Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Dark Star Safari

I just started reading Paul Theroux's Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town. I've only read a few pages so far, but am already inspired!
Out of touch in Africa was where I wanted to be. The wish to disappear sends many travelers away. If you are thoroughly sick of being kept waiting at home or at work, travel is perfect: let other people wait for a change. Travel is a sort of revenge for having been put on hold, or having to elave messages on answering machines, not knowing your party's extension, being kept waiting all your working life -- the homebound writer's irritants. But also being kept waiting is the human condition.

I thought: Let other people explain where I am, and I imagined the dialogue.
'When will Paul be back?'
'We don't know.'
'Where is he?'
'Where not sure.'
'Can we get in touch with him?'

Travel in the African bush can also be a sort of revenge on mobile phones and fax machines, on telephones and the daily paper, on the creepier aspects of globalization that allow anyone who chooses to get their insinuating hands on you. I desired to be unobtainable. Mr Kurtz, sick as he is, attemtps to escape from Marlow's riverboat, crawling on all fours like an animal, trying to flee into the jungle. I understood that.

I was going to Africa for the best reasons - in a spirit of discovery; and for the pettiest - simply to disappear, to light out, with a suggestion of I dare you to try and find me.

Home had become a routine, and routines make time pass quickly. I was a sitting duck in this predictable routine: people knew when to call me, they knew when I would be at my desk. I was in such regular touch it was like having a job, a mode of life I hated. I was sick of being called up and importuned, asked for favors, hit up for money. You stick around too long and people begin to impose their own deadliens on you. "I need this by the 25th...' or 'Please read this by Friday...' or 'Try to finish this over the weekend...' or 'Let's have a conference call on Wednesday...' Call me ... fax me ... email me ... You can get me anytime on my mobile phone -- here's the number.

Everyone always available at any time in the totally accessible world seemed to me pure horror. It made me want to find a place that was not accessible at all ... no phones, no fax machines, not even mail delivery, the wonderful old world of being out of touch; in short, of being far away.

I'm happy that I live in Africa.
I am happy that I own a Gomoto to help me achieve this ideal from time to time.