Category Archives: travel

…When I Learn to Fly

  1. “I’ll make my way back home when I learn to fly.”
    -Foo Fighters, Learn to Fly

Friends,

I’m coming up on 5 months abroad now, the last three of which have been in Nicaragua, and, seeing as I just returned from a visa renewal trip to Costa Rica, it’s safe to say I don’t have any immediate plans to go back to Canada. I do have plans and intentions but the only person I’ve really opened up to about my intentions is fellow film-maker, Alex Loubert, but even that was a few weeks back and plans have refined since then. So for whomever is interested I’d like to elucidate upon the plans which have been formulating in my head. My intention here is to not only clarify my intent for friends and family, but to give some advance notice to those who may wish to collaborate on the ongoing art project which is my life.

OVERVIEW

Over the next two years I intend to improve myself and broaden my skill-set in order that I may live on the road indefinitely, making money as I need to and not being tethered to the balance of my savings. Also, should I ever return to Canada I want to have a skill-set which will allow me to live on my own terms and not on the indulgence of an employer.
(In the words of Cam’Ron: “Nobody gonna pay you like you pay yourself.”)
Also, and this is of equal import, I wish to improve myself while at the same time seeing as-yet-unseen parts of the world which I have always yearned to see. Perhaps at the end of this excursion I may be ready to put down roots and stay in one place.
No promises though…

WHERE TO BEGIN?…

About a month ago I spent a few days at Momentom Collective, a yoga and circus focused artist residency in San Juan Del Sur co-founded by Gabrielle Buenaciudad and Therese Lowton.

It was an eye-opening stay as I was immersed in a culture of incredibly high-functioning, supportive, positive and open people. Being there really fucked with some obsolete programming I have been holding onto for years; I kinda felt like I was short-circuiting at times as I internalized possibilities for myself which were fundamentally rooted in trusting myself and my intuition. I realized how much I second-guess my inclinations and how much this tendency has stifled me and postponed my full flowering, no homo.
(*On that note, living in Canada, especially near Toronto, with its “progressive” SJW culture, has been degenerative for my psyche, especially when compounded by working in tv/film where I felt pressure to be inoffensive due to the collaborative nature of the industry. I certainly don’t wish to offend anyone but being removed from the industry, the city and the country fills me with a sense of freedom to speak which I ironically haven’t felt since I was in the military. Go figure!).
Since my time there (Momentom) I have made a concerted effort to be trusting of my inclinations and urges and to be deliberate rather than furtive in my overtures.
It’s actually a lot of fun as a big part of it is just saying whatever is on my mind. As a role model I look to Archer and just pretend I have Asperger’s -I say some real funny shit sometimes. Bartending at Surfing Turtle has been great for this because its a license to be deliberate about opening people up and the best way to do that is often brutal, hilarious and honest observation.

But, back to the topic of self-improvement….

My friend Brandon Gowe is fond of saying, “Always have at least three hustles.” There is a lot of truth in this statement, but three is a bare minimum. Right now I:

-Sell jewelry (Occasional)
-Get paid to teach yoga (Occasional)
-Chop a dime here and there (Occasional and illegal)

As you can see my bare minimum three hustles need work. Here is what I intend to do….

NICARAGUA

I have been living in #CarpeDiemEcoProject helping my good friend, Ghislain Beauchamp build the eco-resort he has been dreaming of opening for years. We get closer and closer to completion every week and things are quickening now with large-scale construction projects commencing this week which will see the camp overrun with local contractors and carpenters as well as the usual group of volunteers building with cob.
However, the reality is that it’s getting late in the season and he has floated the idea of closing the place down for the year as soon as mid-May as opposed to June as in previous years. So, using that as a rough timeline I’ve begun to plan life after CDEP.
As mentioned, I’ve been working part-time at #SurfingTurtleLodge and I’m enjoying it immensely, so I’ve naturally thought about switching to full-time. That idea certainly has some lustre and I’m not 100% against it because it would be great hostel-work experience which will be valuable for the next two years (more on that soon), but right now I feel pulled in a different direction.

HONDURAS

Pursuant to my goal of improving myself through a broader skill-set I have set the intention of heading north to Utila, Honduras and doing a divemaster certification. Apparently it can be done for about $1000 USD and it would be a pliable skill anywhere I went in the world with a coastline. Also, Utila is a paradise chock full of reefs, whale sharks and beautiful people. Being in Central America you hear a lot of grape-vine talk about hot places to go and this is one such place which is thankfully something of a hidden gem still. As a bonus, when I mentioned it to Ghislain, a dive instructor who had lived and worked there 5 years ago, he mentioned he was thinking of going back in May for a visit. This would be amazing as I would have a knowledgeable and experienced travel companion and good friend to roll with. Fingers crossed!

POST-HONDURAS

The next for-sure mark to hit after Honduras and divemaster cert would be North Africa. Timeline-wise I’m thinking I would like to get there by late 2017 or early 2018. My intention is primarily to see the Sahara and roughly re-create Santiago’s journey from “THE ALCHEMIST,” but there’s flex on start/end points and route.

To begin with, how to get there? Well, right now the most appealing option is to hop on a yacht in the Caribbean and work as crew to get across the Atlantic. That would be dope and satisfy a longing to do a trans-oceanic voyage. Ideally I would like to end up in Spain where I would begin my Alchemist journey in Andalucia, possibly after hiking the Camino de Santiago in the north (Lukazs, Tom, let’s do this!!).

Another way I might make my way to Spain would be less direct -heading to Mexico, then up the Baja California, through Cali, Oregon, Washington and BC finally seeing the Pacific Northwest that has enchanted me for so long and possibly working as a weed trimmer there if its the right time of year -As far as trimming goes, it’s great coin, but I’m more interested in doing it for the experience before everything becomes legal. In any event, once I got back to Canada I would finally hitch-hike across Canada like I’ve been intending to for years, stopping briefly in Ontario before jumping off to Spain to begin aforementioned Trans-Saharan Caravan.

#NOTHINGISWRITTEN (NORTH AFRICA)

I’m gonna immerse myself in the desert and just get consumed by the wasteland. But I’m also gonna take my time with it, working at hostels, doing workaways, woofing if possible, learning the language and making my way incrementally across the northern part of the African continent to the pyramids. If possible I would like to do more apprenticeships with jewelers, learning local styles and improving my skill-set. In Morocco, my first country after Spain, I intend to head to the Atlantic coast there and check out the fledgling aurf scene and see if my divemaster cert could be put to use.
In the desert itself I wanna go to an oasis soooooo bad. Oases have always enchanted me so I’m gonna live in one.
For the record, I am quite frightened of possible run-ins with extremist groups like ISIS but I figure I’m gonna be more of a curiosity to them than anything. I have joked that maybe they’ll kidnap and force me to make jewelry for them which would be kinda dope, but I was only half-joking: I wanna find out for myself who’s out there instead of just believing the news. Maybe I’ll write an ethnography.
If it turns out they do want to execute me I’ll try and see the humor in it and laugh on the way to my execution -it’s the only victory we can truly have in life.
This whole African excursion is gonna be gully and by the time I get to Egypt I will be ready to begin the next phase: INDIA.

PSYCH! SAUDI ARABIA…MAYBE…

I wanna see the Arabian desert because for me it represents a wasteland more inaccessible and dangerous than that of Northern Africa. Seriously, going there scares me not because of the harsh conditions but because of the strict observance of Islamic law. If they catch you slippin’, well….. Let’s just say there’s nothing scarier than an establishment that will kill you with impunity for perceived transgressions and all the while believe they are acting righteously *cough* police *cough*…
No guarantees on this one but it’s definitely a possibility.

