A millstone in the process of making mezcal, from the annual Feria de Mezcal.
It seems impossible not to, having been to Puerto Escondido in the summer, where even sleeping under a mosquito net still doesn’t guarantee you won’t wake up with fewer than 100 fresh bites. My body was covered in bites and bits of blood, where I’d managed to swat one of those pinches bichos to death. I got Zika the same time I got giardia. I had a bot of a rash and my face was flushed for a week but that’s about it. I’m slowly building immunity to everything while living here in the poverty-stricken tropics on $300 a month. The giardia affected me much worse. It’s a chronic, real bastard of a infection to get. It’s from bad water. The giardia cysts set up in your intestine and wreak hell on your all of your normal bathroom functions. It’s hard to beat, or rather, it can take months or even years to fully beat giardia. I’ve read as much in deep medical journal explanations. I never took Flagyl or any antibiotic for it, only stomach meds. Slowly, each time it comes to life the symptoms get a bit less severe. I haven’t vomited from it in over a month. There was a time I was vomiting three or four days a week. Days, not times. Awful stuff. The Zika wasn’t so bad. I haven’t gotten dengue yet, so that’s exciting knowing there are other viruses out there just waiting to be had. At this point, I can drink Mexican tap water without getting sick. That’s a skill worthy of being put on a CV.

Zika affects people differently. A friend of mine from Canada had a bad version. She had huge red scaly rashes all over her body. “Who have you been fucking?” I said when I first saw her. “Or maybe the better question is, what have you been fucking?”

“It’s awful,” she said. She was preparing to move to mosquito headquarters, near the beach. It’s incredibly cheap to live there but it is very isolated. Many people find themselves living in nice vacant beach houses for free, house sitting various pets or plants for the moneyed leisure class. The place is lousy with Australians on gap year. Could be worse. I’ve got nothing bad to day about Australians, but people from anywhere on gap year might be some of the worst, most self-confident and deluded souls I’ve ever met anywhere in this world.

“I’m doing a six month Reiki course,” one of them told me last time I was there.A cute girl who I had a large crush on.

“You know how we were going to get dinner together tonight,” I said, thinking about what that meant. My gap year was spent learning the healing art of Reiki.

“Well, maybe we should do it another time. Suddenly I’m not feeling well,” I said.

“Maybe I can help,” she said. “Have you ever had a Reiki session?”

No, I hadn’t. I’d seen the type of people most interested in the art and had gotten to know a few of them and had concluded that I wanted nothing to do with anybody in the practice. It’s off-putting, like finding out your girlfriend is a Scientologist.

“Really?” you want to tell them.

There’s nothing wrong with spending gap year volunteering somewhere or helping people somehow but what the world needs it needs a lot of, and more Reiki teachers just ain’t even part of it.

I spent my “gap year” working and then traveling on the money I earned. Gap year,which isn’t really a thing in the USA, was for me just a thing because I didn’t want to go straight to college. High school had been hell socially. I figured allowing a class to pass me so that I would be one of the older ones instead of one of the younger ones wasn’t necessarily such a bad thing. I also needed the experience to help build my college entry essay. It was partially the success of that utter piece of totally fabricated bullshit that helped me decide to major in writing and English. Had I stuck to my original plan and gone to law school after I might be married now, with some kids, a real job, a house maybe. Meh. Not to say that a person can’t be happy living that life but honestly it’s been lived to death. Nothing unique or new or illustrative about working long hours for a well-paid job and having to decide where to take the family on vacation once a year. Even the most successful lawyers I worked for as a teenager roving the courts, filing pleadings, etc., even he, the partner Mr. Karp was a frustrated novelist. He still dreamed about writing the Great American Novel, though when would he even have time to think about it with his schedule.

The lawyers I used to work for all treated me well. They taught me a lot, too. They were supposedly ambulance chasers and while they were, it was a personal injury law firm, they knew it and most had passionate hobbies and wanted to do things with their lives. Tony N. loved to gambled and often blew his 33% of a large settlement playing cards in back then Atlantic City. He married his secretary, a trophy blonde in her 20s who wanted to go to the beach with me. Ira S. once asked me “what do I have against Hootie and the Blowfish?” I had never heard of them, although I soon would along with the rest of the world in the next six months. Ronald M. liked to bring me into his office and pick the wax from his ears with elaborate contraptions he built from office supplies. He tried to get me to change office supply companies for a kick back (I was in charge of ordering office supplies for the whole firm as well as drinks and snacks.) I showed a rare morality by refusing. If I had gone ahead, Ron wouldv’e started ordering office furniture and computers, etc. My budget for the  month was about $5000. That could buy quite a few post-it notes. They paid me $5 an hour to start but soon I had earned an extra 50 cents an hour raise. I was the defacto office manager, runner, messenger between the Rockville and D.C. offices for a salary of $12,000 a year without benefits. I was running my own T-shirt business at the time and life seemed exciting and profitable. I had a girlfriend I wanted to marry, now a multimillionairess executive of a Las Vegas casino.

How does The Secret work? You think of not the want of something but of a prolific amount of whatever you want and that’s supposed to instruct the universe to attract those things to you. I don’t know if I’d recognize the attraction of anything besides more or the same these days. Your world goes grey when you are fasting. At least mine does. I have become passionately dispassionate about things.

Yes, universe, I’d like some more of that  please.