Remember the Bowline

From the Mexican Rainforest Between Tepic and San Blas

My pal Juan and I, we’re going to guide the boss’s friends on a night hike.

What could go wrong?

Well, a hurricane is swirling over the Pacific. Surrounding storms have drenched this rainforest “resort” with its tin roofs, walls made out of chopped up RVs, and no-AC cabins.

The corrugated roofs over the bar and reception rattle and ping under endless raindrops. Trails become mud. Guests vanish into their cabins. Dogs nap under tables.

But the boss’s pals can’t be discouraged. They know the guy who owns this place, so everything, even severe weather, must be under control.

Hiking up a rocky, muddy trail in the night, we step-stone across a stream that flows away then plunges down into a big double-decker waterfall.

We’re taking them to an indigenous sweat lodge ceremony. A hut with wool walls over a bamboo frame with a pit full of stones from a fire pit in the middle. There will be chanting and drums while the guides dump buckets of water on the rocks to fill the hut with steam.

We sat in the mud, in the lodge, in the dark, amid the steam from the rocks, and the smell of burning sage, sandalwood, and cinnamon bundles.

It was quite lulling, but…

While we were away…the heavens fed that same stream we crossed to get here, and it deepened, strengthened and swelled till it was waste high, both because the water rose, and because the rocky ground beneath it was rapidly eroding.

The stepping stones we used to get here rolled away under a flood of chocolate milk-colored water, never to be seen again.

Steamed, chilled out, and sleepy, we worked our way back to that stream to discover our path back was gone.

Juan waded in, and the rolling rocks underfoot, the bark and branches that filled the water battering his legs, and the sheer ceaseless rushing power of the water told him that there was no chance of crossing. The middle-aged women, the boss’s pals, would be bowled over, swept downhill, and sent careening over the edge of the rockfalls. Our flashlights shined cones of light through the dashing rain. The river kept getting deeper. We had no cell service, Walky-Talky, radio, or plan of any kind.

Juan and I conversed. The crew in our charge huddles in the rain with crossed-arms, all goose fleshed. Good sports, but for how long? They want answers, and here we are, implicitly on the hook for them.

Bro, I tell Juan. It is really powerful, but I am 90% sure I can cross to get us all a rope.


Yeah. I mean, if you have other ideas I’m all ears, but it looks like our best bet.

Ok. You know if you fall you won’t get back up, it’s just a ride down to the falls?

I know, but I think I can make it. I felt it out. Played around in some rivers, forded one or two in my day. I want to do it. I pop off my sneakers and chuck them to the far side of the water.

Ah, but what cockiness. In the early steps, so far so good, but the ground becomes soft mud, and soon I’m up to my hips in water. Smooth stones get swept downstream under foot. Any one of them could bend an ankle in half if you’re not careful. Now in the middle, the current rages stronger. Bark bits and branches floating in the water batter my legs. An underwater thorn vine rakes across my shin.

I hold my breath, widen my stance, spread my hands out, and churn forward. It gets worse, but I can practically put my hands on the other bank by now. I do so, and exit the water in a bear crawl.

Think we can all make it? Juan calls.

I barely did. Let me get a rope, so we can be sure.

Pop back on the shoes, and dead sprint to the large screen house for zip line and climbing gear. The rain gets meaner.

Giant toad in front of the door – truly softball sized or larger. I’d ogle him, but the boss’s friends are waiting. He hops out of the way, I steal a white rope, hope it’s longer than two tree trunks and a small river, and sprint back to the water.

Ah, but where is the tree I planned to anchor to? I’ll have to wade back in to get it. Juan is consoling the shivering crew in Spanish.

I’m going to tie a bowline, a knot used for rescue harnesses because it absolutely will not untie on its own, no matter how hard it’s pulled. Juan’s flashlight beam strobes and spazzes over my fingers as I work the rope around the tree. I throw the knot together as more floating bark batters my legs, as more mud erodes under my feet. Give the rope a yank and horror – it unties.

Wait a minute, this should’t happen. Sure, it’s been a minute since life asked me to tie a one, but what about all those camp challenges? Who can tie a bowline behind their back, blindfolded, or underwater while treading, which I did while sinking cinderblock anchors for floating docks? This shouldn’t happen, not after any number of years.

Juan’s light is far from my work now, and it’s become a matter of pride. No, it’s a matter of life and death, of not letting the boss’s friends take a long wet plunge to dark oblivion.

