my sister and i ventured over the inca trail for four days, over mountains, past ancient incan ruins, and through the thick jungle of peru. when we arrived at macchu pichu, the lost city of the incas, i was exploring the crumbling homes and temples when i came across a stone tablet with the following story carved into it. with some help from our peruvian guides, i translated the cryptic text...i am not sure if it is true, but it is pretty interesting:
it was a vicious battle there in copacabana, bolivia, on the shores of the sharp-blue lake titicaca. who was fighting and who won? well, there's a fighter now; let's have a look at him.
on the mainland, limping down avenida 6 de agosto towards a wooden boat docked on the creaky old pier, was weary mike the nomad, dressed in a dirty, mustard-stained megadeth t-shirt. the boat was to take him to the isla del sol, the birthplace of the sun, according to incan legend.
on the rocky island, waiting to launch a relentless attack immediately upon his arrival, were the spirits of several musicans - including bob dylan, led zeppelin, the grateful dead, modest mouse, and bob marley - along with a bratty 21 year old punk named zac, a tall, strong finn named tommi, and mike the nomad's spirit itself.
a formidible batallion indeed; it was to be an unfair fight.
and the mighty island mob did not even wait for his arrival to begin their pounding assault on mike the nomad - they started on him while his boat still slowly crept towards the island, towards the birthplace of the first incan man and woman.
the dispirited nomad sulked on his uncomfortable steel chair which was nailed to the floor of the wooden boat, thinking over and over about the spanish word for thief: "antisociales." he felt anti-social himself, silent and dreaming of plane tickets home.
and that's the exact moment when the thunderous hand of the eclectic army first struck.
"sometimes the light's all shining on me, other times i can barely see. lately it occurs to me, what a long, strange trip it's been," sang the grateful dead.
the nomad felt and recognized the words of the song "truckin'", a traveling theme song about being on the road. his whole live he had closely listened to the words of musicians, and often lived by them, like a dedicated worshipper in his beloved church. in his head, beamed there on a ray of light, perhaps from the temple of sun itself on the isla del sol, the words of "truckin'" echoed in his head, trying to revive his spirit and his passion living within it - traveling.
he was quite angry about his recent setback though, the theft of everything except his guitar, so he shrugged off the grateful dead and wrapped his mind again around his new plan to GO HOME EARLY.
"i'm going home early," he muttered to himself through bitter lips. "gonna find a plane ticket on out of here." the boat churned ahead.
on the island, the grateful dead walked off alone and gazed off the 4000 meter peak at the isla del luna, the island of the moon. the rest of the army re-assembled and discussed their next attack. "he is really jaded," said bob marley. "doesn't he know that every little thing's gonna be all right?"
"he knows," said bob dylan. "i've been whispering a certain phrase in his head for ten years now. he lives by it, but has forgotten the meaning. we are going to hit him with it again at the end, but, in the meantime zac, you think you can talk some sense into him?"
"oh yeah, man, " said zac. "i sent him an e-mail that he's probably still thinking about right now."
back on the boat, the nomad's thoughts drifted to an e-mail he had received from zac, a fellow midwesterner he had met in china. he couldn't wait to get home to the united states so he could punch zac in the mouth. "that arrogant little &$%)!" thought the nomad. "he is 13 years younger than me but talks to me like i know nothing. i can still see those words of his e-mail:"
But no matter how good life is, there is always the downside, everything is balance. So yes, maybe life hasn't been so kind to you at times, but who the f*ck cares, that's where you keep on keepin' on, or have you really forgotten what those words meant?
I know you said you were leaving it open, but don't give up on traveling, don't even have it in your head. come back in some sh*tted out convertible like you always wanted too, because there is a good chance you'll never have that chance again.
"little arrogant brat," thought the nomad. "i hate it that he is right. i hate it that i love the punk." but still he stubbornly kept on dreaming of buying a plane ticket just after the new year and ending his trip in peru, rather than stumbling over the border from mexico in early march, either on foot or in some busted up roofless car like he had always planned when he had left home 21 months earlier.
the incan spirits that whip through the air above the high alpine lake carried these negative thoughts back to the isla del sol and the group absorbed them in their collective soul. "we are going to have to work harder," they said. "let's wait until he gets here and then send tommi at him. the nomad's father was 100% finnish and we all know that mike is very proud of his ancestery. that phrase 'sisu' - finnish for extraordinary courage in oppressive circumstances - has always been solidly implanted in his heart. let's get tommi, a finnish history teacher, to remind him of the importance of sisu." they all agreed it was a good plan, so tommi waited for the nomad at the top of the stone staircase, near some dark-skinned bolivian women dressed in large colorful skirts, wearing multi-colored blankets around their shoulders in which they carried their babies. llamas roamed the hillside farms, searching the ground for food.
