Horror for Horror’s sake: Not

Having just watched the original Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein I realized great horror is timeless. More importantly the tales of the undead shed light upon the human condition, our humanity or lack of it. Ironically enough, the Frankenstein monster turns out to be more human than its creator or any of us for that matter.

Great horror does more than just frighten and entertain the reader. It should also enlighten. I have written four extremely dark and gruesome novels, all with truckloads of gore and imagery that is hard to shake. But is that the story? No, far from it. All of my writing has a firm foundation in friendship, honor and the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do for you. Without it the story falls apart. My protagonists are not pillars of society, but rather part of the evil that writhes through the pages. They eat, burp, shit, doubt themselves and basically have all the frailties of everyman. The antagonist, my monster, is more the darker side of humanity than some slime dripping creature with insane teeth. Greed, ignorance, envy, power and hatred are far more haunting than what lurks beneath your bed.

The horror hits home when the reader sees himself reflected in evil. We all have a little of it in us and once you get a glimpse, a certain morbid curiosity compels you to keep reading. Like a zit in the morning mirror, you have to look close, taking in the disgusting details before the final squeeze. Splat! Yes, we are that freaky as people.

My characters are human thrust in to a super human situation. It is who we are, not what, that makes the leap of believability of my novels that much easier. Of course it doesn’t hurt that first few pages set a cruel hook and you won’t be released until the final pages are finished. The pace is wicked and action non-stop and gore, over the top. But it is not horror for horror’s sake. The violence and blood-drenched scenes serve a purpose. But remove them and you’ve torn the heart out of the work. It is the nature of the beast.

The readers of horror novels are probably the best judge of what works and what doesn’t. Thus far the ‘anoxic zone’ series and my new breakaway novel, ‘Out of Stone,’ have received the nod of approval from readers and reviewers around the world. I will admit to being criticized a few times for excessive violence and the use of disturbing imagery. I stand guilty on all accounts. Only the readers can sentence me for what I have done. At this point I can live with the verdict. They would like some more.

Tired of pablum horror? Sink your teeth in to something that might bite back!
Check out the links below.

www.promotehorror.com/2013/04/out-of-stone.html

 http://www.blackwaterbooks.com

Aloha john g

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OUT OF STONE: Reviews and feedback

 

With my latest novel Out of Stone in print for the last few months, fans and professional reviewers are having their say about it. Though not one to pat myself on the back, I have to say I’m pretty stoked about what is being said.

Nick Buchan, from Australia, wrote an excellent review – check it out at: 

www.nickbuchan.com/horror/out-of-stone-john-g-rees

Out of Stone was the first independently published book Nick took the time to critique. I’m happy to say he wasn’t disappointed.

 

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  Yes, Out of Stone is perhaps my darkest work yet. My father-in-law, Jack, had a rough time with it. Okay – he’s 80 plus years old and not exactly my demographic, but disturbing prose and imagery knows no age limit.

  Having built a strong group of readers with my first three novels, it was with some trepidation in getting the fourth out there. My writing pushes the envelope and you never know if you’ve gone too far.

  Out of Stone is also my second book that has a woman as the main protagonist. Halocline was the first. In fact, a character that we meet in Halocline is the lead in Out of Stone. Funny how things work out. Though related to the ‘anoxic zone’ series, Out of Stone is a stand alone novel. It is not necessary to read the previous novels to appreciate this one. But it does help and you will get a few more of the jokes and inside dish.

  When writing Out of Stone, it seemed, at the time, to be a lighter work. Less violence, drug use, coffee, and cigarettes does not mean less of a story. Oh, there is more than enough of the above to satisfy anyone, but I really tap into the darkness on this one and that’s when it gets freaky. In an attempt to lessen the rampant gore, I found pathways into the fiendish nature that lies within us all. When you see a little of yourself in the evil I have created, that means I have done my job. Having your mind blown is more frightening than having your head blown off.