Eyes closed, going by feel this time, by instinct, tracing the loops of rope with my fingertips while a thin branch bends against my face, scratching it. The rabbit comes up out of the hole, goes around the tree, and dives back in the hole. I give the finished knot a yank, it holds fast, and I knew the trees themselves would wash away before it untied. I opened my eyes and saw that looping shape I knew to be a perfect bowline.

Coil over my shoulder, I fight my way back to the other end and find an anchor tree there. Another bowline, this one in probably less than half a second.

I twanged the rope over the water, and everyone understood what to do. Juan went first to act as a spotter. He is a big guy, but his knee ligaments were injured and torn a long time ago, so he’s a tad wobbly.

First, we send across a blonde-haired Romanian woman. She gets midway, stumbles in the water, and clutches the rope to stand up again. Juan lends her a hand up. The current has her horizontal. Without the rope, she would have been washed away in seconds.

VIP after VIP we shepherd across that roaring rush of water, those treacherous ankle-rolling rocks, those mischievous underwater thorn vines, those mini boats of bark debris that flick and fleck the skin. They make you swat at your thighs (has a water snake slithered out in the darkness?)

But a step at time, a held hand at a time, we get each VIP to safety.

Finally, I untie the far end of the rope, haul myself through the water and untied the bowline on the other side.

Next, we bring everyone back to that tin roof with the bar inside an RV. Get them towels, drinks, and pour ourselves a few celebration tequilas. For hours, we recap and re-recap the night away.

The victory and hero endorphins flow for a while, but when I lay in my bed that night – wait! We should have had them on the other side of the rope, so it braced them against the current. Holding on was good but – there won’t be a next time but – they should have been on the other side of the rope. Then, it would have been perfect work. Then it would have been perfect.

Thanks for reading! Get my book Odd Jobs & After Hours in audio, hardcover, or paperback by clicking here. It’s about drifting down the east coast of the USA chasing one sketchy, so-called opportunity after another.

All is Lost

Let’s get out of here.

It’s obviously friends and family night at the one nightclub in town, everyone else already has their people, we’re not going to meet anyone here, let’s go.

We leave.

Next stop is the beach at night. Lightning is visible but we can’t hear thunder as we stumble drunk and bored through this mosquito-bitten, quiet little town in Mexico.

Anyway, we steal a couple plastic chairs from the abandoned, unguarded beach cafes and park them shoreside to watch the water and light show at night.

Kinda want to swim.

Me too, but I didn’t bring anything.

Eh. Could skinny dip. Nobody is around.


Well, anything sounds like a good idea after enough tequila. Soon, we’re letting the high waves absolutely demolish us. Hard enough to stand on land this drunk, forget surging waves, foam, and even barrels.

Look at these waves. Look at this moonlight. I wish I had a surfboard. I’d surf right now.

You’d get murked by a shark.

The Lord’s will be done.


I mean, I hope not. But the thing about life is, you might be on a hero’s journey, and you might be a cautionary tale. It takes a long time before you find out which.


Waves roll with ancient elemental power. I try a few messy backflips in the white water. They go OK.

Ok, I’m good if you are. Let’s get out of here.

Back on the sand, gut-wrenching horror.

The chairs where we left our clothes and things are empty. Armrests and seats glint white in the moonlight and lightning flashes. No more shirts, pants, underwear, wallets, keys, phone, cash, passports, all gone.

They stole our stuff. They stole everything.


We can’t get back inside! We’re trapped out here. We’ll get malaria with all the mosquitoes out here. Even worse, people will thing we’re gay.

Priority one. Squash that rumor.

Dude, look at the waterline. All of the other chairs are knocked over. The ocean took our stuff. Not thieves.

I can’t believe God would do this to us.

I can. He let the Holocaust happen.

Juan goes into full panic. He dives in the ocean. He sprints in a look around the beach. Not a well gridded search pattern, but it’s something. Bad stuff like this doesn’t happen to me, he tells the night.

He pile drives his head in the dirt. He’s cursed with being accident prone but charmed with being indestructible. If you must be one, it’s good to be the other. He sprints in the water and back. Bad stuff like this doesn’t happen to me, he screams at the sky.

Ah, but it does happen to me, which is the source of my acceptance.

I’m eying the same surf shop where I’ve rented boards by day.

Ok. Game plan. We raid the lost and found bin, steal shorts, hoodies, whatever people left. Towels, if that’s all there is.

