On the Road with Larry & River Mouth Mason
Books such as Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" have inspired people to abandon the carefully laid plans of their parents generation in order to go out on the road and taste life for themselves. How often do we get to just be, instead of do? We lead complicated lives full of difficult pressures, deadlines, and responsibilities. Each generation throws up new raconteurs who march to the beat of their own drummer.
In my recent book, Do What You Love- Songwriting, one of the seven secrets of doing what you love and living life to the fullest is: TRAVEL. I describe why it's a secret of doing what you love on page 81 as follows:
I travel and fill myself with good energy, colors, sights, sounds, smells, stars, nature, friends, dreams, and music; then I have a Santa's bag full of good energy to share with the people I work with. I have good vibes and the work comes out better, faster, easier.
This is different from some Peter Pan escapism. It's actually alchemy. Getting in the right mode to be my best and, therefore, to be the best person I can be toward loved ones, friends, family, and co-workers.
Travel benefits the quality of my life and even my career. The people you meet, the sights, sounds, and colors you see and hear often lead to the writing of a new, great song. Being away and hard to reach often has the unexpected benefit of triggering a scarcity perception. As in Wall Street and much of business: perception drives reality.
I made a commitment after enduring the freezing polar vortexes (last winter in New York City) to escape as much of this winter as possible. So on December 15th, 2014 I embarked on a voyage of discovery into the unknown. Accompanied by my travel buddy, whom I'll christen River Mouth Mason in the forthcoming travel blog series, we embodied a very unlikely Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer type duo. Me, a successful, older, music producer and professor of music at New York University's School of Professional Studies, and River Mouth, a much younger surfer from Victoria, British Columbia Canada. People were immediately confused and imagined we were either father and son, or lovers. Neither was the case. We're just two souls on a vision quest yearning to find new meaning in life.
We first flew to Spain's Canary Islands. Closer to Africa than Europe I've always felt more like a traveler than tourist by seeking out a local authentic connection to the way locals live.
Our destination was Isla De la Gomera, a smaller and less traveled island. We booked what was billed on Airbnb as a real life "Pirate Ship." For twenty-four dollars a night, it is more expensive to stay at home than to travel. I envisioned a Pirates of the Caribbean type adventure: sailing island to island, wind in my hair, warm sun on my face, frothing ocean waters parting below the bow. The pictures alone would make my Facebook friends jealous.
How often does fantasy not match reality? We arrived on sunny Isla De la Gomera, and after a bus ride up and over a seven thousand foot volcanic crater that made River Mouth want to vomit, we arrived in the tiny fishing village of Vueltas in Valle Gran Rey. We found the pirate ship and right away, reality and fantasy clashed. We climbed down a steep ladder into a leaking lifeboat, and pulled a string to reach the ship. I'm a seasoned yogi but I could hardly perform the gymnastic vault required to hoist myself up onto the boat with my luggage. The pirate ship is inhabited by Russians Captain Dima, space cowboy Tim, and American Steve, a former silicon valley ex-pat. In reality it was really just a marooned sailboat full of pot smoking, unemployed hippies. To each his own I say, but I need action, adventure, creativity, and a sense of doing something meaningful in the world day-to-day. My closet in Greenwich Village had more room than our shared bunk of four. Without internet, electricity, or hot water, the first few days of being off the grid were charming. Soon however, the bougie New Yorker in me came out, wanting simple creature comforts like a warm shower.
After a few days, we opted to abandon ship for a very family style, inexpensive, B&B "Maria Isabel" overlooking the harbor. Maria and her daughter Estrella lived on premise, and the cute rustic cabins out back were a perfect shelter; away from the cold climate in New York and Canada. We met other travelers, most of whom were from Germany, and we found ourselves cooking communal meals, sharing travel tips and stories. Most sunny days we'd hike for a bit to a small secluded rock outcrop away from the main beach, where we could drop our troubles and bathing suits, and swim naked in the healing baptism of warm crystal blue and green waters.
On Christmas Eve, the Maria Isabel family cooked and shared with us a local specialty: fresh caught squid, slow simmered all day in black ink sauce. It was delicious.
Another great place we found to eat in the port of Vueltas is a restaurant named Tambara. The Italian chef trained in the kitchen of a Four Seasons hotel, and landed here to open his own dining room. Using fresh fish, local vegetables, the meal was both reasonably priced and tasty. I was hooked on the Linguine Vongole (small baby clams) perfectly cooked al dente.
Between Christmas and New Years, we attended a holiday "rave" under the stars at Playa del Ingles. The DJ, a brilliant young musician from Amsterdam named Roger Martinez, beguiled the crowd with his grooves and for five Euro (about seven U.S. dollars) it was one of the more fun rave/dance parties I've been to.
The whole village seems to gather at sunset each day in the town square for a drum circle, and to drink and watch the sky turn from blue to amber, to red then purple, and then a warm, dark charcoal. With a similar spirit to the rituals in Key West and Woodstock, there is a free wheeling, almost 1960s vibe here. Isla De la Gomera has attracted a large German hippie crowd for decades and just like the American 60s generation, many grew up, married, raised kids yet return to the island to bath in the waters of their youth.
Almost from the start of our adventure, River Mouth had a series of injuries and colds that are very unusual for a surfing, sporty young man. On the first night out, he was literally jumping for joy as we walked through the town and he landed on an old ankle injury, and twisted it again. He was suddenly in intense pain just seconds after being in sheer joy. He couldn't walk and we had to carry him. Part of me quietly wondered, perhaps he is a hypochondriac? Was he creating injuries for attention? As soon as the purple swelling on his foot went down, River Mouth caught a bad head cold. Later, an ingrown toe nail of his became infected and in addition to the intense pain, he worried about amputation. Then a few days later while swimming he smashed against the rocks and injured his other foot. It was ironic that I am twice his age, living like an unchained 70's rock star and pillaging like a wanton viking, but felt fine the entire time.
Our creativity, meanwhile, seemed on a more solid footing. With a borrowed flamenco guitar, River Mouth and I began co-writing three original songs: "The Ghost of Rock and Roll," "Blanket of Blues," and "Rush of Life,"
The sky is falling from below
It's all I really know
The Ghost of Rock and Roll
Skin and the painted can
A devil and part man
Living in his van
I am you and you are me
The tiger and the seed
Unfold a mystery
There are some things that no school, job, or "how to" book can teach a person about life. Figuring out a local language or custom, as a stranger in a strange land on the road, I've learned so much about life's rich tapestry. For New Years Eve, we planned our escape to Morocco.
On the next installment is the cacophony of sights, sounds, haggles, donkey carts, cheap eats, snake charmers, and tourist hustles of Marrakech's centuries old Medina. On The Road to be continued.
Do What You Love- Songwriting by Larry Dvoskin
The author, in mentioning places to eat or stay in this blog, has received no payments or compensation of any kind for his recommendations.
Casa Maria Isabel- Vueltas, Valle Gran Rey, Isla De Gomera