Category Archives: Travel

Loneliness

“Yes I’m lonely, wanna die… I am lonely, wanna die…

If I am dead already… Girl, you know the reason why.”

-The Beatles

I am almost 8 months pregnant now. It is late September in Austin, hot, humid with a population of mosquitoes that boggles my mind, despite my years in India.

I hail most recently from Vermont, and am unaccustomed to the long months of confinement in air conditioning that I’m experiencing here in Austin.

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Our cat loves meditation time

Sometimes I venture to open a window, to let the sound of bird song drift in… But the heat quickly fills the house and I am quick to shut it again.

I slip outside on a daily basis to water my garden. I move quickly, swatting away mosquitoes while I hold the hose. Sometimes I’m lucky and only get 5-10 bites before I duck back inside.

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These guys don’t mind the mosquitoes…

Most mornings we meditate out on the back-porch. We set up by lighting two citronella candles, several sticks of incense, an essential oil burner filled with lemongrass and citronella oils and whatever else we can find that smokes and smells vile to mosquitoes. It’s wonderful to be able to sit outside and not get bitten… too much, anyways. An occasional kamikaze mosquito will break through the frontlines and find it’s way to a leg, or a foot, usually getting a blood sample or two before it’s exterminated with a mighty clap.

One day I scurried outside equipped with a mini saw and some clippers, to cut back the unwanted saplings and suckers from the trees in our front yard. I moved as quickly as I could, while a veritable cloud of blood sucking, hungry mosquitoes formed about me. Ten minutes later I was rushing back inside, my work done, and throwing myself onto our bed, moaning in agony. I counted almost 100 mosquito bites on my body (I got in the habit of counting mosquito bites when we lived in India and were camped on some land covered in rice paddies while we began construction on the community that would be built there). Addison and I rubbed ice cubes over the swelling bites, and I lathered myself in essential oils that eventually helped the itching to calm down.

My midwife told me about these mosquito repelling DEET sprayers that you can clip onto your belt while you garden. I never knew I would actually consider getting something like this before, but it sounds awesome. Misting mosquito death all around me… a force field of toxic doom for the blood sucking masses. Ahhh….

At this point you may be wondering what all of this mosquito talk has to do with loneliness, the title of this blog post.

Or maybe you live in Austin and you are simply commiserating with my mosquito tales. 😉

What this all has to do with loneliness is this: I am hugely pregnant, spending a lot of time at home. My usual activities (when not in my third trimester of pregnancy) involving nature connection, capoeira and cycling adventures have been put on hold for the moment.

I go to bed early. I wake up to pee up to 5 times in the night. I try to get up early and write for a couple of hours before I do any other work.

I go to Barton Springs and swim in the healing, cold waters that seem to suck the inflammation from my swollen ankles and fingers. These spring waters are a veritable source of bliss for this pregnant lady.

I have a mandolin lesson every other week, and noodle around at home, practicing the melodies and chords in preparation for the next lesson.2016-09-21-14-27-43-1

I read out loud in french, practicing for when the baby is born and I have to speak to her in french as much as possible so she can be bilingual as she grows up.2016-09-15-15-22-02

I reach out to a few people every week, hoping someone will want to come over and see me, or maybe go swimming with me. Perhaps, in some people’s minds, the fact that I’m pregnant means that I don’t exist right now. If I can’t come to capoeira class at night, or go see a show, than why invite me to anything or check in on me? I have a full time job creating another human being, so what else could I possibly want to do?

Ok, that was my bitter, proud Leo side speaking.

I’ve always wanted people to reach out to me, to invite me on adventures, to include me in crazy schemes.

But that’s what I do, not other people. I’m the one who calls people up and asks them to go camping with me, I’m the one who tries to get everyone together to make crafts and play music, I’m the one who writes letters on a typewriter and sends postcards and am thrilled if anyone responds in kind.

I know I am loved and adored by all of my friends. I know most of them would do anything to help me if I asked. I know they all care.

But I am in my third trimester of pregnancy, and I don’t want to be alone all of the time. I do like being alone most of the time. But not all of the time.

I’m feeling discouraged about creating community in Austin at the moment.

I did have a brilliant idea.

I updated my Couchsurfing profile and switched it on, to “Accepting Guests”.

Lo and behold, I’ve had requests from interesting, friendly people from all over the country who want to stay here… and that’s just within the first day of turning it back on.

I even had a Persian PhD student ask if we could be adventure buddies since he enjoys hiking and camping and wants other people to do this with. I said yes, but as I am so pregnant, I can only go on short hikes and am better off swimming.

The other day we had a young couple from Olympia, WA stay here. We talked about adventures and travel, and then they squished together on our leather chair next to the vinyl player reading books, while Addison and I worked out a couple of songs for our show on Saturday (are you coming? It’s at In.gredients on Sept. 24th from 6-8 pm).

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Back when I hosted a cyclist from England during my second trimester of pregnancy

It was very cozy and nice to have other human beings in our house.

Next weekend a woman from Alberta, Canada is going to stay with me while Addison is in Chicago. We’re going to go swimming, crotchet and read french to one another.

The weekend after a couple from Colorado is staying here for ACL.

Oh, and this kid from Denmark, who is traveling around the United States, just hit me up while I was writing to stay here tonight. 🙂

And ANOTHER guy just hit me up to stay here this weekend… he’s offering us Thai massages and yoga instruction. Woah.

Another idea I had is to figure out how to sit in my front yard on a daily basis, so I can wave to neighbors as they walk by. If anyone stops to chat, I’ll offer them a drink and a seat. I just need some really baller outdoor furniture and some extra citronella candles… maybe a fan that blows mosquito repellant everywhere. 😉 (if you live in Austin and have baller outdoor furniture to share with me, let me know! If the furniture comes included with you sitting in it, even better!)

I have always wanted community. But I didn’t always know that’s what I wanted. And now that I know that, I don’t know exactly how to make it happen. I’ve moved so frequently my entire life that I have friends and family spread across the world, literally.

Sometimes I sit and consider who I’m going to visit when, and as I start going down the list my head begins to spin. Should I spend New Years in Saltillo, Mexico with my new family-away-from-home that I spent last New Years with during my bicycle trip? How will that be with a newborn baby?

When should I fly to L.A. to visit my uncle and my new cousins who I still haven’t even met yet?

And then there’s always India. I haven’t been back there in 10 years, and I’d love to visit my mom and brother in their natural habitat, and revisit the Tibetan refugees who live near Govindaji Gardens (the spiritual community where my mom and brother live) and walk through their beautiful temple again and see the incredible depictions of the Peaceful and Wrathful deities.

Oh and France, of course. Half of my family lives there, shouldn’t I do a french pilgrimage and visit them all with the new baby?

And since my sister and her husband have decided to move to Washington, well I suppose I’ll need to head that way in the next year as well!

I will have to wait on all of these schemes while I discover what it’s like to live and travel with a baby. But I do believe she has a lot of adventuring in her future… 😉

For now I am thankful to have a beautiful, spacious home and a guest room, so that I can invite people to stay here.

And perhaps one day I will actually buy a house and live in the same place for the rest of my life and build up the kind of community around me that I’ve always wanted.

Seeing as you’ve read this all the way to the end, something about this topic must be interesting to you and I would LOVE to hear your thoughts. About any of it. In addition to being curious about what other people’s thoughts are on community and loneliness… and mosquitoes, reading your comment I think will help me feel less lonely. 🙂

Exploring the South Indian Countryside

A tale in which, at 12 and ¾ years of age, I go exploring the South Indian countryside with nothing dependable except a bicycle and my crazy best friend.

I wrote this story when I was 17, for a writing test. My now 31 year old self took the liberty of making some slight edits. 🙂

(please take note that from the ages of 12 – 17 my name was ‘Tulsi Manjari’, as I was given a different name when initiated by a guru and giving a new name to your disciple was the custom. However, around 18 years old I separated from the Vaishnava religion and went back to using my birthname, Jahnavi 😉 )

It was 1999, and we lived in Karnataka, India.

