Friday, December 6, 2013

Crossing our Rubicon

One day we are in paradise, the next in a border waste land. Disneyland is your paradise? That is where we are. At least we think of California that way, considering the difficulties that we expect in Baja or Panama. We keep discussing how much water we should carry each day to go through the desert. Is one gallon per day enough? Do you know how much a gallon of water weighs? Should we carry two gallons per day, in case we or the support vehicle get lost? Or in case we have a mechanical issue that we can’t fix ourselves. Or in case Mestre gets hit by a car. Any number of horrible scenarios go through our heads. Issues of sharing and carrying of resources arise. It seems that roles are not entirely worked out. But we have months to do so.

There is nothing better than crossing from one country to another on foot - or on bike in this case. In our age of jet planes every airport around the world feels the same. The same artificial air. The same crap on sale. The same officious immigration officers. You don’t even feel like you are traveling anymore. It’s convenient. And it sux.

Crossing this border is intense for us, but not because we are doing it on foot, but because we are leaving our B2B family behind. Or rather, they watch us go. I hope there are no pictures of me because I was crying like a little boy. It’s a melodramatic twist of my personality. Must be the German in me, the one I am trying to deny – the German, not the crying. Mestre Mago, Contra Mestre Fabio, Professor Mniska, Instrutora Come Come and Peixao turn their backs and head back north. The film crew tags along into Mexcio. Mariano is missing. Later we find out that he went with the support car to support Amber’s crossing into the strange new world.
We are all heartbroken at the prospect of separation. You may laugh at this, but you go ahead and share bread, travel, joys and hardships with your tribe. And then they are gone. For good. Or at least a really long time. There is no “I’ll see you in a week”. Or “I’ll visit around Christmas”. Nada. We will see our friends in a lot more than a year. Probably.
One thing stands out. Mestre is bouncy, even jauntily liberated. As if breathing the air of Mexico has lifted the chains of a white people’s yoke of his shoulders. It’s relatively easy for an Austrian to integrate into Sunshine State culture. Apart from the seemingly superficial friendliness that is best accepted and enjoyed, people associate Austrians with the Governator, or the Kindergarten Cop. What’s not to love, right? Even the Terminator became a traitor to Hollywood perp-dom. I am not sure how ­­that plays for a Bahiano from Salvador, Bahia. I only know that you are taking someone from paradise and dropping them into a rather hyper capitalist California. A place of warm beaches and cold hearts. Yes, I am talking shit about your state. If you are from somewhere around the equator, palms and beaches ‘n things, you know that the white world can be pretty tight. Uptight. Those things wear on us as time goes by. We yearn for a little chaos. Some unplanned adventure. A journey of discovery even. Could we really discover anything new if everything was already planned down to the last Pandero clamp?
You think waste land is too strong a term. Yet you may imagine all of Mexico is a crime-ridden, illiterate desert. With some jungle thrown in here and there. Best used for cheap labor. This is an assumption. It is wrong. As most countries Mexico does not concentrate his power, wealth and culture at his border. And certainly not in the slightly inhospitable and arid north. The border areas are a background to Estados Unidos appetite for cheap profits, sex and drugs.
Fly into Mazatlan and come up into the Sierras to Guanojuato. Road trip of a life time. That way you can make up your own mind about this amazing country full of interesting history, amazing beauty and some of the warmest, most hospitable people you have met. You could also do it on a bike.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Reise nach Afrika

Reise nach Afrika - Journey to Africa. This song takes me back to my childhood days. Rolling around the Vienna of the 70s as a kid. My pops with flared pants, patched in whack places because we were broke and he always rode bike and mom always patched our pants. My mom with short hair and flowery hippy dresses. They would take my brother and I to these hippy commune houses. Big ol' central European apartment buildings, 4 stories high, lives living in the memory of thick brick walls. Walls that keep you warm when its cold out and cool when its hot. Summer concerts in square, jungle green court yards with hippy bands singing meaningful songs against nuclear power and for love. You'd have to be a monster to disagree with that sort of sentiment, no?

