Monthly Roundup (February): Gibberish Edition

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Hello everyone, and welcome to the monthly roundup! I’m your host Mark Thomas Wetzler, or as my most intimate friends call me, “Marc.” I consider people calling me Marc to be one of the most intimate forms of address. Most people call me “Mark” for the first few years they know me. Then, when a certain trust has been established, they call me “Marc.” If a tremendous amount of trust has been established, they simply produce the “M” sound, which sounds a bit like “Muh.” The person who knows me best in the world does not even say my name upon seeing me but rather looks at me, flares her nostrils, and snorts.

I’m here today to talk to here to talk to you here today to here to you to here about how the month of February went for Ordinary Nomad. In a word: Fairly well. The traffic goal was hit, as you’ll see demonstrated in this fantastic graph (graf):

ordinary nomad stats

And that’s about it. There’s not much else to tell. I’m content with the direction this blog is going in. I’m enjoying writing it.

Also, Patreon pledges are up something like 300%. This is also nice. Again, I’m content. I’m seething with contentment.

Where I this blog this was the first I started writing this blog and last month several blogs blog posts and then mate honey and mate honey and honey (honey) on top of the mate with honey and in the mate the honey is in the mate drinking drinking and the honey and last month was a great the stats and there was this one episode that I totally thought was funny Baby Driver was that the blog the blog post honey and the mate.

 

Mate.

Goals for March:

– Exceed 1,000 views in one month (February saw just shy of 800).

Non blog goals for March:

– Run my first marathon

– Get married

– Father a child (chjild)

It’s just starting to cool off here in Guadalajara the temperature is growing cooler by the nanosecond and in just a moment I’m going to walk to the Expiatorio and get a tamal and I’m not sure what kind I should get should I get acelgas or maybe something with meat or I could always get elote but elote is kind of a sweet tamal and I’m not sure I need more sweet things after the heaping spoons of honey I just put into my mate which weirdly didn’t even make it that sweet in fact it tasted kind of disgusting which just goes to show you two things 1 that you shouldn’t drink mate cocido which is mate in tea bags and another that you should never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever put honey in your mate and now I’ve learned that the hard way and in a second here I’ll be done and I’ll go get that tamal and will I drink wine tonight I don’t know I kind of feel like drinking wine but then again I kind of feel like just sitting in my living room and listening to Pibes Chorros and eating ramen.

It’s my favorite time of evening in Guadalajara. This moment will last for approximately the next 45 minutes. Which means I must leave. I must rip myself away from you like a star-crossed lover. I must go out into the world. I must become a man. I must come of age. I must age. It is imperative that I age.

Age.

(askfjad;k)

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5 Travel Websites I Sometimes Read

travel websites

“Philosophy calls for simple living, not for doing penance, and the simple way of life need not be a crude one.”
― Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

I don’t really read travel websites. Which is a little unreasonable, because I want everyone to read mine. When I do look at travel sites, they’re usually centered around things I want: Like cheap or free flights. The problem with travel blogs is every time I look at them I experience waves of professional (amateur) jealousy. How does this person have so much traffic? How is this person doing so well? Why isn’t my blog doing so well?

1) Nomadic Matt

I mostly look at this site as a template for how to make mine. This guy is huge. He’s achieved what some might call the holy grail of travel blogging, i.e. earning enough from his blog that he’s able to go wherever he wants, whenever he wants, and document it. There’s a common theme in the most successful travel blogs: The people all have their name in the URL somewhere. Was changing from Whereswetzler.com to Ordinarynomad.com a massive mistake???

2) The Points Guy

Just look at this sample article I found on the home page. Look at this luxury. This opulence. God, how I want to fly first class like that. This guy has a whole apartment on a plane to himself. Why is it that if you were confined to a compartment like this on a the ground it would instantly be devoid of meaning, but at 35,000 feet it’s somehow the coolest thing in the world? Some mysteries are better left untouched.

3) One Mile at a Time

This is my favorite points website, A) because I think the content is great, and B) because the guy’s from Seattle. I do find it a little dubious he calls himself “Lucky.” What kind of adult calls himself Lucky? Is he a ranch hand? A craps dealer?

I had an interaction with this guy a few years back when I sent him an email asking if I could review Aerolineas Argentinas’ first class for his site. He explained that he wasn’t looking for guest bloggers at the moment, and was kind and professional in his email. Which made me even more of a fan.

4) Roads & Kingdoms

The main reason I check this site out from time to time is I’ve had work featured on it (see: buried). I’ve tried to submit a few feature articles, but they’ve always rejected me saying the pieces are too “personal narrative.” I try to explain that the only person I care about is myself, and thus am only capable of writing about myself, but to no avail.