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Our homes were within a community called Govindaji Gardens (listed as Sri Narashringa Chaitanya Ashram on the map below):

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a Vaishnava ashram surrounded by fields of rice and sugarcane.

Between the farm fields around our home were small patches of jungle. Deep in their leafy tangles were hidden ancient shrines and temples, with stones that were worn down and walls that caved in. The whole countryside was riddled with small dirt paths, only traveled by wild dogs and farmers with their cows, buffalo, sheep, and goats.

At the time my best friend was visiting from the U.S. and living at the ashram with us. His name was Radha Kanta, and I always remember him as he was during that time: tall, lanky, loud-mouthed and impulsive.

We had just recently celebrated his 13th birthday and I wasn’t far behind, but he still puffed out his chest and stood tall, importantly reminding that I was younger than him (by about three months).

He and I used to take our bicycles and go for little dusty tours on the few roads we could find. One day, without really thinking much about it, we went off onto one of the small cow-paths, our bicycles rattling noisily on the bumps and rocks. Each path forked off onto at least two or three more obscure paths, and soon we were traveling across a rocky landscape with sparse clumps of bushes, and a few trees whispering loudly around us. The paths began opening up to more and more vast fields of rice and sugar cane. Above our heads, the leaves of coconut and mango trees swished in the breeze, and it was very warm. We saw no one about, and simply pedaled on and on, talking lazily about whatever crossed our minds.

Minutes sped on to make up an hour, and soon we came upon a shady clearing, in which stood two heavy-lidded water buffaloes, chewing demurely on their cuds, and flinging their gray tails at the rude files that gathered at their heels. We bid them a good day, to which their response was a lazy nod of a large, horned head.

A deep well of water was also there, and we peered into it cautiously, wondering, with echoing voices, why it was so big. The circumference around it must have been a good 50 feet, and it was a puzzling piece of architecture to be sure.

But we moved on. After all, buffaloes and water-wells weren’t that exciting.

I admit at that point on our sojourn, I was beginning to worry about where we were, and which path would lead us home.

I said to Radha Kanta, “Shouldn’t we try to head back now?” But I knew he’d want to keep going.

“Well,” he told me, “let’s just go a little more. We can follow this road and see where it goes.”

I grudgingly consented.

The road followed along a large expanse of a rice field, and there, across the swaying heads of the rice plants and streams, we saw the roof of a looming temple, which poked just above the tops of the trees.

Radha Kanta and I stopped our bikes and stood on the road, gazing at it with awe.

“Wow…” one of us murmured.

“Let’s go check that out Tulsi!” Radha Kanta exclaimed. “It looks awesome!”

It looked more forbidding than awesome to me, and there didn’t appear to be any way to reach it except for trudging across the muddy fields. All in all, the temple seemed to be far out of the way.

“But…” I protested feebly. “There isn’t even a road! What if we get lost?”

“We can’t get lost!” he cried, with big gesticulations of his long, skinny arms. “We can just go a little ways down that rice field,” he pointed to the murky mess of rice plants and trenches filled with mud water, “and if we don’t make it as far as the temple, we’ll just turn back.”

I looked at him doubtfully.

“If we go over there, there’ll probably be a road that we can follow to get back!” he cried in a last effort to convince me. “Come on!”

So we picked up our bicycles and headed across the fields without looking back. The going was messy and very slow, involving acres of warm, ankle deep mud. After the first rice field came another rice field, followed by a sugarcane field, than yet another rice field. And still, the gray dome of the eery temple loomed just ahead, out of reach.

By this time our enthusiasm had worn down completely, and Radha Kanta was just as worried as I was. And I was very worried. But then, after just one last rice field, we were there. Or almost there. At least there were no more fields left to trudge through.

We pulled our bicyles out of the mud and stopped a moment, to consider how to get through the tangle of weeds and thorn bushes which stood between us and the temple.

I don’t know how we maneuvered through the hostile vegetation, but we did. Once through, we climbed up a small hill that led to the back of the temple.

The building was very big and definitely deserted. The walls were gray and dirty, as if they had been rinsed and stained continuously by black water. The area around the temple was completely overgrown, and the stone gate that stood in front was doing its best not to fall over completely.

I could hear parrots cackling to one another from the vine covered tree canopy, but even when I craned my neck to look up at them, they were too high up and too camouflaged amongst the green leaves to be seen.

We noticed two Indian men standing about in the dilapidated courtyard as if it were the most normal thing to do. Cigarettes dangled from their mouths, and they stood about scratching their heads and murmuring to one another in Kannada. They were wearing the usual dress of the Ganjam village men–plain, cotton sarongs which they tied about their waists and folded in half just above the knees.

They did not appear to be surprised to see us, but then, there was nothing odd about that, since it did not seem likely that these two fellows could find anything surprising given their cow-like expressions.

Of course Radha Kanta overlooked this particular aspect of their personalities and sauntered over to them with purpose.

“Hello!” he said, adopting the funny accent he used when he spoke to Indians, as though that would help them understand his english better. “What is this place?”

No response.

He put his hands on his hips, contemplating the temple. Then he turned back to the two men. “Me and her are going inside to look, okay? You please watch our bikes. Make sure nobody steals them.”

I gaped a little as he placed our bicycles in front of them and started off toward the temple entrance. I ran after him, wondering why he was so crazy.

There turned out to be no door to the temple, just a hole in the wall. Radha Kanta gingerly poked his head inside. I stepped next to him and peered in. There appeared to be nothing in the room except an impenetrable blackness, big piles of bird guano, and little shapes all over the ceiling. Our eyes strained in the dark, and I began to make out strangely shaped holes in the walls. They seemed to be intricately designed windows, but there was no light coming through them. I concluded they must have been filled in with bricks.

We kept looking around, but neither of us volunteered to step inside. I noticed a small opening in the back wall that seemed to lead to another room. A faint red glow was pulsing through the blackness from that back space. But before I could form any thoughts about what might be glowing red in the dark, something bit my leg.

“Ow!” I shouted. I felt another bite, and then I was being bitten all over. I jumped up and down looking about wildly. Red ants were swarming around the floor and up my legs. “Oh my god! OW! Red ants Radha Kanta! They’re biting me!”

I wonder to this day if he even heard me. His head was still stuck in the dark, poop-filled room and he was talking excitedly to the empty space I had previously occupied. Some part of my brain registered the fact that he wasn’t getting bitten at all, and I suppose I was envious of him, as I hopped about, brushing ants off of me. I wanted to scream.

Once I had separated myself from the blood thirsty ants and all of their relatives, I grabbed Radha Kanta’s arm. “Let’s leave now. I want to go.” Luckily he seemed as eager to leave as I was. We returned to the two stupefied Indian men and grabbed hold of our bicycles.

“How can we get back to Sri Rangapatna?” Radha Kanta asked them. Sri Rangapatna was the name of the village we lived close to.

For some reason they actually answered him. They pointed to the road in front of the falling-over stone wall and said, “Sri Rangapatna, that way,” with the perfunctory head bob the Indians always use when they speak.

We turned to see where their fingers were directing us. The road split into three parts.

“Which way?” Radha Kanta asked.

They smiled happily, and one of them said, “Yes, yes,” flashing his head-full of yellow, crooked teeth.

I sighed and together we left them to their cigarettes. We stood out on the forked road. “Left, right or straight ahead?” I asked no one in particular.

“Well…” Radha Kanta furrowed his brow.

I looked in one direction, seeing what lay along that road. “Wait a minute…” I said.

Radha Kanta paused his brow furrowing and followed my gaze.

“Let’s go down this road, because I think I’ve been on it before,” I told him.

We started down that way, examining everything around us, in hopes of spotting familiar landmarks. I wondered if we’d ever make it home, or whether we’d just be found as skeletons on the side of the road.

Each minute stretched longer than I had known a minute possibly could stretch. But slowly, very slowly, recognition creeped in on me, and before I knew it, I was riding along a completely familiar roadway. “This IS the road!” I yelled.

“What?” said Radha Kanta.

“I know where to go from here!” I told him. “We’re not lost!”

