"Not all those who wander are lost." - J.R.R. Tolkien
I would hope that this quote by my favorite classic author could
someday be used to describe myself. I mean, yeah, I get lost all the
time - a concerned guy I recently hitched with bought me a $10 map after
I went with blissful ignorance past my destination. But I don´t get
REALLY lost. It´s not like I´ve wandered into the country and died.
I´d also like to quote something from my favorite living writer. He´s
an Australian who hitchhiked around Europe in May. He thinks up
interactive "missions" which he attempts so he´ll have interesting stories to
tell when his trip is finished. Here are a few examples.
"OPERATION THISGUY...Go to a bar with a photo of myself. As the
night progresses, approach various drinkers with the photo asking, 'Have
you seen this guy around?'
"OPERATION FLIGHTFRIGHT...When the plane reaches cruising altitude
and the Captain of the flight crew anounces the E.T.A., temperature
etc. at our destination, exclaim to the person beside me, "Did he say (for
example) Singapore? My God I'm on the wrong plane!" - Agent Benno
These are less words to live by than Tokien´s quote, but there´s a
certain insane profoundness to them.
My recent wanderings took me to Dýrholaey (animal-hole island), the
rainiest place in Iceland. I´d never hitchhiked in the rain before, but
the overcast Reykjavik sky ensured I wasn´t heading to a dry Dýrholaey.
After being in a car with a midget for the first time, I arrived
at the stretching, rivery shore of Dýrholaey. The clouds, fog, and
unending rain gave the place a mystical greyness that slowly revealed the
landscape. A 500-foot high, grass-covered rock shot out of the sea.
...home to the puffins.
I was as excited as a kid going to Disneyworld as the road led me.
I´d come to get my pet puffin. I´d come to get "Doc".
I went up the mound´s gentle slope and came to the opposite
cliffs. The ledges were adorned with hundreds of stout, black-backed
puffins. Their eyes sagged like a sad clown´s, and their bills were
half-green, half-orange. I looked them over greedily: all potential "Doc´s".
Ooh! I really wanted one of these birds for a pet. But, I could
only tolerate catching one if it was with my bare hands - no net or
anything, I wanted to do it the way nature intended.
I spotted a flash of orange just below me, and I only had to reach
down to pin the little fellow and have my pet. But, in a moment I´m
not proud of, I hesitated in pity, and the would-be "Doc" flew off
without my even making an effort.
Blast it! I quickly devised my puffin-catching plan: Step 1 -
Conceal myself on a ledge. Step 2 - Grab "Doc". Step 3 - Stuff him in
I climbed down. The puffins landed within six feet of me, and
they didn´t bother to move until I´d come within a foot of them. It only
took a second before I had become a welcomed friend into their society.
Unfortunately, we didn´t do a lot of socializing in the puffin society.
Mostly, we all just looked from side to side. Some of my more-active
friends hopped about on the ledge. Watching the wonderful
bright-colored birds, I´d never felt more like I was in a cartoon. I kept expecting
one of the birds to pull a hammer out from under his wings to bop me on
the head and start laughing, "Hyuk, hyuk, hyuk!"
We were perched 300 feet over a green valley, and several times
when I looked at the fall I was one step away from, it took my breath
away. The ocean´s waves crashed to the left just as the overwhelming mist
ended your sight.
I made a few diving attempts at the birds, but all I got from this
was bird-poop on my clothes. I also reached up to grab puffins flying
big circles near the cliff, but they proved too elusive for capture.
After 2 1/2 hours, I was the only person who´d stayed in the rain
for longer than 5 minutes, and I was also, not intelligently, the only
person not wearing a raincoat. So, I left Dýrholaey, shaking from the
cold and bitterly puffin-less.
Luckily, I caught a quick ride home. The flannel-wearing driver
flowed from the seat of his tiny rental car. Herley was his name, and
he came from southern Tennessee. We had some good chats, and he told me
why the U.S. should legalize all drugs. "If kids can see the cocaine
junkies sprawled out and overdosed on the streets, they´ll never want to
do it," he said. A valid point, but sorry, Herley, I wouldn´t back
that law in Congress.
My new job at the pizza joint is going much better than my old job at
the gay bar. One of my favorite employees is Heimy, the chubby Chinese
pizza-maker who gives me a big round smile whenever he sees me. As I
struggle to speak Icelandic to people, I´m also learning a bit of
Chinese from Heimy. A "pig", in China, is "zhu." But Heimy gets mad
whenever anyone but him says the word, because apparently we can´t say it
right. He yells at us, "Zhu-zhu-zhu!" The same word also means "puke" in
Chinese, and "disgusting" as well. But the word, "lhu", is the most
interesting of all. They don´t distinguish between hoofed mammals in
China, they´re all just "lhu." Heimy spent five minutes the other day
insisting that a giraffe is the same animal as a cow.
Though I´d never waited tables before and I make everyone speak
english, I´m pretty good at the job. Everything is good except my
timing, that is. After fifty hours of not spilling or breaking anything, I
picked the worst time for the first time. ...Right on the owner´s
five-year old son! I´d never seen the owner before, and I didn´t even know
it was him until I carried the coke-drenched pizza past one of the
restaurant´s longterm waitresses.
No, I didn´t get fired. That´s good, because I´m the only male
waiter amongst a staff of eight waitresses, and most of them are pretty.
One of my favorites is Sigga, a blonde with short hair which frays out
at her neck. She wears small rectangular glasses, and every time she
displays her wide smile I´m worried her healthy cheekbones might shatter
Her and I went to Cafe Thompsen on Saturday night, and her dance
moves are the most baffling I´ve ever seen. One thing she does I call
the "cow-stomp". She stops dancing to lean against a pillar. But, she
keeps slapping one foot about as if she´s a bull ready to charge. It´s
very weird, and a little disturbing. Another move of hers is to
concentrate on the ground and take crooked, slow-motion, baby steps.
Everybody else is dancing normally, and she´s walking a tightrope!?
But the funniest was when she said to me, with a mischievous
smile, "I like to interfere." And she pushed her way into a four-person
group she didn´t know and started dancing right in front of their faces.
It looks like I´ve got a new favorite clubbing partner.
"The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don´t." -
All this mention of quotes has made me quite jealous that I have
yet to write something which people want to repeat over and over. But
I´ll give it a shot. Here goes nothing...
"Serving pizzas has lifted me to the ears of the longest-necked
giraffe, while picking up glasses in the gay bar was like wallowing in
disgusting pig puke." - Justin Breen
OK, that might not sound good in english, but just IMAGINE it in
Chinese! My decision to rhyme "lhu" with "zhu zhu zhu" will be
considered brilliant! Don´t be surprised if you´re walking the streets of
Heimy´s hometown, Peking, and you see the quote posted. Or, if you´re
listening to a discussion on great Chinese writers and the list goes: