September 3, 2007
I needed some time to relax today without being thrown around in the back of a station wagon with ten of my best friends, so I sat outside a cafe and worked on reading my book. I was just to the part where Amir and Baba were attempting to escape from the Ruskies when a fifty-something Englishman approached and began talking to me. The conversation started off simply enough: He said he was a birdwatcher who wanted to travel for the rest of his life. He said he was proud of the thousands of different birds he had seen, and showed me a picture of the elusive species he was currently searching for, of which only six were left in the wild. I thought the man was a nice, docile creature.
Next, the guy started telling me about his previous travels. He lived in India and Afghanistan back in the 60's, then he traveled all through South America in the 70's. The continent was a lot different back then, when brutal dictatorships ruled most of the countries, and the local people tended to be afraid to say anything to the tourists out of fear that they were part of the CIA. I originally thought the old guy was a stereotypical rich, eccentric Englishman going out of his way to see some birds, but now I figured he was more of an old hippie living out his days in cheap countries on his small life savings. Wrong on both accounts.
Out of nowhere, the guy started severely criticizing the British and US governments. I guess that would be pretty normal nowadays, but he went so far as to say that he hadn't paid his taxes in years because his government didn't deserve his money, but he'd never get thrown in jail because he was never going to back to England anyway. He added fuel to the fire by saying that he'd bomb his own country if he got the chance because they wanted to control the whole world. But then he contradicted his own logic by bashing gays, hippies, capitalists, and just about anyone different from him, saying we lived in a decadent society. He was a juxtaposition of several stereotypes in one man.
It was about that time that he mentioned that after splitting up with his wife, he began drinking heavily and smoking over seventy joints per day. That's really why he took off to go look at birds. He'd like to find somewhere to live for awhile so he can father one more child, though. I asked him why he'd possibly want another kid when he was nearly sixty years old and already had four children. He of course told me that he wanted someone to leave his inheritance to because he wasn't very happy with the kids he had. The thing was, he already told me earlier that he barley had enough money to make it through the last fifteen years that he predicted he'd live, and that was assuming that he always lived on a tight budget in the Third World.
Just when the conversation was starting to get really weird, he said he had to go and I never saw him again. I successively thought he was a rich retiree, a lifelong hippie, a terrorist, a drug addict, and a Casanova. But by the time he walked away, I realized that the only real possibility was that one of us must have been nuts, and I had serious doubts that it was the one who was just trying to relax and read a book at a cafe.