letting go/off we go……….

memorial day, 2003

peace, mi compadres,

haven't been home on memorial day in many years. last year, no longer solo… kuala lumpur: the gleaming petronas towers, looming brilliantly in the nefarious night sky, islamic capitalistic icons, the year after osama bin ladin became the feared and worshipped international warrior/terrorist. the year before, 2001, had me somewhere chasing the midnight sun in lapland/finland or sweden, not too far from alfred nobel's peace prize, given to the hard-working but somehow-failed likes of jimmy carter, yasser arafat, kofi anan, and shimon peres. the millennium, 2000, probably found me touring the ho chi minh trail in hue, vietnam, 20 years after agent orange, tricky dick, and the greatest loss of american life in recent memory. 1999 - i was chillin' on red sea with bedouins - when israel and egypt still had open borders, when ehud barak was just promising peace, before the intifada, the suicide bombers, & "the occupation" became our daily headlines again in the one-time reliable new york times. and now this year - home again - married! after our bush-wacked “success” in operation iraqi freedom. with its concomitant cheering of our invincible and immaculate, techno-military “victory”. once again having routed "the enemy"; having found no promised or lethal weapons of mass destruction; delivering misery, disorder, and daily chaos to the everyday citizens of our new democratic/imperialist order in the mideast. memorial day again. and still no peace in site.

and here i am once again, setting off on another privileged travel adventure. to peru and ecua-dor. south ameri-ca. writing - not only to capture and annotate the amazing people and places in the world i come across - but also to try to figure out the nature of travel itself. feeling amazingly - frightened. going into the third world again. not like i haven't done it before.
southeast asia, the arabic middle east, me-hee-co - lots of poverty, lots of hussle and touts. but south ameri-ca? both times i've been there before - 1981, caracas, venezuela, and 1991, rio de janeiro, brazil, i was robbed. only my camera, but it easily could have been more if i didn't catch the very slick pickpockets with their hands down my pants. and now peru - with the "shining path" still designated by our department of state as a "foreign terrorist organization". with a newly announced "national emergency". with every guide book and internet listing warning of crime against gringo tourists in lima, cusco, quito, all the big heffe cities. telling you to not carry credit cards, ATMs, to strap down and lock up your passports, plane tickets, to not travel alone, to stick with the tours, don't take busses or trains, to basically stay in your locked hotel room until the tour guide shuttles you back and forth to the machu pichu express. forget the local food, music, people, jungles, drugs, atmosphere, except at your own peril. not to mention the malaria, yellow fever, dengue, hep A, B, & C, rabies, polio, and good old fashioned inca's revenge ie. traveler's diarrhea.

so why am i still going? frightened and challenged at the same time? lying awake at 4 a.m. worrying about insurance for my repatriated remains, about not having an itinerary beyond our first 2 days' arrival in lima, about bringing an adequate supply of cipro for a particularly virulent strain of peruvian bacterial infection, about a last minute prescription of diamox
for altitude sickness that most travelers get in the heights of the andes. about not having taken my cholesterol lowering medication for the last year and having a stroke or heart attack on lake titicaca, the highest lake in the world. about not having sublet my house yet. about having el bueno pero, clay, run away again, making me feel, and offering me proof of, being the lousy and selfish dog owner i am. about not bringing the right clothes, the right bags, the right - stuff. about having no right to go on this trip to this unsafe place with an entirely inadequate amount of funds. about losing my passport, my plane tickets, my money, my bags, my marriage, my life.

well? i figure... the answer lies in the fact that i'm just too worried about -- control. about knowing about what's going to happen. before it happens. about losing control. and that's just it. if you travel, you're consciously choosing to leave your safe, known, and comfortable routine. for - what? for something new. something different. for stimulation, adventure, experience. to learn, let go, and open up. to realize that you're not the center of the universe, and there is a history, a people, a culture - other than your own. of course, we americans are notorious for our myopia. seeing, and wanting to see, what we already know. bringing our
ideas, our capital, and our comforts to the rest of the planet. expecting - and getting if we want - our marriots, mcdonalds, our comforts and kentucky frieds. no wonder i'm almost petrified of getting on that plane sunday night. of leaving my comforts and routines of assistant professor bourgeois bohemia for the third world threats, beauties, and challenges of the unknown.

so yes, i admit, your notorious e-traveler is also a chicken-shit middle class jewish boy from westbury, lon-gisland whose parents, neighbors, and current friends & colleagues would NEVER go on such an adventure. but…. I usedtabe an ahtist. i used thrive on adventure, risk, challenge, the unknown. thrive on living by my wits, on having no money, on being here
now. hell, i teach improvisation & i'm supposed to practice what i preach. so what if i'm not an edgy artist adolescent any more? so what if i have a young indonesian wife who is brave and stupid enough to follow me into the ayahuasca-induced magical realism of the amazon jungle? so what if 49% of my terrified instincts tell me to cancel the trip altogether, absorb the loss, and just chill back here in echo park? so what? so what?

i'm g-g-g-g-oing. we're g-g-g-g-oing…

she says, "relax. take it easy." i say, "okay."

hope you hear from me again.

and me from you. remember, these cyber communications are two way streets. let me know the domestic news…

also, remember john lennon on memorial day:

"make love, not war..."


your gringo in distress,

soon to be,

don enrique de peru

............................................................... ...................................................... ......................................................daniel murphy