Get covered up and trek home. Tell the land lady to call a locksmith if she truly doesn’t have a spare key, like she said she doesn’t when we moved in. Roof for the night, worry about the rest tomorrow.

I start plodding towards the surf shop. Wind howls. Waves roar. Sand fleas bite and mosquitoes buzz. It’s a harsh world when you’re nude.

What’s this? In the gloomy moonlight, through the gauzy clouds. Five other white plastic chairs. And …


Dude! It’s all here! Those weren’t our chairs! We drifted more than we thought.

Juan collapses in the sand in gratitude.

Dude, if we had stolen clothes from there we would have left our stuff here all night. Then it would have been gone by morning.

Can you imagine? How close we came to our lives being ruined? It’s a tiny town. People already gossip about us.

For what?

Just being Gringos.


I told you, stuff like this doesn’t happen to me.

Well. Not this time.

Thanks for reading! Get my book Odd Jobs & After Hours in audio, hardcover, or paperback by clicking here. It’s about drifting down the east coast of the USA chasing one sketchy, so-called opportunity after another.

Announcement: My Second Book is Coming

This week, I found a print shop in Tepic, Mexico, and spent thousands of Pesos on printing out the first draft of my second book.

The printer whirred and clunked, and I paced as it spat out all 303 pages.

It will be my first official novel. It’s titled, The Drifter’s Curse.

It’s the story of a young man who gets cursed in Morocco after dating the wrong girl, and wanders from country to country trying to break it.

Amid the bazaars and forbidden underground dance clubs of an ancient city, the narrator stumbles into the bloody world of real-life witchcraft. Wander with him through the foggy castles and beery pubs of the U.K.. Join him as he brings a single mother and her daughter to tour former Nazi concentration camps, earns room and board by working a farm in Spain, treks through the surreal salt caverns, mud volcanos, and eternal flames of Romania, and searches for his family on the Greek islands.

It’s a story that pushes the real world as close to fantasy as it gets. If you look back at my flight paths, I circled the globe to get it.

It is a work of fiction, but far more of it happened than you might ever think.

I have at least two more drafts to complete before I consider the final product ready. No, I don’t know how long that will take.

Beyond the story, I have a lot of decisions to make, like whether or not to find a publisher this time, or go independent again.

I invite your input and thoughts, either in comments on this post, or by emailing me at:

Thank you!

Get my first book Odd Jobs & After Hours in audio, hardcover, or paperback by clicking here. It’s about drifting down the east coast of the USA chasing one sketchy, so-called opportunity after another.


Heat. Sweat beads on every surface of my head, and runs in rivers down my temples. My mouth opens to pant like one of the skinny street dogs that scamper up and down the flooded mud roads, with their round rocks jammed together in ankle-rolling jumbles.

On my plate are three tacos and a blistered chili pepper. We’re in a building that looks like a jail cell somewhere in San Blas, a largely forgotten, beat down coastal town in Mexico.

My friend Juan covered his tacos in a creamy looking light orange salsa, an innocent looking green one, and only bothered to warn me about the third dark red, oily salsa.

Assuming I was safe with two out of three sauces, I copied him and slathered them atop the taco happily. Bit a corner of the blistered chili, and half of a taco, admiring the fresh-baked tortilla made in the bakery across the street, the tender all-day stewed cut of cheap meat, the white cabbage and cactus salsa, but soon I got hit with the flamethrower.

Every pore of mine opens, and chili oil floods out. Eyes dilate as if by a drug. It’s the type of spiciness that ignites your tongue, makes your ears pop; brings about a momentary deafness.

In that spice induced tinnitus, Juan, whose perma-sweat stains the knees of his jeans chalky white with dry sodium deposits, garbles the praises of the food. For him, it is done just right.

My American mind searches for a safe haven, but apparently real tacos aren’t served with sour cream, yogurt sauces, or even cheese. This place doesn’t have drinks, so I can’t ask for so much as a cardboard box of milk.

There’s no air conditioning in this concrete box with black bars and no glass for windows. Fans blast hot air in my face, rattling and whirling.

Sound returns, and outside, the night is frenetic with barking dogs, chattering street hawkers, babbling gossips, and the blaring horns of Ranchera music, and the pulsing speakers of boom boxes. The wings of billions of blood sucking insects beat. Smells of burning trash and coconut husks, which are set ablaze to keep the mosquitos away, float through the shop, brought in by the fan. There’s no wind.