Radha Kanta whooped in relief and we pedaled with a new-found enthusiasm. We recognized a side path to turn onto and soon were well on our way back home. Radha Kanta gave me an appreciative smile. “I’m so glad you were with me Tulsi, ‘cause I would never have known which way to go.”

I grinned.

Suddenly every bush, every tree, every cow even, was familiar. We were both so relieved we could have wept. The final stretch home went by so fast, it seemed to be only minutes before we were standing back at the front gate of Govindaji Gardens.

We threw the bicycles down and ran to my house, where we began to gulp down glassfuls of water.

Our siblings surrounded us, asking us where we had been and what had happened. We told them we’d gotten lost and related the whole story.

At the end, Radha Kanta, evidently carried away with the afternoon’s excitements, added, “Yeah, and as we were riding away from the temple, I saw a white thing fly out of the roof! It was wearing a big cape and riding some weird creature.” His eyes were wide, and he looked at each of us in turn.

I stared back at him. “You did?”

“Yes!” he cried. “Swear to god I did!”

Why Music?

Why music?

I’ve been considering an age-old topic, a cliche question that perhaps musicians dislike being asked:

Why do we play music?

The question of “why we play music” can be grouped amongst the other fathomless questions such as…

Why is the sky blue?

Why does everybody die?

What is the meaning of life?

To assume that we can do any justice to any of these topics by trying to answer the question, is to perhaps assume too much of ourselves. 😉

But then again, what is the point of being human if we don’t get to sit around sipping fermented beverages and discussing ponderous concepts?

So grab your beverage of choice and pull up a chair!plantation-banjo1

…and imagine a time before we had electricity and internet, before we could watch movies and stream music endlessly via Spotify and Pandora (for scandalously low prices I might add, considering that musicians such as us only receive something like 0.005 cents per song-play on a site like Spotify… but I digress ;-).

I imagine that back then, before we could listen to music without the musicians themselves being present, we must have placed tremendous value on the person who would come sit by our hearth and tell us stories from faraway lands, or play us songs about the human predicament: love, death, hope, fear, desire.

We could listen to them and enter a trancelike state, gazing into the fire, and be transported above everyday life–the rigors and the doldrums–to a place of the imagination, a mysterious realm that songs can take us to, where we find solace for our unspoken pain, inspiration to carry on, or simply a moment’s respite from our belabored thoughts.instruments-and-globe

We were able to travel, to go on adventures, right from our homes. And the wandering bard who showed up in our village was our traveling guide.

Even now, you know that you are witnessing a pure conduit of music when you sit down in front of a musician (or musicians) and forget who and where you are as the music pours over you. 

Even Pandora can’t always accomplish that.

And as musicians, this is what we aspire to… transporting our beloved audience into a timeless realm, holding space for them as they travel to a place where healing, joy and inspiration are all possible.

This is one of the best reasons I can give you for why we play music. 🙂

P.S. And if you’ve never had The Love Sprockets take you on a musical journey, it’s about time you experienced us firsthand:

http://thelovesprockets.bandcamp.com/track/by-the-pale-moonlight

(It’s a song based on the old french traditional ‘Au Claire de la Lune’ in which a young poet’s candle goes out and he goes late at night through the village to find a light and a pen to write with)

Click here to listen to By the Pale Moonlight

Ghost Stories from Brooklyn

(names have been changed for the characters in this story, to protect their privacy, FYI)

“My loves!” he cries, as he rollerblades into the Laleeta Indian Restaurant where we are sitting. We stand up, laughing at the sight of the rollerblades strapped around his ankles, and the disconcerted glances from the Indian waiter and south African customers at the table near us.

After embracing each of us he glides into a seat across from us, where the vegetable curry and rice we ordered for him is waiting.

The first time we met Tom Peterson was over 3 years ago, when Addison and I were riding our bicycles across the United States and the 3 of us (4 counting Tom’s girlfriend at the time, Layla) ended up staying with the same Warmshowers host in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. We didn’t know what to make of Tom at the time, but we ended up cycling all the way to Baton Rouge, Louisiana with him. He raised the camaraderie and comedic factor for us during that month of travel.

He had lived on in our memories as an eccentric, bicycle racing cheapskate, who would fill his empty taco bell bag with the free condiment packets from their counter spread, horde wet wipes from the Walmart dispensers to use later on to clean out his tent when we would set up camp, and who would compare the caloric value of the three different bags of 1 dollar trail mix at the Family Dollar, to make sure he was getting the most calories per dollar spent.

But it seems that perhaps Tommy Peterson’s days of hoarding free condiments and seeking out free or under $1 meals has come to an end for the time-being. Here in Brooklyn, he tells us, he’s started a loft-bed installation business and business is booming for old Tommy Petes.
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He pulls his lumber and supplies around with his racing bike and custom designed cargo trailer, and has more work than he could hope for.

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As if he didn’t have enough going on already, he works at a bar every Sunday night (“for the Pina Coladas” he says), working the bar or racing out on his rollerblades to deliver food around the city. When it’s a slow night he can host his business meetings at the bar with potential loft-bed clients.

Tom doesn’t seem to say ‘no’ to work when it comes his way, even when it appears in a bizarre and perhaps disconcerting setting. And as we have come to learn, Tom is a master at attracting bizarre and disconcerting events to him.

“Yeah I’m actually remodeling a haunted house around the corner from here,” Tom tells us, in between bites of vegetable curry. He orders a mango lassi from the waiter who appears every 10 minutes to refill our water glasses.

Addison raises his eyebrow, intrigued. “Haunted house?”

“Yeah, it was built in like the 19th century. I met this lady the other night on the street corner when I was eating watermelon…” he begins.

It was 1 am, a warm night in early July, and Tom had ended up working late on one of his installation jobs. He was exhausted and dehydrated, and decided a big slice of watermelon would do him good. He pedaled his rig to a nearby convenience store and purchased a watermelon quarter and a coke. As he hunkered down on the sidewalk to eat, a woman with a pitbull walked past and said to him, “Watermelon. Nice choice!”

He thought so too, until he was a few bites into his piece and discovered that his particular hunk of watermelon had not been laid down in the ice properly and was warm and soggy from a long summer day. He contemplated the piece for a moment, then put it down, having lost interest. The same woman who had passed by him a moment before circled back around.

“Are you going to finish that?” she asked, pointing at his watermelon.

“Nah,” he said.

“Mind if I have it?”

“Knock yourself out.” He handed her the piece.

She and the pitbull settled down next to him and she began to tear into the watermelon like a wolf ripping into a fresh elk kill. Soon the juices were flowing down her face and neck, soaking the front of her shirt.

The scene made Tom feel a little queasy.

“What’re you working on?” the woman asked between bites, indicating his cargo trailer.

He told her about his loft-installation business.

“Do you do any other kind of carpentry work?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he shrugged. “Anything, really. I’ve remodeled alot of houses, helped build others, pretty much whatever.”

He found out her name is Kathy, and she lives in a really old house nearby and would he be interested in doing some work on it. He said sure, why not.

After some time had passed, Tom told her it’s late and he needs to get to bed. They exchange information, but as he was beginning to walk away, she noticed that he was headed in the same direction as her house.

“My place is on this street,” she told him. “Do you want to step inside to see it yourself for a minute?”

“Sure,” Tom said.

The house was everything one could hope for in an old, historic building. Grand, grimy, and perhaps inhabited by generations of the dead.

Kathy showed him in and walked him around, telling him about her various project ideas. Most of them didn’t really make sense as far as what physical reality would dictate, but Tom humored her and heard her out. She seemed to be particularly obsessed with the stairway, asking him to do things like completely block them off so the upstairs was separated from the downstairs, or to level them and build a trap door.

She told him to follow her, and he noticed that as she was walking upstairs past a room on her right, that she waved to someone who must have been in there. 

“Good night,” she said to whoever was in the room.

As Tom followed her, he glanced into the open door of the room where she was looking. A young girl was sitting on the bed, her eyes rolled up in her head. She began to convulse before she fell back into the bed.

