Expectation

All day I’ve been trying to remember an old folksy saying about expectation. “Expectation is the mother of …” something. I can’t remember what. Maybe I’m mixing sayings up. Maybe it doesn’t go “expectation is the mother of …” but is rather “disappointment is the mother of …” Maybe expectation isn’t the mother of anything, as far as old folk sayings go.

A quick Google could solve all of this, but I’m not going to do that. The saying doesn’t matter because I’ve already succumbed to expectation. I’ve imagined myself many times on this evening before setting off. I imagined I would more fluent in Japanese. I imagined I wouldn’t have unexpected medical hiccups just days before leaving. In short, I had the expectation that I would be more prepared.

But I’m not. My expectations of how I would be the night before setting off made me disappointed with the reality. I’ve felt bad about that, but now I don’t care. When did expectation ever lead to anything but slight disappointment? Maybe that should be an old folk saying. Maybe those were the words I were looking for all day.

I’m happy with the way these loomings have turned out, and I think this is as good an eve as any before a long journey. Time to wrap it up though, I’ve got an early call tomorrow.

Ten Days

A conversation had recently with a friend.

Kendyl. Where do you think you’ll be when world war three breaks out?

Elliott. Hopefully Thailand. I feel like no one is interested in nuking or invading Thailand.

Kendyl. Unless they’re looking for the motherload of sticky rice and ancient Buddhist paraphernalia. Other than that, yeah, no one is interested in invading Thailand.

Elliott. Hence why I’d like to be there when all Hell breaks loose.

Kendyl. We joke about this utter destruction of western civilization, but it has never been more possible.

Elliott. I suppose that’s true. It makes it an interesting time to decide to do some traveling, that’s for sure.

Kendyl. Just don’t die. If you die I will punch you so hard.

Elliott. I’ll be dead. Won’t matter how hard you punch.

Kendyl. I’ll punch your corpse then.

Elliott. You’re a history major—why is everything so terrible right now?

Kendyl. You should rephrase that to: “Why has everything always been so terrible?”

Elliott. Do you think that’s true?

Kendyl. That history has always been shitty? Yes! Dude, do you know how many women were burned at the stake in the middle ages for being considered witches?

Elliott. Probably a lot.

Kendyl. Yeah, like, something to the tune of hundreds of thousands! History comes in all different flavors of shit, no matter the time or place.

Elliott. What flavor of shit do we have now?

Kendyl. I don’t know. Though I can tell you the shit is probably Cheeto-orange colored, and sprinkled with fake gold flakes.

Elliott. Subtle.

Kendyl. Thank you, I try.

Elliott. Would you like to hear my non-history major attempt at understanding the current dumpster fire that is our world?

Kendyl. Sure.

Elliott. Misunderstanding plays a crucial part, I think. Think of all the different ways you can misunderstand, say, your neighbor. You go over to his house for dinner one night and you think everything went swimmingly, and then the next thing you know he’s installed an enormous fence along his property. You think, “Well Jesus, I hope I didn’t say something at dinner that offended Jason.”

Kendyl. Who’s Jason?

Elliott. Your neighbor in this example. So you rewind the dinner conversation in your head, looking for clues that might explain Jason’s fence. You come up with one hundred different reasons why Jason is acting so cold, and you think, “What a jerk! He could have just said something!”

Kendyl. And then Jason and I never speak again, right?

Elliott. Exactly. In reality, Jason built the fence because he heard bears have been skulking around the neighborhood and he wants to protect his dogs. All that is just the different ways you can misunderstand the person who lives next to you! Now imagine how easy it is to misunderstand a refugee you see on the news, or someone with whom you have conflicting views.

Kendyl. What’s your solution then?

Elliott. Face-to-face interaction is a start. Actually seeing other places rather than stewing in your own corner of the world.

Kendyl. Well that’s great for someone like you who can actually do that, but most people are tied to where they are because of jobs, a spouse, kids, or in my case, a car payment.

Elliott. Yeah how is the jeep?

Kendyl. Terrible. Never get a Jeep.

Elliott. Noted. How would you solve the misunderstanding problem?

Kendyl. I don’t know. Let’s talk about something else, please.

Elliott. Sure. Lovely weather we’re having this morning!

Kendyl. I hate you.

Ten days.

Eighteen Days

Driving back to Billy’s house at nine o’clock at night.

Billy. It comes and goes in waves. Getting the vaccines, that was a wave. But now, I’m not really thinking about it all. Buying travel insurance, getting the visa for India sorted out, getting more shirts, all that stuff will be waves, and I’ll realize that it is actually happening.

