I SHOULD NOT BE WRITING THIS, mostly because of one of my more formidable faults—I’m a procrastinator, world-class. If there were an Olympic event for procrastination, and a gambler wanted to place a thousand-dollar bet, every bookie in the book would list me as the favorite. I shouldn’t be writing because writing this is a passive-aggressive form of resistance: I have other things I need to do. I’m leaving the country in just a few days, and I’m not even close to getting packed and tying loose ends, and I need to find someone to water my plants and feed Duncan, my hermit crab. And because I recently procrastinated doing other things, I’ve morphed into a sluggish blogger: I haven’t written a post in almost two weeks; I haven’t kept up with comments; I haven’t been reading new posts by others; I’ve taken only a few photographs; I’ve been offline, scurrying down the space-time continuum, and procrastinating on everything along the way.
This is how ironic your world looks today: I’m writing this post stating that I have not written a post due to procrastination, and now claiming that when I am writing this post that writing it is procrastination for something else I should be doing. Question of the Day, and let’s have a show of hands here: Does anybody actually win mind games they play with themselves?
Not long ago, one of the travel bloggers I like to read, Jeff over at Planet Bell, wrote a post depicting his meticulous methodology for choosing his next place to travel. He’d posted a photograph of himself with a number of travel guidebooks that he was perusing in order to make his decision. But most interestingly, he had made one of those playoff charts they use for sports events like Wimbledon or college basketball, where you have lists of players on two sides of the page who play others in their list. Then, the winners of each match move on to play other winners, and the list on each side narrows and gets smaller and smaller until you have the final four, the final two, and the ultimate winner. Jeff was doing that with places to visit. You have to admire that kind of dedication and commitment to planning.
I’m more the Final-Two kind of planner. Or the Final-Winner kind of planner. First, I’m too frugal (let’s call a spade a spade—too cheap) to lay out all that money for travel guides that I potentially may never use. Second, I have no patience to sift through and weigh the necessary information to make informed decisions. If they had an Olympic event for “Lack of Patience”…. you guessed it, I’m the guy standing on that podium again receiving his second Gold Medal of the day. This is who you’re dealing with here: Please don’t make me wait in line to buy groceries. Please answer the phone on the first ring. Please, god, just this once, could you make that line of traffic signals turn green as I approach each one. Laptop…just wtf could possibly be taking you so long to open a freakin Word document, for crying out loud.
I read Jeff’s list. I noticed Cuba among the contenders. Something in me recognized it as a cosmic message. After a month of procrastination, I went out and bought the Lonely Planet guide to Cuba and a plane ticket. I would like to visit Cuba before we Californicate the place with brand new Cadillac SUV’s, iPads, and KFC’s. Then a couple months later, I inexplicably changed my mind, deciding not to go to Cuba. You’re probably thinking Jeff’s method is a bit more pragmatic. Well, that’s all I’m saying, no argument here. But sometimes, you’re stuck with the skill set you were delt in your DNA. Some travelers plan for months and find great deals; some travelers read the word “Cuba” and buy a plane ticket, then change their minds. I lost $700 listening to advice from the cosmos: $200 just for cancelling, and $500 for the seats with extra leg room (which the airline simply will not refund or transfer to another flight, don’t get me started). Yeah, I hear you: DNA is a bitch.
FYI: if anyone reading this plans trips the way I plan and has read the word “Cuba” here and now wants to purchase a literally unopened LP guidebook for Cuba, I’ll give you a good price. “Best price.” “Morning price.” “Good-luck price.”
So I’m sitting here watching backhoes, instead of smoking Cohibas or Montecristos. I have two months to kill. I have made no further plans. I have been commiserating with various people about my issue—what to do with myself this summer: Hawaii, Zanzibar, Bhutan (listen, we all have albatrosses weighing us down, some are heavier than others. If you’re thinking my albatross is lightweight, fine, I’m in no mood to argue).
I’m sitting here with a lean bird in my flat and smoking no cigar. I’m not British, I’ve just been hanging around a lot of Brits lately, and they call an apartment a flat, and it’s beginning to rub off off on me, perhaps because it’s easier to say, easier to write, and somehow sounds semi-exotic to call it a flat. I’m looking out my window watching the bulldozers, cranes and backhoes build something in the ocean on the other side of the bridge to the island below my flat.
OK, in case you doubt my Gold-Medal-level procrastination skills, consider this: I previously wrote a post about whatever it is they are building down there right in the ocean (click here to see photo), and I wrote that I intended to post ongoing photos of the progress of whatever they’re building in the ocean. I have taken daily photos of the process in various light (morning, noon, cloudy, sandy, sundown), because it is amusing and intriguing. I’ve even experimented with metering light—by spot-metering on a backhoe, on rocks, on the water—to see if it made a difference in exposure. It does. But get this, I have posted exactly zilch of those photos. It’s not that I don’t keep promises; it’s not that I have no respect for readers who genuinely desire to know just what is going on in the ocean down there; it’s not that I lie about shit like this. It’s merely a flaw in the genetic weaving.