INDIA

I have been teaching yoga for a while, and I’ve been practicing it for years, but I have yet to get certified and thus learn much of the associated theory. Certification will also lend more credibility to me when I apply to various hostels and hospitality locations looking for work. And really, what better place than India to learn yoga? There are many great places here in Central America to get certified and I will certainly broaden my yoga skill-set over time here, but remember, an important part of these next two years is seeing places I haven’t seen. So as well as getting my cert I am going to see India , feast like a king and maybe buy a monkey. Who knows!?

SOUTH-EAST ASIA

Finally, I will make my way to SE Asia. You know, it’s a wonder I haven’t been here yet. For some people it’s their first exposure to backpacking, but even after more than ten years of excursions its uncharted territory for me. As far as self-improvement goes, all along the trip I will be developing my massage skill and reiki aptitude, and here in SE Asia I feel like I could really develop my Thai massage skill-set. Beyond that I’m not sure what I want from this place (food), but I know I gotta see it as it will (mostly) wrap up all my loose ends of bucket list places to see.

EPILOGUE

I’m not sure who I will be when this is all said and done and if I will be ready to buy property and build something of my own, or if I’ll want to come back to Canada or if I’ll want to pursue trips to Patagonia, the Peruvian desert, Antarctica, Eastern Europe, etc. (The bucket list never actually ends) I can literally do anything I want to do. My biggest challenge is aiming high.

So if you don’t know now you know, nigga(s)!

EPI-EPILOGUE

I owe special recognition to two very important people in my life who have precipitated a great desire for growth within me.

First would be Ghislain -meeting him and visiting his project last year was a very serendipitous experience for me and he embodies qualities that I aspire to embody myself. He is a skilled, positive, hard-working, dynamic individual comfortable with himself as a man and as a member of a community. It is by the strength of his will that the culture of CDEP is what it is. I admire the dude and feel honored to count him among my friends.

Second would be Marijo Lariviere. She is one of the most talented people I know whose ability to thrive anywhere in the world with her skill-set has inspired me greatly in my current path. Whether it’s yoga instruction, hair-dressing, jewelry-making, etc… She has so many valuable practical skills that it really made me reflect on what I bring to the table, what I could offer others (manual labor, carry a gun), and realize that I could do better. She made me aspire to improve myself if only to be of greater service to the people around me.

In closing I want to say I can be better than I am. I don’t say that with self-denigration or regret but with optimism, love for myself, and excitement to see the man I am evolving into.

I hope you enjoy the show too.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Filed under adventure, blog, travel

Eli Eastwood: Undercooked Fish

UNDERCOOKED FISH

Dinner that evening had been either humbly magnificent or magnificent in its humility: Salmon, lightly-cooked with ginger and garlic, damp, white rice and heated spinach from a can. Tim had placed the plate in front of him and gone back to the stove, and Eli, waiting for his host to to sit so they could begin eating together, leaned in to smell the meal. The potency of the seared ginger and garlic hit his nose like a pungent hammer fashioned from warm air and vapor and he leaned in further, inhaling deeper, smiling.

“Oh my God, this smells amazing.”

“I cooked the fish with ginger, garlic, sesame oil and soy sauce.”

Eli leaned in again. Yes, he could smell the soy sauce now, almost forming itself around the ginger and garlic like walls. It was like the garlic and ginger were two people co-habitating a space only to have a soy house with sesame windows spontaneously erected around them with the prevailing principle of design being to perfectly complement and facilitate the daily activities of the inhabitants.


This was the house that soy built and whether mortgaging, renting or squatting, garlic and ginger had made it their home.

Tim sat and began to say grace. It wasn’t the grace of a Christian, but rather the grace of a “Far-East Space Cowboy, Rosicrucian, spirit-walking, sovereign.”

“I’m really glad we have this meal and I’m very happy to have you here to share it with.”

“Samesies,” Eli thought, smirking inwardly at how gay the sentiment of reciprocity sounded.
“Me as well,” he said with outward solemnity.

They dug in. It was incredibly satisfying, and Eli found himself eating very slowly and deliberately even though he was usually inclined toward gulping his food down mindlessly. Such mindlessness would profane this meal though; This meal symbolized brotherhood and acceptance into one’s world that transcended the financial costs and the small (though commonplace) miracle of eating fish in the mountainous reaches of the Sonoran desert.

They’d had fish (sole) the night before and the night before that also (whitefish…tuna… he wasn’t sure) and in all cases Tim had cooked the fish gently which had made it juicier and more flavourful.

One could almost imagine themself a bear in the Pacific Northwest catching a salmon right from the river and biting into its still-living flesh with relish while eating fish cooked so non-committaly.

Over last night’s meal of near-raw sole, their pre-dinner conversation about women and meeting them on other planes of existence than this prompted Eli to tell Tim about the one girl he’d been dreaming about -V, a significantly younger and very naive former conquest. She wasn’t the one he thought he should be dreaming about, which might present problems down the road, but right now he was more concerned that his dreams of her had been scenes of violent fuck-making. He vividly remembered slapping her in the face in the midst of a sexual struggle, then turning her over and sodomizing her while pinning her arms behind her back (he woke up with damp shorts for his troubles). All the while she seemed to be enjoying the degradation, and the pain and most of all enjoying the…

There was one more thing she was enjoying but the realization hadn’t reached his conscious mind during last night’s meal because Tim began responding to Eli’s dream revelation with his peculiar brand of paranoid/enlightened stream-of-consciousness and the monotonous gravitas took over Eli’s thoughts -not effectively enough as to imprint its content on his memory, but enough to distract him from the mystery of V’os implacable enjoyment of being roughly, even “sinfully” taken. Instead, while Tim droned on, Eli’s mind had wandered to the thought of how appropriate it was to be having a conversation about hatefully defiling a sweet young girl while thoroughly enjoying a piece of undercooked fish.

Last night’s conversation about his dreamed depravities with this young girl had also been something of a milestone in his relationship with Tim. He had spoken openly and vulnerably, not attempting to humble-brag when describing that the dream girl was actually someone real he had slept with, and someone who was furthermore almost every bit as pliant and submissive in real life as she was in the dream (God bless her heart). But tonight was a little different; Tonight they were talking about ____________ and the young man felt compelled to talk about Mindy, a story he couldn’t relate without a modicum of humble-braggadociousness.

“I was leaving Florence a few weeks back, heading to Phoenix…” Eli related how he’d found Florence depressing with its surfeit of correctional facilities and sleepy population, and after spending one evening and one morning

NOT IN JAIL; JUST VISITING

in the town he had set out hitch-hiking toward Phoenix. En route, a woman had reached out to him and made conversation. She was Hispanic, and had a cute, round face. She asked him about where he was from and what he was doing dressed like a paramilitary. He explained that he was a film-maker and told her of his journey, and she suddenly asked if he was hungry.

He knew what this was and had mixed feelings, but also had personally challenged himself to always say “yes” to new possibilities. They walked 10 minutes to her small one-bedroom house in the ghetto outskirts of an already ghetto town, all the while talking about her recent abandonment by her boyfriend. When they arrived she entered first to calm her dog, a yappy chihuahua named Chili. ‘Yappy chihuahua’ he mused; a redundancy if there ever was one. He supposed his general dislike of the breed went back to his teenage years when his Salvadorean girlfriend at the time had babysat a couple of them for a few weeks. It was bad enough to have to wait for her parents to go upstairs before making a move, but when the dogs alerted her parents to every shift of his ass cheek with a shrill series of barks…well, he didn’t like the breed. However, he felt he could get past his dislike today as he suspected that there were no parents here to be alerted and maybe there never had been.

