One Last Cup of Tea

I’ve started translating Book 6 of My Struggle from German to English. I got a copy today in the little town in Germany where I am from a lady who was quiet like a dove and seemed reticent to speak English even though her English was approximately 6,438 times better than my German. Not that my German is non-existent, though. In the little Air Bnb where I’m staying there’s a Turkish woman named Zelda and we only speak German together. We just had a conversation in the kitchen, for example.

“What did you do today?”

“Today I went to (something that I didn’t understand but sounded like the word “Autumn”)”.

“Oh?”

“But I’m going out again. With my cousin.”

“Are you going dancing?”

“Yes, but Turkish dancing. Turkish music.”

“How is Turkish dance?”

(Something I couldn’t understand that I think involved the word “hairdryer”).

Then she left the kitchen and I resumed eating my tortellini that I got for 0.39 cents at the grocery store. Going to this grocery store was one of the highlights of my day. The other highlight was sitting in a wonderful cozy bakery in the mall, in the corner in a soft armchair, watching old people talk. I like watching old people talk. I like watching old people do just about anything. They’re never in a hurry. They’re never on their cell phones. Imagine an 80 year old sitting slouched in a chair staring into his iPhone. It would be a comical, and sort of sad sight.

That said, I’ve basically watched YouTube videos all day.

Here’s what I have of My Struggle Book 6 so far, thanks to the German I know and wordreference.com and Google Translate. Note: The reproduction of this is for educational purposes only. To see how good (or bad) a translator I am.

My Struggle Book 6

By Karl Ove Knausgaard

Translated by Mark Wetzler

In the middle of September 2009 I drove to Thomas and Marie’s small country house, between Höganes and Mölle, he was supposed to take photos of me for the next novel. I’d rented a car, a black Audi, and drove with a powerful feeling of joy in my chest in the late morning heading north along the four-lane highway. The sky was completely clear and blue, the sun shone as if in summer. The Öresund sparkled on the left, on the right stretched stubble fields and pastures separated by fences, streams, along which deciduous trees grew, abrupt forest edges. I had a feeling as if this day did not exist at all, it stood like an oasis of summer in the midst of this pale autumn landscape; and because the sun isn’t supposed to shine so brightly and the sky isn’t supposed to be so saturated with light, I felt, in spite of the joy, a rising unease within me, but suppressed the thought in the hope that this feeling would disappear on its own, and instead sang along to the chorus of Cat People, which was coming from the speakers, and enjoyed the view of the city emerging to my lift, the shipping cranes, the smoke stacks, the warehouses. These were the outskirts of Landskrona I was passing, just as how a minute earlier I’d passed Barsebäck with its characteristic and always somewhat terrifying silhouette of the nuclear power plant in the distance. The next city was Helsingborg, and the country house I wanted lay ten, twenty kilometers outside the city.

I was late. First I’d sat for a long time in the parking lot in the big, cool car in the parking garage, because I didn’t know how to start it; and I couldn’t just go to the rental car company and asked them, I was scared they’d take the car away from me if I revealed such total ignorance, so I checked the manual, flipping back and forth, but there wasn’t anything about starting the engine. I checked the dashboard, then the key, which wasn’t a key but a black plastic disk. I’d opened the car by squeezing the disk and was now wondering if the car could be started using a similar method. There was definitely no ignition on the steering wheel column. But that there? That was just a groove.

I put the plastic disk in, and the car started. For the next half hour I drove through downtown Malmö looking for the right arterial road. When I finally reached the highway I was already nearly an hour late.

When Landskrona had disappeared behind the ridge, I fumbled for my cell phone in the passenger seat, found it and dialed the number for Geir A. He had introduced me to Thomas at the time, meeting in a boxing club when Thomas was working on a photo book about boxing and Geir was writing a treatise on the same subject. They were an unlikely couple to say the least, but they had great respect for each other.

Hello, my friend, said Geir.

Yeah, hey, I said. Would you do me a favor?

Of course.

Can you call Thomas and tell him I’ll be an hour late?

Of course. But you’re on your way, right?

Yeah.

Sounds good.

It’s fantastic — a change. But now I need to pass a truck.

