In the midst of writing an article on the relationship between Marxism and Liberalism, I struck by a sincere urge to just set my computer on fire and old local Mexican ale. There is another evening storm here in the semi-arid desert. There have been a lot lately—the sky darkening around dusk, the dry air blistering with the smell of water, and the sweat sticks to you for the first time in a day. It is 40 celsius, which for those in the Gringolands is over hundred Fahrenheit, but with the storm the chanates and ravens can be seen in the air.
Normally this time year, there are mostly dust storms. Time’s are changing though, and exactly how is yet to be seen.
The trickle of a Lagoon this region is named after may not dry up this year or not. The future is not exactly optimistic but there are traces of brightness beyond the teeth of the sun.
I have obviously decided not to make the costly mistake of burning my computer.
Twelve more days in Mexico. My partner is sick; she has gotten one of the many rounds of food-poisoning with have been hit with here. Three months ago, I have food-poisoning that was later diagnosed as typhoid from Salmonella typhi. Adhesions from a minor surgery that was 15-years-old caused my gut to swift into a net of scars and tangle, then close off. It would have killed me if I had not had good medical care.
I did. Medical care may not be cheap for some locals—but with insurance and a salary pegged to US, it was affordable to me. Three podcasts I work with, a free lance reading gig with a UK publisher, and a fulltime teaching job—plus my blogs and my literary magazine—all came to a halt for a few months. I lie in bed. No food for ten days, only saline drip, and trying to force myself to walk and speak in broken Spanish to my nurses despite the pain killer numbing me down to English.
I am used to physical pain, but even with my partner there when she would be done with work and before she would go to bed at night, I felt alone. Students sent me cards. The nursed grinned through my muddled-mouthed espanol.
This let to the ever pedestrian cliché: I could have died, and in the haze of my intestines being literally unknotted with a scalpel (a Frankenstein-like scar runs from my belly button down to the pelvis now), my priorities over the past tw0 years seemed silly.
Twelve days to leaving Mexico, and those old priorities still seem silly. I have a red neck and sunburn from walking lately—getting medicine for my partner, trying to clear my head, trying to finish a second book of poetry, market my first, trying to understand how I ever got into political philosophy or studying history autodidactically in addition to picking up sporadic bits of Korean, Spanish, and any other language that my useful.
Every now and then the remains of the stitched skin in my stomach throb as walk. My t-shirt soaks with sweat , and I wait for the strange visitor of this irregular. The dust-encrusted streets will be gone soon. The chanates will be another continent. By fall, I will be in Egypt and will have North Africa to guide me.
I have been gone for five years—I left the mid-sized city where I lived, I left my soon-to-ex-wife after she told me she couldn’t join me. I cashed all my investments, sold my books, sold my car, gave my cat to my ex. Took a plane to Incheon, Korea to teach a University where I knew one person: an ex-professor who taught me Hegel and how Reagan had read Alinsky. He was divorced within the year, and then when to Kurdistan to teach a University that was a Bush legacy project, only to leave when things started getting hot.
I almost joined him the next year, although I am very, very glad I didn’t. I hear he remarried a young woman who was my classmate. We didn’t talk much after the first few weeks anyway as he assumed my politics were closer to his than they ever were.
I spent my spare time at first being in shock. Reading Deleuze, Badiou, Marx, Hegel to catch up with some of my colleagues who were into theory, and finding only Marx really helped grasped a view of history. That said, the believers in the Marxist weltanschauung seemed a bit starry eyed and from the next social class up form the one I was born into.
I wrote buses and tried to teach myself Hangul with the help of half-Korean friend in the states and locals who would give me a few minutes. I went from Seon and Taegu Buddhist temple to monastic retreats on the weekends when I wasn’t reading the polygot neologisms of theory. One I stayed in one a weekend and prostrated 109 times at five in the morning. A French monk was there overstating his visa and his thighs seemed like tree trucks.
I was not new to Buddhism. I had been introduced to it in my childhood and had even briefly stayed with a vihara as well as tried to learn Pali. Korean Buddhism was different, but I was not about to use an exotic substitute for dealing with myself no matter how much I found the Bodhisattva’s and Celestial Buddha’s comforting. That was a cliché that I wasn’t about to engage in: as fascinated as I was, I knew the world did not need one more Buddhist poet.