“This is caldo,” she had said indicating a pot of hearty-looking soup on the stovetop.

He glanced in: potatoes and meat.
He looked at her: same.

He smiled at this thought and she smiled back as she began serving him.

The soup, caldo, was quite good on its own but he poured in some of the offered hot sauce. She watched him while he ate and talked about her life, and circumstances, and kids, and plans to leave this town. He put his bowl on a side table when he’d finished and then moved to the front porch and began packing his corncob pipe with some tobacco he’d purchased from a Circle K mere minutes before meeting her. It was a rough smoke; he should have expected as much when the teenage, skater townie joking with the clerk reassured him that he smoked this brand all the time. Still, it was tobacco, and he let her take a hit off his pipe which they both realized on some level was an overture toward some greater sharing, if not an escalation.

“It’s hot as a fuck out here” he observed, benevolently, if profanely. He moved back into the house onto the love-seat where he had been sitting for the meal. She sat beside him and started talking about _______. He cast her a series of sidelong glances, meeting her eyes a few times but mostly observing her in profile. He could tell she was kind and decent and tried to do well. He knew too that her kindness had been wasted upon sleepy people who had been cruel or indifferent to her. She wasn’t lovely but she had a loveliness about her, and she needed something from him. What though?

Some dick?
Maybe, not primarily.
She needed intimacy that was kind. It didn’t have to be deeply satisfying, earth-shattering or even lasting; just kind intimacy with a kind person.

He needed something too. But he was only prepared to give so much of himself. He knew he didn’t want to kiss her and he knew he didn’t want to make love to her, but his libido had been piqued and a blowjob sounded just fine.
Knowing now what he wanted, he struggled with how to broach such an indecent proposal.

“I wanna ask you something but I don’t know how to say it.”

“Just use your mouth.”

“That’s what I was hoping you would do.”

She looked over at him a little surprised and he grabbed her left hand and placed it on the bulge in his fatigue trousers. She seemed a little flushed and a shiver went through her. “Hold on,” she said and went into the kitchen to pen the dog. He unbuckled his utility belt and undid his pants, still very much locked into his rig -a tactical vest laden with pouches, secured to his belt and pants with keeps -but his dick was free.

She came back into the living room and her eyes widened. Sitting beside him she started stroking.
“This is the biggest dick I’ve ever seen.”
He smirked at this observation and attributed it to her lack of sexual experience. He knew he was average-sized and when women said this kind of thing he knew they were being kind and took it for what it was.

She went down on him.

He applied gentle pressure to the back of her head as she did so. It wasn’t the best blowjob he’d ever had but it was the best one he could remember at this moment.
Something about the whole situation was primal and visceral and greasy.

Greasy. That word kept going through his head. A kind of catch-all term for debauchery he’d picked up watching The Trailer Park Boys, but also greasy in a more tangible sense. He hadn’t showered in about 24 hours (not his longest unbathed stretch to be sure) but he’d done some hard-marching in that time and she was paying especial attention to the bits of him which would become unpalatable quickest of all. He felt vaguely bad for her in the same way Al Swearengen must have felt vaguely bad for his whores when he stripped down to his dirty long-johns and got a blowjob from them after a long day of running the Gem. Eli wondered idly if those feelings of pity only turned Al on more like they did him in this moment as the meat and potato woman paid his dick the highest respect one can pay a thing (to put it in one’s mouth).

“Mmmmm…you’re the best” he muttered. She stopped sucking and lifted her head to face him.

“You can say what you want but you don’t have to lie to me.”

“I’m not lying.”

She looked at him skeptically for a moment then resumed her veneration.

“Poor girl,” he thought to himself, “She doesn’t believe me.”

At length she’d finished, they’d talked some and he carried on north. Later that afternoon when he’d arrived in Phoenix as a result of some fortuitous hitch-hiking, he found a note Mindy had tucked into his bag while searching for his journal:

“Her note said I was the highlight of her year,” Eli said as Tim sat listening with an ambivalent, though attentive expression. The expression didn’t change and so Eli elaborated.

“She fed ME and sucked MY dick and I was the highlight of HER year.” A smirk developed on Tim’s face upon Eli’s articulation of this realization, implying that he too had been the highlight of the year for many women before his self-imposed exile into the remote reaches of the Sonoran desert.

Eli withdrew into his mind not wanting to think about Tim getting his dick sucked. He focused on his own experience; he liked the idea of being the highlight of someone’s year simply by allowing them to feed and blow him. It satisfied his ego. He thought there was something Christ-like about it (“Take this all of you and eat it; this is my body…”). Perhaps his Light was so strong that contact with him -“helping” him actually elevated others. By that rationale he had made Mindy better, elevated her, by allowing her to partake of him.

And at this thought he realized what he hadn’t the night before, what V, the girl from the from the dream he’d discussed had enjoyed so much beyond the pain and the degradation.

“I slapped and anally raped her and it was the highlight of her year because in the dream (as in real life) she believed I was better than her and any contact with me elevated her.”

Eli’s eyes widened while squinting at the pleasant discomfort of this thought. This was powerful. Some cult shit. He had a fondness for these women (though no admiration) but they idolized him and wanted to partake in his Light, even if the illumination apparatus was a greasy, average-sized, non-consensual dick.

He looked down at his somewhat diminished plate of undercooked fish.

Perhaps last night’s comparison of defiling a young, pliant girl to devouring a piece of undercooked fish could be taken even further into a metaphysical conceit of Donne-esque proportions, but Eli had no inclination to do so.

As if on cue, Tim’s voice began to register and he listened to the old hippie’s deconstruction of reality with a quiet mind as he cleaned his plate.

@dreguan

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Filed under adventure, blog, Fiction, memoir, sex, travel

Nintendo: Once and Future Overlords of Gaming (and the World?)

Friends,

On July 6, Nintendo/Niantic released the “augmented reality” game, Pokemon Go. In this new instalment of the franchise, players are required to move around the world, the real world, in order to capture monsters digitally super-imposed onto the landscape around them and observed/detected/captured with their smartphone.

While an interesting idea, I was a little cynical when I first read up on this mechanism of the game. Why cynical? Well it seems to me that Nintendo has been trying to incorporate physical activity into gaming since the release of the Wii in 2006 (although in a broader sense they have been trying to get gamers out of the house more since the release of the Game Boy back in the 80s). While I appreciate this good intent, I remember that on the handful on occasions I played Wii, after the initial novelty had worn off, I kinda just wanted to play sprawled out on a couch in a dark room with the blinds drawn and wearing dirty track pants, like nature and God had intended.

But this is different. The memes tell the tale.

Cm-KlcYUEAAm_NX

Cm-LbeIVYAA2uJe

Or, most tellingly…

sorry-mom-ill-be-leaving-our-hometown-next-year-to-1213139

People are literally being mobilized to go out into the world in a way that video games have not been able to (nor sought to) make them thus far.