And?

I can’t talk on the phone at the same time.

….

That’s all I have for now. Like I said, this is for educational purposes, to see which sentences sound awkward, I do not own this content.

Anyway.

It’s cold outside and I’m wondering if I should go out. Maybe I should go to Frankfurt, go to a club. It’s only 26 km away. Who knows what kind of weird night I could have. I could get drunk and dance. Take drugs. But I know I won’t do this. I know I’ll stay in this little town and eat oranges and probably in a little bit have some yogurt with apple and muesli. I’ll probably google “Pulisic” and “Dortmund” again, just as I mindlessly do many times a day. Maybe I’ll do some more Duolingo. Maybe I’ll translate a bit more of Book 6. And then at some point I’ll clean up my room a bit, have another glass of water or two, brush my teeth, attempt to read Walden for a few minutes and fail, and then go to bed. And then tomorrow is Sunday. Sundays in German are always boring, because everything’s closed. But there is a bakery open tomorrow, and I’ll be there. Lord knows I’ll be there.

I kind of wish I had gotten wine at the grocery store. But instead I got Haribo.

I told myself when I started writing this I was going to write until the wee hours of the night, but I feel like I’ve already run out of things to talk about. I’ve talked a little about my Air Bnb, about the Turkish girl. I’ve talked about my day. It snowed today, that was also nice. When I was in the cozy bakery. Watching the old people. Drinking hot chocolate. Drinking hot chocolate and watching old people and watching the snow go by. Not a lot of snow. Just a little. But it’s cold here. When I went out last night I had a rain jacket over my wool jacket. And also swim trunks over a pair of long underwear because my only pair of pants was in the dryer. And then tonight I went out for a run basically wearing the same outfit and it was glorious. I left the town and everything was quiet and I went by two dogs wearing glow collars and then I was by myself, trying not to fall, and I got to the end of an elevated trail alongside the river and stopped, checked my stopwatch, and had been running for 10 minutes. That’s enough. I hate running. I don’t understand how you could like running. If you want to get exercise play soccer or basketball or handball or football or field hockey or rugby or do ANYTHING BUT RUN. Running is so boring. I suppose you get into a sort of trance, like I do when I’m walking, but it’s hard for me to get into that trance when I’m running because all I’m thinking is, “This sucks this sucks this sucks this sucks why would anyone do this my wife will not be a runner she will scorn runners.” But who knows, maybe my wife will be a runner. Maybe she’ll be Japanese. Or maybe I’ll never get married. Maybe I’ll die old and alone. Or young and alone. Or just alone. Or old and happily married. Or old and sort of happily married. Or maybe I’ll never die at all. Maybe I’ll just sit in a random Air Bnb in the outskirts of Frankfurt for the rest of eternity, eating oranges and drinking instant coffee and watching Bundesliga by myself. And smoking cigarettes.

OK, gotta take a break now. Gotta throw the orange peels in the trash and maybe make some tea. Or coffee???? One more instant coffee????? That would be insane. It would send my bowels into turmoil. But I’m tempted.

So, one thing I haven’t told you yet and should probably tell you now since I don’t know how much longer I can drone on is that this is the last post. After this, Where’s Wetzler will no longer exist. And it’s not that I don’t like writing, it’s just that it’s time for a change. I don’t know exactly why, or what will come out of the change, but I feel like it’s the right thing to do. So that’s why I wanted to sit down and type with nine fingers about nothing, just to write.

The rest of my time in Germany will be spent walking around this small little town, going to the bakery, and then going to a Dortmund game on Tuesday. They play Mainz. It will be the second Dortmund game I’ve been to, but Christian Pulisic didn’t play in the first one so it doesn’t really count. I came to Europe basically to see him play, and then he got injured. I didn’t think I’d see another game, but here I am, ready to watch them play Mainz in Mainz on Tuesday. I don’t have my ticket yet. I might get a really good one for 50 euros. I can justify because I just did some work for my friend Nate, some translating work, and it sort of feels like free money. Plus, who knows when I’ll see Dortmund play again? On Wednesday I’m flying back to The States, and I don’t see myself coming back to Europe anytime soon. If I do travel it will probably be to Mexico, or Colombia, or Alaska, or Asia. But I don’t think I’ll be back in Germany anytime soon. Though who knows. I love Germany. I love the German language. I love the strange sentence order. I love the order of things in general in Germany. I love how they don’t give a crap about pedestrians in Germany because Germans are selfish. I love how when a train leaves 30 seconds late in Germany they start crying. I love how the trains never leave 30 seconds late. I love pronouncing the word “Bücher.” And I love the cold, the snow, the bleakness.