  With the first edition of Out Of Stone available in paperback and all of the e-pubs, we at Black Water Books can take a breath, but only one because the work of writing and publishing is never-ending. With reviews coming in, we will be doing a second edition in the next few months, incorporating some comments into the cover and, having found a few errors in the first edition, re-editing the novel. It happens. No one is perfect and my readers deserve the best I can deliver.

  As this is being written, new reviews have popped up on Amazon.

www.amazon.com/Out-Stone-john-g-rees/product-reviews/0983192073/

Each touched on different aspects of the novel; all of them positive and a few so ‘spot on’ it is scary. These should help inspire you to pick up a copy and the story itself won’t let you put the book down. It is that good!

  Again thanks to everyone who helped to make Out of Stone a nightmarish reality.

  The only way to really understand what I’m saying is to read the book.

  Check it out at www.blackwaterbooks.com/Out_Of_Stone.html

Aloha, john g

 

 

 

Cooking with Blood…

ImageWell, all right. We at Black Water Books are pretty stoked after receiving several reviews on my new novel, Out Of Stone. It seems I’ve done it again with phrases like, ’where does he get this stuff?’ and ‘Couldn’t put the book down…’. Plus my favorite, ‘You’re a sick f*ck john g.’ If you have read any of my previous works I’m sure you would agree.

Out Of Stone begins with a brief introduction of our main character, Sechra. A skeleton version of her backstory reacquaints with her twenty years later.

With the stage set and your mind already a bit twisted by her childhood experiences the tale plunges into the macabre tapestry of her destiny. Legends of ancient Romania and allegoricals far more recent are woven into the fabric. The threads of the lives of others, the why and how’s are sewn into the background of our understanding.

Of course, as happens in most of my work there is a shadowed history lesson too. The dark ages of Eastern Europe are about as bleak a time for mankind as it gets. Yes we get to go there and live for a while. This trip is strange yet familiar. Man’s in humanity to his fellow man are timeless. Be thankful it’s only a book.

As books go this one rips and you’ll be turning the pages as fast as you can eat it up. It has been brought to my attention that there are a few minor editing issues. Reading a raw manuscript it’s not. Out Of Stone is neither under done nor over cooked. I consider Out Of Stone seared. Burnt on the outside and bloody on the inside. Personally I’d bring a knife and fork. Enjoy the feast!!!

Available online at www.blackwaterbooks.com/Out_Of_Stone.html
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Out-Stone-john-g-rees/dp/0983192073
and other fine places!

OUT OF STONE: the New Novel

Having spread my soul wide open to the cutting edge of the editor, endured the ruthless attack on the manuscript, I have survived. A little shredded perhaps, humbled to be certain, yet more or less intact. My new editor, Martin Coffee, did an excellent job cleaning up some horrendous grammar (you want a real horror story you should see my uncorrected proofs – now that’s scary), kept the characters where they belong, righted my wrongs, and got most of the jokes. You can always tell whether someone is really reading your story or just correcting. Not put off by the vulgarity and some of the over the top graphic descriptions, Martin Coffee read it. He also liked the story, a lot!  So much so it has inspired him to read my previous works. ‘Right on, Martin!’

  Receiving your edited manuscript back comes with a frightening thrill. Incorporating the changes and editorial suggestions brings the work into its full dimension, cleans it up, and in general makes the novel ready for you to read. Editing is a milestone in the publishing process. It is the end of one phase and the beginning of another.

With this publication we are pursuing some of the tricks used by the big publishers. Advance copies of the novel have been sent to top horror reviewers in the country, Colleen Wanglund and Jeff Padget. These folk know good horror when they see it and they won’t let some palsy imitation sneak through. For me they are an acid test that could wind up in my face, because they tell it like it is. I hold confident. Their reviews will be part of our promotional package and be published in the book with their permission.