 856347
Far-Fetched? Maybe, Maybe Not…

Why is this incredible? Well, Nintendo, or more specifically Niantic has figured out a way to not only get people to move around in the world, but has theoretically also found a way to get mass groups of people to all congregate in certain places at certain times. If you look at Niantic’s last augmented reality game, Ingress, you see a world where people try and dominate the global-digital landscape with whatever colour they have chosen, blue or green.

ingress-screenshots-r471x

They can “attack” and thus take over any region held by the opposing team provided they physically go to that area. However, beyond co-ordinated attacks or other such player-driven events, there is nothing driving people to be at a certain place at a certain time. In the case of Pokemon GO, all the Pokemon (at least those which have been released thus far) seem to be distributed more or less evenly in the countries where the game can played*, taking into account of course that certain types are only found in certain geographic conditions i.e. water-type Pokemon only found by bodies of water, etc. But as suggested by the above Bear Grylls meme, what’s to prevent Niantic from placing a Legendary (thus rare and prized) Pokemon like Articuno, somewhere inaccessible like Everest Base Camp? Nothing, save for the limitations of Google Maps.

But let’s take it a step further. What if Niantic released a statement saying that a certain incredibly rare Pokemon would appear only on the lawn of the White House, and then only for twelve hours? People would MOB D.C.!

……

Okay, this scenario is probably beyond a “step further” but I think you get my point. Even if Niantic did a 5-day Pokemon appearance event in a certain city, we could see mass-migrations of people. How serious am I about that? Well, according to Wikipedia, the app, after less than a week of being released, and then only officially in three countries, topped daily usage of Facebook, Tinder, Snapchat and Instagram. That means, it’s beating out people’s libidos and narcissism -no mean feat.

The effort put into capturing Pokemon may seem unbelievable to non-gamers, but is it that surprising? We take our games very seriously especially when there is a ranking structure and an opportunity to demonstrate our prowess and superiority. MMOs in recent years have seen this vulnerability exploited as people will stay indoors on a beautiful, sunny Saturday playing games online in order to take advantage of Double XP weekends. It’s about bragging rights and Pokemon GO differs only in one critical arena -your couch is the last place you wanna be.

Artificial Scarcity
I’m fond of talking about the power of scarcity to motivate people and games truly exploit that power. Whether it’s reddit karma, Pokemon in your pokedex or having a Vex Mythoclast in Destiny, these are things that take work to accumulate/acquire. It’s hilarious because they are digital constructs -lines of code, which by their nature are infinite. But, limit their available quantity or occurrence, attach some status to possessing them and all of a sudden people will scramble.

712862

For now, this is all guess-work and hypothesizing on my part. But it seems foolish not to make the thought-experiment. Maybe this potential hasn’t occurred to Niantic/Nintendo or maybe they are just waiting for an opportune time to mobilize their willing army of Pokemon trainers against the regimes of the world.

All I know is, if it turns out that there are to be different Pokemon in different parts of the world, I will be on the front lines becoming the greatest Pokemon master of them all.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*The game has at this point only officially been released in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, but lo and behold, here is a picture of me playing it in Canada…

IMG_1609
Fuck the P0-lice!

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Filed under blog, futurism, gaming, opinion, pokemon, travel, Uncategorized

“31, Numb, but the Hurt is Gone…”

Friends,

I’m 31.

31 stony grey steps toward the grave if I’m looking to be poetic and needlessly morose.

It’s certainly been a full 31 years, but even in light of everything I have experienced thus far, I feel in some ways like I am just getting started.

Not at life, mind you, but at living.

This is gonna be a big year for me. How do I know?

Well because it has to be. I can’t keep on the way I have been thus far or I will keep getting what I have always gotten.

And I’m bored of that.

2015 was a big year for me. Monster was my operative word. It was my theme for the year if you will. It was on my tongue for everything I wanted to do career-wise.

And, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy: It was my biggest year in film (such as it was), and certainly I could have kept said momentum up and kept growing, albeit in a linear fashion.

But that didn’t seem righteous to me. Essentially, there were other areas of my life I had been neglecting during my entertainment pursuits, most notably my aspirations as an adventurer, and to keep on the same way I had been would have been to repress those longings.

So I donned the sombrero and poncho of el peregrino and made my first foray into Latin America where I partook in ayahuasca and shot a film. This satisfied my longing for adventure while reassuring me that I wasn’t losing too much professional momentum. I got two birds stoned at once as it were.

But now I’m back home. Back for over two months actually, and I stand at a bit of a crossroads: Where do I go from here? I could go back into that linear progression but it doesn’t feel righteous; that is to say I don’t find myself pulled in that direction. After all, do I really wanna spend the rest of my life only telling other people’s stories? No, mine must be the priority.

I feel on a very deep level that to keep pursuing the same things, the same way in the same place is to do myself a disservice and squander my potential while ignoring my passions.

If the theme of 2015 was Monster, the theme for 2016 is Evolve. I have known this…felt this, since mid-2015. I’ve recognized this need for a quantum-shift for that long.

So how do I plan on evolving?

Well, I am precipitating said evolution assymetrically and on many fronts simultaneously, developing existing aptitudes and even trying my hand at new endeavours not strictly film or even adventure related. That’s a big step for me.

So what are some of my approaches?

Well, there is another adventure documentary in the works which will be my greatest undertaking yet. I can’t speak too definitively about it right now simply because I’m not producing/organizing it (which is kind of a relief), but if it doesn’t get deferred until 2017, it will begin this October. Stay tuned for that.

But, I’m kinda sorta almost hoping it does get deferred until next year because my back-up plan is pretty damn sweet too. I’ve started making some inquiries about this one but I can’t start making arrangements until my new passport comes in over the next couple weeks…

On the home front I am starting a collective which at this moment I am simply calling ACCESS. It will be a first furtive step in the direction of embodying a set of values important to me and my partners in the project, values such as sustainability, abundance, collaboration and skill-development to name a few. We are still selecting the property we wish to purchase for this endeavour, and there is a strict set of criteria it must meet, but I am confident we can have that portion of it sorted out before any departure I may be inclined undertake in the fall. This will be a long-term project that will grow and develop as my partners and I do, and I’m excited to begin living values that I have thus far just been discussing.

With regard to strictly creative endeavours, I’ve done something I’ve been meaning to for some time now which  is to lay down vocals for a hip-hop track. Director and Rapper, Matthew Luppino is producing it and it should be out over the next few weeks. I love rhyming and playing with words and so this is a long-overdue step. I want to challenge myself to write a few tracks a year as a way of harnessing this skill. I’m nice at writing bars. Now the world will see this.

Film-wise, I haven’t been applying for auditions but I have kept busy enough through referrals and the like, and for about a month of my time home I was pretty goddamn busy doing stunts on Blood & Fury: America’s Civil War. This latter was actually really important because it gave me that feeling of still being in the game which is so useful for combating feelings of idleness during this period of reflection.. But the whole time I’ve meditated constantly upon how to evolve. A seemingly obvious step would be to finally look into getting an agent but I’m not 100% sold on that…yet. I think there are other ways in which I can transcend where I’m at before I allow that influence into my life.

Finally I am going back out to comedy shows after a lengthy hiatus. This time however I am more aware of how I present myself on stage and going to try new means of delivering my ideas which will hopefully add to their efficacy.

Like I said earlier, I’m 31. I am LITERALLY in the prime of my life when all factors are taken into consideration. True, my body may have some wear and tear (I was in the army for 10 years), but that is mitigated by eating well and keeping fit. And really, from a physical fitness perspective, I’m still easily in the upper 20th percentile of North American men my age. But even if I wasn’t that lack would be offset by the fact that I’m smarter, wiser, more focused, more established and freer than I’ve ever been. I am at a singular moment in my life where I can do ANYTHING. So it’s very important that I don’t squander this time with vain pursuits because I will never be able to achieve like I can achieve now.