Elliott. We’ve been planning and talking about it for so long that it has entered the realm of abstraction. It feels like someone else will being leaving on August 19th, not me. By the way, where will you be the night before we leave? Home or in Old Saybrook?

Billy. Probably Old Saybrook. I figured we can just meet there that morning.

Elliott. Sounds good. I also get the feeling that the whole realization of this is going to hit me that morning like a frying pan to the face.

Billy. Oh for sure. It will definitely be like, “Ah, why didn’t I plan for this more?” But really there’s no way to plan for this kind of thing.

Elliott. We shouldn’t dwell on it then.

Billy. Yep. Oh, this is “Starman” by Bowie, turn it up!

Eighteen days left.

Pool Party Fun

When cats inevitably find themselves parked in boxes, humans react with gleeful bewilderment. Gleeful because the image of a fat cat spilling over the sides of a too-small box is naturally hilarious, and bewilderment because we ask ourselves “What is it in a cat’s brain that tells it to sit in this box?” It seems as though this question is one of the great mysteries of the world, up there with the other seemingly unanswerable questions like “Does life have meaning?” or, “Is everything one thing or many things?”

But I attended a pool party yesterday and noticed that cats are drawn to boxes in the same way that humans are drawn to swimming pools. Plunk one down and next thing you know your backyard is swarming with bathers. In our ecstasy we’ve never stopped to ask ourselves why we’re drawn to swimming pools. Were one to ask a swimmer why he or she liked the pool, one would mostly likely be met with a shrug. “I don’t know. Pools are fun.”

The evolutionary answered would surely involve primordial man’s dependence on pools of water for both drinking and bathing, a dependence that has, over time, been passed along to become a pastime. I hate answers like this. They put everything in neat little boxes and leave no room for mystery. Much to my displeasure, the sterile and scientific answer seems to be the trend. As this trend of shoving every mystery through the sieve of science continues, we will eventually discover a method by which to talk to cats. Our first question will of course be “Why are you guys so drawn to boxes?” We’ll hold our breath as one of the last mysteries prepares for oblivion, and the cat will blink sleepily and say “I don’t know. Boxes are fun.”

Various Dangers of the Wide World

The other day Billy and I got our travel vaccines done. Here are a few choice lines of dialogue I can recall from the appointment.

Dr. So you guys are going to be in India?

Billy. Yes. The plan is five weeks in India.

Dr. And where will you guys be staying there?

Billy. We are definitely going to be in Goa, and then we’re going to be in a rural village called Ravandur for about two weeks.

Dr. Okay so a big concern for me overall is rabies. Not just in India, but in Japan and Thailand as well. They’ve got stray packs of dogs, monkeys, and rats can sometimes carry it too.

Elliott. Uh huh. So are we going to be vaccinated for that today?

Dr. The rabies pre-vaccine is three shots spaced out by three weeks. It is also very expensive (300 dollars a shot!), and we don’t have the vaccine here today.

Billy. So that’s a no.

Dr. I could try and get it rush delivered here, but there isn’t enough time to space each vaccine properly since you guys are leaving so soon.

Billy. I guess we’ll just avoid animals.

Dr. Yes do try and limit contact with stray animals. And should you be bitten, don’t treat it is an urgent medical situation, but more of like an immediate medical situation.

*Billy and Elliott exchange a confused sideways glance*

Dr. If you do get bitten, you’ll have to be air-lifted out of wherever you are, unless you happen to be in the proximity of a major hospital that can treat rabies, which, being in a rural village in India, I don’t think will be the case.

Billy. Uh huh.

Dr. Also, you’ll need malaria pills if you’re going to be in India. There are a few options as far as pills go. You can take X drug once a week, Y drug once a day at the cost of $5 a pill, or Z drug, which is known to cause rashes and lung irritation.

Elliott. How about X drug? That seems like the cheapest option.

Dr. It is. However, X drug is known to exacerbate anxiety and depression, as well as cause vivid dreams and nightmares. Any patients with a history of psychiatric disorders are not recommend to take X drug.

Billy. Uh huh. Okay, Y drug it is then.

Dr. I don’t mean to scare you guys or anything! Just look at it this way, you’re far more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident abroad than by rabies or malaria. Motor vehicle accidents continue to be the biggest threat to traveling Americans than anything else.

Elliott. Uh huh.