Tom stared from the girl to Kathy, but Kathy gave no other indication that the girl was even there, so he stayed silent and continued up the stairs.

He waited for Kathy on the landing while she changed out of her watermelon soaked clothes. She reemerged from her room wearing a sheer, flesh-colored, silk suit. Tom tried not to notice that her outfit was completely translucent, but rather focused on the numerous photographs of a dead bird that she had laid out on her bedroom floor.

“It happened last week,” she told Tom. “The bird flew right up next to me. It paused in mid-air and we made eye contact. It’s like it was hypnotized.”

Her pitbull had taken advantage of this strange and marvelous occurrence, by leaping up and ensnaring the bird in its jaws. The photos Kathy had taken of the bird over the next 3 days showed that the bird had been torn to pieces, its entrails draped across the deck in a gruesome collage of death.

She had photographed the dead bird at night, in the morning, in the late afternoon, at different angles, with different lights and shadows that she had created to capture the manifold looks of its carcass.

Everytime Tom was deciding it was time to leave, she would entrance him with another story, another painting, another piece of art with an intriguing story tied to it, and he felt like a captive witness to this empty shell of a woman, who had so much to say, so many stories to tell, but who seemed to be sucking the very life out of him with each memory she shared. He could sense that the real person, the spirit of this woman’s body, was there somewhere, floating nearby, but she didn’t seem to be an active participant of her own life.

Her next wardrobe change was into a sundress that she pulled up just below her breasts. Tom was kind enough to pretend not to notice that she was naked from the top up. He was well and truly ready to head home at this point, when an incredibly angry man came thundering up the stairs.

“Where’s my drugs?” he was screaming. “Where are they? I’ll kill you, I’ll fucking kill you!”

Tom did not know where the man had come from, but he decided the best plan of action was to move slowly and to act calm. His escape route would have been down the stairs and out the door, but the angry man was currently blocking the stairs. Tom casually reached into his backpack and found a chisel, which he slipped into his pocket.

Apparently the man’s name was Jim, and he was a house guest of Kathy’s. She and Tom both assured Jim that they did not have his drugs, and suggested that he keep looking. But that they were most certainly not upstairs.

Jim thundered around, breaking things, cursing, and generally expressing his displeasure at having misplaced his drugs. But eventually a silence fell over the house, and Tom heard a click and a deep puff, and knew that Jim and his crack pipe had been reunited. Peace settled in, and Jim was soon apologizing for his behavior.

A strange dance began to take place, which continued to imprison Tom at the house. Jim would start talking about Kathy, telling Tom unpleasant stories and bits of information about her, and Kathy would get angry and leave, not wanting to have listen to it. When Jim would finally leave Tom alone for a second, Kathy would reemerge and demand to be told what Jim had told Tom, and then she would respond with a deluge of unpleasantries about Jim. When Kathy disappeared Jim was back, and the sequence would continue.

It was around 5 am when Tom was finally able to extract himself. 

“And you still ended up working for her?” we ask him, incredulous. 

“This woman had cash just falling out of her pockets,” Tom says defensively. “Someone’s gotta scoop up the cash!”

So Tom started his first project there, which was dealing with the effects that some rotting beams were having on the door frame and stripping. It was his third day at the house, and he had just done some glueing around the door frame and was waiting for the glue to dry.

It was a 95 degree day in Brooklyn, and the house had no A/C. He had been working there since 8 am that morning, and now it was nearly 1:30 in the afternoon. He was afraid to drink the water in the house, for reasons he could only attribute to the half-rotted, moldy aspects of the walls and framing. Feeling drowsy and dehydrated, and drained of energy in a way only this house and Kathy could make him feel, he lay out on the living room couch and drifted to sleep.

“Weh weh meh meh meeeeeee!”

“Hum hum hum hum…”

“Ugh, grrrrr, hmmmmm.”

Tom slowly opened his eyes, not daring to move. He was hearing people in the house, and none of them sounded very friendly. He listened for a while, and was able to discern six different voices. As far as Tom knew, the only person home was Kathy, and she was upstairs.

One person sounded like he was angry, with a deep voice that reprimanded another person, who responded with whines and whimpers. The other voices were talking amongst themselves, though Tom soon realized that he could not discern what any of the people were actually saying.

This may be the end of Tommy Peterson’s adventures, he thought, as he felt his limbs seizing up with an undefinable terror. He was immobilized. He could do nothing more than lie there with his eyes wide open, listening to voices as they got closer and closer.

Something caught his eye at that moment. It was a foot, stepping backwards onto the second-to-last step of the stairway that led to the upstairs. It was followed by a second foot, which ascended onto the final step, also facing backwards. The legs of the person were moving in a stiff, robotic way.

A silent scream was trapped in Tom’s throat. Then he saw that it was Kathy. She stepped into the living room, still walking like a backwards moving robot. The voices had narrowed down to two or three at this point, but they were all coming out of her mouth, and none of them sounded like her own.

As she turned around, her body seemed to relax and with a small convulsion, she was falling into a normal, forward moving gait that was completely unlike the robotic one she had been using before. When she saw Tom, she said, “Oh, so did you finish glueing the trim?” in her own, single person voice.

Tom sat up, gasping in confusion. “What… What do you mean??”

But he could see that as far as she knew, nothing out of the ordinary had happened, and he was forced to regain his composure without receiving any kind of explanation or acknowledgement of the bizarre event that had just unfolded in front of him.

At the point in the story when Tom had mentioned the backwards foot making it’s way robotically down the steps, I had shrieked in horror and flung myself into Addison’s arms. As I squeeze him even harder I also laugh in disbelief.

“Did you tell her she was walking backwards down the stairs like a robot and speaking in six voices?” I ask.

Tom shrugs. “Nah, I didn’t want to freak her out. She’s pretty paranoid as it is.”

Addison is shaking his head. “And you’re still working there?”

“Yeah,” Tom says, and now we are all laughing.

But I guess maybe there was a good reason why she wanted those stairs blocked off.

Woke Up in New York City

We had escaped the Austin heat…

By flying north over 2,000 miles to Laguardia airport in New York.

And when we step outside of the airport doors into the New York air, a gust of warm wind washes over us, and I can feel sweat begin to trickle down my legs.

It is 8:30 pm, and a wall of yellow taxis fill the street in front of the airport. We find our way to the back of a line that seems to stretch halfway along the side of the Laguardia building, and wait our turn for a ride in one of those yellow cars–hopefully with A/C.

A portly, overly tanned man walking a squat bulldog, accompanied by a luggage caddy, shouts an indignant tirade at an old black man who has pulled his taxi into the crosswalk to load a passenger. Cabs press in around the taxi driver’s vehicle on all sides, and he’s forced to sit there and listen to the tirade while pretending he somehow can’t tell that the man is yelling at him. His passenger, wearing a dress coat and an apprehensive expression, dips into the cab and shuts the door behind him, making no comment on the situation. The bulldog pants and looks around, expressionless.

When we’re getting close to the finish line, the taxi-line conductor shouts to an old lady who is creeping around the waiting taxis.

“Hey, hey,” he says. “What are you doing over there?”

The old lady doesn’t respond, but a flush of irritation crosses her face. She’s been discovered.

“The beginning of the line is all the way back there,” the conductor tells her, waving her back over to the sidewalk.

She grumbles and mutters, yanking her suitcase behind her and beginning the walk of shame past the 50 or so people she tried to cut in front of.

Another old lady, the one who has been waiting in line in front of us, with perfectly brushed and parted silver hair, shakes her head. “There’s always one smart Alec,” she comments with a laugh.

And then we are in the air conditioning of a yellow cab, trying to figure out how to turn the TV off that’s glaring in my face (since when do taxis have TVs in them??), and watching the night skyline of NYC unravel around us.

Ny city at night

Our sunny, Austin house, our subletters (who I left equipped with several pages of petfeeding and house maintenance instructions), our cat and dog, our houseplants, the chickadees hanging off of the bird feeder in the front yard and the deafening hum of cicadas… seems to all be fading away into the distance, replaced by dark stretches of water and skyscrapers lit up against the backdrop of the night.