The story line holds, the action intense, character development full, and enough blood and mayhem to make one of my readers, R, miss some sleep. She can no longer read the story before bed. I like. R is vastly intelligent and highly critical and will have no qualms about giving me shock treatment if I have pulled any punches. R will also have her thoughts about the story published along with Colleen Wanglund and Jeff Padget.

Very soon the manuscript will be sent to Danil Mugaliev for final formatting into book form, for both hard copy and e-editions. We have worked with him on anoxic zone, Halocline, and Black Tide and look forward to his expertise and suggestions. It was his idea to use the syringes for chapter separation in anoxic zone. A very clever man.

Speaking of, we will also be using Mohamed Sadath for our cover design as well this time. His creativity on all three covers of the previous books has been outstanding. He’ll have his work cut out for him this time.

Front cover design, title, back cover, bio, publish, easy, right? Yeah, right. It’s a challenge and a half to get a professional looking product out there. As a self-publisher, you do all of these things yourself. Of course you have to farm out some of the work. You cannot edit yourself. That’s a given. Formatting and cover anyone can do, but if you want it great, get a pro. Your limitations are few, budget and imagination. Hell, I just wrote a book so the imagination is there. The budget is what it is. We do the best we can with what we have.

The working title of the new novel was Sechra, Tears of Stone. It works. It’s a great title. Unfortunately, Tears of Stone, has been used to death, literally, figuratively and any other way you can imagine. So it gets round filed. After due consideration and googling every stoned combination of words, the publication title will be ‘OUT OF STONE‘. The significance of the title will come clear when you are reading .

Black Water Books hopes to have hard copies and e-editions available in early 2013.

Not using any song lyrics this time should hasten the process a bit, haha. Sorry, it’s an inside joke but I’m sure some old British rocker might consider my comments (on using a couple of his song lines) slanderous.

We are very excited about getting, OUT OF STONE, on the way to being a published work.

If you haven’t read my previous works, get ready!

THE FOURTH NOVEL: Into The Depths Of Hell

The initial edit completed as well as the follow-up rewrite for my new novel; working title –Tears of Stone –and is now being formatted to send to my editor and readers. Having sailed into uncharted waters with my first three books, anoxic zone, Halocline, and Black Tide, and setting new standards for gore and violence, the fourth could to be no less than a horrific ride into the gaping mouth of hell.

Tears of Stone(working title) revolves around a young character we meet in Halocline. Twenty years have passed since the revolution that created a free country. Freed from the yoke of Megacorp and a tyrannical, cruel and insane despot, the country grew and prospered. Slavery and slaughter during the revolution however left the country with nationwide epidemic of PTSD. Most dealt with it. A few unfortunately, did not. This opened the gates of hell once again. A metaphor, for they had actually never really been closed.

Our protagonist, against the odds, survived the barbarically horrendous revolution, at which she had a front row seat. What was witnessed in those early years hardened the tender areas of youth. The seeds of hatred fell upon the fertile soil of her mind, giving her strength to endure the madness.

In a twist of fate the girl is saved from the nightmare her young life had become, but not before her hatred had taken root. Her life on the run from the madness of the revolution was replaced with one of privilege, education and art. Through her art, the girl turned woman, and was able to relieve herself of some of the memories life had bequeathed her. Notoriety and fame would come from her ability to carve stone, touching her life, changing it forever.

As her talent blossomed so did the darkness that so early in life reached out for her. The hatred, anguish, and horror at seeing her family and community brutally tortured, slain, and placed in chains, wanted to live amongst men. This thing, this hatred, this evil would use the girl it bonded with so long ago to bring it to life.