5) Vice Travel

Very little beats Vice in terms of edgy, unique content. I don’t go to Vice specifically seeking travel content, but when I see something travel-related from them I often check it out. The Vice North Korea documentary is still one of my favorite travel documentaries. Someday I’d like to have something published for this site. I’ve submitted several pieces, but never gotten a response. Sest la vee.

Honorable mention: Scott’s Cheap Flights

I don’t have a subscription to this site, but friends often send me deals. And there have been crazy deals. The last one I saw was for a $300 round trip flights from the US to New Zealand. I have no idea how that’s even possible.

I applied for two jobs at this company and got turned down for both of them. Apparently spending half your waking hours hunched over your computer muttering to yourself and looking at Google Flights doesn’t cut it. Oh well.

Sunday Night Thoughts #3

Writing at night is different. I’m not used to writing at night. I’ve gotten in the habit of waking up every morning, walking to Starbucks, getting my Youthberry tea in a for-here cup, and then writing.

Starbucks, as I’ve mentioned before, is the perfect place for writing because of the anonymity. Everything’s always the same at Starbucks. It’s a controlled environment. I like a controlled environment for writing.

And now I’m back at my house, sitting next to the drone of the refrigerator. The comforting drone. I’m eating spinach, which is a strange bedtime snack, but it’s all I have in the refrigerator. I’m still resisting setting up shop here, because a big part of me is so desperate to get out. My new room is right by the garage/entrance to the neighbor’s house. I hear everything they say. I hear when they have the TV on. I hear their tiny little dog that freaks out, which causes all the neighborhood dogs to freak out, and pretty soon it’s a symphony of frustrated canines. Tonight I’m going to try putting some white noise on. Last night I tried to do it but the electrical socket, because it was wired wrong, blew up very nearly in my face and caused the electricity to go out in the whole house. I think it might’ve even caused the electricity to go out in the neighbor’s house, which was probably a good thing. I’m trying to decide which white noise to put on. Rain sounds? A brook? A waterfall? Wind? A fan? There are 10-hour long YouTube videos of just about every sound you can imagine. The internet is a strange place.

Tomorrow is a holiday here in Mexico, but it’s not a holiday for me. Tomorrow my ear will be kept to the grindstone. I’ll work on the novel, which is starting to take shape. At this point I’ve realized that at some point in every large artistic endeavor there will be a point where you dread working on it, where you have to force yourself. I’m at that point right now. But once I get going on it it’s decently fun. I’m proud of what I have so far.

When I was living in Oaxaca the son of the family who I was living with would always talk on the phone to his girlfriend in Mexico City at night. To combat the sound of his lecherous voice I would put on hours and hours of rain sounds. The rain is the nicest sound to sleep to. That and the ocean. I go to the ocean here in Mexico in less than two weeks. A house in the jungle, near a private beach.

Anyway, I’m tired. White noise or not, it’s time to go to bed. I hope you’ve all had a wonderful weekend. And that you have a wonderful Monday.

(…)

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(Rain sounds).

 

A Plea to No One

I’m not sure how to start this. Maybe I should start this with my first memories of my dad reading to me, when I was four or five, living in Colorado. I remember the room he would read to me in, but not anything about the rest of the house. And for some reason it doesn’t seem like our house.

Then I remember reading on my own, things like Goosebumps and Calvin and Hobbes. I used to devour Goosebumps. Oh, they were such horrible books. Each chapter would have a twist at the end of it. “Max crept along the hallway, the hairs on the back of his neck standing up. Suddenly, he heard a growl and a dark shape rounded the corner. Max screamed.” (Next Chapter) “…But, it was just his dog Terry, who knocked him to the ground and effusively licked his face.”

Calvin and Hobbes, of course, was not bad. Calvin and Hobbes might’ve been what made me a reader. Bill Watterson’s ability to make complex vocabulary not only accessible to children, but entertaining, still knows no equal. If I ever have kids I pray that Calvin and Hobbes will be strewn upon their bedroom floors.

Fast forward to high school, where I had one of only two teachers to date who’ve ever made me want to write. Which is significant, if you think about it. I’ve had a lot of teachers when you include elementary school, middle school, high school, Arizona State University, undergrad at the University of Washington, postgrad at the University of Washington, and only two in the history of my life have ever made me want to write. All the other teachers unknowingly beat it out of me. They made writing a chore. They made writing something to be feared, to be avoided. But not this man at Bainbridge High School. His name was Bob McAllister. I could try to sum up his meaning to the school and the community (and to me) with a pithy sentence, but his obituary in the Bainbridge Island Review says it best:

“Bob McAllister, Island Treasure, poet and teaching icon, dies at 73” (full article).