Our friend Zaina is waiting for us in her apartment, cooking a pile of vegetables that seems to stretch beyond the capacity of the pans she’s using. Addison is alive with ideas as always seems to happen when we travel, and I lounge back on the couch while he regales Zaina with his latest and greatest.

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Addison journaling his wave of ideas before we go to sleep

She leaves us her room for the next few days, and we proceed to be infiltrated by the spirit of Brooklyn…

Coming up next… wild Nicky Patton stories about haunted houses and drug addicts, seeing a live production of Hadestown at NY Theater Workshop (music score by Vermont artist Anais Mitchel) and other adventures.

(to be continued)

 

On the road again

The man looks to be in his 50s, with a tan face and well-groomed mustache. But at this moment his mustache seems to be coming undone.

“You rode your bicycle across Mexico??” He fidgets uncomfortably.

“Yeah, I got to Playa del Carmen and then realized I was pregnant and needed to come home.”

“Well….” he seems to be searching for words. “Well you know what I would say about it if you hadn’t gone already… you know I wouldn’t advise doing that! Alone… on a bicycle…” He trails off.

I smile and squeeze his arm. “No harm came to me!” I head into the kitchen to find the others.

Dick’s kitchen is brimming with chattering, smiling, laughing people, arms laden with potluck goodies… pasta dishes, giant chocolate cakes, guacamole dip that is “actually made out of asparagus!”, chips, loaves of bread, soup and numerous bottles of wine.

They’ve all come to see The Love Sprockets perform tonight, and to visit with old friends, break bread and drink wine… and whiskey… and banana daiquiris…

A lovely lady with long blonde hair and a wreath of green leaves and purple flowers on her head rushes to greet me. “Jahnavi! You made it!” Golden exclaims over my pregnant belly, and Lloyd looks at me in shock.

“I didn’t know you were pregnant!” he says, with what looks to be something like reproach on his face.

I’m wearing a slinky, form-fitting dress so that all of my old Baton Rouge friends can get a really good look at my big belly. I only see them once or twice a year, so this is their chance to see me in full baby-bloom.

“Well,” he concedes. “You make being pregnant look good!”

I sit down next to Golden to catch up.

“I was reading your blog the whole time,” she’s saying, “And I was scared for you when you were getting so tired, and than you found out you were pregnant, and…. oh…. But it was so funny when you did the whole pregnancy test in Mexico and your friend was there…” She laughs like tinkling bells.

I see Phil, our first Baton Rouge host from three years ago. He and his wife, Goldie, had taken Addison, Nic and I in on New Years Eve, on a cold, blustery day during our cross-country bicycle trip. We had been instructed to draw up a menu for that evening’s dinner and describe the dishes enticingly. He had taken close up shots of everyone’s mugs that night, even Zoso’s. We all look windburned, bedraggled, and Zoso’s mustache was the color of a hundred snacks, meals and drinks of water that had dried into it. But Phil loved Zoso. He fed him special, handcrafted meals alongside his own two dogs, and lovingly referred to him as ‘Yo-so.’

When I step in to give Phil a hug, his eyes widen with surprise. “I didn’t even recognize you!”

I eat spoonfuls of his spicy bok choy, ginger soup, while he tells me about his idea for the nights events.

“I would really like to hear the development of your music,” he tells me. “A song picked for each stage of your career together.”

“Like, a chronological set list!” I say.

“Yeah, okay, something like that.”

“That’s brilliant!”

After I’m done with my soup I find Addison unloading instruments from our car and tell him Phil’s idea.

“Cool,” he says, “That sounds like a good idea!”

And then he discovers the missing space that his set of 10 harmonicas, which he carries in a black case, should have been filling.

“Oh no….” he groans. “I think I left them in New Orleans!”

“Oh no….” I commiserate.

We had been on tour since Tuesday, and tonight it was Friday. Thursday we had driven to New Orleans and performed at a quaint, co-op of a cafe called The Neutral Ground. Perhaps because the venue is so covered in artifacts collected over the years, and only lit with soft, glowing lamps and christmas lights, it was hard to see that he had left his black case on the piano bench off in the corner.

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A picture of Mark, the artist who played before us, at The Neutral Ground

“Well at least I have one harmonica,” he whips one out from his pocket. “And it’s in the right key to play Wade in the Water and Soul of a Man.”

That night we all go on a journey together, sitting cozily in Dick’s living room, people cuddled together on couches, smiling and clapping from rocking chairs, or peering from the perch of a wooden kitchen chair to see over the heads of the others.

We tell the story of our meeting, starting the band, bicycling across the United States, and finally arriving in Austin. Each song we play fits into the story, and has its own story behind it. When we get to the part of the night’s journey where we talk about me leaving Addison and biking across Mexico, people sigh, laugh and make commiserating noises. We each play a couple of solo songs to show what music we were playing while we were apart.

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Me playing ‘A Moment’s Rest’ on the mandolin

Even though we let people get up and take a break halfway through, I am still so impressed and touched by how some of them sit and listen the entire time, following the story and the songs, with no complaint of boredom.

This is music as I feel it must have been in ‘the old days’, before TV, wifi and YouTube. The traveling musician arrives at your doorstep and the village gathers to feed them and gather stories from them about the lands they’ve visited, and to hear the songs they’ve carried with them from other places that perhaps the villagers will never see themselves.

It’s not about the musician, not about how they look or idolizing them as some kind of sex symbol. It’s about the music and the story and the community that’s come together to listen and discuss love, life and death with one another.

Here are some more pictures from our Houston, Baton Rouge and New Orleans tour:

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Packing up the car–no dog left behind!
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On our way to our live appearance on 90.1 KPFT Houston with Roark, one of the happiest DJs we know
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A Houston native
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Addison playing a solo song before our set at the Avant Garden open mic in Houston
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The Love Sprockets at The Neutral Ground
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Zoso getting comfy before our show at The Neutral Ground
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Me and the owl
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Packing up in Baton Rouge the morning after our house show at Dick’s
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Driving into the sunset, Austin on the horizon

To baby… or not to baby?

Do you remember your first time discussing the all-important topic: ‘Am I going to have kids or not’?

I believe my first embarkment on the topic of this important life decision was when I was 9 years old, playing tag with my little brother and our two friends in the courtyard of a 3 story, marble and granite house in the heart of Mysore, India.

Our families had moved to India a few months earlier from Efland, North Carolina, and we were sharing the space of this house that, by most Indians’ standards, was no less than a mansion. The courtyard at the base of the house was fenced in, and although we could see traffic moving past and people walking by, we were separated from it all by walls and gates.

There was plenty of space for the 4 of us to scamper about, and as we darted back and forth, we were able to discuss–though somewhat breathlessly–the prospect of children in our adult futures.

Vraja, the twin brother of my best friend Tarini, asked me, “So do you think you’re going to have kids?” He seemed both enthralled and embarrassed by being the one to breach the topic. “I don’t know if I will… maybe!” he cocked his head to one side, before dashing out of reach of my pursuing brother, Gaura.

I raced after him, in order to follow up on the discussion. “Nah,” I yelled, gasping for breath. “I don’t think I’m going to have kids! Because I don’t think I would ever want to get married.”

Later, I would take Tarini aside to divulge my reasoning behind not getting married and having kids when I was a grown up.

“You see…” I explained to her, “My sister told me that the way you have to have a kid is the man has to stick his… ‘thing’ inside the lady!”

Tarini’s face was filled with the horror that I had been anticipating.

“I don’t EVER want that to happen to me,” I said.

She looked ill. “Me NEITHER.”

And there we sat, the two of us, 8 and 9 years old, on the rooftop of a house in Mysore India, considering our baby-less and husband-less futures.

Once I had made that decision, I didn’t worry about it or give it much further thought until many years later.

Once I had been able to come to terms with HOW babies were made, than it became a decision I would consider and discuss once again. Between the ages of 20 and 30, I would pendulum back and forth between theoretical futures.

