eastwind memoirs 05 – jack daniels and the canadian belles

Jack Daniels and Canadian belles
eastwind memoirs 05 
By Bernie Lopez, eastwind@replyctr@gmail.com
SEE PREVIOUS eastwind memoirs –
06 – THE 25,000-KM 3-YEAR TREK eastwind overview
04 – THE BEDOUIN GIRL Tetouan, Morocco
03 – PILGRIMATE TO FATIMA the 7-day 80-km hike, Portugal
02 – BRAWL IN A PORTUGUESE BAR Vila Franca de Santo Antonio
Jack Daniels and Canadian belles
eastwind memoirs 05
By Bernie Lopez, eastwind@replyctr@gmail.com

The Filipino author hitchhiked 25,000 kilo­meters, drifting through 18 countries in Europe and North Africa for 3 years. This is a true story, dialogue reconstructed, excerpts from an upcoming book on the eastwind memoirs Wings and Wanderlust.
if you stand at the edge of a cliff
you can either look up
and view the golden sunset
or look down and view the dark abyss
what you view is what you are
and what moulds your destiny
on the road it is important
to head for the blinding light
and flee from the darkness
you have to have a sixth sense
make serendipity your friend
be able to smell mortal danger
from a mile away



         I never took notice of time when I was on the road. It was immaterial. Many times, I didn’t even remember what month it was. I never had a detailed time frame. I only looked at the seasons, fall in France with its exploding carpet of fallen leaves, winter in Morocco with its moaning desert sand dunes, spring in Portugal with its bulls and festive crowds, and summer in Amsterdam with its sea of backpackers of all races. Time was not minutes or hours or days, but seasons. Now it was spring in Portugal.
         I headed for the Algarve coastline. I stayed in a camping ground in Faro. This was my pit stop. I washed all my clothes and my entire backpack. I must have washed off a half kilo of dirt. It was hard to wash the heavy jeans. There was a tech­nique I learned from a lady drifter from Argentina. Wrap your jeans around a post and turn it tight to squeeze out all the water. It was the effortless way of doing it. Fantastic. But if you over-did it, it would tear your pants.
         I could not imagine how the sands of the Sahara were still in my backpack. My yellow ski-jacket looked yellow again. I did some sewing on it using black thread. There were so many repairs in black thread, it started to look black and yellow.
         I traded my pocketbooks and I was on two new ones. I was a brand new guy, ready for the next phase. Fatima, here I come, I said to myself.
         “Looks like rain, kiddo,” a Brit with a heavy accent tapped me on the shoulder.
         “I know,” I countered.
         “Looks like you got no tent just like me.”
         “Looks like.”
         “Listen, I got a plan.”
         “Fire away.”
         “See those two lovely Canadians? They share a tent, right?”
         “I got it, kiddo. We sleep right beside their tent, right?”
         “Boy, are you fast.”
         I abandoned having a tent because it was too heavy. I kept my backpack weight circa 3 to 4 kilos. At 5 kilos, it will start to strain you. Also, it was more exciting risking rain. After all, it’s just water and water cleanses both body and soul. It challenges your creativity when it starts to pour. I remember an American gadget freak I met in Florence who carried an 8-kilo backpack. That ties you down. Wings and Wanderlust required being mobile, lightweight, and sticking to essentials, discarding peripherals.
I appropriated weight on a mobile kitchen because it translated into savings. I saw books claiming “Europe for $5 a day” (this was in the 70s). One day, I computed eastwind’sper day cost. It was a resounding $2 a day. There are secrets Filipinos have that Western backpackers from affluent societies are not privy to. The secret is simple, you don’t need a book or primer – no restaurants, no hotels, only hostels, camping grounds, or starry nights, and hitchhiking. I could pig out in my mobile kitchen for a dollar.
And so, we talked to the two lovely Canadian beauties. My new found Brit friend took out a Jack Daniels from his backpack. The women went wide-eyed. This guy’s smart. He’s a pro with women. We had a nice time talking about soaring in the skies, the art of drifting. By the time we knew it, we had finished the bottle in about an hour. Nice high. We were laughing at the slightest ‘humor’. We couldn’t breathe any­more. Then, ‘it was time for bed’, as the song Norwegian Wood of the Beatles goes.