The first few pages set the hook of the story. Then, until the end, we get deep into our characters’ heads to understand the nightmare their lives have become. More than one antagonist exerts pressure on the tale. Hatred, evil, greed, revenge, are my usual nemeses. Once again they rear their ugly heads to wreak havoc on mankind, being truly the sources of all that ails us. Our tale takes us on a ride into the macabre, literally. If you have read my previous works you know how wild things can get. And they do get a tad outré. Not to disappoint my readers, the action and intensity is up to par. My wife, Mara, after doing the initial read, aside from being grossed out, said that ‘this may be the best thing you’ve written.’ I’m good with that, because she is right. Though Tears Of Stone is a stand alone read, the story is related to anoxic zone, Halocline and Black Tide, therefore reading one of the previous will shed some light on a few of the inside jokes and characters. Hold on as I take you where few readers have gone before.

The Wheel Turns : Decompressed

Before leaving on what turned out to be an epic journey, of both an outer and inner nature, I finished my fourth novel. The working title is ‘Tears of Stone.’ That title however has been overworked to death. I had hoped to complete it so my wife, Mara, could read the manuscript while I was motorcycle riding.

It always comes as a surprise to finish an idea in written form. You can tell when the end is near, 100 pages, 50 pages, but when it comes – WOW!!! Suddenly the writing is over and the rush of a ‘high’ is on; a somewhat sublime rush that is. Sure there are details that need attention, there always are, but they do not spoil the moment. Having the novel completed emptied the mind of worry, allowing the call of the road to come in loud and clear. That and the excitement of what Mara would say about the story when I returned. A month later I got the green light. After a rough edit the manuscript is ready for a rewrite, which I am doing now.

The tale revolves around a character you meet in Halocline, my second novel. Her story takes place twenty years after the revolution. She is now a grown woman with her own savage history and dark destiny to contend with. In dealing with horrific memories of childhood, that assault her constantly, an artist was born. Her art was a cathartic to relieve the conscious mind of the cruel and hideous visions.

As therapy the art worked in a psychiatric kind of way, creating what appeared to be a normal, though somewhat driven, personality. The unconscious mind, however, has a way of undoing the neat little knots we tie things up with. Life began to unravel when she finished the last piece for an exhibition.

Hell was just about to be unborn through her art.

It is a rather twisted little story about hate, revenge, ignorance, greed and the little things you never see that go on right behind the eyes. You just never know what someone is actually thinking. Trust me, most of the time you don’t want to know either.

You have to dig deep to come up with a tale like this. Although related to the previous novels, it is also a stand alone read. Of course, reading the first three novels is recommended as they are as ‘rip your throat out’ as it gets and… you’ll get a few more of the inside jokes. Like the others – anoxic zone, Halocline and Black Tide, you are grabbed on page one and ripped through a ride of terror and the macabre that will leave you gasping at the end… and wanting more. From the coast of Romania on the Black Sea, to Istanbul and the Transylvanian and Carpathian mountains, a journey into the darker parts of our minds and souls is about to be published.

Actually it will be a few more months until we print. Worth the wait to be sure and a chance to catch up on your reading. It’s back to work for me. When you call yourself a writer you better be doing just that. A little concentration, a little discipline and a lot of being able to sit there for hours at a time, waiting for blood to flood the page as you try to contain it, turning the crimson flow to words. And tuning out the unimportant distractions, aka, the cell is off. That’s what voice mail is for. Running with the ball for as long as you can each time you get it. But mostly it’s just doing your best that makes all the difference. It’s that ‘your best’ part of the equation that makes anything possible.

When you are doing your best there is always time to help others do it, too, but that’s another blog.

Aloha!

The Wheel Turns – 2012 X-Country Ride: The Calm Before the Storm

This tired biker woke to the smell of the sea coming in through open windows. The breeze was chill and the morning sun had just crested the eastern horizon. Everyone else was still in bed. Time to figure out the coffee situation and have a few before the day kicks in. Normally on tour you get one big cup of joe in the morning and that’s it. A worthwhile sacrifice to stay hydrated. Anything beats bonking. But we weren’t riding today, or the next few for that matter. It was time to rest and recuperate in a 1924 beach house that hadn’t changed much since those days. Our hosts were generous. It was nice to see the Aloha spirit alive and well on the east coast. Good company and comfortable surroundings made the time pass all too quickly. It is perhaps the kindness I will remember most of all, and the lobster, of course!