Evolve.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Filed under adventure, blog, consciousness, Critique, Deconstruction, entertainment, hamilton, Hip-Hop, opinion, philosophy, spirituality, travel

The 10 Laws of Adventure

Friends,

I am currently on a self-imposed lockdown for two weeks enduring what is called monk mode. I intend to write more about my circumstances and goals in that endeavour but that will be my next post. What I want to talk about now is, as the title suggests, 10 maxims I fleshed out in my journal while making my ayahuasca pilgrimage to South America for my upcoming film, Just Might Be Ok

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Pictured: Two of my favourite books.

You see during this monk mode period I have been reading Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power and it’s inspired me to present my maxims in a similar, if abbreviated, way to really hammer home their importance.

Law 1:
Be Physically Imposing

Observance of the Law:
Having been robbed on a previous trip I was more cognizant about where I slept and kept my baggage, but these considerations were not the only thing which saved me: As a fit guy with a better than average build and great endurance I made my way through Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Ecuador without incident because I was (I assume) more trouble than I was worth.

Keys to Power:
Prior to departure I thought long and hard about what kit I would bring and what I would wear. I wanted to go fast and light and so abandoned the large backpack from the get-go, instead opting for a military vest with a custom pouch set-up, leg bags and a small backpack with a hydration bladder (GEIGERRIG…great piece of kit). A few days into my trip I acquired a sombrero and poncho. The entire look culminated thusly…

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“El Peregrino”
Photo Credit: Kenneth Klemens

Now that may be more comical than imposing to some and to be sure I did want to capture a certain good-natured, adventurous aspect as I was simultaneously shooting a film, but as I keep pretty fit and spry I wasn’t just some fatty at a convention cosplaying. No, everything I carried was functional and the skin I showed was calculated. It wasn’t like I could take anyone who might want to attack me, but I was imposing enough to make any comers think twice, and mobile enough to be out of range if their second thought was, “let’s fuck this dude up.”
However, the safest I ever felt was walking around shirtless or in a wife-beater after stashing my gear at my accommodations. Why? Because I have a built upper body. And without the encumbrance of my gear I was not an attractive target. The way I look and my physique (such as it is) didn’t happen by accident and a modicum of fitness is a warning and beacon to others that perhaps this dude might go the distance if they tried to pull some shit. It shows discipline, and someone who is disciplined on any level instantly becomes a less attractive mark.
On another note, people often poo-poo a workout regimen that focuses on the upper body, but if I could recommend one workout for the adventurer unrelated to endurance and stamina it would be pushups. If your upper body is built, it doesn’t matter if you have chicken-legs, as ne’er-do-wells are creatures of convenience and there’s always lower hanging fruit. So yeah.

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The Pit-Bull. Raised by a loving family it has the sweetest disposition and will allow you to scratch its belly and pet it, but its powerful appearance and reputation make the uninitiated balk. The brave and wise know that it is a powerful a loyal friend.

Reversal:
Cops. For whatever reason they don’t like you walking around the city dressed like a paramilitary, so its wise to keep aggressive-looking gear easily stowable in urban centres. With regard to being muscular, there’s always gonna be some shithead who tries to pull your card even in your hometown, but it likely won’t be on a street in broad daylight. Standard rules of preservation apply: if you go out to bars, try not to go alone, don’t eyeball people, don’t get too drunk and don’t hit on anyone’s girl and you’ll probably be ok.

Law 2: 
Always Bring a Bottle of Something

Observance of the Law:
Throughout the duration of the pilgrimage I relied heavily on Couch-Surfing as a means of sleeping for free. On my last night in Mexico, I couch-surfed with Sinuhe and his family in Villahermosa. I went out for a run in the evening and returned with a bottle of my favourite spirit, Mezcal. We sat to have a couple drinks and it turned into a party. His girlfriend and friend joined us, his mother started making food and pulling out bottles of tequila. It was one of my best nights of the trip.

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Me and Sinuhe, before eating some worms.

Keys to Power:
“Free” really means the ability to put money you would have spent on accommodations elsewhere. Like, for example, food or beverage to show your host appreciation and party with them. The benefit of this is two-fold: First, it makes it more fun. Second, Couch-Surfing is a community where people review each other after the stay, and those references have an effect on whether other people let you crash with them in the future. You could call it Social Capital, and you can increase your social capital by turning positive reviews into glowing ones.

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Jesus Christ. Where people expect water, you bring wine. A vagabond of abundance, they admire your grit, your salt-of-the-Earth sensibilities and of course your desire to make them the guest of honor at the party they didn’t know they were hosting. Then when the morning comes you are gone, having enriched their lives with just your presence. For the rest of their days they spread the legend of the pilgrim who came and made them a part of his adventure.

Reversal:
It is wise to check if the household is amenable to drinking before placing a bottle of booze on the table and telling people to fill their boots. Also, sometimes people will pick you up (if hitch-hiking) and take you home and feed you. In cases like these it is understood that they have the means and desire to treat you and in fact might be put off if you insist on stopping somewhere to purchase them a gift. Feel it out and find some other way to contribute or content yourself with paying the kindness forward.

Law 3:
Be Generous

Observance of the Law:
Being 31 on this last outing, I was more established in the world than a lot of the people I met in hostels, often the 18-23 age range. But they were cool people who I wanted to hang out with and didn’t want them to not come out or sit there without a drink because they didn’t have the same budget as me. I thought of all the kindness and generosity I had received on this excursion and previous ones and realized I had a lot of good karma to pay back. So, around me, no one ever thirsted.

Keys to Power:
I am not a wealthy man in absolute terms but I certainly have enough to buy a round of beers in Mexico, several times over in fact. And for a few dollars, nights wandering the city alone turned into nights on the town. Plus, due to the natural tendency of guys to one-up each other, buying a round meant that every other dude would wanna buy a round and it would become a party.

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The Brother. If the Brother gets 20, his brother gets 10. In fact, the Brother can’t be at ease unless his brother is taken care of. Stand together or die alone.

Reversal:
Don’t allow yourself to be taken for granted. Women are usually worse for this back home, but on the road everyone understands the value of reciprocity. Still, be careful of drinking with locals; either they’ll peg you as the rich gringo and try and run up your tab, or some blonde cunt in Mexico City will try and put a bottle of champagne on your tab because you’ve been hitting it off with her friend all night. True story.

Law 4:
Wear a Condom

Transgression of the Law:
Back in Cairns, Australia in 2006 I picked up this lady named Tania and took her back to my hostel. Since I had a shared dorm room we went downstairs into the laundry room and began to get busy. Now not only did I not wear a dome but I also failed to get her appropriately warmed up, and so when I went to stick my penis in I met resistance.
I pushed hard. Still resistance.
So I gave ‘er the old college try and –OWWW!“- I achieved penetration.
Now, whence cometh the ow? Well being an uncircumcised dude I actually tore my frenulum (the piece of “webbing” between the head of the dick and the foreskin. When I pulled out I noticed a profusion of blood and was like, “Hmmm, that’s peculiar.”
Needless to say, that soured the whole thing pretty damn quick.
She left and I looked up with my pants around my ankles and a used napkin soaking up the blood only to stare into a security camera.
Great Job!
A condom may have absorbed the brunt of the friction and torn first sparing me the embarrassment.

Observance of the Law:
I met some lovely ladies and got to stick my penis in a few of them. It was terrific.