There was the, “I MUST have a baby! NOW!”

Followed by, “I can’t ever have kids! There’s too much I want to do with my life! I’ll never NOT want to be accomplishing cool stuff, when would I ever have time for a kid??”

So when Addison and I were faced with the reality that there was a living, pulsing being that we had created, swimming around inside of me, the world stopped. We sat together in silence and in conversation, in wonder and in horror.

There was the cold, calculating voice that seemed to whisper to both of us, “You have a choice, you don’t HAVE to have this baby… You could be free of it if you really wanted to.”

I didn’t want to feel like that was a choice. I had never considered abortion to be an option for me, even though actually being pregnant gave me a newfound understanding and compassion for those who do choose to have abortions.

I just wanted to know that this child was a certainty, so I could than begin to move forward accordingly.

Addison left a day and a half after we discovered I was pregnant, headed back to Austin. We were pretty sure baby was staying. We weren’t sure where I was going, however.

All I really wanted was to “go home.” I was nauseous, homesick, tired of being in a different country. I also felt like I wanted to keep going. I hadn’t actually made it to Brazil!

I went back to share Watson’s room with him, and Addison went to get some space, some time to digest the news apart from me.

I called friends, family members, and one time burst into tears on Watson’s bed while he patted me awkwardly, cheering me by being sweet and silly.

I wanted to go home, but I also wanted to keep cycling. I wanted to fly to L.A. and bike up to Alaska. I wanted to fly down to Brazil and bike around Brazil before it was “too late”. But between pregnancy nausea and the Zika virus, those two options were out of the question.

I considered going to Vermont and staying with Addison’s mother for a while.

But finally, I got a message from Addison. His reflection time had led him to the turning point that he would later call, “Getting my head out of my ass.”

“This child is an expression of our love,” he said. “You are the only person in this world I would want to have a baby with right now, and I want you to come home.”

3 days later, I was in the airport and headed to Austin, my bicycle broken down into a box, my baby in my belly. We had all traveled across Mexico together, and now we were all going home.

stork

Reflecting on Choices

It’s a gray, windy day here in Austin.

I’ve been brewing over the past, the future and wrestling the present moment into a bear hug, desperate to stay grounded.

I have been thinking about what happened in Playa del Carmen after I discovered I was pregnant.

We all make choices, and then we live with those choices.

What I experienced in Playa del Carmen after discovering I am pregnant, was a rollercoaster of emotions.

I found myself reflecting on the series of choices that led me to the moment where I was sitting on the beach in the dark with Addison, listening to the waves and watching their white crests glint against the moonlight.

I had chosen to leave Addison, and to ride my bicycle to Brazil.

I chose to ride from Austin, leaving Brazil for last.

I didn’t just go straight to Brazil, because I wanted to follow the line I had started when I left Vermont on a bicycle 3 years ago.

If I had known I would only be gone for 3 months, yes, I would have gone straight to Brazil.

But I didn’t know that.

When you tell your life partner that you’re leaving them for 6-9 months and you don’t know when you’ll be back, naturally they must make adjustments of their own.

The trajectory of our lives had been splitting apart, and this child seemed to have appeared to make us reconsider everything.

In a way, it should have been relieving.

Being pregnant would mean I could go home. It could mean I wouldn’t lose Addison.

And it could mean many many other things.

Those many other things washed over me as I sat in the sand with Addison.

What about capoeira?

What about our music careers?

What about making it all the way to Brazil?

What about the book I was going to write once I finished my 9 month journey?

I imagine many new parents experience these kinds feelings.

New life bringing a sense of death to their old life.

But never once have I heard a parent tell me that they regretted having kids.

I am so fascinated by old people. People who have been through all of this and more. People whose children are already grown, and whose grandchildren have already been born.

When I see an old lady, I stare at her, study her, think about what she might be thinking about, how it might be to be her.

Her hands are wrinkled and covered with blue veins and dots, her face is sagging and her hair is thin. But her eyes are the same color as when she was 16.

She has lived–far longer than I have–with her choices.

She had dreams too. She hoped for things.

When she was young, she imagined her life to look a certain way, imagined the great things she would accomplish.

She fell in love, she broke hearts, she had her heart broken.

Maybe she tried to become a concert pianist, but it was too hard. Maybe her parents couldn’t afford the lessons. Maybe she lost interest when she got older because than she wanted to be the lead singer of a rock band.

Maybe she wanted to travel around the world.

Maybe she wanted to be a school teacher.

A poet.

A dancer.

Most likely she wanted to be loved, respected, admired.

Maybe some of these things happened. Maybe none of them did. Maybe they happened in broken bits and pieces.

But by the time she is in her 70s or 80s, how much of it really matters to her anymore?

Or does it haunt her?

I hear Tom Waits’ voice drift through my head at this moment:

“What does it matter, a dream of love or a dream of lies?

We’re all gonna be in the same place when we die.

Your spirit don’t leave knowing

Your face or your name

The wind in your bones is all that remains.

And we’re all gonna be just dirt in the ground.”

dirt in the ground

 

Thanks for reading. Don’t want these posts to be too long, so I’m practicing keeping them a bit shorter. I have the next part mostly written and I’ll share it soon!

 

Part II of The End of the Mexican Road

Throughout the past 6 months, things have been happening in my life and with Addison that I find myself hesitant to talk about in this blog. It just seems so gory and personal. I imagine that I will write with full honesty for my book, and then once it’s published and released to the world, I can only hope that my visceral story details will bring insight, smiles, relief, understanding and perhaps a feeling of ‘not being alone in this crazy world’ to my readers.

But perhaps I will never get so real with the faceless crowd. Perhaps it’s better to keep some semblance of a wall up.

All of that being said, my inability to write completely honestly makes it hard to write about what happened next after my arrival to Playa del Carmen.

I left off with the story of Watson and I in a bar, just after I had taken my pregnancy test and thought surely the double lines were really a single line with a very faint second line…

Addison would be arriving to visit me in Playa del Carmen, in just two days. He would stay in town with me for 4 days and then I would continue south into Belize and the rest of Central of America.

“It is HOT TODAY…” I exclaimed, as Watson and I walked out to a cafe for breakfast the next day.

“Jeez, it’s only spring,” Watson commented. “Wait’ll it hits summer here!”

“Thanks but no thanks. This is bad enough for me.”

The sounds of our footsteps scuffing on the pavement and the occasional scooter passing us filled the muggy air. I had been feeling incredibly sensitive to the heat, and my nausea was increasing. I felt slightly ill all day every day.

I didn’t like the sound of hearing myself complain about the heat constantly, but it just seemed truly unbearable to me. By 10 am, the best I could do was hide in Watson’s room, his fan oscillating in a lonely manner above my head.

I felt a growing sense of dread at Addison’s arrival. I hoped being face to face would clear up some of the inexplicable feelings of panic I was having about our relationship. But at the same time it didn’t really matter. We would be together for a few days, and then once I again I would hit the road and we wouldn’t see eachother for a couple more months.

“Addison’s coming soon,” Watson said. “You excited?”

I sighed. “Yeah…”

He snorted. “You don’t sound very excited!”

“I am excited,” I allowed. “But also kind of dreading it. I’m going to have to live with the things he’s decided he needs to do while I’m away, and I’m just not handling it very gracefully.”

It was so strange to be eating breakfast side by side with other white people. Australian, English, American, French.

Why in the world would anyone want to come here for vacation? I caught myself thinking, as I looked around at all of the tourists. It’s hot, crowded, smells weird…

I stopped my thoughts.

Jeez, what is wrong with me? Why am I getting so down on Mexico?

I had begun to dread the thought of continuing my cycle tour in Central America. Cycle touring in Mexico had not been nearly as enjoyable as my cycle tour across the U.S., and I had no illusions that Central American roads and cities would be much better–or at all cooler. If anything, it was just going to get more and more hot the further south I went.

I was fantasizing about mountains, cool spring breezes drifting through pine needles, chickadees singing, their voices carrying through the forest dreamily.