the nomad disembarked and dragged himself up the steps, the towering altitude of bolivia taking a toll on his food-sick weakened body. tommi saw him and said "hello." they talked, they had a soft drink together on top of the peaceful island, and tommi reminded him about when the russian army fiercely hammered at the much smaller finnish army in the second world war but how the finns used their sisu to repel the russians hard advances. the nomad smiled, and thought of his deceased father and how his father had explored the world on his own, in a time when it was much more difficult to travel. he thought about how dad had never complained about it, how some hardships surely had occurred but how, upon returning home, his father always sat at the wooden dining room table, and under the light of a cheap brass chandelier, would tell his stories of the world while unpacking his suitcase, which sat cracked open upon the table. the young nomad had always sat in wonder, listening to his father and marveling at the coins and other souvenirs from the other side of the great big world, wondering what was out there, wondering if he would get a chance to see it for himself someday. a dream was born, nurtured, and reached maturation in those moments at that table.
tommi left and the nomad stood alone on the island top, his eyes searching the massive lake for the answers. he was unsure of what to do. home seemed like the place for him now. he was tired and home would comfort him, his family would comfort him, his nephew, his nieces, his brothers and sisters. but just then a strange breeze passed over his shoulders, carrying with it a cryptic warning, whispered into his ear, something he could feel but not quite understand. he felt a ghostly tap on his back and he wheeled around to see a giant incan god standing over him. he gasped at the menacing face and then quickly turned away, looking down the long stone staircase ahead. at the bottom, the boat back to the mainland floated in the clear blue lake. he fled towards it.
carrying with it the lessons and words of his favorite musicians, mike the nomad's spirit itself, taking the form of an incan god, pounded down the staircase after him. the nomad ran towards the frail old boat with the two weak outboard motors, desperately trying to board before the god tackled him. he leapt towards the back of the boat as it pulled away from shore, his ears echoing with a giant splash and the gurgling, defeated scream of the incan god....
the nomad woke from a nice night's sleep. it was election day in bolivia, a time when the whole country shuts down, so he had no plans. "relax, and maybe go on the internet to search for....to....search.....to....search for......what?" he said aloud in his room. he had forgotten about what he had been searching for the past few days - an airline ticket home - and instead thought of led zeppelin, bob dylan, modest mouse...and zac eichmeyer.
led zeppelin came first, they smashed the nomad on the side of the head with:
Ah, sometimes I grow so tired,
But I know I've got one thing I got to do,
And now's the time, the time is now
To sing my song.
I'm goin' 'round the world,
I got to find my girl, on my way.
I've been this way ten years to the day, Ramble On,
Gotta find the queen of all my dreams.
"ouch! what is going on? i know i got on that boat before that incan god caught me...i shouldn't be thinking like this!" thought the nomad. modest mouse hit him heavily with:
Ice-age heat wave, can't complain.
If the world's at large, why should I remain?
Walked away to another plan.
Gonna find another place, maybe one I can stand.
I move on to another day,
to a whole new town with a whole new way.
Went to the porch to have a thought.
Got to the door and again, I couldn't stop.
You don't know where and you don't know when.
But you still got your words and you got your friends.
Walk along to another day.
Work a little harder, work another way.
Well uh-uh baby I ain't got no plan.
If I float on maybe would you understand?
Gonna float on maybe would you understand?
I'll float on maybe would you understand?
"oh no," thought the nomad. "maybe he did catch me. why am i thinking like this? i should just go home, pack it in. but then again, it's not on my terms, it's on a thieves' terms if i go home now..." the words of zac's e-mail sizzled through his confused brain again:
don't stop traveling unless it's on your own terms....
"wow. maybe i need to listen to these muscians and my friends. sisu. sisu. keep going. i have to admit, when i was in the internet cafe yesterday searching for plane tickets, something about it just did not seem right..." the nomad continued to wonder, and right at that moment, the words of the man whose words have had the most affect on the nomad's life expelled from the stoney lips of the almighty incan god:
if something's not right, it's wrong.
"mr. bob dylan," whispered the nomad. "that incan god caught me after all. he had captured my spirit first, then the lyrics of those songs that mean so much to me, and then the words of my friends, and once he had me physically, he stuffed it all back in, into that void created by that thief in la paz. i'm back. i am full again, full of me, of the spirit of mike the nomad. i know what i need to do. i need to follow my passion, and do what i want to do, on my terms. it's my life, it's my trip, and i call the shots - no one else."
full of conviction and the happiness that comes from truly following your heart, the nomad got up from the bed and threw open the curtains. he looked out over lake titicaca, towards the isla del sol, and, through the glass of his fourth story window, he saw again the incan warrior god who had held him in his powerful arms, re-instilling in him the spirit of the finnish people, of musicians, of his friends, his family, his father, his mother, all the people who made him who he is, and, of course, the amalgamation of all those spirits which is his own true spirit, the one which had been temporarily lost. the wide stone face of the omnipotent god gazed fiercely across the expanse of sapphire blue water at him and then disappeared, sending on a wave of sound these last important words to the nomad:
KEEP ON KEEPIN' ON
the nomad smiled and believed. a truce was signed, the battle ended there, and everybody won.