There are not many things that I bring along from my past. I have a beany my mom made me 25 years ago. I still have a belt I bought in 1992, because I like it. These childhood memories, these pasts, live in our minds. I pay as little attention to them as possible though so that I may be present. Maybe that is why I carry little. An attempt to match the mind to earthly possessions. Or vice versa.

But music stays with us. And few songs stay with me as the ones about traveling and freedom. Arik Brauer is a distinguished constant in Austrian post World War 2 art. I can only think of one thing more important than his work in painting, writing and music; his sweet, harsh tongue lashings for the fat cat in all of us. The envious, stingy and arrogant self. The one that we hopefully battle every day. Do you stick your head in the sand? I know I have to pull it out frequently.

Yet Reise nach Afrika is apolitical and sweetly politically incorrect. And when I find open road this past in a song rings out in joy. I want to sit my butt on a bike and start riding without turning around. I want to keep seeing what is beyond the next turn I want to drink from all the rivers of this earth. That's what the song is about. Riding a bicycle to Afrika, past the Bedouins, through that dark, mysterious continent, riding so far that only the dirt keeps us corporeal. An escapist dream.

The song went on autorepeat in my music players after I sent my application letter to Mestre. It stayed there. On the prettiest B2B downhill joyrides it bursts out of me. When I leave good new friends behind these words comfort me. Straight ahead is the road. It is today. It is now.

Friday, November 22, 2013

California Capoeira

Capoeira is not big in the USA. It has been steadily growing for 30 years. But anyone who is trying to run a Capoeira Akademia will tell you that it is difficult to survive in this business. We don't have the national and international organizations that help other martial arts and sports with promotion and visibility. Crossfit is a good example. Individual gyms profit enormously from the marketing and advertising output of national organizations. Everybody in the States knows what Crossfit is.

Ask someone what Capoeira is. Most people don't know and the ones that try, make us cringe with attempts to classify a martial art as a dance. But it's not them, its us. What it comes down to is that we have many Capoeira small schools fighting to survive in an ocean filled with international Karate, Crossfit and Zumba sharks, who are all out to claim the few fitness dollars a person is willing to spend.

But California is different. Here we have UCA and Batuque. Two of the first Capoeira groups in the USA. Founded by Mestre Acordeon and Mestre Amen. Open Rodas everywhere. 'nuff said. Of course there is also Capoeira Brasil, of Mestre Boneco. But although the group is huge and international it is not of California.

So when we travel down the California coast line, while its not Bahia, we still find a lot of Capoeira. And because we have this crazy group of really good Capoeiristas we play a lot of Capoeira. On the side of the road, in parking lots, on the beach, in akademias, in parks and at Batizados. Its totally amazing and I feel incredibly lucky to be here. And its also extremely frustrating. How can that be? Its Capoeira heaven.

Because I can't play. My hip flexor has been acting like a rusted jackknife, although the biking is fixing it. I injure my wrist and the biking is making it worse. But more importantly, I am a confused Capoeirista. Why? I train with Professor Fenix and Candeias in Seattle. We practice a different capoeira than UCA does. Our Jinga is different. Also with only three years in Capoeira I am, and will be for a long time to come, a big capoeira baby. At some point, rolling down the coast on my ridiculous recumbent, I realize that this is a 24/7 batizado environment. I'm a nerd, I over-function. Bebum tells me to STFU and just play.

You know how when you go to another group's batizado you feel like a beginner? In a workshop you learn a kick and rastera combo but it just doesn't compute for you? This happens to everyone and it is why its so important to travel in Capoeira. I have seen instructors looking like total noobs trying to figure out the timing of a rastera option because they have not practiced that particular one all their lives.