One day, maybe I’ll put all the photos together in one of those stills-movie thingies where it almost looks like a movie, but the photos are all stills, and show the progress of building, sort of like a jerky-time-lapse movie. One day, maybe I’ll learn how to do that. Wait, let me put that on my list of things to do right now. OK, done, it’s on the list just above “Read iPhone guidebook.” Now…who wants to place a bet on whether or not creating that movie actually ever gets made? Hint: I’ve had my iPhone two months, still haven’t crossed “read guidebook” off the list, or “buy protective cover.” The odds are stacked heavily in your favor (if you’ve been listening at all, and bet accordingly).
A few days ago, I was sipping my second cup of coffee and watching the 40-foot dump truck dump another load of rocks—and by rocks, we’re talking heavy-duty-freakin boulders—onto the ground at the site where the backhoes are building something in the ocean. When I first moved into this flat three years ago, in that same area where they’re building, you would see wild-turkey-sized, black, ugly, odd-duck-looking birds, with knobby red wattles covering their faces like masks, here on migration from Beijing or Timbuktu, and dolphins imitating sharks in the sea. Now, the ocean is a construction site, which tends to destroy the concept of “layover spot” or “feeding ground” for some animals. If I had my choice of what I saw out my window, I’d choose ugly odd ducks and dolphins every time. Still, you have to admit, watching these guys build something out of nothing right in the ocean is intriguing. Some times maybe, you might need to squint your eye to perceive the beauty in your realities.
What is it Blake says about perception: “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” Very Zen, but that thought scares me a bit. I never want to become the man who sees things as shallow, or black and white, as it seems some people in our world see things. But I think Blake was right. We probably all see things from our own limited doorway of perspective. It’s just that some people’s doors are slightly more ajar than others, perhaps.
You ever heard of a “hat trick”? A hat trick is when you have three of something, usually we’re talking three successes in a short period of time. Like when a player scores three goals in one game. Or a car salesman sells three cars in a day. Or a hooker turns three—OK, you get the idea. What I’m talking about now is this: making decisions. Right now, you can head on back to your bookmakers, folks. Because if there were an Olympic event for “Inability to Make Decisions,” you are looking at the guy standing on that podium with three of those shiny Gold Medals hanging around his neck. They don’t call him Hat Trick Badfish for nothing, you realize. Every single day of my life. What is it Blake says about DNA, something like: “DNA is a bitch.” I think it was Blake. Or was it in that movie Legally Blonde. Or is it a refrain from the Badfish theme song.
So I’m sitting here second guessing my decision (and the loss of $700) (plus a Cuba guidebook), craving a Cohiba, and wondering if I should have just gone to Cuba. If you turn down your stereo, close your eyes, and listen intently, you might hear something riding the waves of the ethers that sounds something like this: “du-uh.”
And this is how my mind works—I’m getting antsy; I now feel like I should at least get out of Dodge. I consider Zanzibar, Seychelles, Mozambique. But you can’t get from Seychelles to Zanzibar; you have to fly back to Abu Dhabi or Sri Lanka, then fly all the way back to Zanzibar. And getting to Mozambique from Zanzibar is just as tricky, and more expensive. These are places you just can’t get to from there. Something feels off, I can’t decide. But I feel I need to go some place now, if only to clear my head, so I drive up to Dubai. It’s less than an hour and a half up the road from Abu Dhabi—because the speed limit is 120 kph, and you can legally drive 140 kph most of the way without getting busted by radar, which is about 85 mph. It’s not Cuba. But you can buy Cuban cigars in Dubai. And it is one of the world’s top 25 travel destinations (according to TripAdvisor’s 2015 List).
When traveling, I usually don’t visit museums or water parks or amusement parks, or cities. I have no patience for waiting in lines. Nor the desire to be surrounded by that many people. And I’d rather see things in their natural habitats. But after recently reading a couple other travel blogs I like to follow, James at Plus Ultra and Bama at What an Amazing World, who both recently wrote about museum visits they made, I decide to visit the Dubai Aquarium and Under Water Zoo. It’s not really a museum. There is no guide with an umbrella you must follow. And I have wanted to visit an aquarium like this for a while—where you can stand in a tube under the water and watch fish swim above and all around you. Another travel blogger who boggles my eyes with her award-winning photographs of underwater sea life is Indah’s: Travel Story and Photography. I’m thinking a visit to the aquarium might help me emulate these three blogs, especially Indah’s because I’m a little resistant to lashing a tank of air on my back, sticking a tube in my mouth and a mask over my face, and mouth breathe while trying to photograph man-eating fish and giant bait balls.
The Dubai Aquarium, located in the Dubai Mall, is fairly impressive. Everything is well done with panache and elegant taste (well, it is Dubai). It is the second largest aquarium in the world. It holds 2.64 million gallons of water. More than 33,000 living animals coexist in the place. Over 400 sharks and stingrays combined. Greenback turtles. Moray eels. Unicorn fish. Monster catfish that could swallow your arm. The sharks don’t eat other fish because the handlers feed the sharks daily. You can rent a wetsuit and climb into a steel cage and swim with the sharks while they feed, if your skivvies are filled with gonads that large. The aquarium boasts the Guinness World Record for the “Largest Acrylic Panel.” Which somehow sprang a leak in 2010, and the whole shopping mall, the largest in the world, had to be evacuated. Think: disaster movie bigtime.