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(…they exist, just…not available…)

Keys to Power:
Traveling through Latin America, an STI isn’t even the worst thing that could happen from having unprotected sex (BABIES!). There is nothing incredibly profound about this law I know but it bears repeating because, well…when I wrote these laws down (Jan 2016) I was really feeling this particularly strongly I guess.

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A Suit of Armor. Not to be worn all the time, it is donned during battle and protects its wearer from the ravages of love and/or war.

Reversal:
(*sigh*) There really shouldn’t be, but every guy reading knows that sometimes a girl makes a really compelling case for why you should fuck her without a condom. She’ll say something like this: “Fuck me without a condom.” And you’ll be like, “……….” And then she’ll be like, “I want your big dick to come inside me.” And then you’re like, “Fuuck!”

Then five minutes later you’re lying there beside her terrified that you just ruined your future while she’s planning your lives together.

Totally worth it.

Law 5: 
If Your Budget is $5,000, Have $10,000

Observance of the Law:
Departing for this trip I was over-prepared in many regards: I brought more gear than I needed and ultimately gave a bunch of it away; I was already fairly enlightened before taking ayahuasca which really took the edge off (more on that to come), etc. But perhaps in no regard was I more prepared than finances. Since I was on a quest with a fairly clearly delineated end-goal it was very important that not only did enough enough money to finance my mobility, food and accommodations (hitch-hiked and camped a lot which really brought costs down), but also enough in reserve to deal with any emergencies and the inevitable spur-of-the-moment decisions that one makes when on the road (See Law 6).

Keys to Power:
I never wanted for anything aside from during times of discipline-oriented, self-imposed austerity, and I was actually shocked when I saw fellow travelers leaving things like food up to chance. There is a fair amount of leaving things to chance one has to do when living on the road and I certainly didn’t go without my share of Quixotic adventures and reversals of fortune, but I decided I didn’t want to be hungry unless it was a some kind of personal challenge. Did having extra cash embolden me to make some choices which were costlier than others? Almost certainly. Do I regret those decisions? Not in the least!
This law can be interpreted in two ways. Literally it can mean, “if you’ve planned a $5000 trip, find a way to accumulate another $5000, but for most that’s wildly impractical and unrealistic. Instead, look at what your budget and then trim as much fat as you can. Time is your ally here as well as grit; if you’re willing to live outdoors and hitch-hike and deal with the resultant uncertain arrival dates, $5000 all of a sudden stretches WAY goddamn further. Also and this is just my opinion here, you don’t just travel, you have an adventure.

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A Clerical Error. Somehow, some way you were allocated twice as much as you actually need and it allows you to regularly spoil yourself in the carefree pursuit of whimsy and new experiences.

Reversal:
I like to think I travel on hard mode which is why I try and refer to it as adventure. But if I do it on hard mode there are some who can be said to do it on extreme mode. With only the proverbial dollar and a dream they eke out a living as they go and basically stay in a place until they earn enough to leave. This is also an enriching way to travel and one I haven’t yet delved into.

Law 6:
Don’t Deprive Yourself of Something That Will Make a Memory

Transgression of the Law:
In September 2006 I departed on my first backpacking excursion to Australia. Landing in Cairns I was close to the Great Barrier Reef, but I was so caught up with getting to the outback that I dismissed going diving there as too peripheral to my interests. I even used the cost to justify my decision not to go. Now I’ve seen most of Australia, but I still haven’t seen that goddamn reef.

Observance of the Law:
Departing in November 2015 I had planned to make my way south through Mexico sticking to the coast and avoiding Mexico City like the plague, as I had heard nothing but how high crime was there. But hitch-hiking is nothing if not a circuitous and unpredictable way to travel. Compound this with the fact that my espanol is poquito (i.e. language barriers) and I found myself inexplicably back on the doorstep of Mexico City after I had managed (I thought) to work my way around it. So I said, “fuck it” and decided to enter the city and hope for the best.
Turns out it was the best choice I made throughout the whole trip. The city had an amazing vibe to it, full of energy and exuberance. It was exciting, dangerous, the women were beautiful, the food was delicious. I even fell in love one night. Looking back I am glad that fortune conspired to make me reconsider my fear-based decision.

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Also, there was some gorgeous architecture in ‘D.F’

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A Stock Portfolio. The record or where you have invested your time and money. It should be diverse and robust. Not all investments will be “profitable” in the short or immediate term, but you hold onto them for life and you see their value increase over time.

Reversal:
Do it for the story can be a great mantra to live your life by but it must be tempered with judgment (See Law 7), because every choice has an opportunity cost. Don’t follow an exciting whim that will jeopardize something dearly important to you hoping that things will just work out somehow (See Law 4).

Law 7:
Find the Level of Stupidity You’re Comfortable With

Observance of the Law:
When entering Mexico from south Texas I had a lot of anxiety. Everyone I met told me it was dangerous, or I would get robbed, kidnapped, beheaded, etc. I was kind of a big bag of nerves when it came time to cross the Rubicon that is the US-Mexico border. However, skipping Mexico and heading right for Guatemala was not an option as I wanted to experience every place. So I compromised: Reckoning that the Mexican border region was the most problematic area of concern I opted to take a bus from Texas through the border and into the interior to the state of Zacatecas.
From there I hitch-hiked south unmolested and had some great adventures.

Keys to Power:
Any number of fellow travelers have passed through the Mexican border without incident and some I met along the way who told me of what a great time they had and it made me wish I had spent time there. But we all make the choices that appear right to us at the time and so it’s hard for me to feel regret. Instead I feel glad I faced a fear on my own terms and kind of smirk inwardly at the constantly-repeating situation of being scared of no more than the unknown.

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The Stuntman. The Stuntman’s raison d’etre is to perform the feats that others are either unwilling or unable to. But every Stuntman has a forte and shines most brightly in a certain area. When there are risks to take, make sure they are the ones that are important to you and that you feel competent taking them. To take the metaphor further, push yourself, but if you’re someone who specializes in getting lit on fire, don’t let them throw you off of a building.

Reversal:
If you have to impress a girl sometimes you gotta double-down on stupidity. It is a man’s prerogative after all…

Law 8:
There are No Dangerous Places, Only Dumb, Unprepared, Fearful People

Transgression of the Law:
In September 2011 I was in Madeira, Portugal, the beginning of a trip to circumnavigate the northern hemisphere. It was a vacationer’s dream and everyone I spoke with screwed up their face with disbelief when I asked if it was safe. “Of course” was the response. I got lulled into a false sense of security and my first night there I fell asleep on the beach and woke up to find all of my gear missing.
Safe place. Go figure.

Observance:
After the robbery in Portugal I decided to continue on and a few months later found myself in the Middle East. It was November 2011 and Egypt was still jumping off after Arab Spring. Naturally I decided to fly to Cairo from Beirut -I wanted to see the pyramids! I made some prudent decisions such as avoiding Tahrir Square where shit was liable to jump off at any given time (See Law 7) but on the whole had nothing but a great experience in spite of people’s warnings that it was super-dangerous. I kept my wits about me and was fine.

Keys to Power:
It is natural for us to be wary of places where something bad has happened. But when you really internalize the idea that bad has happened (literally) everywhere, what you see is that you have a lot of power to avoid getting yourself into said situations. There will always be circumstances beyond your control but you can choose what you make yourself susceptible to by being aware of bad situations as they’re developing and ejecting/aborting if you sense trouble.

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The Surfer. The surfer knows that the ocean is much mightier than he and could kill him very easily. But he understands that there is beauty in danger and it is beauty which he is in search of. So, knowing that he can never hope to control the ocean’s waves, he doesn’t fight the ocean but instead learns to ride it.