The warm water we’ve been brought makes everything worse. Tongue turns to red ember. Eyes melt away from their sockets. Shoe leather smolders around my feet. It’s more than a meal, it’s a right of passage, a diabolical transformation.

I somehow finish the small tacos, and stumble out into the night, leaving hundreds of Pesos on the table. Juan follows me, mildly concerned, mildly amused. My head explodes in flames and I gape at him as a flaming skull.

We pass a kid with a cart full of sour candies for sale, and- are you serious? Three bottle of different hot sauces to be poured into an open bag of candy. I run from the sight, smoke trailing from behind me.

A woman sells popsicles, and tells us it’s two for one on lime with jalapeño, and pineapple chili. Juan is tempted. Those are his favorite flavors, but I breathe fire on him to voice my objection to peppered popsicle.

He finally gets the point, and orders a coconut milk popsicle for me, and takes jalapeño lime for himself. One bite of the coconut ice and I realize, I just might make it, I just might survive.

Get my book Odd Jobs & After Hours in audio, hardcover, or paperback by clicking here. It’s about drifting down the east coast of the USA chasing one sketchy, so-called opportunity after another.

What Brought Me to Mexico

Where I’m living lately

Though months of traveling across Europe and North Africa left me quite confident, Mexico City Airport is one of the most jumbled and chaotic I have ever seen. The layout forces you to retrace your steps across the entire airport to handle customs, your next boarding pass, get a bite, anything you need or want to do.

The seats do not face the screens at the gates, so when the boards, the announcements and the alerts on my phone were all disagreeing over whether I was departing from gate C or D, I was basically forced to sprint between the two, ask a confused staff in broken Spanish, and triple check till I was finally on the bus that drove to the plane.

From the airplane windows, I could see the patchwork of farms running up hillsides. After an hour in the air, I landed in Tepic. The plane touched down on a gleaming wet tarmac as the sun was setting yellow and orange behind rainforest mountains. The air was hot, humid, and oxygen-rich from all the greenery.

Basically, an old friend, Juan recently quit a job we used to both work. He now markets for a jungle resort between Tepic and the coastal town of San Blas. In silver-tongued Spanish, he explained to his new boss that he knew how to get a few articles in English about what a great resort this was for free: put me up in cabin and show me around for a week or so.

Soon we were seated in a seafood restaurant while Juan ordered oysters, marlin empanadas, and ceviches. We clinked micheladas, and reminisced about working for the same shrieking boss at the same rinky-dink agency, and bunkering down to weather the hurricanes of Miami.

Jetlagged and worn out, I struggled to stay awake as we pulled off the mountain highway onto a washed out pebbly dirt road. Juan got out to unlock a giant wooden and iron gate under a white arc, and I watched as a procession of leaf cutter ants walked across the road. They looked like a sliding necklace of tiny green triangles as each ant carried a carefully-sliced piece of leaf across the road.

Then it was into the grounds of the resort, arriving after dark.

Though resort is a description that needs some clarifying. The true purpose of these some 170 acres of Mexican wilderness, with its five waterfalls, jackfruit, and mango farms, is to serve as a nature preserve. The money the cabins, concrete igloos, bar, cafe, and restaurant earn all go towards that aim.

Though this means that no animals get killed on the land. Not the two types of venomous snakes, the poisonous spiders, the scorpions, or even the pumas and jaguars in the jungle.

Though I am sludgy and draggy with jet lag, and want to collapse in the cabin bed, I have to flip the pillows and toss the sheets for scorpions and and spiders. Finding one this way would be a bummer. Finding one by plopping down and rolling up would be worse.

The preserve has zip lines, hiking, kayaking, and mountain peaks. More to come on what it’s like here. There’s a spring that pours fresh water out of a tree trunk. But for now, the pillows and blankets are free of stingers, and it’s time to go to bed.

Get my book Odd Jobs & After Hours in audio, hardcover, or paperback by clicking here. It’s about drifting down the east coast of the USA chasing one sketchy, so-called opportunity after another.

Chocolate Fit for an Aztec King

A clapboard cafe in the hills of green mountains. Rolling mist. Mild hangover.

A sip of chocolate. Quivering euphoria. A transportation. A sip of chocolate that leaves you surveying your silos of pure gold. Planning the next human sacrifice to appease the old gods. Brooding over the latest troubling news of this Cortez.

