Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Long Goodbye

Living overseas is a wonderful experience, dear reader.  You get the privilege of seeing amazing things, meeting wonderful people, having your worldview challenged on a daily basis, and going through the kind of life altering changes that, were they to happen on prime time TV, would be accompanied by a Tori Amos song and some sort of smoke effects.  Maybe even a wind machine, if it’s classy.

In my seven years abroad I think my life has been changed forever at least 47 times, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, but always for the interesting.  I truly feel like it has made me a stronger person and allowed me to come to grips with much of the emotional baggage I had been carrying around, like my childhood traumas and relative lack of calf muscles. 

And now, after living in Myanmar, Taiwan, and Congo, I am getting ready to move to a new country, a new job, and a new world.  I will meet new friends, have new experiences, and hopefully not end up breaking up a fight between an undead robot and a mummy with acidic flesh melting powers.

Greatest movie about a mummy and an undead robot fighting Mexican grave robbers ever made?  Probably.  At least top 5.

So, reader, life is good. 

Wait- what?  Catch, you say?

What catch?

Oh, THAT catch.

For every new world, for every new friend, there is a long goodbye.  Now that I am moving on to my fourth country I have been tallying up a long list of farewells and departure high fives, and it is getting to the point where I am afraid to look at it.  At each place I have left behind friends- friends that I would consider family if I could know them for longer.  I remember the last nights watching Fawlty Towers in Myanmar with Big Dan Bones, the final karaoke sessions with Ben, Pete and Luc (Highway Star!), and those embraces/goodbyes with Rayna, Bauman, Courtney, and like fifty other people.  Some of them I still talk with regularly, some I hear from on Facebook, and some have drifted away into the void like that one kick ass Twilight Zone episode.

In Taiwan I spent one of my last nights with Allison and Jeremiah, a great couple who arrived in the country on the same day as me, helped me through some difficult times (mostly involving my boss trying to replace me with his wife), and always, ALWAYS, made me feel welcome in their home.  That last night Jeremiah went to like three different restaurants to find my favorite foods and beers, and it was a sad ride down in the elevator afterwards.  They are in Nepal now and have a baby I have never met (oh god cheap plug for their blog here).   Hopefully one day soon our paths will cross.

Last Friday I threw my last TASOK rager.  It was a fantastic time but also very bittersweet.  I know, realistically, I will never see most of these people again, and over the years that knowledge gets harder and harder to take.  I have had some great times with people and made some good friends.  I would like to think I have carved out some kind of greasy legacy here, and over the next 10 years I hope at least one of the four kids I hung out with regularly develops an unexplainable urge to listen to Fear Factory and/or GWAR, but who knows?

Sometimes teaching overseas is like that parable that is in every grandparent’s bathroom ever- the one with Jesus on the beach with that lazy dude, except when you look back the tide has come in so your footprints have been washed away.  And Jesus is playing Angry Birds on his iPod.  And there is probably a bonfire somewhere.  It’s the kind of deal where you can be surrounded by people doing the same thing but still feel super alone, like watching The Lorax with a room full of Tea Party activists.

You damned socialist.

So it’s hard- you have to balance the lust for adventure, the craving for the unknown, with knowledge that, at some point, if you keep saying goodbye to everyone you’ll end up dying alone somewhere while watching an incomprehensible South American game show.   

Or something.

You get the idea.  Hey, I always get morbid towards the end of the year, so don’t mind me.

What’s my point?  Well, I dunno, I kind of lose track of things sometimes, but I guess that in a few weeks I’ll be saying goodbye to a great group of friends again.  To all those people, thank you for letting me into your life, in whatever capacity.  If I sweated or bled on any of you I apologize, but only a little, because one can’t fight nature. 

I hope we will get a chance to meet again.  

Especially if we could do it like an old western:

I am sitting at a bar in some god forsaken corner of the world, nursing a gritty beer, and a shadow crosses over the table.  I look up, squinting at the sun which for some reason is indoors, and you are staring down at me, your eyes red with . . . something.  Anger?  Sadness?   Allergies?  You scratch the long scar running down the left side of your face, spit on the dirt floor and speak with a voice made of broken glass.  “Lippart, you son of a bitch”.

Man, that’d be sweet.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Lemme Tell You Something Brother . . .

