Learning to ride, falling down, getting back on
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Andrew Boyd is a humorist, a longtime veteran of creative campaigns for social change, and the author of several books, including two that are forthcoming: Pilgrimage to Nowhere and I Want a Better Catastrophe. He lives in New York with his laptop and long-suffering girlfriend.
Below me the world turned slowly through the night, unaware of the multilayered geopolitics my coffee-jangled brain was imposing upon it. I could find reasons to forgive Judaism and Islam their present-day sins. Christianity was another matter.
Subtitled A Toolbox for Revolution, the anthology Beautiful Trouble offers advice on how to plan and execute successful protest actions. Coeditors Andrew Boyd and Dave Oswald Mitchell have assembled the wisdom of many activists and troublemakers like themselves into a book about what works and what doesn’t, how to recruit people and keep them engaged, and where to direct efforts for the greatest impact.
Nikkō has many temples and pagodas, but the architecture didn’t move me. It was the forest; it was the quiet. It was obvious why this had been a sacred Buddhist site for more than a millennium. You could feel it. There was an interiority to the forest, a layering of quiet. The temples; the forest; you. And the snow, yet another layer, placing a hush on everything, taking you one step farther inside. I shivered. I lingered there by a shogun-era drum tower, its flared roof dusted in snow, a stand of cedars rising above it.
I had arrived at the peak hour of the morning commute, and a vibrating throng of mopeds clustered along the dirt road, every few seconds releasing one of its number single file onto the bridge. If rush hour in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station is Asia’s most spectacular, then here, at the threshold of this narrow bridge over the Nam Khan, was its most intimate.
We hear so much about the romance of travel, but nothing beats romance while traveling. I’d found it on a number of occassions, sometimes in the strangest of circumstances: while monitoring election results in El Salvador or staying in a dismal youth hostel during a rain-besotted Irish winter. If I could find love there, why not in Paris in the spring?
“Submit to Mother India,” a veteran traveler advised me before I left New York, and I intended to take her advice to heart. I steeled myself for nothing to go according to plan. I was prepared to get gruesomely ill at some point. I was prepared to let India have its way with me. “You can’t prepare yourself for India,” my well-traveled friend had also said.
Love, they say, can move mountains. Less romantically, love has also been known to move mountains of crap. My college friend Logan and his mountain of crap arrived in New York City from Boston in a twenty-three-foot U-Haul truck, complete with the same six wooden peach crates of aging vinyl I had helped him pack and unpack at least three times through the years.
A big part of being a man, it seems, is being a dad. As I’ve gotten older and watched many of my peers get married and start families, I’ve begun wondering whether I shouldn’t have a kid, too. But getting one, it turns out, is not so simple. With no partner at the moment, and with kidnapping still illegal in New York State, I’ve chosen to rent.
If spiritual seekers coming to Thailand were treated like their sex-tourist brethren, a contingent of saffron-robed monks would accost you at the Bangkok airport, getting up in your face with a laminated menu of spiritual offerings and shouting, “Intensive Vipassana meditation! Twenty-one-day monastery stay! All-you-can-eat vegetarian meals! Hurt your knees! No sex! Donations only!”