Of course this is great. It shows that we are all human and we are always learning. It shows the willingness of our instructors to be beginners over and over again. It teaches us versatility and improves our games. It enables us to go home to our own group and beat someone's ass with a move they haven't seen before. It keeps us real because we know there is always someone out there who is not necessarily better or faster, but who will still be able to put you on your ass. And finally, it continuously challenges us. An important ingredient for my own personal happiness.

All of this is great at a Batizado, but when it is for a month straight... not so much. I let it make me into a confused Capoeirista. Should I do this jinga all bouncy now, so that I can accelerate off my backfoot better? Should I try that esquiva at a martelo even though I feel like its going to get my head taken off? And how the hell am I supposed to do anything without my wrist? The one and good constant that remained was "Arms up Pirata"! I ended up watching a lot of games. And listening. Which is entirely appropriate and not because I got to watch Mestre Beiramar and Mestre Mago go at it every day. Although that's pretty badass. I learn the first of many things about Capeoira on this journey.

"Learn by watching other people play" - not something we like to do. Not something we are often told to do. We are told to play, play, play, because the Roda is where your game really develops. But there is a lot of value in watching other people play. Good players, bad players, everyone. Watch them with your capoeira eyes and learn. No pride, no envy, no stinginess. Capoeira is one of the most complex things anyone can attempt. It behooves us to learn by watching because that's what babies do. I won't really learn anything by playing Mestre Beiramar, other than that I am able to easily bore the shit out of him. Nothing that he wouldn't rather have someone else teach me. But I sure as hell learn a lot by watching him.

I was still confused until I talked to Mestre about it a couple of weeks ago. He said "Well... you can't be confused". Weirdly, probably more to me than to him, that's all I needed. I'll just STFU and play.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

wisdom wheels

Horizons take two hours
Mountains are better than hills
Always get your lift from a passing truck
The next one coming at you will take it back
The gods of the winds deserve our sacrifice
The white line is your best friend
until she is not
Better him than me
Another day another flat

flower power

No really. No, I know. Yes, it is Mestre Acordeon. World renown Capoeira Mestre. Martial Artist par excellence and his troupe of, well, only a bunch of Mestres, Contra Mestres, Professors, Instructors and random capoeira nomads. And sequestradas. Basically a bunch of guys who will take your kneecaps out while you smell the flowers. Still, his B2B thing - its one giant fucking love train.

While riding the PCH from San Francisco to Los Angeles stories from Mestre Bimba's jovial nature abound. Strange, considering that the classic picture we all know is rather serious in nature.

The ocean's waves sing lullabies to our dreams of Central America. You can't find an iota of discontent in this ridiculously happy bunch. Its downright disgusting. You'd think after 4 weeks in each other's bikeshorts (yum?) we'd get a little pricklish.

What is going on here? Mestre says California is the Disney World part of the trip. We hug each other a lot. We exchange stories of life. One Capoeira school after another welcomes all 20 of us, takes us into their home, feeds and showers (lets us clog their toilets). The love on this train embraces us. California is the stage of B2B during which many riders join for a limited period. From Santa Cruz, to Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and San Diego we experience the best that Capoeira has to offer.

Community, openness and engagement.

We love the welcome we receive. But each time we spend 3 to 4 days in a town we get antsy. There is a quiet feeling of disquiet among us. And when we finally get to ride, we are unaccountably happy. My room mate, from my exlife, tells me this is the effect of meditation. What, meditation?

"The continuous motion, the repetitive breathing, natural beauty and good vibes all around you put you in a state of dopamine overload and every day stress underload"

Ah, that kind of meditation. No wonder we are on a high without knowing why. But its not the real B2B. The real B2B starts in Tijuana. We think.

Monday, November 11, 2013

leaving town - part 2

While we camped out happily on the beach the more important main group experienced flat tires, broken chains and didn't call it a day until 2am. They wondered briefly about our absence and probably decided that Pirates on funky modes of transportation can be keeled and Bebums can run into poles all day long. We  tend to agree.

