Recent Events Dictate

|June 2, 2012 | Reading, Recent Events Dictate, Travels

Reading. For fun : 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. For learnin’ : Edward Hasbrouck’s The Practical Nomad.

I keep trying to start For Whom The Bell Tolls, and it keeps getting away from me, or at least it keeps feeling like it’s for learnin’ when it ought to be for fun. I don’t know what is the deal, really, because I breezed through The Sun Also Rises and I got a lot out of it ( especially that sense of, oooh, THIS is why Hemingway had such a hold on our parents and grandparents, along with, of course, that sense of, I wish I was rich and bumming around Europe in the 1920s ) – but, then, I was about to go to Cuba, of which Papa H. is symbolic, both pre- and post-revolution, and so I was in a zone. Hell, maybe I ought to try taking Tolls down to Key West and reading it there ( I’ve never been, but people tell me it’s ramshackle and madcap and everybody’s drunk all the time, which sounds exactly like New Orleans, which is where I live, so I never really thought about it much until I was in Havana, looking back at Florida as the closest part of the U.S.A., and it’s close! ), or to a Spanish Civil War battlefield. It could happen.

You know, I was so taken with Rises that I even convinced myself I wanted to go to a bullfight. A couple of months later I was in a town in Mexico, in a little 1950s-time-warp hotel ( and they all, the hotels,  seem to be unchanged from the 50s, which is one of the many, many things I like about Mexico. Time-warp means no grounded outlets, though, so if you want to plug in your laptop, you gotta use a ground-lifter, which I do not like doing. Zap! ), and I turned on the TV, and there was a bullfight on there, and I thought, oh, right, I forgot that it, in fact, SUCKS. “ The noble, courageous toreador gracefully dispatches the mighty bull “ – yeah, fuck you, why don’t you torture some kittens while you’re at it?

What I DO want to do is go to a soccer match in Mexico City, which I have heard described by people I’ve talked to ( and also by Daniel Hernandez, in his great book Down & Delirious In Mexico City ) as totally surreal, frightening, and more insane than the most brutal metal show you can think of.

This is a photo I took of that very TV bullfight. Aguascalientes, Mexico.

So, I like Murakami a lot. I like his odd voice ( I can’t imagine what he sounds like in the original, but in English, his tone is very specific and just sort of its own thing ), and I like how sometimes nothing much is happening except that he’s describing, in detail, what the characters are making for dinner, or what records they’re listening to. Some people had a problem with this aspect of  the Dragon Tattoo books ( if I’d said The Millenium Series, you wouldn’t have known what I was talking about ), lingering descriptions of Swedes making coffee and frozen pizzas, but I liked that, too. And Hemingway, also, he’s like, here’s what we had to do to get checked in to the hotel, and here’s how much each bottle of wine cost, and we ate this and this and this, and the brown face of the man at the bar .. and etc. Anyway, Haruki Murakami Bingo has been circulating on the internet over the last couple of days, and it made me laugh.

As for The Practical Nomad – if you’re planning on doing any traveling beyond, say, a couple of days at a resort on an island .. well, okay, scratch that : if you are planning on ever taking a trip to another country where you are going to go to some different places and do and see some stuff and you have to make decisions and figure things out ( and maybe you’re not; some people don’t care about travel at all, and some people don’t want to have to think while they’re doing it, and that’s okay ), go ahead and buy it. There’s plenty of inspirational material here about the allure and romance of travel, but there’s also more nut-and-bolts information than I’ve seen collected in any one place. Hasbrouck’s not just a globetrotter but an experienced travel agent, and he gets DEEP into airline pricing systems – which fucks me up, because it’s all so difficult to understand. ” Double open jaw ” – ” internal open jaw, one way ” .. FML. But this book has actually changed my perception of the wider world in a couple of key ways, and has been a big influence on my ideas on how to go about seeing it.