However, the aquarium is not Havana. It’s not even Duluth. But it has gotten me out of my flat. And sailed me out of my psychic doldrums. It has jolted me into reality—it is summer, I’m on vacation. I should be on vacation; I should be traveling as usual, not sitting in my flat watching backhoes and decrying the weight of my bird. In the aquarium, I take photographs of numerous species of fish: sharks maybe eight feet long, clownfish, lionfish, massive groupers with sad mouths, piranhas. While I’m photographing these fish, I decide to go to Bali—my usual-default destination. If I have no particular place I want to visit, or if I do not desire the travail of travel and just want to “chillax” (that word is now actually in the dictionary!), I go to Bali.
I like going to Bali because it is beautiful and has great energy, and it exudes a spirituality that seems to transcend the boundary of religion. But now more, because it is “easy.” Going there is actually a “vacation” for me. I don’t feel like I have to get out and go see and do everything every day. I know the place. I know where to buy a fine bowl of mie kuah, I know where to get the best deal on renting a motor cycle, I know where to buy rambutans, I’ve driven to the top and hiked to the bottom of a volcano, I’ve photographed rice fields, I’ve picked snake fruit growing wild in the jungle, I’ve taken the fast boat to the Gili Islands, I’ve photographed burning corpses during the elaborate funerals, I’ve watched a team of boys launch a kite 10 feet long, I’ve seen the high holy sites and temples, I’ve watched wild monkeys steal my lunch, I’ve surfed Kuta Beach, I’ve stalked the wily Kingfisher, I’ve downed kopi luwak—coffee brewed with beans swallowed by a civet cat, digested, pooped out, collected by hand, roasted, and brewed. It does make you pause and wonder just who first got the notion to pick those digested beans out of cat poop and brew them, and then actually take a sip. A tad disgusting, perhaps, but it’s the most expensive coffee in the world. Who was it who said: “a traveler should try everything once, and some times once is enough.” Bali is a place I can go and just be—and chill, relax, rest. I never need a vacation when I return home from my vacation in Bali.
And when things go this smoothly, it is difficult not to imagine providence playing a hand. When I return from Dubai, I go online. I did not get online at all while in Dubai because during Ramadan, restaurants and cafes like Starbucks, with wifi, are closed until sundown, and because my hotel charged 30 dirhams an hour (over $8) or 90 dirhams all day ($25). I don’t feel the slightest need to rant about this, but in some countries, like Bali or India, I can rent a whole house or flat for a fraction of the cost of a hotel room in Dubai, and I’ll get free Internet, plus a free breakfast. Apparently, I balk at spending $25 for Internet (it’s the principle) but feel fine about losing $700 on plane fare (it’s the DNA). Let’s try to keep our value judgments to a minimum here and just agree that it’s hard to get through a day without one good rationalization.
So, Providence: I return home from Dubai. I get online. I get a discount on airfare. I get a discount on seats with extra leg room. I get the last seat on the flight with only one layover and the shortest flying time. My “usual” room in Legian Beach is still available. I reserve the exact flat in a rice field in Ubud that I had scouted out last summer and wanted to rent on my next trip, which just happens to be vacant because of a cancellation (at this late date for Bali reservations in high season!). The motorcycle I usually rent (fast, well maintained, and cheapest daily rate) is available. I take care of all these arrangements in a couple of hours, which for me is very unusual (apparently, people carrying puny albatrosses are usually required to do everything twice). And all of this, a little more than a week before departure. This is what we might call “Badfish Planning.” Or seat-of-the-pants planning. Or, total lack of planning. Or simply, luck. Coincidence, maybe. And a backhoe bucketful of grace. One—or a number—of those small miracles you’re so grateful for, manifesting in your day. And you imagine that there must be some powerful force running things in the universe, and it may not know your name and may not care if you’ve been bad or good, but it knows what you need.
So, the reason I should not be writing this is because I should be packing and preparing for my flight to Bali in a few days, instead of performing this exercise in procrastination. It’s not that I feel obligated to followers to write a post. It’s not that I’m driven to write. It’s not my sheer love and devotion to writing. It’s not that I have great discipline and commitment to blogging. It’s not that I’m addicted to that orange icon on my blog signifying “likes” and “comments” although it does evoke a degree of elation. It’s not that I have great photos of doors that I simply must share for the Photo Challenge. I’m not even showing you my great door photos (and I have oodles of great door photos). I’m not even showing you a door: I’m showing you a “doorway.” No, it is none of that.
It’s the first trick of a hat trick, today. I am doing what I do best, procrastinating. Later, I will most likely lose patience trying to load photos or publish this post or open Word. And at some point, I will hesitate while making a decision (protective cover for my iPhone—black, brown, tan, viper skin?).
You can see more photographs of the DP Photo Challenge here: Door
You can find more photos for Photo Rehab here: Photo Rehab
You can see more entries to Daily Post Writing here: Don’t You Forget About Me