I remember one day in particular we came to class and he was sitting behind his desk with his arms raised straight above his head. He looked like a praying mantis. We snickered in the manner high school kids might snicker upon seeing a teacher like this, and expected him to put his arms down at any moment. But he greeted us as he did every other morning, arms still above his head. He started teaching the class. He must have had his arms up for 45 minutes. Then, with no fanfare, almost as if he hadn’t realized they were up, he put them down.

Bob McAllister was one of two (maybe 2.5) teachers I’ve ever had who encouraged creativity, who encouraged not only a close examination of the greats, the classics, of other literature (even bad literature), but of creating something yourself.

Other than in Mr. McAllister’s class, I didn’t write much in high school.

Then I got to college at the University of Washington. I can still smell the air outside Thomson Hall that rainy June. It was a French class with a teacher named Lisa. She was tremendous. She would show us pictures of apples and bananas and chairs and windows and yell the name at us in French and we would scream it back at her just as loud. This was the summer of 2005. I had just gotten back from studying abroad in Spain. I desperately needed structure and to be surrounded by people more mature than me.This was the big leagues. Arizona State was OK, but this was the big leagues.

Enter teacher who encouraged creativity number two. His name was Edgar O’Hara, and he was from Peru. A lot of the students hated him. A lot feared him. But Edgar, like Mr. McAllister, was a poet, and so had a soft spot for creation. Which meant we got along just fine. He would tell us to write an essay on “Travel,” and I would write an essay about a wild boar bleeding to death in the jungle, and he’d give me an A. He’d tell us to write an essay criticizing something, and I’d write two pages on how much I hated hippies, and he’d give me an A. Here was a teacher who didn’t penalize creativity. He rewarded it. He made me want to write. He made me see the possibilities of writing, that you, alone with just your brain and a pen or a pencil or a computer, could create worlds. You could create anything you wanted. And not only was this possible, it was necessary.

By that time I had already started writing for myself a bit. While I was studying in Spain in 2004 I kept a journal in the style of Bill Bryson, but that was lost when my laptop was stolen a few years later. Then, in 2007, six months before graduating from the University of Washington, I started my first blog. It was called Boosh Clown, named after the nickname of a famous (see: obscure) skateboarder. I wrote about various themes on that blog. I wrote about UW basketball. I wrote about music. I wrote about how much I despised Limp Bizkit. I posted a video of myself drinking hot dog flavored water.

Within a year or so I started Where’s Wetzler, and by this time I knew I was going to be writing until I was 85 years old and shaking and barely able to see the page. I still know that. It’s one of the few things I know about myself. I’ve been asked this question a lot over the years: Mark, what are you running from? Why don’t you just settle down? Why do you keep moving from spot to spot as if it will fix something? And I have no answer for this. I’ve stopped thinking about it, to an extent. But one thing I do know, no matter where I go, even if it’s to a deserted island or a settled life in city, writing will always follow me. It’s like a street dog you give one scrap of food to, and next thing you know it follows you all the way home. Except I take this street dog inside. I give it a good meal. I give it a bath. And suddenly it’s no longer a street dog, it’s my dog.

And now it’s 2018, more than 11 years after I started my first blog, and 14 years since I started taking writing seriously. And my question is: When are my 10,000 hours going to be done? Because anyone who knows anything about creative work and who’s read Malcom Gladwell or listened to the Macklemore song knows before you can make it as a writer or a painter or a singer or a synchronized swimmer, you have to put 10,000 hours in. Maybe I’m on 8,543. Maybe I’m only on something like 6,000. Oh God, that would be terrible. What if I’m only on 3,000 or 4,000? No, that’s impossible at this point. After 14 years of writing off and on, but usually at least somewhat on, I have to be coming up at 10,000.

Maybe I’m at 9,999 right now. It’s 9:04am here in Guadalajara, and I’m sitting in the Starbucks on Chapultepec, and maybe, unbeknownst to me, the 10,000th hour is just minutes away. I’ll type a few more words. I’ll take a sip of my Youthberry tea. I’ll look around at the people in line, remark on how it always smells a little musty in here, stare a little too long a the cute girl in line, type a few more words, and then a few more, and then look down at my apple wrapper, which was my breakfast, lament the screaming toddler a few feet from me, type a few more words, and that’s it. Ten thousand. A wave of euphoria comes over me. I start somehow replicating one of the first drafts of The Sun Also Rises. A cigarette magically appears in my hand. So does a cup of coffee. An old Royal Quite de Luxe typewriter appears in front of me, and suddenly I’m at the hacienda in Havana, standing by my bed and writing the first pages of a book about a man who goes marlin fishing.

Or maybe none of this will happen, because that’s not how it works. I have no idea how it works. But I intend to find out.

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