Thank you for reading this blog, friends and family and one person I didn’t know but now know after a few glasses of wine in Paris. This is not sad, to let this blog go. Sometimes it’s good to have new phases in our lives, and that’s what’s happening for me. Where’s Wetzler has existed for almost 10 years now, and it’s time for a change. As I said, I will continue to write in some sort of capacity. Writing for me should be fun. If it’s not fun, I don’t want to do it anymore. Writing for me should be unstructured. There shouldn’t be rules. I shouldn’t feel like I have to “do” anything.

I’m finishing up my last round of physical therapy for tonight. I’m excited to get back and get the wire taken out of my wrist. Too much wire. No one wants wire in their wrist. And God, I wish I hadn’t done that surgery, but that’s neither here nor there.

I’m not going to reflect on what I’ve learned in the last 10 years of travel, because I feel like anything I would say would be trite. I’ll leave that for another time, the next time, or I’ll leave that for my new “Wellness Journal” I’ve been keeping every night where I write down five things I did well that day, and then five things I could’ve done better. I don’t HAVE to put five for the things I could’ve done better. For example, if I live perfectly, and drink tea, and all is in harmony, then I don’t have to write anything at all. If If I just sit and guzzle green tea and meditate then I just write the word “Perfect” and turn my computer off. But that’s not usually what I do with my days.

I’ll end this by answering the question that is the name of the blog one last time: My name is Mark Wetzler. I’m 34 years old. I’m a Leo. And right now I’m in Flörsheim, Hessen, Germany.

Drinking a cup of tea.

Anywhere but Here: Jerez to Tangier

I had a plan for this blog, and that plan was simply to have more visits each month than the previous month. In this way I would build my empire. Last month, for example, I had 245 visits, one of my worst months ever. But I reasoned if I could just increase that each month then eventually I’d be on the path to stardom and literati genius and fame and fortune and stacks of books published and book signings and groupies and everything that comes with literary acclaim.

But four days have passed already in December, and I have 16 views.

Which means I have to pivot a bit.

Which means THIS MONTH will set the new standard, and every subsequent month must have more views (or as I realized this morning lying in bed, I might just trash this blog entirely; I think it would be liberating). The thing is I quit social media recently, the main place where I promoted this blog, and this time it’s for real. This time I actually went through the rigamarole of asking Facebook to delete my account, which is different from deactivating it. When you deactivate it anytime you sign in again it reactivates it, and you’re back to square 0. But when you delete it you delete completely. You lose all your photos, all your friends, and all your memories. Your life begins to suffer. You become depressed. You realize the only friends you had were online acquaintances that you’d barely seen in real life. And despair ensues.

Actually quite the opposite happens. I no longer have Instagram or Twitter or Tinder or Facebook or any of that crap, and my life is immeasurably better. I meet people in real life, now! Or I lie alone in a random corner of the world thinking about how lonely I am.

But back to my trip that doesn’t really have a destination even though I’ve been telling people the destination is ostensibly Senegal, but will I really have enough money to make it to Senegal? And if I get there, what am I going to do? I won’t be happy there because I’m never happy anywhere.  “Man, things would be better if I was just in Tokyo right now. Or Hyderabad. Or Sri Lanka. Or Indonesia. Or La Paz (Mexico). Or La Paz (Bolivia). Or Brazil. Or Svalbard. Or Franz Josef Land. Or Moscow. Or Minsk. Or Pzremsyl. Or Warsaw. Or Lviv. Or Bergen. Or Stockholm. Or the southwest of France. Or Italy. Or Egypt. Or the Greek islands. Or Turkey. Or Georgia,” I think.