         “You guys don’t believe in tents?” one Canadian lady said.
         “Too heavy,” I said.
         “Too much fuss to pitch,” said the Brit.
         “Looks like rain, guys,” the other lady said.
         “We’ll manage,” said the Brit, winking at me.
         And so we went to bed at about 10 o’clock. Foreseeing the rain, I made sure all my gear was together so I could grab them easily. And there it was, about midnight, big droplets of rain. It was coming down fast and hard. The Brit and I scrambled. He shouted at the girls to let us in. They had no choice. We squeezed in. The smell of whiskeyed Canadian women and the warmth of their bodies blended with the rain, taking away my sleepiness. It perked me and the Brit up and we were giggling and talking as the downpour began.
         With certain types of light-weight nylon tents, if there is a downpour, you can’t touch the roof otherwise the water comes in where you touch the nylon. The tent of the Canadians was such. So the Brit and I had to squeeze the women hard to avoid touching the low-hanging roof and getting wet. If we didn’t do that, the rainfall would fall harder inside the tent than outside. It was nice sleeping in the warmth of drunken Canadian women inside a tent on a stormy Portuguese spring night.
         Here is a little flashback. There was another time heavy rain would come down on me, somewhere in a park in Italy, perhaps Milan or Genoa, I don’t even remember the place, perhaps Milan, but the incident was crystal clear. I was with another backpacker. He had a tent but was too lazy to pitch it. It looked like a rainless night. But it came fast and hard at one in the morning.  We dragged  all our gear and took  shelter under a nearby walk-bridge, shivering wet. But in all my 12-odd months without a tent on the road, rarely was there rain. The other times, my guardian angel managed to keep the stars visible whenever I slept with the sky as my roof. Recklessness and luck were the best partners, but only if you had a guard­ian angel. End of flashback.
            The next day, the sun shone like a torch. The ladies were having a tan at noon. One of them approached me and asked me to put some lotion on her legs and back. She noticed I was embarrassed, so she grabbed my hand and placed it on her thigh, “Don’t be shy.”
         The Brit grabbed the lotion, “Let me do it.”
         “No, I asked him, not you,” the lady said.
“They don’t like aggressive Limeys. Move away,” I said, to cover up my embarrassment.
         There was electricity on her skin and it wasn’t the lotion. As I rubbed this slimy lotion on electric legs, she started talking, “Ever seen bulls out on the streets?”
         “Not really,” I said, distracted by the legs.
         She said, “There’s this place called Vila Franca de Xira. They have a fiesta where they let the bulls rampaging out on the streets.”
         I said, “Really? How can they do that?”
         My hands were melting into her skin. The sticky gooey lotion on white skin slightly browned by the sun excited me.
         She said, “They fence portions of the main streets and the central plaza and let the bulls out. It’s a free for all. Anybody can go into the arena.”
         I asked, “And many do?”
         I was not listening. My mind was on her skin.
         She said, “I don’t know. You gotta find out for yourself.”
         I had two things in mind. First was the fiesta of the bulls at Xira. I had to see that. Second was the much awaited pilgrimage I wanted to make to Fatima. Both would become mesmerizing experiences only because I had a fantastic gift of serendipity, the sixth sense to somehow stumble into mind-blogging soul-rending adventures beyond my imagination. Eastwind was heading north, towards the warmth of summer.
the only difference between
an atom and a galaxy is size
their primordial essences are the same
in the same way
there is little difference
between a tycoon and a beggar
you must see through the external
and absorb the internal
if you are to discover yourself in others


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