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Wednesday
Jun172009

Canals and Cognac

“Another day in paradise, huh Timbo?” is what Bret said to me as soon as we hit the trail yesterday at about 9:38am, give or take a few minutes. We wereleaving Beaumes-de-Ville headed for Carpentras and it was our earliest start yet. Back in Amsterdam I had bought a flask and just the night before I was saying we should pick up some Cognac for so we’re not carrying the flask around for nothing. Just like that, Bret produced the first bottle of Cognac of the trip. We decided to take a swig off it just because we could and we had nothing to do but walk, but those tiny swigs add up and by the time we reached Carpentras we had finished off the bottle (in our defense it was a small bottle and not too long of a walk).

The day’s walk took us along a canal for about 10 kilometers. It was beautiful and flat and we made a rule that we can only drink on the trail if we are beside a canal. Drinking and climbing mountain passes is probably counter-productive we agreed. As usual, we were walking along olive groves, vineyards, over railroad tracks where the canal became an aqueduct, and all the while wisps of happy cottony clouds reminiscent of Bob Ross brush strokes filled the sky. Maybe the clouds weren’ t happy; maybe it was our heads swimming in Cognac. Because of the intense beauty, sights, sounds, and scentshere in Provence, it is almost impossible not to be present and in the moment.

When we reached town, we found a park to eat our lunch of bread, cheese, fruit, and a chestnut spread we bought because it looked interesting. I never know what I am ordering on a menu herebut I haven’t gone wrong yet. If something has “Provence” in the title, I usually get that. After lunch we headed to our campsite and for the first time since we have been on the road, we chilled out for the afternoon.

That night I headed into town to find an Internet cafe but couldn’t find one so I just walked around and eventually met up with Bret. We wanted to go to a Pizzeria where we could sit outside. Turns out the one we chose would not let us sit outside because of the Mistral and they weren’t serving Pizza. The waiter gave us a look which got Bret fired up. Bret wanted to interview him and let him have it, but as it turned out, it was merely a communication breakdown and we had one of our best meals yet. The waiter spoke broken English and we asked him what he was doing in Carpentras. He told us he got lost here. I thought that was interesting because Bret and I are having the time of our lives and in a sensefinding ourselves, and here isthis guy is who just wound up here one day. It made me think life is very much like the GR4 trail we have been following throughout the wine region. You have to keep your eyes open on the road for the trail markers, however sometimes you lose the trail and get lost for a while.

We finished dinner with a Cognac and found our way to a free concert where we did some pretty good candid filming. After that we did some more filming at a carnival full of agressive young teenagers. I was doing most of the filming just holding it in different places so it didn’t look like we were filming. We are getting more and more bold in our filming and learning new things every day. Walking through the crowd of a familiar carnival scene, except foreign because it was in France, Bret said, “This is a pretty crazy game we’re playing, huh Timbo?” refering to the filming.Many statements Bret makes ends with, “huh Timbo?” or “know what I mean?” It is as if he is looking for reassurance and yet he isn’t. He is a pro at this traveling thing and truly an independant character.

When we finally reached the campsite, we were locked out, along with two Dutch couples. They were not as much fun as some of the other Dutch we have met, or maybe they were just tired. Bret and I thought it was pretty funny and were cracking jokes the whole time. It wasn’t as if we could even climb over the fence because it had barbed wire running along the top. “It’s like we’re at a refuge camp,” Bret said. This did actually get the Dutch folks to break out laughing even though some of them were trying to contain it.

I’m pretty sure people think we are insane just walking from town to town. Then when we are at camp, every one is curiously observing us. Perhaps the funniest thing is when we are cruising around our camp at night with our headlamps on. No one seems to have these so we look like U.S. soldiers in Iraq about to storm the bathroom. We met one couple in their mid-50s the night before at a wine tasting who took a liking to us and wanted to see all of our gear. “How cozy your little tents are!” Jane from England said. Her husband Bob was a civil engineer and had tattos all around his neck and up his leg. He seemed like an unlikely chracter to have that much ink. Bob and Jane were a hoot, have lived all over the world,and all along the canal yesterday we were retelling their stories in their emphatically British way. I don’t know if we are discovering something new and off the beaten pathor doing something that only older folks do but we are generally the youngest people at these camps. The only people younger are the kids traveling with their parents.

There is so much that has been happening every day and somuch hilarity that ensuesthat it is frustrating not to be able to get it all out on this blog. It is also quite a challenge to type on a French keyboard but I am actually starting to get used to it. I guess you’ll have to wait for the book version of the story to get all the details, or hopefully parts will be filled in with video on the Jack Will Travel Web site.

