Rendered Fat Content


I should be a seasoned visitor by now, though I’ve squandered too many of my past comings and my goings judging my surroundings. Perhaps the journalists refighting the Cold War from atop those mis-installed toilet seats in Sochi remind me that the responsibilities of every visitor include suspending judgment. Of course you’re surrounded by difference. Harsh judgment, even generous judgment only blunts otherwise sharpening experiences.

Of course this world feels disordered; and no, I will not be eating on my normal schedule. I might well be poisoned, forced to settle for what I would never agree to swallow on home ground. My schedule might shred, commitments abandoned. I will lose sleep, time, money, and some of that precious dignity, all perfectly reasonable tariffs every visitor must pay. Oh, and I seem to be visiting much of the time these days.

The visitor’s true freedom comes from exposure to difference—sometimes radical difference—while developing some facility for appreciating those differences; more or less wide open for experience. Whatever learning results comes in later reflection, not in the initial acquisition. No tourist guides prove applicable to any particular visit, and the ones I might later write will serve nobody very well, not even me. I will not be able to avoid stepping into the middle of something surprising no matter how carefully and accurately I might map previous catastrophes.

Some seem to qualify every diversion from expected as potential tragedy and the unfortunate ability to reasonably avoid shock, awe, and surprise as the true indices of success. This visitor should know better, but I’m still learning. It’s well within the nature of flights to be delayed, and connections to be missed, and weather to intrude. Even the best-laid plans can gang a-freaking a-glee. Far be it from me to be able to intervene. My elevating blood pressure won’t even do me any good, and my resulting red face only serves to prime my eventual shame face at having offended the small gods who so carefully crafted the disruption especially for my edification. And pissed was the best response I could muster? No, the Customer Service Representative won’t be able to mollify me, either. Only I can ever do that.

This visitor is not mere flotsam, though. Within my suddenly surprisingly disorienting surroundings, I’m almost perfectly free to explore such uncharted territories as my feelings, to observe my instinctive reactions, and to essentially visit parts of myself normally obscured by my daily, almost obsessive routines. That space I inhabit when missing my supper will always remain trackless wilderness, pulsing with potential for discovery. I am free there to lavishly observe those parts of myself who rarely leave their cave. I am free to maybe see surprising sides of me.

My routine had been smothering me before this current excursion. I could set my watch by the utterly uninspiring rhythm of every single self-similar day; and did. I seriously considered canceling this trip when I learned the weather threatened, and in the spirit of true stuckness, I was sorely tempted to maintain that stilting status quo rather than allow adventure to intrude; a drowning man refusing breath; parched ground rejecting the promise of rain. A classic Denial Of The Call dance prefaces each of my excursions. The Muse has been known to hire goons to kidnap me and force me to board that plane, knowing that once my carefully crafted routine crumbles, a more satisfying experience emerges. I usually walk my own planks now, though I still request a blindfold for false confidence through the transition between states.

Though I’m mostly relying upon the generosity of people I know, their generosities surprise and please me. I am temporarily out of my reverberating head, apparently making no real headway on any goal, producing nothing of real value right now. I exchange my meager presence for their proffered sustenance, with no expectations for return on either investment. We share space, broadening horizons, knowing I will smell like fish after three remarkably short days. No visitor can stay beyond the briefest moment, leaving well before any routine can root.

When I used to play Monopoly, I treasured the Just Visiting space on the board. It was the one truly free space, safely out of the fray, producing neither obligation nor profit. I could breathe there without paying a cent of rent. I could leave knowing nobody would be the worse for my passage. I could even chat with the unfortunate incarcerated, and take that deep, cleansing breath before rolling those dice again and moving on.

©2014 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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