A typical San Francisco morning greets us with fog so thick you can wrap it like a cozy blanket. The wood is still wet, but we also still have pounds of crickets to keep our spirits hopping happily. We think we need to make 50 miles today, because the plan puts us to Pigeon Point on the second day of our journey. We move quickly, pack our overnight gear and head back to our bikes. It's a quick hike and we look forward to getting our gear ready, but not the hike up the sand path.

Everything was gone. Bebum's bike and trailer with everything he owned. The saddle bag I left behind, with my tools, clothes and my wallet (yes, I kept it there. Keel me) was gone. At least Bebum had his cash on him. Because the last time he slept in Golden Gate Park he had 1500 stolen out of his bag. That small nagging voice in my head last night was not loud enough when it whispered that it may be a good idea to sleep next to your bike in a bum infested city.

What was still there was my recumbent bike. Remembering the embarrassment of falling over in front of all the cute Berkeley Brazilian girls, twice, at least, I feel conflicting emotions of empathy and anger. TAKE MY FUCKING BIKE, I may scream inside my head. I guess the thief was smarter and didn't bother with it. Or tried and fell on his ass.

Bebum and I go into beast mode. But following bike tracks, calling the police, canceling credit cards leads to no trace of our stuff. The police is out of its jurisdiction, tells us to call Park Services and proceeds to get his pig cruiser stuck in the sand. We offer to call Park Services. One aims to please. The bike, the gear, the wallet, the green card, the tools remain gone. What is left is an 80 year old hippy on his morning walk who offers to take us poor saps to his house to regroup.

David and his peace shirted hippy wife Sherry let us take showers, feed us, commiserate about the evils of the world and lend us their interwebs.

We can a carton of pears with them. Their 92 year old mom comes over, full of chutzpah and admiration for the two crazies riding to Brazil on their bikes. She brings us home-made bread and tells her daughter to offer us pickles made with ancient Austrian kosher recipe. We don't feel at home at all.

I remember Craigslist Joe and ask for a little love in the General Community section. Nada. Not until a few days later when it was too late. But we do find a cheap whip (Bebum speak for rig, or bike). In this global megalopolis-sized city we buy it around the corner from David's place. He takes us in his pickup to pick the bike up.

Mission accomplished he drops us back to the beach and... finally, we get to ride. We link up with Mestre and group at Halfmoon Bay campground and thank the supreme being of your choice for a journey well started.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

leaving town

This is the biggest day of our lives. We are Masters of Capoeira, Mestre Acordeon's discipulos and followers, nomads and vagabonds. We are about to begin a journey of a life time. Riding our bicycles from San Francisco to Brazil. Our eyes are bright and our purpose is clear. We may be a little bushytailed, too.

More importantly, most of us are Brazilian, born or by choice, so we start the day late. And since this is a huge occasion we had to have a party. And kiss our 300 best friends byebye. Bebum and I don't have this problem/luxury. We don't know a soul here. A few Seattle and Salt Lake City Capoeiristas are there for the event. It sure is nice to see familiar faces in a crowd that usually has a polite WTF expression on their face once they realize I mean to ride to Brazil. Friendly, helpful, understanding, Gallant even. And WTF?!

I get it, most of them have never heard of me before. What, you also think its strange to go on a year long bicycle journey with a bunch of people that have never heard of you before? I told you this is the craziest thing I eeever done! And I ate live, shivering, gooey, slippery shrimp once.

At 4pm Mestre had enough and put his foot to the pedal. Every body fell in line as fast as they could. Raced down the street! It was beautiful to behold. A whole bunch of riders taking over the streets of Berkeley, bikes loaded down like ancient war horses, muscles pumping, sweating profusely with the unaccustomed weight. People hollering and kids screaming at the top of their lungs. Dudes high-fiving each other. Mestres shaking their heads at the apparent insanity of a 70 year old trying to undertake this journey. Girls waving and blowing kisses to the brave riders. It was one of those occasions you want to burn into your memory forever. It was an amazing feeling to be a part of it.