Yes, a cup of hot chocolate so good it makes you an Aztec king for just a moment.

Get my book Odd Jobs & After Hours in audio, hardcover, or paperback by clicking here. It’s about drifting down the east coast of the USA chasing one sketchy, so-called opportunity after another.

Rain on my Toes – Manchester, UK.

Rain on my toes! To wake me up in the middle of the night. Water found a channel in the dark ceiling overhead, here on the top bunk of a hostel in Manchester, UK.

Sleeping here because of a long train delay on the way to Wales.

The room is under a convenience store. Mountain Dew, 7-Up, Mars Bars and vapes in the shop overhead. Cranky people shuffling to the basement rooms in basketball shorts, flip flops and tank tops.

One guy selling weed to other people from his large knit cap. Somebody watching videos on his phone who really doesn’t care that most people are trying to sleep. He either doesn’t have headphones or doesn’t use them.

There’s maybe nine people in this room. The fluorescent lights turn on automatically whenever someone opens the heavy door.

Outside, rain pounds the whole city. Weekenders drunk to the gills wandered around puddles, pissing on buildings. Talking and belching loud as can be in the dark night. Most places to eat were closed by the time my late train arrived.

I wrap my feet in the dry part of the blanket and cram into the half of the bunk the drops don’t reach. Pillows over my head to shut out the world. It’s just one night, it’s just one night.

Get my book Odd Jobs & After Hours in audio, hardcover, or paperback by clicking here. It’s about drifting down the east coast of the USA chasing one sketchy, so-called opportunity after another.

Most Vendors Do Candy

Coffee on some porch in Medellin. When a street vendor wanders by rolling a cart with candy. I shake my head no when he points at it. Then he takes something out from under the cart. Some enormous rectangular object as big as his entire wingspan. He leans it on the front of the cart and lifts it. It’s a copper relief of the last supper. In case I wanted to by that instead. Where did it come from? Nicked from a decommissioned church? He covers it back up, and walks on down the road. Someone must want guava candy, sugar cane, or an enormous copper relief.

Get my book Odd Jobs & After Hours in audio, hardcover, or paperback by clicking here. It’s about drifting down the east coast of the USA chasing one sketchy, so-called opportunity after another.

Acting Class at the Hostel

Someone is dying.

Someone is addicted to drugs.

Someone else is heartbroken.

Enraged at a lover’s betrayal.

All poorly acted by students in the hostel courtyard.

A brash instructor watches their scenes. Cuts them off if wrong, inadequate, or underwhelming emotion is displayed.

The guys can’t cry on stage.

When the guys can’t cry, the drama instructor makes them do push-ups.

This man is going to get his tears.

It is impossible to sleep in the room with all of this going on outside in the courtyard.

But this is a beautiful room. Open air window. Here, many buildings are built this way. Without screens. High ceilings. Windows open. There’s a creek outside. You could never ask for better white noise.

Still, on with pants and t-shirt. Time to watch the acting class.

The courtyard makes a nice place to watch the class. Open air, big birch chairs.

It’s a good show. On many levels.

I can sleep late tomorrow.

Get my book Odd Jobs & After Hours in audio, hardcover, or paperback by clicking here. It’s about drifting down the east coast of the USA chasing one sketchy, so-called opportunity after another.

Night Fell Before the Spin Cycle Ended

Nodding off in an all-night cafe/laundromat in Medellin.

Listening to the deep rumble of fifty washers rolling clothing in sudsy water.

Waiting for one fleece blanket to dry.

Retracing the steps that brought me here.

My Airbnb has a washing machine but no dryer.

But night fell before the spin cycle ended, meaning. No sun to dry the blanket for the night.

My host, an Italian grandmother living in Colombia, in a fit of nurturing aggression refused to allow me to sleep with no blanket, or even a lightly damp one.

It’s fine.

No, no! If a dampness touches here. What are these? Above the hips. Like beans. She traces the region on her own back with her thumb tips.


Yes, if a dampness from a wet shirt or blanket touches your kidneys, you get ill. So go to the laundromat. You need Pesos?

I have Pesos.

And she sent me lugging this fleece blanket under street lights one mile through the night to the laundromat.

Trying to stay awake as washers roll water in drums, and clothes tumble in sentry lines of dryers. The scent of artificial lavenders and vanillas filling the non-air conditioned air.

Waiting, staying awake, considering the many timezones and timings that must be accounted for in order for a given day to go correctly.