After Jerez I went to a town called Vejer de la Frontera, where I stayed in a gorgeous hotel room overlooking the countryside surrounding Vejer. Vejer is on a hill, so you can see Africa from the south side of the town. It’s always novel to sit down on a bench and look out and see a different continent. It doesn’t really happen that much. I once saw South America from a boat, but that was different. That was actually better. But this experience seeing Africa from a small town in Spain was also significant. I felt like Santiago in The Alchemist, on my way to Tarifa where I’d fall in love with the daughter of a wool merchant, but then have to leave her to pursue my destiny just across the water in Tangier.

When I got to Tarifa, though, there were no wool merchants. There was, however, a man selling boat passages, and 41 euros later I had a ticket to Tangier. While boarding said ferry I helped a woman who had two suitcases and about 50 shopping bags who somehow thought this was a reasonable about of baggage for one person try to transport. She kept saying “Thank you” in English and I kept talking to her in Spanish because we were on Spanish soil. But then we got to Tangier, after crossing the blue waters of the Strait of Gibraltar, and I helped her again and we started speaking in French and she said said, “Welcome to Morocco.”

On the ferry there was a horde of Asian people who seemed to disappear as soon as we got to Tangier. I have no idea where they went. Maybe they all dove into the water and had a picnic on the seafloor. I started walking toward the Medina, where I was immediately hassled but a guy who was saying to me, “Relax. Welcome. Have good time.” And then, “Where your hotel? I have hotel for you? Relax. Welcome. Have good time?”

God, I would love to punch this guy I the face, I thought. But I don’t really know how to punch. And either way the moral fiber oozing out of me prevents it.

In my hostel there was a guy from Venezuela named Armando who had on a leather jacket and had done sound design in New York for eight years. There was also a Finnish kid named Ossi who was much younger and who later in the night would tell us about some pretty severe head trauma he’d once suffered and how awesome the healthcare is in Finland. The two of them had been hanging out in the hostel the last few days getting high (in the case of Armando), and walking around. I asked them what they’d seen and they didn’t have much of an answer. I asked them what they’d done the night before and they said, “Hung out at the hostel and got pizza delivered.”

These were my kind of travelers.

In the evening we well went out for a walk together and after not being able to find cheap tagine, a typical Moroccan dish, we settled on a place with only locals selling sandwiches and small slices of pizza. The pizza was delicious and cost 50 cents a slice. We immediately began discussing how many pieces of pizza it would be possible to eat, since they were thin-crusted and delectable, and Armando said 10 would be absolutely no problem. I countered that 15 might pose a bit of a problem, and 20 seemed unreasonable. As I sat there I demolished a kilo of tangerines I had just bought, also for 50 cents but outside in the street, for dessert. Ossi didn’t say much. He was a quiet Finn. Finns are usually quiet. I haven’t met too many boisterous Finns in my life, except for possibly a guy named Sammi I worked with who used to yell the word “wheelbarrow” at me.

And thus concluded the first night in Morocco. Now I’m on a train to a town called Meknes, further south. I once again have a private room, but this time it’s at least partly because there are no hostels in the town. And then after Meknes I will probably continue south to Marrekesh, and by Marrakesh I of course mean: Tokyo, or Greenland, or Sri Lanka, or Reykjavik, or Madrid, or Barcelona, or Senegal, or Johannesburg, or Port Townsend, or anywhere but here.

 

The (Liquid) Splendor of Jerez de la Frontera

Last night just before I was going to write about how great Jerez de la Frontera was and how great a time I’d had there, I hit my head on one of the doorways downstairs in my hotel.

“Buen despertador,” I said to the guy at the reception, just before retreating to my room. Nice alarm clock.

And then I sat down and wrote furiously for several minutes about this city, about how enchanted I was by everything, before slipping into an, admittedly, slightly woozy sleep.

I didn’t have a concussion.

But I did sort of feel nauseous.

It’s just, my God, Jerez! Jerez de la Frontera! I got there on a tren de media distancia from Sevilla, and the journey cost me just over 11 euros. Trains in Spain are enough to have me enchanted. Trains anywhere are enough to have me enchanted. But then I got to Jerez and realized it had all the ambiance of Sevilla but with a fraction of the tourists, and I was even more enchanted.