“So when do you head to Alaska?” I asked Watson. He was leaving Playa del Carmen soon, and going to work on a fishing boat in some incredibly tiny town in Alaska.

“I gave the guys at the brewery my 2 months notice almost a month ago,” Watson said. He had moved down to Playa to help start a brewery with a couple of Argentinian guys who were friends with the owner of the Thirsty Planet Brewery in Austin where Watson had been working before. “But they still haven’t gotten my replacement down here to start training. I told ’em they’d better get their shit together, ’cause come the end of this month I am outta here!” He cut through the air with his hand, indicating a swift exit.

Watson was as keen to get out of Mexico as I was, except he was headed North and I was headed… South.

I sighed. “I feel ya.”

He shook his head, grinning humorlessly. “Yeah I SAY that… but really, if they do need me to stay longer, I probably will. I couldn’t leave them high and dry like that.” He sucked in some smoothie noisily and banged the cup down. “But goddamit guys, get your shit together!” He laughed.

Before I knew it, Friday March 18th had arrived, and I was clinging to Watson for dear life on the back of his motorcycle as we whipped through the sunny, Playa del Carmen traffic on our way to the Cancun airport.

Along the way, we stopped to see Pescadores, the brewery where Watson worked.

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Boxes of Pescadores beer
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Watson being photogenic

Once we arrived at the airport, Watson dropped me off and headed back to get some work done. I wandered around the airport, trying to figure out where to wait for arrivals.

I waited for what felt like a long time, watching white tourist after white tourist emerge from the arrivals area, looking dazed, confused, excited, or all of the above. I was nervous in a weird, not-very-fun way.

I’m not sure if this is a Mexican thing, but the screens that would have told me when the various flights were arriving, were inside the set of sliding, double doors that passengers were constantly exiting out of, but through which I was not supposed to go through.

I stood as close as I could to the doors to try and catch sight of Addison’s flight number on the screen inside, but finally I gave up and asked a guard if I could go in to look at the screen. He went to look at the computer for me and came back, telling me the flight number was not listed on the arrival screen.

“It does not mean that flight is not arriving,” he told me, “it’s just not on the screen.”

I nodded in confusion. How am I supposed to know if Addison’s flight is arriving at all then? I wondered, feeling irked.

But then, as I was being led to a desk to try and find out more, a tall, bearded, viking looking man emerged from the crowd.

“There you are!” I cried, before I buried my face in Addison’s big chest.

We made our way out to the bus area, paying an extravagant amount for a tiny bottle of water (I had forgotten to bring any sustenance with me). It was nice to see Addison, but also kind of awkward. I felt like there was a big, hairy gorilla standing between us, with a bad case of flatulence. I tried to pretend the gorilla wasn’t there, and smiled at Addison, who smiled back.

We took a bus back to Playa del Carmen, and the whole time I tried not to talk about the things that were disturbing me so deeply. They were the sort of things that I could easily convince myself I was making up.

We were staying at an air bnb apartment near downtown Playa.

I feel such an overwhelming sense of nausea and a retchfulness (no, that is not a word–yes, I made it up) when I remember that apartment and the bathroom…

It’s a big reason why I’ve procrastinated on writing this bit of the story, because it happens at this retchful apartment…

I’m going to get through this section really fast, before I throw up, so bear with me… (also, I will not reread to spell check certain sections, so I apologize in advance for grammatical errors)

As in many toilets in Mexico, we were asked not to flush the toilet paper. So imagine a hot, not-well-ventilated bathroom with a trash can full of poopy and peepee covered toilet paper. Add the distinct aroma of the blue chemical water that filled the toilet itself, and evil smelling chemical deodorizers hanging off the toilet, and voila…! You have the perfect recipe for never wanting to go into the bathroom.

If I absolutely had to get in there, I would pull my pants down before entering, and then plug my nose throughout the transaction. Afterwards I would hurl myself out of the bathroom, wheezing and gagging and jamming my face out of a window.

Addison was only going to be in Playa del Carmen for 4 days. So during this time we had to connect (since we wouldn’t be seeing eachother for another 2 months while I cycled across Central America), work out the status of our relationship, process, and also try to enjoy ourselves.

We visited the ocean everyday, ate at restaurants and ice cream shops, played music with Watson out on the beach, I took Addison to drink his first fresh coconut from a street vendor and scoop the sweet, juicy meat out after they split it in two for him, we spent hours crying and processing in our apartment and then, the day before Addison’s flight back to Austin, we also decided I should take another pregnancy test.

Watson was visiting, noodling around on Addison’s guitar, while I walked down the street to buy another pregnancy test. This time I knew what it was called, and did not have much difficultly in procuring one.

When I got back to to the apartment I looked at the two men, who were looking back at me.

“It’s a moment of truth guys,” I told them.

Addison looked anxious.

I unpacked the pregnancy test, plugged my nose, and ducked into the fumes-of-hell bathroom.

When I emerged, it was with feelings I had not expected…

I felt guilty.

I felt like maybe I had ruined Addison life.

I thought maybe he would resent me forever, and our relationship would crumble because of it.

“It’s positive,” I told the guys, who had both stopped what they were doing to stare at me.

I think Watson crowed.

But I was looking at Addison’s face. He had something like horror written across it.

I handed him the test stick with the two lines on it.

“I read the first pregnancy test wrong,” I told them.

Watson stared at me. “You read the first one WRONG?? How do you even do that??”

“I don’t know!” I cried. “I’ve never taken a pregnancy test before! I just assumed it was cheap, faulty, didn’t work well… I thought the ‘second line’ wasn’t really a line!”

Addison was gazing down at the test stick in silence. Than he started googling images for “a positive results pregnancy test”.

“I purposely bought a different brand of test this time,” I told them both. “And seeing a different one do exactly the same thing made me realize that I just got the first one wrong.”

I went and sat down on the couch with Watson. “Watson!” I yelled. “I’m pregnant! What are we going to do??”

He gaped at me. “Why are you coming over to me?? You should go to Addison! I’m getting out of here.”

I looked at Addison. “I’m giving Addison space. He’s in shock. And I feel bad for him.”

“YOU feel bad for ADDISON??” Watson gawped.

“He’s younger than me,” I said simply. “I’m more ready for the idea of being pregnant than he is.”

During all of this, Addison was occasionally grunting, agreeing or disagreeing with something that was being said, but I don’t really remember much else coming out of him.

Watson packed up and headed for the door. “You should name the kid Marcelles,” he said definitively, before walking out.

Addison chuckled dryly. “We’ll consider it. See ya later dude.”

We looked at eachother in the silence that followed. “Holy shit.”2016-03-17 07.51.24

I’m sorry to say, but there’ll have to be a Part III… maybe a Part IV??

The End of the Mexican Road

It was 10:30 in the morning, and the sun was hot enough to make me feel as though my brains were gently steaming inside my head.

My bicycle was loaded down with enough gear to allow me to ride as long as their was land to keep pedaling across.

I had just arrived in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and I was looking for an apartment number on Calle 20 North. As I rolled down the one way street, an older, extremely tanned American couple overtook me on their city bikes.

“Where are you coming from?” the man asked me, smiling happily at my alien appearance.

I smiled back. “Well, today I just rode down from Chemuyil. But I started in Austin, Texas.”

The man’s mouth dropped open appreciatively. “No kidding! Well, welcome to Playa del Carmen!”

“Thank you!”

We chatted for a few more minutes, than it was time for them to turn right and for me to re-assess my directions. I was pretty sure I had already passed the apartment I was looking for.

I pulled up a map on my iPhone and saw that it was back a few hundred yards from where I had just come.

Another American man was standing on the sidewalk, watching me. I hadn’t seen so many white people in months.

“Where’re you headed darlin’?” he asked, swaying slightly, a paper bag-clad bottle clutched in his left hand.

“I think I know where it is, I just passed it,” I began.

“Let me help you,” he said, waving me towards him. “Just show me where you’re trying to go. I’ve lived here for 11 years.”

I sighed, but humored him. Chances are giving directions to a cycle tourist would make this guy’s day, and I didn’t want to deprive him of the opportunity.

