets. Baby seat in the stall. A full platform; silence. But a constant buzz in the background. Bird chirps from a speaker. Crowded into cohesion. Face masks in phones. White and red lights. Lost in Shibuya station, staring at characters on a map. Then serene backstreets. Shimmering and matte tiles. Grey grout. Concrete floors and wood grain ceilings. Immaculate decay. Doors that don’t push or pull, they slide. Baozhi’s forehead split open and he emerged as the eleven-headed bodhisattva, deciding to open a ramen bar. Nodding out on noodles. Trying to read a vending machine. Not sure if all this travel is chipping away at me or building me up. Stimulation. Download. Overload. iPhones clicking. Another product shoot. Pain stretching behind my ear. That buzz. Did it again, lost my shit, there it went. Trying to be still in the middle of Harajuku, but everything’s speeding up. Moving and consuming. Can I pay away this pain? Empty and fill bags. Too ripped for all these vintage shops. American flags and *NSYNC on blast. West consumes East consumes West, what a beautiful/destructive reach. What happens when we all go the same way? The Earth will tip. Loud sigh, hot shower. Yoga on my towel. The cherry blossoms are blooming early this year. Headstones in the middle of a farm. Qi Baishi at the National Gallery. The meaning of it all in a girl playing with her doll. Draw the eyes bigger. Puff the lips up. What happens to the youth when infantilization grows old? Buckets of water in case of a fire. Took a seat in a saké bar. A hand next to me slid over a plate of coconut cookies. Sweet potato and fish chips. Saké, saké, saké, saké, shōchū. The bartender: our translator. He bowed his head and backed away.
Two years before Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar’s death and 20 since Nixon started the so-called “War on Drugs,” I was born in August of 1991 in Medellín, Colombia — known then as one of the most violent cities in the world. It has taken 27 years for me to realize my very first memories are tinted by the life and death of one of the world’s most notorious criminals in the illegal drug trade. And even now, decades since Escobar was shot dead, hope for peace remains a utopian dream for the inhabitants of the paisa capital.
The cocaine market didn’t die when Escobar was killed nor did the drug itself cease to exist. The protagonist changed, demand rose, delivery routes multiplied, victims increased, and the business model adapted to the guerrillas’ open war. Colombian history since the late 1970s follows a series of cartels that fluctuate between control of drug production, circulation, and the next “patron” to dictate the law of the jungle. Continue reading “Fighting a narcocracy”
Three hundred years ago he moved from Bern and changed his name from Aebi to Avey to sound a bit more neutral, a bit more American. I’ve been thinking more about what it means to be American. Who, how, why. I have some reference points. It was easy to move to Germany. Music I know is everywhere I go. My Colombian father-in-law told me to hide my passport because it might get stolen. I underestimate that blue cover. The public schools and libraries. Hiding a heritage of human sorrow and potential. Somehow still allergic to this land. Poison oak forms a resistance on the trails we blaze. Oozing with red bumps, making me question the way. I’m the non-native species. Make it more American. But how? From the jazz to the mundane. Paint the spectrum black or white. The distance between what you know and want to know lies in what you create. Between places you’ve been and places you can’t imagine. How could it be so hard to write under your parents’ roof when they gave you every neuron? Drive north on the 1. A loud bed and breakfast might be awkward. Let’s take a quarter and go explore. Another pioneer couple walking on a boneyard of tree branches. Looks like beach cheese. Sitting halfway up a Monterey cypress. Staring at the setting sun with the moon to our back. This place makes me sleepless. I heard a man inside the wall with a pickaxe. Crumbling down the structure from the inside out. But then the mother of slumber blacked out my vision with her placement of fill-in-the-box. I’m home. Horace Greeley might have told you to “Go west, young man,” but I’m called by the wild poppies and cortaderia. Those here before us. Junipero Serra paved the way, killing with faith. Priests on a mission overlook young women. Left out of the literature. I’m pulled in by the Pacific, the way redwoods hold on to their neighbors’ roots. Prioritizing nourishment. A church turned grocery store. Looking at another “All Are Welcome Here” sign made Sam ask what that says about other places. A bold statement against a dark reality. But damn this place is hard to reach.
The privilege to pause. Under the fan of a whitewashed Colonial deck. That’s the first mango tree I’ve ever seen. This place reeks, humid with humans. Reserving a spot to lounge all day. Smoothing out stripes under mutating rays. A welcomed breeze. The bluest blues. Beers and fries with lunch. And this expectation to love everything about it. To match the atmosphere. Don’t worry, be happy. How could you be anything but in a place like this? Doused in SPF 50+ and bug spray. Still the only one with mosquito bites. Just five more days… Should I have a drink? “You can swerve on the road, you won’t get pulled over.” These bridges are empty anyway. How is this even Dutch? Was it peaceful, was it violent? It was violent. Abandoned multicolored mansions built on sand. We reminisce the past, but can’t remember it. We were never there. Hand picking parts of a whole. Thousands of slaves passed through these stone walls and I couldn’t find a sign. Just a mall. “Real Curaçaoans don’t like the Dutch,” she said. But so it is. They pour in to sleep and swim and pose on the beach. Fly in for a season or two to take the better service jobs. Front of house, pouring French wine. A hostess from the Hague said she likes it better here because the people greet each other. Hi ma’am, yes ma’am. How do you do? Can I ask you a question? What’s the source of that custom? I’m just looking for some sugar. The locals work the night shift — the cashiers, the janitors, the guards of gated communities. Descendants of stolen people. Pay the price to enjoy. A golf course in the desert. This island always catered to his comfort. But the checkered families brighten my mood. Feeding stray cats kipper snacks. A live band rotates at the Miles jazz bar. Drums, bass, timbales, congas, piano. La vida tiene sabor and it’s thick. Culture rich. A quarter later, gigging in my highchair. Now I can relax. “So what..?” written on black shirts. Dutch punks with tattooed arms serving Curaçaoans straight. Cuban rum, Italian grappa. The first Pernod I’ve found in Latin America. Ass sweat on a wood seat. The kid’s frown itself was jazz music. The kind of rhythm you don’t learn. Hands so fast you can’t see. The lights are shaking. Rastas speaking Dutch. Music as resilience. A lineage of pain. But somehow smiles and tunes so unifying. Warm. Sam, wake up, there are pink flamingos outside. Of course the church habla español. Why is Daddy Yankee headlining the jazz festival? Spoonfuls of full-fat European yogurt. Gouda and salami. We met a Dutch guy who’s been living here for 14 years over rolled tobacco. He showed us on his phone the finca he bought outside of Medellín. Said it cost close to nothing. His son speaks four languages at four. Almost stepped on broken glass on the floor. Tiny shells in my pocket. A lizard came to my call. Question where you lay to rest. We have access to the information, but will we use it?