Reversal:
If your hear gunfire don’t walk into the crossfire thinking, “As long as I keep my head on a swivel I’ll be fine.” Some situations are empirically dangerous, particularly those which are not contingent upon your actions and interactions.

Law 9:
Play Dumb with Cops, but BOLDLY Dumb!

Observance of the Law:
While walking through Manzanillo, Mexico in full adventure gear I had my poncho drawn closed to conceal my equipment from view. On a whim I decided to throw the poncho back and walk around town looking like a paramilitary. Of course I looked cool walking around but it was also a controlled opportunity to see what I could get away with in Mexican towns; a trap of sorts to make 5-0 reveal their hand. In short order I was stopped by cops who had no compunction about manhandling me and asserting their presence. I played the meek tourist (a stark contrast to the calculated manner in which I was attired) and told them I was a pilgrim. The leader of the cops asked me if I was a some religious nut and then if I was escaped from a (mental) hospital (this I took to be the highest flattery) and I assured him I was not either. I showed them my journal and portrayed myself as a quixotic but harmless young adventurer (not far from the truth). As they flipped through the journal’s pages they saw that I had a picture of a girl. They asked if it was my girlfriend and I smiled like some kind of hopeless romantic and said, “maybe one day.” This really humanized me in their eyes.
But most important by far was the fact that I was so committed and bold in my portrayal as a meek, well-intentioned traveler. My feigned bewilderment brought their defences down and while they approached me hostile and defensive, they left curious, amused and perhaps only mildly annoyed.
The mark of success was that they didn’t even check my pockets or pouches even though they identified I had re-purposed grenade pouches.

Keys to Power:
Getting stopped by cops can be inconvenient, but acting bothered and inconvenienced only gives them further pretense for investigation. As Law 22 of The 48 Laws of Power advises, “Use the Surrender Tactic” -be overobedient to authorities flexing muscle. Even if they suspect that you are insincere in your deference and respect, they face a dilemma because calling you out on insincere respect is implicit admission that their power is contingent upon your accepting and agreeing to it.

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The Jester. He plays the buffoon and everyone has a supposed laugh at his expense with never more than a cursory suspicion that they might be the butt of the joke. As such he outlasts the more confrontational and is indulged by the powerful.

Reversal:
It depends on where your interests lie. The majority of our encounters with cops are them fucking with us and it is our resentment and desire to end the encounter quickly that causes us to offend them, or worse, implicate ourselves in some crime or another. This is why this rule is so important; learn to have fun with your encounters with so-called authorities as it is only when they have you scared and/or aggressive that you can truly lose.
That said, there are times you may find it expedient to answer all questions quickly, diligently and without feigned meekness. For example, if you are registering a complaint or in some way asking for their help (which as a general rule I don’t advise). They will ask you probing questions which, if you are like me, you may resent answering, but their help is contingent you being straightforward with them.

Law 10:
Don’t Carry Drugs

Transgression of the Law:
On about my third or fourth week in Mexico in December 2015, I left Mexico City for Veracruz. In VC I decided to lighten my load some more. I figured I would ditch my pipe kit as pipe tobacco wasn’t really abundant and as I went to throw pipe and kit away I had a last-minute impulse to check the compartments in the pouch. I found a joint that I had accidentally smuggled into the US and then Mexico completely unknowingly.
I ended up having a fun time that night but that’s not the point; my oversight could have been very costly had I been caught.

Transgression of the Law II and Obedience of the Law:
In Jaco, Costa Rica I was on the beach with two people from my hostel outside of a club when cops pulled up for an surprise shakedown/search. The other two didn’t know me too well and I didn’t know them and fortunately the cops segregated me from them. Playing boldly dumb (See Law 9) almost to the point of belligerence I reacted indignantly then the one cop lifted up my shirt to see if I was hiding anything and such indignance and lack of fear they seemingly took as a signal that I was not a tourist they wanted to fuck with too much. After all, lots of rich, connected bastards go to Costa Rica, and even though they are police they don’t want to create too much of a stir when tourism is their bread & butter. But, as it pertains to the Law 10, carrying no contraband on me, I had really nothing to fear; when they turned their backs on me I walked about 10 metres away to piss on the beach while looking at them and challenging them to do something (not brilliant, I know) Then as I started to get bored of the whole endeavour I hit the ground and started doing pushups. This earned outrage from my sequestered companions but to the cops it was like saying, “You guys wanna fuck around? Okay, I got all the time in the world.”
They drove off while I was mid-set and passed me closely I guess as a way of trying to intimidate me. Fags.
My companions didn’t fare so honorably. You see, they were, unbeknownst to me, carrying cocaine. And so with that fear of getting caught  they folded and the cops, sensing their fear, searched them like they hadn’t searched me.
They didn’t get arrested, but after the cops left they were visibly shaken while I was annoyed and ready to fight someone -certainly not an ideal state but better than theirs.

Keys to Power:
While it is a prudent idea not to carry contraband, the real meat & potatoes of this law is that if you feel you are culpable for some reason you will be less confident and more fearful during an encounter with authority which will cause you to act erratically and/or dishonorably as my fellow hostelers did. Better to feel righteous and carry that frame so strongly that whomsoever dares impede you starts to suspect that they are in the wrong.

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The Crusader. On a holy mission from the Almighty himself, the Crusader’s moral high-ground is never in question. Should another find themselves at odds with you they will seriously consider where it is they stand and check themselves.

Reversal:
The only possible reversal is that whatever you do, whether it is carrying drugs, guns, etc. convince yourself and believe that it is the righteous and noble thing to do. The goal here is not to sweat under scrutiny and to be bold and unafraid when encountering some “authority.”

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And so ends my adventure maxims. As I wrote these more occurred that I had thought over while adventuring but never committed to the original list. It may be a worthwhile endeavour to revisit the subject in the future.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Division of Labor

Friends,

I spent the last month of this past winter in Nicaragua working at Carpe Diem eco-village.

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It’s a project where volunteers can go and live for free in exchange for working roughly four hours every morning on the various eco-friendly construction projects being undertaken there. Given that it is a place where you are learning these processes for free it is actually quite a good deal as you leave the place enriched.

While it is not an intentional community proper, I did learn some things about human behaviour and initiative that I imagine would carry over. As I ultimately hope to live in such a community, I have wondered how people would sort out who does what and what would motivate them to do it when the monetary incentive was removed.

There are two primary lessons I learned:

1) The Culture Dictates Behaviour

Ghislain, the owner and originator of the project described to me how during the first season of the project he attracted a lower calibre of volunteer -people who wanted to come live for free but didn’t much care to fulfill the work obligation, preferring to go out boozing every night and recovering every day. It was an uphill battle, but as a start-up project he had to take what he could get. The larger problem was that when new volunteers would show up they were shown a culture of lazing and idleness and would either be turned off or fall into the same habits.

When this next season began in January he resolved to not indulge such behaviour and even had to ask some returnees to leave after the first day -a difficult choice for someone whose vision demands helpers. But ultimately this discernment paid off as the small core group of hard-workers attracted more people and inclined them to stay longer. I can attest to this as I initially passed through CD in early January 2016 (the beginning of the season) and opted to return in mid -February after finishing my ayahuasca pilgrimage to South America -that’s how impressed I was by the culture there. I stayed a month upon my return and was impressed by not only how much got done, but also by the work ethic of my peers.

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It even brought out the inner maker in me and I frequently took
on small personal projects which I’m not always wont to do.