I flew back and spent a four days with a close friend in San Francisco during, drove back to Georgia in a Greyhound across most of the US during an economic downturn. People were fleeing from California only to flee back just a year or two later when the next Tech boom hit. I sat by an actor from Atlanta most of the way, and spent the last time with my ex as her husband sleeping on a couch.
That is not when politics reentered my life, but that is when I started writing about it again.
There is a lot I am glossing over here. I transmogrified from big fish in a small pond to a deep-sea salmon. That is not entirely what I am writing about today to avoid other, more technical, writing. My philosophical voice is stilted, and uses a idiosyncratic mixture of vocabulary and ideas that wears even on me. This is not that.
On my walk getting the stomach pain medicine for my partner, I keep thinking about 2000 in college coffee shop where I watched a young woman who I would later fall in love with, only to marry my ex. This is not a story of redeeming that relationship, don’t worry, this isn’t a Nick Hornby novel .
But it isn’t John Hornby either.
I will spare you the details of that non-courtship with the woman with the perfectly shaped skull who I drunkenly called up after this poetry reading and tolkd her she was sexy like David Bowie way. Perhaps it was the late 90s pixie cut.
The poem title was “trying to be sincere doesn’t really work” and it featured one of those toy trolls with the tuff of colored hair. It was about conflicted love, and loyalty. I don’t remember if it was brilliant—in fact, I don’t remember if it was even good. I just remember that it touched me.
And I didn’t listen to it deeply enough. She had pumas on and dyed-red hair, and smile. The cappuccino machine buzzed through her reading like a circular saw, and I just stupidly took the time to flirt since my girlfriend, who would later be my ex-wife, was 800 miles away and had given me permission.
But trying to be sincere hasn’t worked: Increasingly I sound like Ambrose Bierce. I have seen more than a little bit too much: a friend wrapped around a tree from drinking and driving, the picture of my brother after he survived trying to put a bullet in his face, dead ex-girlfriends, homeless people who died in their sleep, and scores of beggars. I have seen idiocy almost everywhere.
I have tried to turn that into a political theory—to use it understand political economy—and I have come away with insights but increasingly a cynicism reveling bitter Bierce himself. Two years ago, I came to one of the ten most dangerous cities in the world since a narco cartel war ravished it the year before I arrived, and I have seen it become safe. The barbed ware and the high walls remain, but one sees children out in the park after dark and dance clubs reopening doors. Like a trauma victim, it has cautiously returned to daily life.
Conversely, after leaving my home country, and setting off to travel the world. Each time being sincere about my emotions about my home country become more complicated. Even the politics of alienated youths and leftists, who have gravitated to me in the past, come from a place I intellectually understand but cannot emotionally comprehend. Furthermore, the battles of the week, the glee of this week’s court decision on gay marriage, the common talking points about the South, the American political myopia. It seems like a foreign language even though the internet and world engagement with US popular culture means it is still part of the dross of the background.
So as the rain comes, and I pack another suitcase, to visit home before heading off to Africa and wherever else is next, even though I live with a woman, I have left with my thoughts. Trying to be sincere doesn’t work. The last year has taken a toll on me and five years of starting over: losing literacy, the primary weapon of a writer’s life, friendships being deep and mostly temporary, living out of five suitcases with a ten boxes of my partner and I’s past in storage in the States which we visit less and less. It took its toll. My brother’s suicide attempt, which I only speak about because it made the news, wore me down. My other brother got married in my absence because I could not make it back on the notice given and his wedding invitation got lost in international mail.
Twelve days until I leave Mexico, and the relationship between the ideological and intellectual development of Marxism and Liberalism is still fascinating me, as does all the poetry, and yet that is obviously not what is on my mind. I joke that the difference between myself and ol’ Ambrose is that I will make out of Mexico, although I shouldn’t count my chickens just yet.
The desert can be an honest place, the light doesn’t give up, and it burns into you. The gaps I have been trying to transcend are probably not possible to do. I am accepting that like a cool summer rain, but I know the solar orb is the more honest one. That’s what sincerity will get you if you don’t lie to yourself.
Useful. Necessary. Alienating. Transforming.