One of the first things I did was buy a bottle of Vichy Catalan, as pictured above. This was a necessity. I’ve never tried a better water in my life. It tastes like it comes from somewhere deep in the earth where everything is untainted and unconcerned with life on the surface, and this is probably because it does. It also tastes a little salty. Have you ever accidentally taken a huge gulp of seawater? Now imagine putting a bottle to your mouth and accidentally drinking a liter and a half of seawater, except this seawater tastes divine. Such is Vichy Catalan. It’s not a taste for everyone, but it’s a taste for me.

Jerez de la Frontera is one of the many towns south of Sevilla that has the “de la frontera” (frontera = border) in its name. There’s Chiclana de la Frontera, Conil de la Frontera, Vejer de la Frontera, and more. This is presumably because this was where the border between the Muslim world and the Christian world was many years back. Or at least I suppose.

The first thing I did in the evening in Jerez was go out for a stroll, and I almost immediately found myself in a locale called Tabanco El Pasaje, where the bar was packed to the gills and everyone was clapping along with the guy singing flamenco in the corner. I went up to the bar and said, “What do people drink here? Give me whatever people drink here,” and the man came back with a glass of sweet sherry. I downed it. Then I said, “Give me something less sweet,” and he came back with something else. Each time I ordered something he took out a piece of chalk and marked down the price right on the bar. Then at the end, when you leave, they tally it up — in their heads! — and you pay and you leave. But of course I lingered a bit. How could I not? The sounds of flamenco, a crowded bar in Spain, and barrels of sherry, never costing more than a euro fifty a glass.

I felt a little bit like Hemingway in the bar, in The Sun Also Rises. I stood there and tried to look distinguished, tried to look chill.

After this, emboldened a bit by the sherry, I went to a place called Meson El Asador that I’d seen before. This was obviously the cool place in town, the place that’s always crowded even when nothing else is, the place that’s mostly locals with a smattering of tourists.

I strolled right up to the bar and said, “Give me a cream.”

Cream is what they call one of the types of sherry. It’s the sweet kind. Except they don’t pronounce it “cream,” like it in English, and if you did they would have no idea what you’re talking about. They pronounce it “CRAY-uh” and they don’t pronounced the “m” at the end. I also got two tapas, a queso manchego with bread, and some kind of pork smothered in roquefort cheese.

I started talking with the man at the bar next to me, and then the bartender came over and started talking to us, too. I immersed myself in roquefort and sweet wine. The bartender must’ve known I liked cheese because he brought over a special goat cheese that was on the house. I think the guy to my right was a little drunk, because the bartender kept looking at him like, “Oh, Javier, you’re a little bit crazy but I’ve known you all my life so I’m not going to act too superior.” The bartender was wearing a tie.

When I was done with the food the bartender told me that if I stayed the next night I should go to place called Damajuana that had a little more of a club atmosphere, or Bereber, which patently was a club. I told him I’d probably have to stay another night. I couldn’t let Jerez get away from me too easy. And besides, my hotel room cost 15 euros a night and had a window to a courtyard.

I felt completely content and might’ve had a small little smile on my face as I wandered back out into the night air. Things were closing down. It was Thursday. And I went back to my hotel room where I didn’t hit my head on the doorframe, because that would happen the next night.

 

Wine and Hitchhiking in Portugal and Spain

Yesterday I woke up at 7am with the idea that I would hitchhike as far as I could from sunrise to sunset. In other words, about 10 hours of hitchhiking.

This idea quickly failed, of course, when I discovered that the town I was in (Faro, Portugal) didn’t have the greatest places for hitchhiking. Here’s what you want when hitchhiking: You want a long stretch of road where cars are all going in the direction you want to go, where they’re moving slowly, and where it’s easy for them to pull off and pick you up. Faro had none of these things. First of all, people don’t drive slow in Europe. Ever. When a Portuguese person gets in a car his first thought is: “How close can I come to dying today?” So I found a place that sort of had room to pull over, and where some of the cars were going in my direction, and where the cars weren’t going 800 miles an hour because there was a roundabout in front of them. But to no avail. First, I stepped in some clay trying to get to this hitchhiking spot, and my shoes quickly resembled moon boots. Then I put my thumb up, but it was as if people couldn’t even see me. One person made eye contact, another flashed me an expression that said, “The chances of me ever picking you up are 1/16,000,” and the rest appeared to be mothers with their offspring, the worst candidate for picking up that exists. And I don’t blame them. If I were a mother and I saw a random 34 year old male standing alongside the road wearing a wool coat in southern Portugal and with his thumb thrust skyward, I wouldn’t pick him up. I’d call the police.

