The intensity! The drama! A Noder is Struck With West Nile Virus! Don't miss it!

A long summer listening to summer music in the southwest Colorado sunshine. The opportunity presented itself for me to work in southwest Colorado for the summer, taking kids on trips into the outdoors - rock climbing, hiking, camping at high altitude. How could I possibly say no? It was my second summer in Durango, working a job which adds up, all told, to just around a shilling per hour. The upside of the gig was that it wasn't really a job per se.

I would wake up at 7:30 every morning to the clang of an old iron bell half a mile away down in the Red Creek valley. The first peal meant that we had half an hour to get our dusty butts out of bed, but those peals were always in vain because the 8 year-old kids that lived in my cabin had undoubtedly been up since 6:00 or so. By 8:00 we were supposed to be at breakfast but I was usually still helping turn shirts rightside in and helping to put on socks. After we finally did make it up the hill to the breakfast area (logs on rocks) the day got off to a smooth start. Everything was carefully programmed by the camp director and then haphazardly executed by the counselors, so things came out okay. In short, It was the greatest summer of my life.

After camp, I decided to find a way to let myself down slowly from my high of living outdoors all summer; the alternative was to go straight home to a job in the real world. I hitched a ride up to Boulder with a fellow counselor (I love you Erica) so that I could go hiking with a good English nerd friend of mine (she's both a good friend and a good English nerd. Okay, exceptional). We spent around three days on the trail up near the CDT and had a great time. However, this trip had a darker, more sinister hidden side to it; bum bum BUM! it was on this fateful trip that I was bitten by a malicious mosquito and infected with the box office hit, West Nile Virus.

The virus incubated for enough time for me to take a Greyhound bus back to Portland to go on another hike, this time in the more agreeable (and green) Pacific northwest. To make a long story short, we brought our lightweight clothes - expecting typical weather - and it rained, hard, the whole time we were out. On the second day (of a projected seven) the trail led us through a parking lot where another group of hikers, out for two days, was packing up and getting ready to leave. Salvation.
Us, Sheepishly: Uh, do you mind, um, well, we were going to hike to Mount Hood but you see we seem to be a bit unprepared for the weather. So we were wondering if maybe you could help us out...
Them: Do you want a ride?
Us: Well, if we could get a ride out to the highway that would be great, then we'll be able to call home or...
Them: Well, where are you going?
Us: Portland.
Them: What part?
Us: Southwest. Near Multnomah Village.
At this point I leave it as an exercise to the informed noder to put together the rest of the dialogue. Hint: I would never have written this if the story weren't full of wild and unlikely coincidences.

So we got a ride from the middle of the Mount Jefferson wilderness area to within a few miles of my house. We got home and thought, "huh." We had, all of a sudden, a ton of time in Portland on our hands. But that was about to change. Bum bum bum....

All right, fine: I didn't know I was sick at this time but two days after I got back from the woods, I got a fever and don't remember the next five days. Now that is a weird feeling. After many long, slow physical therapy and "speech therapy" (these are the ones where you get to complete a sheet of one hundred simple arithmatic problems while simultaneously answering questions about your dogs) sessions, I find myself back to the point where I could almost go for a jog, as if I would possibly EVER want to do something like "go for a jog." Listen, all you noders: I don't care how eco-friendly you are -- wear deet! It will prevent life-threatening fevers and headaches! It will keep your insurance premiums low! It doubles as cologne!

I lost myself in the two of them. They are the world to me, and they kept going, and going, and going, and it'll never stop. They'll never stop, and that's perfect. It's so much more than everyone says, monogamy is overrated is a motto for the ages. MaryMarch weddings are the way of the true. Love is for whoever can take it, not just whoever you first find... even that kind of love...

She kissed me. Then she kissed me. They kissed. That was what symbolized it. A true love triangle, not a love V. Equilateral. Perfect.

I hope to marry them someday.

But youth is only for the young.