 

July 13, 2007
Carpentras, Provence, France

Wednesday
Jun172009

The Man Who Drowns and Glimmers in Seven Colors

The Man Who Drowns and Glimmers in Seven Colors

Your shine becomes even more radiant
a new you is coming to life
your profound sadness and pain
will surely become your strength
- Miyuki Sato (translated from Japanese)

Bret knows just enough Japanese, Dutch, Italian, and French to be dangerous. That makes for an excellent travel partner. As a result, we found ourselves in a small hill town called Seguret. Bret heard this group of three Japanese women talking so he engaged them. As it turns out, it was a mother, daughter and a friend who they had just met and was studying to be a wineconnoisseur. The next thing you know, the mother is dragging us into the home they are renting to show us her daughter’s paintings and to feed us wine. Miyuki is an amazingly talented girl who writes and paints. In one book she compiled, she painted the picture and wrote something next to it. The poem above is one of the writings she had in this book and I thought it was beautiful and poignant, especially to me at this point in my life.

We spent the day with this group which deviated from our plan but you have to be fluid and adventurous when you are traveling. There was a pretty good communication barrier but Bret knew enough about Japan to say names, places or things and they would reply with, for example, “Ah yes! Sony!” After finishing off a bit of wine that afternoon, since we were walking to the next town and they were as well, we escorted them. Every time a car came I would announce it in Japanese and they couldn’t get enough of it. “You r hero,” they would say. I bet the locals had never seen a scene lke that.

When we got to Sablet later in the afternoon, the third girl wanted us to meet her French friends so we walked all over Sablet to try to find them. Finally we did and we sat in this person’s backyard with two fifty year old men, their 93 year old aunt, Bret, myself, and three Japanese women sipping on Pastis. You just can’t make these things up. The Mistral was blowing gently and we all sat around a flowery table cloth getting snippets of each others life stories. When we finished our drinks, the kind gentleman drove us to a campsite.

I had basically only heard horror stories about the French but we have been warmly received everywhere we have been. They all seem to be intrigued by these two American men walking from town to town with 40-50 lbs of gear on their backs. “You are doing what?” is a common reply. They probably figure only Americans would be so foolish to be doing this in the Provence heat of summer. I really don’t think there is a better way to do it, however. France is a walkers paradise and as long as you have a map and some map reading skills, it is pretty easy to get around. We are taking the GR4 in thewine region and all over on trees, rocks, and telephone poles little red and white lines guide us on our route. All day we walk through vineyard after vineyard, down country roads, up into the mountains where you cansee the vineyards disappear into the horizon, and at all times you are surrounded by lavender and sunflower fields. It is ultimate freedom to wake up each morning and decide in which town you will be drinking great wine in that evening.

Every day we have had some amazing little treats like meeting the Japanese people or some stranger who sees us walking invites us into their house for lemonade. One old lady actually bowed to us when she heard we were Americans. Last night we met Michael and Darby from L.A. and they were a trip. We wound up meeting them at a wine tasting at the local office of tourism. They are very liberal with the wine at these events which is great and each of us walked away with a half of our own wine to drink from the bottle. We followed them to the center of town and had a little smoke they brought down from Amsterdam. They were in their early to late 40s and they were pros. Michael’s first Dead show for instance was in the yer I was born. I think at one point early in the evening they thought we were gay because here we are, two dudes walking through France tasting wine and then heading up to the lavender fields next. It was quite funny. We got dinner with them and later she gave us a Chinese blessing so that we would get laid by French women. Time will tell if her sorcery is legit. They were a treat, however and made our evening.

The amazing thing about this type of travel is the head-space you can get into. I think sometimes you need to remove yourself from your day to day life for an extended period of time, to get into a new physical space so it can create that mental space. In the process you gain clarity, have the freedom to imagine a new life or the life you want to lead, and then walk into it. Off to a wine tasting...

 

July 11, 2007
Beaumes-de-Venise, Provence, France

Wednesday
Jun172009

Travel Tips, Filming Tips, and Random Thoughts

It seems like we are learning and absorbingthings at the rate of a child as every day brings new experiences, challenges and adventures - especially typing on a French keyboard. My notebook has almost become obsolete as a tool of organizing thoughts as any sense of order has disappeared; therefore the types of writings will change. Also we are on the trail most days and rarely get a chance to hit an Internet cafe.