Shout-Out to Val

Last night, Billy and I had a wonderful late-night conversation with our friend Jack—a character and traveler in his own right. We were talking about getting from place to place while abroad, and our conversation went something like this.

Jack. When you’re at the airport in Japan will anyone be there to pick you up?

Elliott. Nope. We’re just going to have to figure it out when we touch down.

Billy. That will probably be the hardest thing we do honestly.

Jack. And how’s that Japanese coming?

Elliott. Not great.

Billy. Yeah not too well.

Elliott. It will be fine though. We’ll just plug in the address on one of our phones.

Jack. Ehh the phone GPS can be tricky. When Meer and I were in Ireland we tried following my phone’s GPS and got sooo lost.

Billy. Yeah?

Jack. Yeah, like, it was bad.

Elliott. What happened?

Jack. So Meer and I were trying to find our way to some place in Dublin, right? And so we used the phone GPS, which was fine until we started going through some really sketchy streets. I remember we were walking down this side street when two old men came out of a pub and stopped us and were like, “What are you guys doing? Don’t go down the rest of this street.”

Billy. Shit.

Jack. Yeah it was bad. *sips his bourbon* Anyway those two old guys gave us an alternate route around the shitty area but really the detour was just as bad. Literally all the windows on every building were shattered and a bunch of like, twelve-year olds were following us and alternating between calling us faggots and homeless.

Elliott. I definitely don’t remember you telling this story before.

Jack. Mm. *sips more bourbon* By that time we had pretty much given up on the GPS and were completely lost, and that’s when we met Val, who is a great guy.

Billy. Val?

Jack. Yeah, he’s a taxi driver in Dublin and he rescued us—twice. He immediately saw that we were both foreign and lost and finally gave us some solid directions. We thanked him and started walking again, but keep in mind Meer and I had on our full backpacks, and we had been walking all day in practically the opposite direction in which we needed to go. Darkness was falling, neither of us had eaten much all day, and we were still a few miles out from our destination.

Elliott. How late was it?

Jack. Late. Like, no one else was out on the road at that time. It’s all so quiet at that kind of hour, and Meer and I are walking alone, unprotected, to God knows where. So we’re walking along as fast as we can when out of nowhere a car cuts out in front of us. Neither of us approach. The window rolls down, and from the dark interior we hear the melodious brogue of Val: “Couldn’t stand the thought of leaving the two o’ you out. Get in, I’ll take you where you need to go.” He drove us there, gave us his business card with his personal number on it and told us to call him if we ever needed a ride. Didn’t charge us fare either. Great guy. Still think I have that business card somewhere in my backpack. *finishes his bourbon* So yeah. Careful with the GPS thing.

A Note to Readers

I get differing reactions from people when I tell them I’m going to be traveling for a year or so. Generally speaking, the older the person the more excited the reaction. People around my age, however, tend to be a little more reserved in their interest. An older person will say something like “That’s so cool! You’ll never regret doing this. You’re going to grow and learn so much!” Whereas a younger person might say something along the lines of “Cool man, that’s awesome.”

Truth be told I don’t really like telling people about my immediate travel plans—young or old. It just seems so fake whenever I say “I’ll be traveling around the world for a year.” It’s the sort of phrase that’s usually heard in some satiric cartoon about a pedantic dinner guest. Maybe that’s how I appear to my peers when I tell them about my plans, hence their stifled reactions; and maybe older people’s excitement is due in part to my plans having that sun-rise sheen of youth, which is charming in the way that watching a toddler first discover the swing set is charming.

Whatever the case may be, I’d much prefer to simply say “I’m going to be doing some traveling and working along the way.” It’s better this way because no one really cares about what I’m doing, save for my immediate family and close friends of course. That’s the problem with travel blogs, I think; no one actually has the patience or interest to read a lengthy post about the various things one did while staying in London. No one cares to read about how you strolled through the bustling streets, visited Trafalgar Square, took a tour of the Tower of London—Christ I’m getting bored just writing about this fictional day trip. That is why I want to populate this website with as many dialogues and stories as possible, because no one cares about your vacation in London, but people might be interested in the kinds of conversations you had and the stories you collected.

That’s another reason why these Loomings posts kind of suck; I’m not out there yet. My hope is that once I am out and about I will disappear from the dialogues and stories posted here. Elliott will not be a character. The characters will be where he is and who he meets. I will become, as Emerson called it, a transparent eyeball, who simply records what transpires. How right Emerson was to call it a transparent eyeball, for it is not the eye itself that is interesting, but what it sees.