Still, it’s kind of funny to muse that if these same peers and myself had showed up last year, our more idle and lazy traits might have been nurtured too. But, by changing his standard he changed the culture of the camp into something more congruent with his vision. That’s powerful and profound.

2) Everyone Will Find Their Place

One volunteer showed up during my month there named Nina. Nina was a 19 year-old German girl who was neither diligent nor motivated when it came to work. Mixing cob, building walls, preparing food -these were all things that she would only make the most gestural efforts at, and those efforts only when she wasn’t too sick to do anything but lay about in camp.

At first I’ll admit I looked at her a bit resentfully as I carried heavy loads of building materials around and scraped the shit out of my limbs gathering the thorny firewood for our cooking fires. Quickly though, I overcame this resent because I am a firm believer in the maxim, “What you eat don’t make me shit’ -or simply, as long as you’re not posing a detriment to me it’s not my business. When I got over myself and my ego in this manner I could look at Nina a little more dispassionately and objectively. What I saw was that while she laid about she was engaging and playing with the young Nicaraguan toddlers who lived next to us and who would always wander into our camp to observe and play. It occurred to me that if this were an intentional community where people were having children and building lives, I would be grateful to have a Nina around -someone who relished being with kids and playing with kids…

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…and not simply just acting like a kid.

Then I thought about myself -for the duration of my stay I woke up at 5:45 every morning to get the fire going and the water boiling by the time people started waking up 6:30. On top of that I would do the wake-up alarm by singing at the top of my lungs every morning. Nobody told me I had to but I wanted to because I wanted to have breakfast and coffee before work started at 7:30, and of course because I love singing. As well, I always gravitated toward gathering firewood and building fires -I just liked to do these things and they needed to be done.

On a similar note, my friend Marijo usually did meal prep because she was good at it and liked to do it. Nobody said she had to.

And I think this is the larger point. I saw people finding their equilibrium and their place within a society in a very natural, very organic way. And this gave me hope that the community I’m looking to build and be a part of one day just might work.

Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

Carpe Diem Eco-Project: https://www.facebook.com/carpediemecoproject/?fref=ts

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One Night as an Illegal Alien

Friends,

This past weekend, Toronto hosted World Pride 2014 and good times were had by all (except for the drunk, gay couple yelling at each other on Church & Gerrard on Sunday night). If you fancied yourself too cool for a free street festival/concert with nudity and instead had money just burning a hole in your pocket however, you might have instead attended BUD LIGHT DIGITAL DREAMS, as I did on Saturday.
Now I don’t want to badmouth the event; there were some  impressive stages and great music. However, shit got derailed before you even entered the venue by virtue of the arduous set of hoops to jump through that was the admissions process. In brief, if you purchased a ticket online, you had to print off a confirmation which you then had to show at one booth in order to get your ticket, which you then had to take to another booth to get your BRACELET, which carried with it admission privileges and concession stand access.
Foolishly thinking that the $100+ we paid for our tickets* went in part to ensure a smooth, well-oiled in-clearance, we showed up at 5pm expecting to pick up our tickets within a half hour and go from there.
Two hours later and we had moved a few feet.
It was at this point that my friend, Shane suggested I go take a break from the line-up, which I did. I walked for a bit along some eight-foot high fences until I came to a park and laid under a tree planning my next move. Nothing came to me, and it occurred to me that with Shane’s phone dying and me being gone for so long I should probably get back tot he line-up lest they make it in without me.
But I saw a curious thing as walked back along the eight-foot fences: a stretch of about 100m with no security or police officers patrolling it. Then another curious-er thing: drunk people with only the most rudimentary of climbing skill hopping the fence.
Well, I wasn’t drunk and I climb regularly so I really had no excuse not to hop the fence (I had paid money for a ticket after all). So I found myself being put to a decision for all my chips: I either balked and shambled regretfully back to my spot in line to wait with all the other human livestock or risk getting arrested at 29 for sneaking into an all-ages (well 16+ anyhow) concert.
I think we know what choice I made:

photo (2)
Happy like a Mexican who just evaded border patrol!

Shit was Iiiight!! Sure, I was a little bummed out that Shane was still waiting in line but we’re good enough buddies that I knew he wouldn’t begrudge me for doing something wacky and irrational; I learned that from him after all.
Now I was set: I had two bottles of water in my cargoes (ALWAYS…WEAR…CARGOES), one remaining “party favour” and enough money to get me by at any concert…OH SHIT!; I didn’t have a bracelet. 100 bucks in my wallet and I couldn’t spend a dime of it, except perhaps in the black market (drugs). For to engage vendors without a bracelet, would be like trying to engage an employer without a SIN/SSN: Best case scenario they tell you to fuck off; worst-case scenario that call the authorities on you.
And what of the authorities? Well, failure to present a bracelet in that microcosm of society would be akin to not presenting any ID or proof of citizenship in the real world. Incarceration and/or deportation (ejection from the venue). Hell, even an injury that sent me to the paramedics would get me ID’d as an illegal and I would face the long dick of justice after my recovery.
So I did what any stateless/illegal alien would do: Kept my hands in my pockets and did my dirt on the DL.
After an initial two hours of fighting my way to the front of the mainstage I got a hankering to look for my brother who was managing the Bacardi tent. And while I never found that dude, it did give me cause to explore the grounds. During my exploration, I distinctly remember my heart skipping a beat when I saw choke-point where people en route to other parts of the venue were getting a little congested. Whence cometh this heart-skippery? Well, it occurred to me that much like the draconian mobility restrictions placed on Chinese and Soviet people in the past, the authorities might be checking bracelets before allowing access to other areas.
Thankfully that wasn’t the case, and neither my mobility nor my access to water was hampered due to plentiful hydration stations which had no bracelet checks either.
At my most jaded point in the evening it occurred to me that, short of waiting in line till my balls fell past my knees, all of my citizenship bracelet problems could simply be solved with lots of money; whether that meant bribing vendors to look the other way or going through official routes, like for example leaving the venue and spending egregious amounts for a VIP pass which would allow me to bypass the line-up at customs the admissions tent. Is that an overly cynical perspective? Maybe, but I’ll refer you to the homie Shawn Carter, for an interesting perspective on the matter:

“Everything’s for sale,
I got five passports; I’m never goin to jail.”
-Jay-Z, Otis

The reality is that money solves most problems** and since anyone can, in theory, get enough money to solve all of their worldly problems, everyone should do so. But here’s the problem:

Anyone =/= Everyone

Unless you’re one of the monied few like Jigga, you’re often S.O.L. when it comes to quick and expedient access to goods, accommodations and as I found out this Saturday, a bit of Earth to shake my ass on.
I’ll leave you with a final thought: Have you ever trespassed or been somewhere you weren’t supposed to be doing something you weren’t supposed to do? It was exciting wasn’t it? That excitement wears off however, when the care you must take not to get discovered interferes with your day-to-day life. Sadly, this is the predicament of what I conservatively estimate to be millions of people on the planet who are forced to live an illicit life because someone or some agency has presumed to tell them that they could not be somewhere that they desired to be anyway.
We really need to reflect on our sad tendency to deny poor people’s*** access to parts of our planet that are, in reality part of our shared heritage as human beings.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*We paid $140 for one-day passes on Kijiji at the last minute
**It is actually people who solve most problems, but most of them “hop for cash, bitch!” (sic.)
***We’re all “poor” people on some level=> “You ain’t never rich in this world.” –It’s Dark and Hell is Hot, DMX

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