So in a few months I will be leaving behind the jungle of Kinshasa for the urban jungle of Cairo (as announced here!).  I am currently deciding what I will bring with me to my new home and what will stay behind, either given to people or planted in their house when they're not looking, Cloak and Dagger style.

One thing that is interesting about being an international gadabout, other than miles of visa paperwork and being on a first name basis with flight attendants from Belgium, is the issue of luggage.  You spend a few years making a home, getting things the way you like it, and covering the scary mold patches.  Once it's all set up it's usually time to move so you have to dump most of your stuff and start all over again somewhere else, minus a few bits and pieces.  Thankfully I only own about three things, including my teacher pants, so it usually isn't a big issue with me, but nonetheless  you always have to decide: what stays and what goes?

Over the years I have given away or sold various paintings, cars, jackets, video games, comics, weird nobbly bits, and assorted musical instruments.  I have probably divested myself of more things since moving out of Santa Fe than I have owned at any point prior to that.  

One thing I have always kept with me, though.

One companion who has been all over the world.

Like me he has survived cyclones, riots, earthquakes, and really creepy centipedes.

He has been a source of wisdom.  Of strength.  Of constancy in uncertain times.

I am speaking, of course, of my vintage Hulk Hogan Pillow Buddy.

Here is the first picture I took upon my arrival in Kinshasa almost two years ago:

Hulk is a fighter, but also a lounger.

I've always loved the Hulkster.  I mean, how can you not?  Look at that mustache.  He should get a lifetime Movember championship belt.  

And how many men could rock the boas?

He also has had a profound influence on my approach to laundry:

Let's be honest: who hasn't wanted to do this at least once?  Or dozens and dozens of times?

Some of my earliest memories involve Hulk Hogan, either telling me to say my prayers and take my vitamins, or watching him drop the big leg on such monsters as King Kong Bundy, Big Boss Man, Earthquake, and, of course, OF COURSE, Andre the Giant.

Andre the Giant was, in the world of wrestling, Hogan's best, most loyal friend.  They had been together as allies  for years.

True confession time:  I remember watching on TV the night Andre betrayed Hogan during Piper's Pit.  I was nine years old, and got so mad, so upset at what happened, that I was sent to my room for a "Time Out".  I recall going into the bedroom I shared with my brothers (we were living with my grandma at the time) and, wiping tears and little boy snot from my face, writing Hogan an earnest letter to tell him that no matter what, I was still his friend, and Andre was being mean.

"Hulk, Hulk . . . you're bleeding.  Come on."  Chills, chills, I tell you.

Oh man, to this day, when I watch that, I wanna punch Bobby Heenan in his damn face.  What a manipulator.  What a scheming, soulless, unfeeling monster of a man.

He should have been a senator.

Or school administrator.  

I also remember driving from New Jersey to New Mexico after the summer of my freshman year in college.  My friend Giovanna was with me and, for the entire 28 + hour road trip, we played one cd on the stereo.  The entire time.  Which one, you ask, you beautiful, inquisitive bastards?

Hulk Rules, by Hulk Hogan and the Wrestling Boot Band, of course.  

Say what you will about his musical abilities (although he is a pretty good bass player), but there is no way that anyone will listen to the awesome balladry of "Hulkster in Heaven" and not want to immediately run out to a Karaoke bar, rock that song, rip off your shirt, and drop a big leg through a table:

I bet you're humming the chorus right now.  Well, at least I am.

By the end of the trip we had every word of every song memorized.  We would even sing it when the cd wasn't playing.  We had entered into a divine rapture, some kind of Dionysian madness where a strange tripartite was formed: me, her, and the lurking, shadowy Hulkster.  For a period of nine hours  we only spoke to each other using lyrics from the CD.  It was beautiful.  

The best part?  I don't think she'd ever seen him wrestle before.

Such is the appeal of Hulk Hogan.  The good news is that the legacy of Hulkamania will live on through the younger generation, as the following story will prove. 

When Lulu (read about our encounters here) and Eli came over for a play date a few weeks ago she grabbed the Hulkster, as she is wont to do, and came over to me.  She held him up for my inspection and said "he is so tall and handsome!"  I nodded my approval and went over to play Wii Tennis with Eli.  

When my back was turned, however, the true, undying power of Hulkamania burst forth like the tearing of a hundred shirts.

Behold: caught in the act.

Like a leg drop to the heart.