Mr. Errabo looked at me again, his eyes flickering like the digital figures on a calculator. "One hundred and fifty dollars!" he said. "Hah!"
We drove in silence for a while, following the line of palms and the blackness; on our right the blazing lights of the Hyatt Regency appeared, then receded, and were followed by a string of clubs and restaurants whose namesJosephine, Burger Machinewere spelled out in orange and purple neon.
"What is a good day for a Manila taxi driver?" I asked.
Mr. Errabo sighed. "For me, 300 pesos is good day. Five hundred pesosvery good day." Enough to buy a tank of gas at home. We were not brothers, not even distant cousins.
"San Francisco taxi driver money can go Manila," he said. "Japanese taxi driver money can go Manila. Manila taxi driver money..."he rubbed his fingers together and spat on them"money no goot. Manila taxi driver stay in Manila."
DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY
I dont know the solution of boredom. If I did, Id be the one philosopher that had the cure for living. But I do know that about ten times as many people find their lives dull, and unnecessarily dull, as ever admit it; and I do believe that if we busted out and admitted it sometimes, instead of being nice and patient and loyal for sixty years, and then nice and patient and dead for the rest of eternity, why, maybe possibly, we might make life more fun.
Sinclair Lewis, Babbit
The next morning I was up with the soft early light, walking. Already the air was warm and muggyshort pants weatherand stepping from my six dollar hotel I caught a whiff of rotting food. Freelance garbage men sifted through the trash in the gutters to salvage empty bottles. The sidewalks were strewn with the curled shapes of unconscious people; most had thin cardboard mattresses, but many slept right on the pavement. Four little boysfive-year-olds, I guessedslept in a heap in a doorway, arms and legs tossed over each other like ropes; they had no guardian, no mattress, no cardboard, no blankets, and only two of them wore shirts. I could hear one snoring. Two jeepneys crept past bumper to bumperthe names "Wheels of Fortune" and "California Dreamin'" painted on their sides, and the song "Don't Worry, Be Happy" cooing in perfect synchronicity from their radios.
To the traveler arriving in a new place everything seems significant: the golden light slanting over rooftops and gilding window panes on the opposite side of the street; the engine noises and garbage stench; the babble of early hawkers; the new pool of unknown lives. I looked around the street and took a deep breath that was strangely gratifying. Id spent years sitting in my own little part of the globe wondering what this part looked like, and now here it was. The real world. And the real world does not present itself in easily absorbed, seven-minute intervals, broken by sixty-second commercial breaks; nor in groups of five eight-hour workdays separated by weekends. The real world marches at you head-on, in jerky bursts of color and boredom and trauma, reminding you that you are alive and small and not in control of anything at all.
My invite-someone-to-America idea had shaped and reshaped itself many times since that morning in Afghanistan. My present plan: When this trip was over I would surprise one of the people I had met along the way, someone who had never been out of his (or possibly her) native country, with an invitation to visit and travel around the United States with me for one monthmy treat.
I was uncertain as to just how I would decide whom to invite. Maybe I would meet someone so compellingso kind, eccentric, or just so much funthat the choice would be obvious. But if that didnt happen, I would simply, when I got home, drop everyones name into a hat and draw one out.
Copyright 2000. Brad Newsham. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Travelers' Tales Inc
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