We crossed Maine, clipped the corners of New Hampshire and Vermont, and dropped into Connecticut for the night at Black Rock State Park. Clean campsites amid the pines and ash were perfect for our needs. A thunderstorm that was the vanguard of some serious weather passed through in the night, cooling the temp and washing some seriously dirty equipment. The plan was to stop at Max BMW and have oil changes and a routine service. The BMW’s have more than two hundred thousand miles in them if you keep up on your oil changes. It was also not a bad way to spend a few hours surrounded as we were by some of the best bikes ever made.

Our destination was Baltimore, Maryland. It would be a push to make it by a reasonable dinnertime. We did. If it’s one thing the east has, it’s an incredible highway system. Tolls were paid and time was made. Our impromptu sunset tour through Baltimore was an eye opener on so many levels. A heavy inner city that is that is in desperate need of funding, to the gentrified neighborhoods around John Hopkins University. A mighty cross section of American lives and lifestyles existed here.

After some pub grub we got a hotel in the heart of downtown. The Oriole’s had a home game, won, and the locals were spilling out into the streets in celebration. It looked like a lot of fun but this biker needed rest.

Across Maryland into West Virginia, the low green mountains, and history. This was Civil War country. The pride in their history is evidenced by the preservation of the sites of skirmishes and battles. We stopped often to read the brass plaques and learn of the place’s moment in time. It was as humbling as it was awe-inspiring and not to be missed by anyone.

West Virginia and southern Ohio is also coal country. It showed. Tough to hide a chopped off mountaintop. And tougher yet to disguise the lives created and destroyed in the process. Never the less, the countryside was beautiful. One sight was the Rushing Wind Bikers’ Church in South Ohio. It was next door to the god of motorcycles, a Harley dealer. We wondered if they were open on Sundays. That night we camped along the Ohio River, as sweet a spot as you can think of. Another thunderstorm in the middle of the night was hinting at the weather to come.

We kicked it up a notch the next day to cross Ohio and returned to the farm in Valparaiso, Indiana. After lunch we were both eyeing the weather. It was a coin toss. Kale had already tossed his.

“Let’s suit up, we are going to be hitting some weather.”

I looked at they sky again thinking ‘no way.’ Long before this moment in the parking lot I had learned to follow his advice. Even though I had a couple of tours already over the years, he still had way more experience. The learning never ends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No sooner had we pulled out of the parking lot, the first drops hit. By the time we rocked the throttle onto the highway entrance the thunderstorm was full on. Kale’s theory is that if you keep on going, you will punch through the other side of the storm. A little water never hurt anything. The theory holds, however there is one exception. If lightning bolts are dropping around you, forget it and get under an overpass or gas station awning and wait it out. You don’t want to be a rolling lightening rod! Chances are you will see some other bikers standing around talking story, so the time is not lost. And you get to meet some really good folk.

This is the way the rest of the day went. Most of the time we rode right through the storms, other times, talk story. On the final push, around sunset, we hit a mother of storms that threatened to stop us ten miles from the farm. No lightning, so we rolled on. Speed was dictated by weather conditions and the amount of water on the road. There was no punching through this time, just a never-ending down pour. No complaints here. We put our kickstands down in the dark and driving rain, grabbed a few necessities and headed for the mud room to dump the wet gear.

Home is where the heart is. It was good to be at a home away from home. The previous days had brought some wicked weather to northern Indiana and with more due in the very near future there would be plenty of storm damage clean up to pass the time.