Whenever someone asks me whether I'm going to vote, I say "I don't know." They usually then ask me why I wouldn't vote. Sometimes I hear stuff about my forefathers suffering and dying for my right to vote, as well. This ticks me off, usually, because the right to do something implies the right not to do something. A right is not the same as a responsibility. They go hand in hand, true. The right do do something implies the responsibility to do it as well as you can, or else to choose to not do it at all. Just because I have to right to go to Ole Miss doesn't mean I have the responsibility to do so, James Meredith's tribulations notwithstanding. I see all these advertisments encouraging people to vote. "Vote or die!," etc. No one ever says exactly why it is important. Particularly when, in my mind, deciding between the Democrats and the Republicans is very much like deciding between the Communists and the Nazis. It was not a good choice in Germany in the thirties, and it isn't a good choice now. I don't mean to imply that either party intends genocide against a minority, nor that either will be hanging people from lampposts, only that I find the politics of both major parties to be detestable. When they talk to me further, my attitude typically disturbs them. I say I might write in my Dad again. I voted for him instead of Clinton/Bush and again instead of Gore/Bush. I think he would make a better President than any of the jokers who've been polluting the airwaves in recent months, even though he is a liberal Democrat. But at least he is honest and willing to consider alternative views.

Now to the crux of the matter. People are always saying that I am wasting my vote. They plead with me "don't waste your vote." Will someone please tell me just what the heck that actually means? Unless I cast the deciding vote, I figure my vote is wasted anyway. My greatest fear, in fact, would be that my vote would not, in fact, be wasted if I were to vote for one of the two big fish. I don't know if I could have any respect for myself if Georgia were carried by one vote, and I voted for either of them. If either of them wins, I lose. Just what is the satisfaction on voting in a new overseer? Maybe I should just vote for the major party which does not have the incumbent. Maybe I should always vote for the incumbent. What's the point either way?

Miss tight purple pants is standing at the reception, and I'm not sure whether she's checking in or out, or if it even matters at this point in time. They could be fisherman's pants, except for the way they hug her figure, very unlike anything manufactured in Thailand for the tourist market. Perhaps they were purchased at home - wherever that may be - brought along for the ride, the one piece of clothing that will stand out in the crowd.

These tight purple pants would certainly stand out amongst the Khaosan Road t-shirts - the Beer Chang brigade, vs the Singha devotees. Then there are those who own a t-shirt from each camp, but both are hopelessly powerless against one wearing a Beer Lao shirt. All counterfeit, no royalties paid for any of it, yet there is a certain degree of status amongst these forged t-shirts and pants, this clothing produced with the label of whomever is the latest trend on foreign shores - or, shores very close by. It's the way a pair of fake Levi's are cheaper than a pair of fake Diesel jeans. The way the beer of choice in Laos is more credible than the national brew in Thailand - you know, Laos is more dangerous than Thailand, more landmines, more bandits. More risk. So don't dare wear this t-shirt unless you've been there yourself, sampled the brew with your own lips, inside the danger zone.

It all washes straight over most of the people walking outside right now, more interested in the cocktails they can get for 60 baht, the cd's they can get for 100 baht (depending on how you can bargain). The road's full of people, the sewers are producing their unique Bangkok fragrance, and the motley crew walking up and down Khaosan Road don't look like they're going to change any time soon.

When the most difficult decision you're faced with is whether you want to buy a 20 baht Pad Thai, or a 15 baht corn cob - when your hardest moment in a day is the difficult task of bargaining over a pair of shorts in some back alley, or turning down the offer of having your fortune told (you will choose number seven, and your colour will most likely be blue - after this, you will believe, and wonder whether you should pay the huge price to hear the rest...) it's difficult to get moving, to rip yourself away from this place that provides everything you need within one block.

Right at this moment, I'm sitting in an internet cafe on Khaosan Road, and I'm so incredibly relieved to know that in a couple of days, I'll be hopping on a plane to Vietnam.

You could get trapped here so easily. I see it in the faces of the girls having their hair braided, or the guys getting dreadlocks. Everything you could ever want - and I mean everything - is within a 5 minute walk from your front door. If you need to go any further, then it's not likely something you really need. As you move further away from this safehaven, the number of tourists you will see will decrease, until you're in a section of Bangkok you would swear is seeing a tourist for the very first time.

It's not hard to find those places though. All you need to do is take a backstreet, not really knowing where it leads. Trust your sense of direction, and head towards where you think you should be going, yet without knowing the street names, without following the most direct path. Lose yourself in a part of a city that you're not familiar with, that isn't mentioned in your Lonely Planet guide, and try to figure out how to get out of it, how to find your way back home.

All the while, feel alive.

To believe Dumya and co, all these Iraqi insurgents are non-Iraqis coming in over the border or ex-Hussein flunkies. This is bull. If you take the POW population in American custody as a good sample of the force we are fighting against (and if it isn't, why are they POWs?), then you must acknowledge that foreign insurgents are a very small percentage of the force. In addition, a significant portion of POWs are from tribes and organizations that were anti-Hussein during his rule. This rules out the "Saddam flunkies" argument.