I fell over. Twice (SOME people claim it was four to six times). Yes, while everyone took off, I fell off. Once this side, and once, for good measure, the other. Laurel and Hardy style, you ken? I believe it is pretty much burned into everyone's mind. If not, you can be sure that the documentary film crew has my introduction to the UCA universe pretty well... documented. What can I say? Riding a recumbent bike is a bitch. But there was still Bebum to hold up the honor of the none-UCA B2B crew. Bebum, master of the road more and less traveled, equipped with magical procurement skills and knowledge of life like a tree.

Yeah, that guy. Ran into a pole. With his already torn up knee. You could hear the DING all up and down the street. You try riding while making eyes at pretty girls with cameras.

But at least he made it with the group to the train station. Though that's as far as he got, missing the train because his trailer and bike were too long and unwieldy. A kingdom for a picture of his face taken from the inside of the train as it pulls away. And me? Continuing my wayward ways I went to the wrong train station.

So the B2B Riders are off without Pirata and Bebum. We decide to meet them in Daly City. The train station closest to Highway 1, famous road of fables and fantastic views. The station our apparently outdated excel sheet of a route plan tells us to go to. Nobody else is there. What? This is not how we imagined this amazing journey to start.

We decide to ride to the beach and camp out and end up carrying our bikes and gear down a sand path.

Daly beach from above
There is an amazing hiding spot that we throw most of our stuff into. And hike a mile down to the beach proper, carrying only our tents and sleeping bags.

This is where we hide our bikes.

We get down to the beach and make camp. Wondering at our amazing luck on the first day of our new lives. We can't cook because the wood is too wet. We are alone because we have no idea where everyone else went. We eat crickets. We are happy. If we had hairy feet and were half as tall you'd think us on a quest.

two weeks before B2B starts

I wrote that application letter to Mestre Acordeon about joining his B2B journey to Brazil two weeks ago. Got a quick, not very encouraging (completely on purpose, thx Mestre) yet very nice response. Since I don't have a go or no-go, my plans for purchasing my bike, gear and settling my affairs in Seattle are suspended. Only two weeks to go! How much longer can I wait? How short can the time really be for a person to shut down their life?

The few people that I talk to about this start retelling all the old "Peter's a rolling stone, and gathers no moss" and " You can't keep Pistol tied down" jokes. They thought that guy was buried in the catacombs of a multinational corporation. This makes me happy.

On Monday I mention to Professor Fenix that I have not heard back from Mestre Acordeon since I wrote the letter. We think its weird, but not much we can do about it. The next day Bebum  calls me and says this:"Pirata, pack your bike. Pack your gear. Show up at the B2B starting event in Berkeley. Line up with all the other bikes and then just ride. Unless Mestre says no, you go."

W. T. F.

White people don't do that kinda shit. We don't just show up for a one and a half year long BYCICLE journey unannounced or without knowing that we are welcome to join. We plan. We examine our plan. We change the plan. We make new plans. We have endless conversations about the risks and rewards, about who will be a pain in the ass and why the sky is blue and water wet. We will have every visa lined up years in advance. Check, Austrians don't need visas to any of the B2B countries. We will literally organize the shit out of a completely nutso project like riding your bike from San Francisco to Salvador, Brazil.

But life is like Capoeira. And once Capoeira is your life, paths and opportunities that were previously unavailable light up. It works something like this "Oh, OK, I'll start packing".

The ability to make life changing decisions in split seconds has always been a problem for me and those around me. Going to Japan on a one way ticket with 50 bucks in my pocket? Sounds like a great idea. Moving to the USA with a girl and getting married to her? Excellent, just what I was never looking for. Riding my bike around the world for years? Jackpot!!!