Next: North and West, into the fires of hell, The Badlands

WHEN IN DOUBT CONSULT THE DOCTOR

Becoming a writer came with more than I thought. Sure you got a good story line, characters and a tale to tell. So you do it. Pay the price in time, use your sitzfleisch and sack your social life to bring your novel to life. Your fingers become messengers while your mind flirts and dashes with a thousand ideas. All the while you’re still trying to maintain a focus and not become sidetracked, sticking to the story. Perseverance furthers, and, if you’re lucky, writing what you’re supposed to be, the story starts writing itself, as it should. You are just the interface. This is a very cool thing, what surfers call being in the zone. So you run with it.

Well, at some point, unless you are a boldfaced liar, you begin to question your self. This is only natural. Hell you’re a hundred and fifty pages into it and there isn’t a person in the world that can answer your queries. Does it make sense? Is it any good? Do you think people will like it? And, especially with my work for its lack of rectitude, who am I going to offend?

At moments like this I consult the doctor:
Be who you are and say what you feel…
Because those that matter…. don’t mind…
And those that mind… don’t matter.

   -Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss)

ADVENTURE, DEAD? THE HEMINGWAY SYNDROME

Well maybe not dead, but nowdays it’s more limited to victims of war and disaster. This in no way lessens their despair and struggle for survival, but epitomizes the rare qualities exhibited by true adventure. It happens during the course of our nominally uneventful lives when suddenly our reality is upended and we are forced to make decisions we are unaccustomed to making; like surviving the next few minutes, hours, or days that have nothing to do with business, status, or your portfolio.

Whether it is water rising too fast to escape or the world falling down around you, this is some thing you did not pay to experience. True adventure will leave you spent, in pain, broken and bleeding, if not dying. There are few enough who are willing to pay the full cost of the ticket. But to those that do, goes the real prize. You see the price is your life.

Several years ago my friend Kale and I rode cross-country on motorcycles. A priceless experience not without its moments when shivers went up your spine as adventure licked your tires. My excuse for this was to crash my nephew’s wedding and see some family faces. I must say, at this point, that rolling into a wedding reception on a touring motorcycle and one piece riding suit is about as cool as it gets.