And what about all the suicide bombers? To simply dismiss them as dying for the 72 degrees of female they will encounter in the afterlife is myopic. They are killing themselves for more reasons than imaginary tail in the hereafter.

They are also willing to die to kill Americans because we destroyed their house and killed their children, or took their son in the middle of the night and never told them what happened to him, or one of the many other incidents of "collateral damage" we have generated in this ill-conceived and poorly-executed war. How many more Iraqis must die before we have satisfied our blood lust from 9/11? They have lost over 10,000 civilians in this terrible catastrophe, and the toll continues to mount. I know that many of my fellow Manhattanites are against the war. It is only the panderering fearmongers of 9/11 that keep probing our wounds to keep them open for their own profit.

The suicide bombers will always have ready volunteers as long as we are acting unilaterally in Iraq. Only by sharing (really sharing, not letting others pick up the bill while we do as we please) the responsibility for developing Iraq and laying out a timetable for complete withdrawal so the Iraqi people actually believe in their potential to become a self-governed democracy will we succeed.

A nice bit of creative writing for you. I think I'd prefer to remain mysterious as to its inspirational origins. I call it Poultricide. I didn't think it quite deserved a node of its own.

      I have rarely been so hungry as to have had to prepare food – or, more specifically, meat – right from the stage at which the meal is actually moving of its own accord. Two months ago, however, I found myself on an exchange trip to somewhere in France having to do just that. I was living with a family who owned a farm about nine miles from the nearest town. Every day my exchange partner and I would have to go out and corner a pig, a sheep or a chicken or two for the evening meal. Then we would go and bring it (or them) back to Mme. Lavacil – the mother – who was on axe-duty most days.

There was a particularly gruesome moment on my second day there when we were told were having chicken for supper – we had just delivered them to Mme Lavacil, who had called us in to help her. We followed her into the dusty, wooden outbuilding which I later called “the slaughterhouse”. The dirt floor was stained red and there was a large wooden table in the middle of it, also spattered with dried blood. The large woman was standing next to the table, holding the axe in one hand and the chicken in the other. It looked as though she was standing in front of an altar, about to make a sacrifice to the gods. Then, while I held the other chicken, she put the one she was holding onto the stone and held it there while she raised the axe ominously. There was a terrible moment of suspense, before the blade fell, going straight through the middle of the neck and hitting the table with a dull thunk. The chicken’s protests were suddenly cut off, along with its head. But then, partly due to the sudden spurt of blood that shot out of the chicken’s neck and partly because there was no longer a head to stop her hand sliding off the neck, and possibly because the chicken was somehow still struggling, Mme. Lavacil lost her grip and in an instant the chicken ran, flapping its wings, off the table and rolled a few feet along the floor before coming to a halt. It was very surreal, and the oddest thing was that the chicken did all this completely silently, having left its head some five feet away. However there was plenty of squawking supplied by the other chicken which, in my surprise, I had dropped. It had promptly shot out of the open door. Mme. Lavacil, the dragon that she was, told me off for dropping the chicken as though any fool should have been able to keep hold of a hyperactive mass of flapping feathers while its counterpart was being beheaded.

Outside, looking for the escaped chicken in desperation – the dragon had promised to breathe fire if I did not find it – I wandered around the yard, searching in vain. Maybe it got through the fence into the cows’ field, I thought. A quick look at ground level told me that there were many cow pats but no chickens. The pigs’ field had nothing in it either, and the chickens’ area was impossible to get into for a chicken – having been designed to be equally impossible to get out of. Dejectedly, I went back to the house. It was nearly dark. I was wondering what evils would be waiting for me when I returned chickenless. Just on the point of entering the house, I stopped and stared at what I saw on the roof. Standing there, just above the gutter, was the very chicken which had evaded decapitation – I recognised it by its strange white and black feathers on its breast. Look, you annoying bird, I said under my breath, just come down here, will you? Wondering how it got up there not being able to fly, I began to climb up the rickety gutter to try and get to it. Then, just as I was about to make a grab for it, it suddenly leapt into the air and flew away into the clear dusk sky. Watching it as it vanished from view, I remember thinking how graceful it somehow looked. But I can also remember, although nobody believed me when I told them afterwards, that just before taking off and as if in answer to my utterance, the chicken shook its head.

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