Oh good, I only have 10 days to:
  • Quit job gracefully right before shipping the next version of Windows Phone.
  • Tell parents that you won't be around for the 4 week vacation that they had planned for a year 
  • Get rid of apartment Sell Bronco 
  • Manage Finances for none presence 
  • Shut down a bunch of services
  • Extend my Greencard for extended none presence
  • Triage possessions, dump most of them, keep two bags. What you arrived with 12 years ago.
  • Pack a 200 item deep list for living on a bike for 2 years
Right away things start falling into place. You can call it Celestine, you can call it a coincidence or selective recognition. In any case I start follow ingthe path and find that recumbent bike I wanted to use for the journey on right away. These bikes are not manufactured in the USA. You can usually only find them in Europe. No idea how this one showed up in Seattle to be sold on the day that I needed it. Check.


I tell one friend about my plan and he says "Can I buy your Bronco, I love that ride". Check. My roomie wants to take over my apartment. Check. I decide to ignore my finances, my greencard and close down everything that I can think of. Check.

I have a number of difficult conversations with my parents. In one of them I sing "Reise nach Afrika" - a song about riding away on your bike - to my pops. He chuckles, my mom fumes. I know this will be temporary. It is after all my parents fault that I am who I am, right! Check.

I pack two bags of stuff that I want to keep. That is so much easier than I thought. Still not attached to things - Check LIFE! I ask some of my most supportive friends for help with disposing of the rest. Thank you and Check. I start buying a bunch of gear. REI makes sure you are well equipped. And broke. Still Check.

I start practicing on my recumbent bike. Sorry, no Check! I keep falling on my ass. Honestly, sometimes my idiocy amazes even... me. How will I be able to ride this thing with 40 pounds of stuff strapped to it. Where am I even going to attach that much to it? Its not like there is room for a front rack.

First things first, find a spot for your Berimbao.

10 days later, on a Wednesday like any others, I pack my bitchy recumbent bike and my gear into a rental mini van, wave a wet and lonely good-bye at Seattle and drive to Berkeley. Not knowing where I was going to stay that evening. Not knowing if I was going to be allowed to go on the journey. Not knowing anything but that I wanted to ride bike. I was about to find out if rewards are equal to risk.

Really Peter, Haserl, Pistol, Pirata? This time you actually shot the Pooch.

Monday, October 28, 2013


His glasses are like the bottoms of coke bottles. The old kind. The ones you can only get outside of USA. The ones with real sugar. None-regulated and highly caffeinated.

"Que hace este pendejo en bicicleta en medio de la pinche calle en la noche?" He thinks as he yells at the Gringo to get into his pickup and toss his bike into the back.
Gringo from the central cold steppes of the Ukrainian planes does as told.
"Quieres una cerveza?" the weirdly physically oxymoronic 50something yells.
"Si Compadre, Si" says Cantador, polite international traveler that he is, and grabs the two beers offered.
"Quieres fumar mota?" and offers the joint he just dragged on. Cantador wonders if the dark pinche calle might not be the safer place to be right now. But then again, this is his only way to reach our campsite, another incredible natural wonder along the Bahia de Conception on the Sea of Cortez.

We all start checking the broken down Pickup truck as it approaches. Then Cantador, two beers, one case of beers, a reefer and four delicious fish that Cantador organized for all the B2B Riders emerge. He must have forgotten his wife Diana somewhere along the way. Before we start grilling we need firewood. U-Turn offers his, way too many (all) of us jump into the back of his tailgate-less truck. Maybe looking for U-turn making adventures. Would you rather be Sean Penn or Jennifer Lopez? Billy-Bob Thornton is taken.

U-Turn jabbers a million miles an hour as we rock past the beach and the gringo trailers at the end of it. I know that kind of jibber-jabber. The Shabu does the talking. Embracing the world and everyone in it, for days on end. The paranoia comes later.

perfect pix thx Balao

Stops at a gate to open it, drives on his on personal beach to his trailer. The stars stream their light in perfect silence. Geese and Chicken chill on the beach. Unbeknownst to us hordes of bloodsucker lick their chops at the fresh white meat. We help him unload his truck after he turns on his generator and Christmas lights, offers two joints, drives us to his firewood, yells at us about the pinche corrupt Mexican government, drops us off to our campsite and disappears into the night after he invites us out to his place for whenever.