So I took a bus and it was a godsend. It turns out you can pay people a reasonable sum of money, and they’ll take you exactly where you want to go. I took a bus to Olhao, a town a few kilometers east, and from there took a train to Vila Real de San Antonio, the last town before Spain.

And this was where the fun began. This was where things got a little weird. This was where I thought to myself, Traveling is awesome.

Actually things didn’t get all that weird. I was surrounded by Dutch people, which is always a little weird. I don’t know much about the Dutch. I know that their language sounds awful. I know that they’re fairly wealthy. I know that they’re sort of like the Germans but also not. And I know that their country is small and flat.

The place where I was surrounded by Dutch people was the ferry from Vila Real to Ayamonte, as evidenced here:

The car depicted in the first photo is the Dutch people’s car. It’s a nice-looking car. The woman driving it was also nice looking. She was wearing a coat that looked like it cost more than anything I’ve ever owned. It looked like it was made out of stardust and mink fur.

I love a good ferry ride, especially one where the captain is smoking. We traversed the Guadiana River and then docked in Ayamonte, and suddenly I was in Spain. How easy everything would be now! I’ve lived in Spain! Twice! I speak the language! No one can touch me now! Tortilla española here I come!

After getting a bite to eat in Ayamonte I decided to try my luck at hitchhiking again, and this time someone did pick me up. His name was Paco. He was from Lepe and on his way to this town, about 20 kilometers east of Ayamonte. I immediately asked him if he was Spanish, because he sounded like he either had a speech impediment or was Cuban or both. But then I realized: That’s just the Andalucia accent. That’s how people in southern Spain talk. They never pronounce the end of words and their r’s sound a bit like l’s. I went to school with a girl from Sevilla once and I literally thought she had a speech impediment the entire year. Poor thing, I thought, She sounds like she has a sock in her mouth.

When we got to Lepe Paco told me he was going to a Zampusa (or something; now I can’t figure out the spelling) and asked me if I wanted to tag along. A Zampusa, he had just explained, was a kind of informal bar where they serve young wine (two months old; the first wine to finish the fermentation process) and people hang out and bring their own food and it’s wonderful. I of course said yes. And then we found ourselves in one of these out of the way locales, a fire smoldering in the fire place and everything smelling generally like the outdoors, and the barman immediately poured us a small pitcher of a liquid that was caramel in color and tasted sort of like wine but also a bit like juice or cider or something completely different. Then the man put a piece of chorizo to smolder in the fire, and when it was done and juicy served it to us on a plate with a stack of bread. I was in heaven. Paco told me a bit about his life. He was teaching a graphic design class in Ayamonte, hence why he was there, and in the afternoon did music therapy for kids with Autism and asperger’s and other conditions. He seemed happy. He was also the editor of the town’s culture and events magazine, which he gave me a copy of to take as a souvenir.

We drank quite a bit of wine. Paco said it was fairly strong but it didn’t taste that strong. There was a guy sitting next to us who Paco said was a “marinero,” and after about a half hour of drinking wine and conversing Paco asked me how much of what the guy said I could understand. “About 20%,” I said. “Maybe 10%.”

“You’re just talking like that ‘cause he’s here,” Paco said to the man. “You don’t normally talk like this. You’re showing off.”

The man’s eyes were glazed over and he kept pointing at the cat sitting in the doorway and making jokes about how later they were going to eat it.