As a result of this notebook situation, (meaning I am taking so many notes with lines pointing to French names all over the page, ideas for filming, techniques, etc.), I incorporated a new system of organizing thoughts last night with index cards. This idea came about as we were camping on a hill above a vineyard. Here are some thoughts I just pulled out at random:

1. When you are caming in Provence, especially at a vineyard, they make it very easy for you to get drunk for 5 Euros on good wine.
2. Control the interview.
3. I am very much at home with good cheese, wine, olives, and bread.
4. Don’t run away from a connection.
5. Make your connection, roll with it, and move on.
6. When traveling by train, if you can, have everything packed in your pack or at least make it as flat as possible so it fits overhead.
7. Travel with purpose. Live life with purpose.
8. Pack right - pack light. Invest in good lightweight gear. By once, by right.
9. Always get an isle seat on a plane, train, or bus.
10. Always leave PLENTY of time to make tavel connections.
11. Make the first move. Hello or Bonjour is an easy way to do it. Also ask for a lighter or cigarette and always smile.
12. HYDRATE! HYDRATE! HYDRATE!
13. Don’t be afraid to make an ass of yourself from time to time. You will never see these people again anyway.
14. Take calculated risks in life.

This is all I have time for as I have to catch a bus. Hope all is well with everyone. Looking forward to getting a chance to really sit and write out some thoughts. It has been amazing and so many incredible things happen each day. We are in the creative and travel flow.

July 10, 2007
Vaison la Romaine, Provence

Wednesday
Jun172009

The Great Experiment: Jack Will Travel Productions

Process is something I have been thinking a lot about lately. Since the inception of our idea to travel the Netherlands and France, Bret and I have been planning on doing a lot of filming. We decided to get the most out of this experience and the people we encounter, we have to look legit, which means being professionals - not just two bachelors cruising around Europe to work on their hobby. As I mentioned in the last chapter, in any great undertaking in life, you need a strategy.

The plan hatched over an email about a month or two back. He was in Japan at the time and I shot him an email that simply read, “Europe in July?” As it turned out, after a brief trip back to the east coast, he was going to be living in an apartment in Amsterdam from July to August.

Most of our plans were made over email, however we finally spoke by phone the other night. We had a brief conversation and decided the goal of this trip was access; this means access to people, what they do for a living, what they think and dream about, who they want to be, what kind of freaky fetishes they have, etc. It could also mean getting a free meal or lodging here or there in exchange for “publicity.” Who knows...it will be a trip – that’s for sure.

Our first order of business was a business name. We shot a bunch if ideas back and forth over the phone and simultaneously checked to see if the URL was available, but all of the names we came up with were taken. We decided we needed to take a break and think about it on our own, which meant hanging up the phone and calling each other back in two hours. As I was about to hang up, Bret said, “Wait, what are you going to do? What is your process?”

We hung up the phone and all I could think about was process, and in turn, I wondered what his was. So after a few minutes of pacing the kitchen, I called him back and we began discussing process. The conversation organically came back to the business and business names. We wanted something that was youthful and curious, fun and adventurous, but at the same time really didn’t say too much about what we were doing because we really didn’t have the idea nailed down yet. Somehow, and I wish I had a recording of how we came to this name, but we landed at Jack Will Travel Productions.

The weekend before I had met a graphic designer at a wedding in Leavenworth, WA, a bizarre Bavarian village in the middle of the Cascades filled with lederhosen wearing people and shops with just about every nick-knack you would never have any reason to buy. I told her about our idea and she was on board so I hired her to create a logo and business cards. Meanwhile, Bret was creating the framework for a Web site and I was hammering out content. Mind you - all of this unfolded in the last week.

Essentially, what we are doing is stepping into a work of fiction that we have created, acting out the roles of these characters that have just received money from a major network to shoot the pilot episode of a new travel show. On the Jack Will Travel Web site, under the Jacklog tab, you can learn about this story. It is a cross between truth and fiction. Don’t worry – I’m keeping the blog entries very short! The Jack Will Travel Web site is the fictional story, and this blog will serve as a more detailed behind-the-scenes story of what is really going on.

“Trust the process” is what Bret and I agreed upon as we hung up the phone that night the plan was hatched. It is very much a metaphor for life. I realized the other night when thinking about and reading over some of the things I have written in this blog, how strange some of my thoughts will sound to some people. I think in the analysis of life, when life is boiled down to its most raw elements, there are two schools of thought; either you believe we exist for a reason, that we are moving towards something and life has a purpose, or you believe that existence is happenstance, a random event, the offspring of the right moment in time when the right elements and conditions of the universe came together to form life. Perhaps the truth it is a combo of the two. Either way, there is definitely teleology to my thoughts and view of life, meaning that I believe the human experience is filled with purpose and that we are moving and evolving towards something. Implied in process is a movement towards something and an unfolding. Trust the process.

Well, tonight I am going to see The National at Nuemos and tomorrow morning I will be on a plane heading to Amsterdam. As the great psychotherapist turned actor, Tobias Funke said, “Let the great experiment begin!”

 

June 30, 2007
Seattle, WA

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