We need to be friends with U-Turn.

B2B grills with the help of Diana and Cantador. Little do we know how good they are at Seafood. He trains with Mestre Mariano in Santa Barbara and moonlights as Evolutionary Biology and spear fisher. Yes, Cantador is a badass. We all pass out with food coma. Arroz con Leche over Campfire with Cinnamon lastet shorter than U-Turn's supply to build a Palapa.

The next day most of the crew rolls to catch up with Mestra and Mestre after a good Capoeira session on the beach. Mariano, Bebum, Cantador, Diana, Pirata as well as Yola ride out to U-Turn' s beach.

We ride to his RV. Shockingly his coke bottle bottom glasses are gone. What? He doesn't look like he will shoot and feed us to his pigs anymore (not out of malice, but pure sense of economy, you understand).

We want U-turn back.

He lets us have one of the Palapas and goes back to leveling half his ground BY HAND! En el medio pinche dias caloroso. Which he was also doing last night after he dropped us back. Soon he will have the flattest flat on the block.

We set up and Mariano and Cantador head over to pay him a visit and invite him to lunch. They return with a full set of spear fishing gear.

And "Man, his name is Marco  He used to be the Chief of Staff for the President. For 17 years. Then they framed him for murder, threw him in jail and the key away. He just got out last year after 10 years. And bought this place to get away."

The level of crazy in this desert is quite outstanding, even by desert standards.


"And, he said all of that after he invites me into his funky Tarantino like trailer - light streaming through fucked up blinds 'n shit - then tells me to find his spear fishing gear somewhere in one of the closets and proceeds to smoke crack out of a light bulb right in front of me and Cantador while we go through all his shit."

Two hours later
Exhibit 1 for Badass (Cantador)

Life is like Capoeira.

We go back to borrow a grill for the two Halibut etc that Herr Badass acquired in the bay, and come back with a grill and lemons. U-Turn is still leveling. And he won't be eating any time soon. We settle in to sleep after a righteous meal and our host swings by to drop of some mosquito coils. He was taking a break from leveling. But not for long. Two of his friends show up and they go to twork until sunup. At which point the spread is flat. And so is U-Turn's earth. Or so we think.

Despite his tweaking days and yelling ways, he is another example in a long list of voluntary local Mexican hospitality that we are forced to compare with the local gringo kind, which usually goes down like this:

"Hey, that's great you guys. What a journey, to Brazil, huh? Is there anything you all need? Can I help with anything?"
"Hmmm, no we are fine... Well, maybe some eggs?"
"Oh... how many are you thinking?"
"Up to you."
"We juuust came back from the store, well, we have some, but..."
"You guys look like survivors, you'll get on. Yeah, sorry, no can do."

No matter how poor, no matter how deported, no matter the motives of the locals for helping us consistently it seems that Mexican hospitality is rather outstandingly great. The B2B crew has an ongoing discussion about this, trying to figure out if its us, our story, the locals, the gringos or any combination thereof. What do you think?

Finally, U-Turn is apparently not another crazy Mexican dude mad at the govern'mint. We googled him - and the interwebs never lie. His name is Marco Antonio Daccarett Habib. He did get thrown into jail for murder and seems to have been involved in a murky real estate transaction back in the day with government officials. Far be it from us to know who is guilty of what, but in prison everyone is innocent. You would be too.

Should we be glad we had the spear in our campsite over night? Hindsight is like wearing glasses the size of coke bottle bottoms. The old kind.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

application letters are not easy

- Shifted -

Today is Monday after Mestre Curisco's event, one month to the start of the B2B journey. I need to write this application letter to Mestre. I am about to faint. I have written a few application letters. To universities. To Microsoft and Google. To girls. My first one to a construction company in Vienna. I once wrote an open letter to the Austrian Foreign Ministress asking her if she is crazy for sending Austrian Elite Mountain Troops to train the Chinese military to better hunt down Tibetan refugees, and maybe defend all the water they are about to take from India.