I pulled up to where he was standing and showed him the map. “Here’s where we are, and here’s where the apartment is.”

“Oh man…” he shook his head. “I’m sorry to say, but that’s all the way across town.”

“What? But the directions say it’s a 2 minute walk from here!”

He turned the map sideways, than upside down. “Oh ok…” he squinted his eyes. “Okay, it’s just down the street, back that way, on your left.” He gestured and pointed importantly, assuring me it was very close and easy to find.

I smiled wanly and took my phone back from him. “Thanks.”

In 2 minutes I was pulled up in front of the apartment building. I sent a Whatsapp message to my friend Watson: Hey dude, I’m outside your door.

Within minutes the broken, plastic door at the entrance of the apartment building opened, and Watson stepped out into the bright sunshine, his hair sticking up in gravity-defying directions.

“You got here fast! I just rolled out of bed like a half hour ago!” he laughed, and we embraced.

“I told you I was going to leave early this morning. Didn’t want to get caught in the heat. I was out the door by like 7:30 am. Rode like a bat out of hell.”

He was gazing at my bicycle and gear, smiling appreciatively. “Well, here it is! Your bicycle!” He looked at me again. “And you have a GoPro!”

“Duh,” I laughed. “How do you think I’ve been making all of those videos?”

“Yeah, right.”

“Watson,” I said, taking off my helmet. “I rode my bicycle across Mexico.”

“Yeah you did,” he laughed.

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“And now I never have to do it again.”

We unloaded my gear and rolled my bike inside. Watson lived with three other housemates in a downstairs apartment. We shoved all of my belongings into a corner in his room.

“Well, this is where we’ll be sleeping,” he gestured to a rumpled, full-sized bed in the corner. “I get really hot in here at night–there’s no AC–so just stay on your side!”

“Good god.”

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Sleepover with Watson

That afternoon we walked to the beach. There were white people EVERYWHERE. Tourist shops, people jabbering in english, and the beach was packed. Every 30-40 steps we were invited to receive a massage by a guy or girl in a little uniform. They would wave and gesture us over to the massage tables under a tent or on a deck area, and we would politely decline. “No gracias.”

We eventually found a less crowded area, and dropped our stuff down in the sand. The ocean was a shocking blue.

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I stripped down to the my bikini, and Watson, ever the faithful observer of women’s bodies, said: “Wow, your boobs are huge. Definitely bigger than last time I saw you.”

“Dammit!” I cried.

“Well jeez, usually most women are happy to hear that!” he laughed.

I had been traveling alone and there had been no one else who knew me well to stand back and look at me and say, ‘Jahnavi, your boobs look bigger than usual.’

Ever since I had arrived in Villahermosa (after taking the bus from Mexico City to there), I had noticed that I was having really intense PMS symptoms; but even after being a week late, my period still didn’t not happen. Every day I was sure that ‘THIS is the day’ I start my period and I would have to either ride all day bleeding or hole up in a shabby, Mexican hotel and wait for the storm to pass.

Finally, after weeks of ‘I’ll be starting my period any day now’, I gave up. I had officially missed my period, for the first time in my adult life.

I told my sister this over the phone. “Well that’s not a big surprise,” she said. “You’ve been exercising like mad. Your body just doesn’t have TIME to have a period.”

But why am I still having PMS symptoms? I wondered. I had been crying everyday, and had even begun to feel nauseous and tired over the past week.

I explained all of this to Watson.

“Oh!” he crowed. “Are you pregnant??”

“All the signs seem to be pointing to that, yes…” I sighed miserably.

We waded out into the blue ocean waters and I dove under a wave. Being in the salty water was incredibly rejuvenating. Watson continued to make ridiculous comments about my boobs, and I laughed for the sheer joy of laughing.

“I haven’t laughed in so long Watson,” I told him, jigging and splashing in the water, and laughing some more.

Afterwards we stopped at a beachside bar and jammed with a local musician:

That night, during dinner, we discussed my theoretical pregnancy. Watson gazed around the restaurant, resting his eyes on a chubby, curly haired toddler at the next table over. “That could be yours,” he whispered to me, smirking mischievously.

I widened my eyes at him threateningly. “STOP it. We have no idea if I’m pregnant.”

“What is Addison going to think?” Watson went on, staring at me earnestly.

“Addison would not be happy,” I admitted sadly.

“WHAT? Why not??”

“He just told me recently that he doesn’t even know if he wants to have kids. He seems to be reassessing everything right now. He doesn’t even seem to know if he wants to be with me at all. Well… okay, he says he does… just in the way that works for him, which doesn’t really work for me.”

Watson wanted to take me to his favorite bar after dinner, but I was suddenly reticent to consume alcohol. I had lost interest in drinking alcohol in the last month, and with how nauseous I had started to feel, it seemed even less appealing. And what if I WAS pregnant??

“Watson…” I began. “What if I AM pregnant? I shouldn’t drink alcohol if I am! Maybe I should take a pregnancy test first…”

We were both tickled by the idea of strolling down the street, buying a pregnancy test, and then sending me into the bathroom of the bar to check if I could drink or not.

“Ok, let’s do it.”

We walked across the street to a pharmacy. “I don’t even know how to say ‘pregnancy test’ in spanish!” I told Watson.

“Ha ha, neither do I.”

We approached the pharmacist at the counter. “Um…” I began. “No se el palabra, pero neccessito un… ‘pregnancy test’… para embarazada.”

She nodded, and mimed a big pregnant belly on herself.

“Si si!”

“Everyone probably thinks I’m the dad,” Watson muttered, suddenly embarrassed.

I giggled.

“Maybe I should hold your hand,” he suggested.

After the pregnancy test was purchased, we headed to the bar. Watson got us a table and wished me luck. I clutched the pregnancy test close to me and found the bathroom.

I can’t believe I’m taking my first pregnancy test in a bathroom in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, I thought, looking at my reflection in the mirror in disbelief.

I read the directions in spanish, and looked at the pictures. I think I got this.

After peeing on the test stick, I waited.

Immediately, one line formed, and than a second, very faint line.

Hmmm… it says that if there are 2 lines, it means I’m pregnant. But the second line isn’t really a line… it’s so much fainter than the other.

To my surprise, I felt disappointment wash over me.

I’ve been fighting off baby fever for almost 10 years, and I suppose the idea that I was finally pregnant (and with Addison’s baby, someone I was truly in love with) had apparently been a small hope I had carried with me for the past few weeks.

I waited another 5 minutes, hoping the second line would darken and tell me that I was pregnant.

It stayed very faint.

I rinsed off the stick and tossed everything in the garbage. Sighing, I opened the bathroom door and saw Watson watching me furtively from his table. I walked up to him, smiling at the look on his face.

I shook my head. “Negative. I’m not pregant.”

Watson broke into a relieved chuckle. “Ha ha, alright!” He held up his glass of whiskey. “Here’s to you not being pregnant!”

I wasn’t feeling celebratory, but I appreciated his enthusiasm, and took a sip from his glass. Watson went to get us more drinks.

I looked around the bar at all of the tourists, imagining what their different stories might be, and why they had ended up in that bar.

I thought about why I was disappointed to not be pregnant…

I felt like my relationship with Addison could have been saved by a baby… but now… I didn’t know. Besides, having a baby as a way to save a relationship does not seem like a good idea. And I still need to get to Brazil. So this is for the better. 

It wasn’t just my relationship with Addison I was feeling like saving… it was also the life I had left behind in Austin. Our band, our awesome pets, yoga, capoeira, meditation. I could still live in Austin and play music without Addison, could still have pets and do yoga and capoeira and meditate… but I liked doing those things WITH him. I liked our lives when they were combined. We were always scheming and coming up with new projects and ideas, and we loved going on adventures together, whether by bicycle or hitting the road on tour with a car full of musical instruments.

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What our awesome pets were doing at the time…

Addison was going to be in Playa del Carmen in just 2 more days.

…to be continued 😉

P.S. Here’s a bonus video of some of the inner-goings-ons of Watson and I’s time together: