The social opera

2022-03-14 @Travel

Sometimes I come to neglect the social opera. Long periods bound to one setting, interaction restricted to a limited group, I lose awareness.

The travel mode, on the other hand, raises awareness: the hopping between diverse and frequently mutable groups of lodgers, the hostels, the guesthouses.

I genuinely strive to immerse into the scene: much time in disconnect mode, pensive, people watching, prying, conversing. Such we acquire a hazy, yet somewhat reasonable prognostic.

The world still spews increasing amounts of decadence. Enthusiasm remains slim: the mass communication, the ubiquitous, omnipotent, noise-inducing and brain-rattling Internet accessible and abused in copious dosage.

The pleasantries encountered are plentiful though … especially when meditated under the influence of the Jelly Roll Morton jazz tunes.

Occasionally I meet a type without a smartphone; sometimes without a phone. But even among the overwhelming majority, not all yearn for an escape, the echoes noted. Not all.

Prophetic sounds and loud, arise forever
From us, and from all Ruin, unto the wise,

some easily refrained from the technology, engaging and engaged in a semblance of not entirely Machine Learnable dialogue.

Provided the electronics, however, I’ve seen a significant number of travelers with the older Lenovo laptops: with the thumbwheel, the solid keyboards, the ridgider construction - that don’t feel like overpriced scrap.

The numbers of nomads opting exclusively for paper reading are impressive, contrary to intuition. Some travel with a respectable library.

Last week, one commented, I crudely paraphrase: it feels boring unless I have my books. Or it doesn’t feel right unless. Or I don’t feel myself. Along those lines. Indeed.

But hey. These printed books invite powerful conversations by the mere virtue of their covers. Someone reads War and Peace in French; someone, the semi-biographical account of John Adams; or Alejo Carpentier’s El siglo de las luces; or Dostoevsky’s Gambler.

I still struggle to explain Ulysses. That ware alone overwhelms my insignificant vessel. But it has eased many dialogues otherwise bound for potential shipwreck.

Many write in paper notebooks; some with punk rock insignia. Some squander too much real estate, scribbling a handful of heavily spaced fragments across the whole page.

The Argentinian/Uruguayan types traveling with the complete Yerba Mate kit tend to likewise foster interesting exchanges … at least with me. Then again, the respective tradition has not yet exhausted its charm since my discovery of it seven-eight years back. I distinctly remember the origin: Mario Benedetti’s La Tregua.

ashes to ashes
dust to dust
if the women don’t get this
the liquor must.

Jelly Roll Morton. Ragtime, New Orleans. Something about the rusticity of this guesthouse feels New Orleans. These walls and ceilings filter virtually zero noise. I can hear the mosquito on the other side.

Pucallpa - Peru, New Orleans, Louisiana. The swamps, the jungle. The Cajun, the Cumbia. The trams, the tramps, the motor-taxis. And what a curious kid waltzes in and out with a toy fighter jet. No, you may absolutely not power on the television. The uninhibited gush of wind.

‘Ragtime’, ‘ragime’, ‘regime’. Cell-phone-free regime. However impressive my strange ways, some take surprise at the discovery that I still travel with a tablet computer. And my tablet performs a lot of impressive shit in offline mode. Dark magic.

Never have I pretended to be tech free: just pocket technology free: save for the tiny MP3 player. I don’t encounter many exclusive music players around anymore.

Across all age groups, from 20 to 75, I’ve found myself engaged by colorful personalities - occasionally … provided I myself exercised a degree of initiative, not consumed by the melancholy, not withdrawn, not inhabiting ancient civilizations, not hovering the cosmos: none of it too infrequent. But it takes enthusiasm of both parties for the magic to transpire.

Is much of this sounding uncharacteristically optimistic? Lacking in the obscure side of nature?

Questions, comments? Connect.