After making the rounds I settled in next to my mom for the duration. It was her I really came for after all. It was nice. I love my mom. The seats around the center table filled and emptied like cards shuffling. At one point a gentleman across the table began a conversation. He was the father of the bride, I think, but a close relation at any rate. I introduced myself as the brother of the mother of the groom. For convenience I will call him Chuck.
“Ahh, I’ve heard a lot about you,” Chuck said as if he heard not quite a lot, but more than a little.
“I hope it wasn’t all bad,” was my glib response. You see I am the black sheep.
“Not at all, you’re the adventurous one,” Chuck smiled.
Okay he had me and we had a pleasant talk about a few my ‘adventures’, the bulk of which revolved around the books I am writing. I gave him a signed copy of my first book, asking that he get in touch after reading it. He never did. This came as no surprise. Although my books have a solid foundation of honor, a man’s word and the golden rule, I have a rather peculiar way of getting there. Not everyone is ready for what I have to say or how I say it. To each his/her own in their own time. I would have liked to hear his views though. C’est la vie. Now where was I? Oh yeah, ‘the adventurous one’.
When I think of my travels and the work I’ve done, the word adventurous does not come to mind. Hard, unforgiving, perilous, dangerous, and stupid do however, and I have the scars to prove it. But adventurous? In retrospect I suppose, maybe, but I never really considered it. At the time you were too busy busting your ass, saving it, or saving somebody else’s. Afterwards you were too tired, in too much pain to appreciate it and onto another job. You never gave it a second thought. You lived it, you didn’t think it.
When you’re in an adventurous situation you do not think to yourself, ‘Wow, this is soooo exciting, what a rush!’ It’s more like ‘Holy shit! Look out! Run! Help!’ Maybe later you laugh about it. That is if no one was hurt too bad. But when no one is looking you’re busy checking your shorts.
Most of the ‘adventurous’ things I’ve done were not done for the excitement involved. They were done to cover the cost of living, a job. The work just looks and sounds thrilling. The reality was it was simply hard work with one drawback; fuck up and you’re dead. There aren’t too many jobs out there with that kind of kicker. Plus, at the time, I was young, still invincible, only dimly aware of the dangers involved and kept it that way. Oh you knew about them, but you didn’t spend much time thinking about them. Because once you did it was the beginning of the end of adventure for you, my friend. We didn’t take risks without knowing the danger, for that is being a fool. We just disregarded them. There were bills to pay, a job to finish and another soon to begin.
I think all people, somewhere inside them yearn for adventure. The common dream being cataclysmic destruction wherein our lives are irrevocably changed and not necessarily for the better. But we become better or worse for it. Yeah we’d all like that one, but it will never happen, at least not the way we dream it to be. The earthquakes, tornadoes, and tsunamis in recent years are but isolated occurrences, a sampler of what it would be like and most certainly less desirable than the dream. Reality generally is. But your average life is far more mundane than that. It grinds away at you every day until you die unless you are thrust into circumstances beyond your control. In which case you will probably still become extinct, but for a short while will have truly lived.
There aren’t that many ways of life left in the first world that have a first-rate access to risky, life-threatening work. A few, fewer yet are those willing to actually do the work.
When a person’s thirst for adventure is not allowed to be slaked, we will search for ways to compensate the loss. The most common is vicarious, a.k.a. movies, documentaries, reading or the virtual world as methods of escape into the rush of living. Doing nothing to feel like you’ve done something. Ironic, huh?
For others the compensation comes in the form of physical activities. Sports like tennis, skiing, diving, that require good physical conditioning to do well. Then there are the races. Ironman, marathons, bicycles, where top physical condition is the rule, not the exception. These exhibitions of strength and stamina are incredible and satisfy the inner need through endurance. Endurance equals adventure in that respect, for that is what adventure is, enduring.
Then there are those who, after riding a desk for the last thirty or forty years still have the romantic desire and reasonable health to have a little adventure. (We all know that if you put yourself in a position where your life may at some point be at risk, it just might be. In other words, if you want an irritating itch it’s best to find some poison ivy.) The youth is past its prime but the desire not so, and they stayed reasonably fit. So they decide to travel to places with names that evoke danger, grandeur, and mystery. Everyone wants to be the Rolex person on the inside cover of the Smithsonian.
What they get is a slightly watered down version of what its like and way more comfortable. The entire tour is prearranged with a top quality outfitter that has an excellent reputation of bringing them back alive. Everything has been well planned and nothing is left to chance. Of course the tourists know this, but that is not the point. The illusion has been satisfied. All life is illusion so no doubt special health insurance was bought in case the illusion gets a little too real, as well as supplementary insurance in case you had bad weather. Dressed to the tens in the latest gear, you exit your first class seating and are hit by the smells of life. Before you get too enthralled you are whisked away to a 5 star and a coldie.
Now you’re in the third word – well the part that the white man is allowed to see anyway.