After the wine Paco dropped me off at the bus station and I got on a bus to Huelva for 3 euros. Then in Huelva I got on a bus to Sevilla, and on the bus to Sevilla fell into a deep sleep and didn’t wake up until we were in the outskirts, just about to pull into the Plaza de Armas station. I studied in Sevilla in 2004 and so everything is sort of familiar to me. I saw the skatepark where I used to skate, the beautiful Guadalquivir river. Everything seemed greener, though. The air was cool and fresh and I sat next to the Guadalquivir for a bit, and then made my way to my pension downtown. It was a small room with an even smaller bed but for 15 euros it was fine. And in the end I spent about as much money getting to Sevilla as if I would’ve just taken the direct bus from Faro, but I like to think by not taking the direct bus my day was more interesting.

Lame Photos from Faro

If you know me at all you know that one of my least favorite things in the world, besides watching people chew gum with their mouth open like the girl the other day on the bus to Paris Orly who had me wondering, Does she know she’s doing this? Does she know how atrocious this is? is taking pictures. And it’s not even that I hate taking pictures, it’s more that I hate feeling like I have to take pictures. I hate when I see something beautiful and a little voice  in my cerebellum screams, “Hey, bro, you should take a picture.” And then I don’t take a picture and I feel bad. I think, Oh, well, I’ll write about it. Writing is more effective anyway because if you write about it people have to imagine it. I mean, A Farewell to Arms doesn’t have a bunch of pictures. The Feminine Mystique doesn’t have a bunch of pictures. So that’s why Where’s Wetzler traditionally hasn’t had a great deal of photography.

But that all changed today as I hit the street with my trusty 35mm, aka my cellphone. The first thing I did was head to a little spot across the train tracks where earlier in the day I’d seen some fishermen gossiping about whatever it is fishermen gossip about. I would’ve paid several euros to be able to understand their conversation. They looked like they were having a great time. They looked like they’d known each other since they were fetuses, in the way only people from a small town in southern Portugal can know each other. But alas I was too far away and my Portuguese is far too rudimentary to ever understand what had them so animated.

After wandering around the town for part of the afternoon I headed back to my guesthouse where the owner had told me there was a bottle of green wine lurking in the fridge that was entirely at my disposal. He said it was good green wine. So in my head I’d made a little mental note that stayed with me all day that said, “At some point today, when the hour is appropriate, you’re going to sit down with a couple of glasses of green wine and take the edge off.” Not that I was stressed out. I don’t remember the last time I was stressed out. I think it was 7th grade when I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d made the basketball team.

I had two glasses of green wine, and then figured two was a weird number and so had a third. Then I hit the streets, which were completely deserted because of the recent rain. It hasn’t rained a lot in Portugal lately so this rain is a blessing. For me it mostly meant I had to make sure I didn’t get my shoes wet. I saw one bar that was showing soccer games and decided that the next bar that looked crowded and intimidating I would go in. I didn’t have to wait too long before I turned a corner and saw a well lit, ample bar with pool tables populated by old Portuguese men watching the Manchester United v. Watford game. I  entered.

At the bar I successfully ordered a ham and cheese sandwich in Portuguese and thought about how that’s why I like these bars, because you have to try to speak the language. These guys don’t speak English. They don’t want to speak English. All they want to do is sit around around and drink Pepsi and smoke cigarettes and watch soccer. This is all they’ve done for the past 20 years, and what they’re going to do till they die. I kind of envy them.

I also kind of don’t envy them. And I couldn’t see the screen too well so after the first half I went back to my wonderful guesthouse where I lay on the bed watching English Premier League soccer and wondering aggressively how I was going to get to Spain the next day, if I in fact went. Would I hitchhike? Would I fork over the massive quantities of dough required to take buses and trains? This caused me some distress, so I went downstairs and made some mint tea. If you ever want to calm down, drink some mint tea. In fact if you want to completely turn around your life and stop being a wretched slob, I suggest you do the following: Give up coffee, and start drinking mint tea. It’s good for the brain. It’s good for the soul. And it’s good for the palate.

I decided I would try to hitchhike the next day, and resolved to get up early to do so. My time in Faro was done. I set my alarm for 7:00am and wondered if I’d actually get up. Or if when I woke up I’d think about going to sleep, how sweet it would be, and how nothing could get me up, not even mint tea.