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January 13th, 2013

The world at 3 miles an hour

A journalist will spend the next seven years retracing, on foot, one of the possible paths humanity's ancestors took as they spread from Africa to the rest of the world.

Paul Salopek, a writer and biologist with funding and help from National Geographic, will leave the Rift Valley in Ethiopia, and travel across the Arabian Peninsula, central Asia, China, southeast Asia, eastern Russia, the Bering Strait (by boat) and then the west coasts of North and South America before reaching Tierra del Fuego. He will write, and ponder, along the way. He will work with guides as he meets people who live along his path. And he'll think about how, at some point in time, humanity reached each area along his route for the first time. Think about an Earth with no people. For an extraordinarily long time, that was true of a lot of the world. Well, obviously, we're here now: what's best to do here, there and everywhere we are? With all our evolution, all our progress, we're still figuring that out. And it's a big world, with a lot of possible solutions to that; we haven't figured it all out. He'll see firsthand how people have found solutions for wherever they are. And see far, far more of the world than most of us ever will.

I appreciate Salopek's quote about his journey --

There is an actual neurological basis to what I am talking about. You can make a pretty good evolutionary argument that this was how we were designed to absorb information, at about 5 km an hour (3 mph)."

-- because I've seen this before, on a far smaller but also impressive scale. I once met Mark Hamilton, a poet and professor who was retracing the route Meriwether Lewis and William Clark took from the eastern U.S. to the Oregon Coast. Here is a Seattle Times article about Hamilton's journey. Whether by small boat or by foot -- by himself or walking with a pack mule named Joe -- he reached the end, wintered in Astoria, Oregon and headed back. He watched. He thought. He wrote poems. He eventually made Discovering Home: A Sojourn on the Lewis & Clark Trail by Paddle and Pack Mule (An Adventure With Mark Hamilton), a video about his three years of travels, from 1997 to 2000. He was often tired -- he certainly seemed tired when I visited with him -- but soothed and inspired by the landscape he experienced, and the people he met.

May this walk sooth and inspire you, Mr. Salopek. I'll be watching, and hoping.
How
much
stuff
do
I
have?

Still more than I need, still stuff I can throw away or recycle. And that includes a stash I found from college. Articles clipped, funny pictures I'd posted on my dorm room door, pictures that weren't funny but I tried adding something to them --

-- like this, which I'll describe but not show: a still from Bram Stoker's Dracula of Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing carrying the decapitated heads of Dracula's brides, with a word balloon so that Van Helsing says "Dinner's ready" --

-- and random tidbits like written-on toilet paper. Fear not, that's the only way that paper was used. My second roommate my first year at college (Winter Term 1993 only) was a student from Japan named Hiroshi Ogawa. He wrote his name in Japanese symbols followed by English. That was from his last term before returning home. And there's that reminder of him. I remember him other ways.

Still trying to have less. But I'll keep a record of some of what I've had. Which is why I just updated this entry from last August with what I'd actually written on a series of photos from Terminator 2: Judgment Day. (See the bottom of that entry. I think I was reasonably clever, for a kid.)

Stuff what's been done

My two hands yesterday were among many hands making light work. I and various friends and family helped Kristen Martz and Ryan Fleming, an engaged couple I know, move stuff out of their side of a duplex in NE Portland and move said stuff into an apartment in SW Portland.

While unloading the duplex basement, I found a penny under a rolling plastic drawer-tower. I gave it to Ryan. "So you know I'm not stealing from you," I said. "Let's think it's a lucky penny," I added. I'm always collecting coins, but not just for my benefit.

I had time to help reload their stuff, with chances to take moments to appreciate their new home's neat view of South Waterfront, and was rewarded in the way of my people (and of your people and of a lot of people's people) with pizza that Kristen brought over. We found space for the pizza boxes on top of furniture and so many, many boxes. It was a crowded apartment. "We apologize, feng shui dragons," I said at one point.

I had time to get home, freshen up, drink tea and Coke (separately) and get out to a birthday for another neat person I know, nicknamed "Shads." That was a fun few hours, in a waaaaaaaarm house where the hosts played episode after episode of the 1960s Batman (Shads is not only a gigantic Batman fan, but last night was the anniversary of the premiere of that show in 1966). I even sort of danced! And talked with people about Star Trek, because there were lots of Star Trek fans, too. When in doubt, Star Trek. Story of my life. I'm not complaining.