This isn’t going to turn into an essay on tourist bashing. Far from it. Regardless of how much insurance you have to protect you and your travels, once you cross the border you’re in another world. All the protection money can buy will not put a first class hospital in the middle of the Sudan for you if your appendix bursts. When your transportation breaks down in the rainforest highlands there is no auto club to come and get you. Your feet have just become more important than ever before. You gear up and start to follow the other stranded travelers taking your first steps along the road to getting the hell out of there.
Not that anything like that would happen, but it could and does. In the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia some twenty-five years ago, we were on a twenty passenger second-class bus going from one mold encrusted Raj era tea plantation to another. We were traveling with the local people like we always did. It saved money over the first class ride on a real road with a bus full of tourists and was always much more interesting. About the time we reached the vicinity of the middle of nowhere the old Mercedes chugs, craps out and dies.
A heavy damp rain had begun an hour before as we drove higher into the mountains. The once dry road was now mud with trails of brown water racing through in rivulets. The landscape looked as if it had never seen the sun shine, a sodden rot of grayish deep green. After a few minutes of conversation that we didn’t understand fully, the van began to empty and belongings removed from the lashings atop it. Our bags were thrown with the rest into the brush along the roadside. As near as we were able to glom, the passengers were heading on. Another bus would be sent once it was sure that this one did not arrive. How long? A shrug of the shoulders was the only reply.
We talked about the options for this is a potentially fucked up situation. You’re in a third world country, white, all your money is around your waist, what insurance, the sun is setting, and you really have no idea where you are. Strange things can happen when the sun goes down and your imagination takes over. Should we stay or should we go? Sit in a damp bus waiting or follow the herd and hope we find someplace to stay and something to eat. Having turned a wrench a few times I figured well, it’s either major mechanical, in which case we’re fucked and in for a long walk in the rain, or maybe it’s something simple. It wouldn’t take long to figure out. If the bus was doomed we could always catch up.
The driver, who of course was staying with his rig, went through the motions of poor communication as we went down a basic check out. We soon discovered the accelerator linkage was broken. Pair of vice-grips, adjustable wrench, multipurpose screwdriver, and some wire was all it took to MacGyver the works, and of course someone who was willing to get all greasy and muddy, busting a few knuckles while crawling around underneath the bus to do it.
We picked up the stragglers first followed shortly thereafter by a bunch of smiling faces who were as happy as us to get out of the rain and where we all were going. The perk was the look on their faces when they saw a filthy white couple smiling at them from the back of the bus. Talk about making some points! It was a mild adventure but nonetheless had all the requirements for a true experience. A situation presents itself inspiring the question, what do we do? From that moment on our actions were dictated by the predicament and to make the best of it.

All adventures pretty much go that way. When everything goes just the way it’s planned there is no adventure. A good time perhaps with nice people just like yourself getting a taste of the wild. But it’s not the tourists that get the true adventure. It is the guides and laborers who live the safari, or roundup that truly live the life. The rest have merely paid to experience it.
It is when all hell breaks loose that the adventure starts. The working staff kicks into overdrive to save the tourists who are too busy worrying about their stuff and complaining that this is not what they paid for. Adventure is not something that is paid for. You may hire someone to take you to breathtaking vistas, but have something happen out of your control that rips your breath from you and the next person you are hiring is a lawyer.
Adventure is for those who choose to live it. Life choices and circumstance can put you in the game or out of it. Age, unfortunately, is a major factor. Those of us who left the tour behind long ago and forged our own way have paid the price of our yearnings with bodies worn out from a lifetime of hard living. Eventually we become sidelined while the adventure goes on, leaving us behind with our memories and sore backs that can no longer bear the load. We have become out of the loop, an observer.

This realization comes with a brutal blow to who we are, what we were and what we have become. I call this the Hemingway syndrome. That period from when you stop being a player until you come to terms with your new reality. It is a time change from relevancy to obscurity. Some of us will accept it, eventually. Others will struggle with the dilemma, while others refuse to let go. This in itself is an adventure of sorts. Except this time the battle is an inner one. We will come to terms with it gracefully… or not as is usually the case.
My personal learning curve was hard and ugly. I didn’t let go. Life was torn from my grasp and left me crippled. It took a long time to learn to be thankful for every ache, pain, and disability and see each one as a memory.

So the next time your car dies on a lonely stretch of dark road, or a storm, or other kind of adverse conditions present themselves realize it is an opportunity to take life into your own hands and do something with it. This does not mean picking up your cell phone either and letting drama overwhelm the moment. Take charge, take control of what you can and make the best of it. Take a lousy unplanned event and put a positive spin on it. It’s all any adventurist does anyway.

Aloha my friends. Good luck, do your best, it will be enough.