Thursday, December 21, 2006


I was getting my teeth cleaned the other day and my hygienist was about a decade deep into his mid-life crisis. Needless to say, we hit it off. He apologized for running late, he had just rode his motorcycle over the bridge and got held up. We talked about his divorce, connected on dropping out of universities, on getting wasted in strange cities. When he was in his twenties, he hitchhiked across Europe and met his ex-wife in Israel on a kibbutz. He regretted not joining some guys who were going overland from there to India and Nepal, and told me when he retires in a year and a half, that’s where he’s going. Somewhere in the conversation, (which was pretty one sided, considering I had metal tools and hoses and vacuums in my mouth) he declared that he prefers to visit places as a

“traveler and not a tourist.”

When it was time to rinse and spit, I took the opportunity to tell him that I had never heard the discrepancy between those two words before and I could really relate. I get quite excited by quotes like that, words that meet and tangle and twist and compliment and reject and dichotomize and synthesize… I like quips that feel like squeezing a rubber stress ball in your brain, that make you sort of twitch and crane your neck and grind your teeth, that feel a little like trying to understand infinity… alright, this wasn't quite one of those, but it caught my attention.

Anyway, I am constantly in strange towns and I get sort of self conscious about the fact that I am just passing through and don’t really belong. But now I have a new mindset to come through with… I am not a tourist -- even though I tend to pass through ‘on tour’…and I am often clumsily brandishing my camera at a crooked angle out the van window at a tree, or town hall, or billboard for an “adult bookstore.” -- I may take a peek at the main attractions, but I am more fascinated by finding the secret restaurants and coffee shops where my sort of folk hang out... I like to find the part of town with the dive bars and tattoo parlors, vegans and hipsters... I am a traveler, and a traveler is noble and wise and learned and clever and quick and mysterious and, he'll never tell you, but just once he may have killed a guy…