But I am completely intimidated thinking about what to write to this Capoeira legend so that I may join this journey that I have been dreaming of unknowingly. I start and stop many times. I call my friends, the few that I am willing to tell about this insane idea. I listen to Reise nach Afrika over and over. This is too  hard, my mind wanders and I start thinking about what I need to do to get on this train. And suddenly the letter seems easier

  • Quit job gracefully right before shipping (Microsoft speak for finishing a product).
  • Tell parents that you won't be around for the 4 week vacation that they had planned for a year 
  • Get rid of apartment
  • Sell Bronco 
  • Manage Finances for none presence 
  • Shut down a bunch of services 
  • Extend my Greencard for a one year trip - I now LOL at this 
  • Triage possessions, dump most of them, keep two bags. What you arrived with 12 years ago. 
  • Pack a 200 item deep list for living on a bike for 2 years

Wait. I can't do any of these things. Mestre said "if you would like to join for a little bit". But in my heart I know that if I am going for 2 weeks, I am going all the way. My head tells me I am totally loco. Hah! So how do I do all that shutting down of life and packing for a trip without really knowing if its for two weeks or two years? Let's hope that Mestre will answer me one way or another pretty quickly, so I start again.
I talk to my roomie. He tells me that the shitstorm I am about to enter reminds him of Basketball Playoffs. Sellers is always so helpful. But this does help me because "One game at a time!" makes me stay in the moment.

I draft many versions. I find help. I pray to all your supreme beings of choice. And I hit send after a sleepless night. Mestre answers fairly immediately - one hour later I am surprised to find his reply. He is not saying no. I bounce around the room for a minute. That's so awesome. I can't believe my luck!

Hold on. He is not saying yes either. This will remain so.

Ask me why Capoeira is like life.

Friday, October 25, 2013

i saw a Mestre cry today

I saw a Mestre cry today. A man who has taken life’s full measure and came away humbled yet spirited. Mestre Acorden, more symbol than man, who tries desperately to remove himself from people’s greedy eyes and the emotions they attach to their idea of him. So desperate that he will sit his weary ass on a bike for one year. To get away. To find himself once more. And to connect to a past he may have lost long ago.

Mestre Acordeon shed tears of regret and missed opportunities, reading "The Making of a Mestre" to a bunch of kids. We can not adequately describe what it feels like to witness this openness of spirit, this living with your arms stretched to the horizons. Sucking the marrow out of each moment given. Each moment of truth, of sadness and happiness, of failure and accomplishment.

What was this story? This power? This allegory and evaluation of one person’s life? What moved Mestre so much that he spent an evening exercising his human right and duty to simply feel? No matter what the circumstance. No matter who the audience. No matter how much water had flown under the bridge of Mestre Bimba’s life and death.

Do we attach undue greatness to a moment of public introspection because to us Capoeiristas it is as if the President spoke of meeting the Pope - and regretted not having washed his feet towards the end? Maybe the greatness of the moment is a natural result of the greatness of the man living that moment? Or is there really nothing special about this at all - just an old man considering the pages of his book?

For us B2B Riders many questions remain in our overcycled and dehydrated minds about this moment. Questions that Capoeiristas and others may be able to answer one day in a far away and hopefully wiser future. For our pasts recede from all of us.

The Making of a Mestre” pg. 131 in Mestre Acordeon’s book “Capoeira, a Brazilian Art Form”.

Monday, October 21, 2013

one month before B2B starts

Mestre Curisco's Batizado is on in Seattle. Grupo Candeias led by Professor Fenix participates. It's wonderful to see the cooperation between different Capoeira schools. M. Curisco has been a strong supporter of Professor Fenix for a long time. From my first days training and at my first Batizado I noticed this incredibly hard working, funny and all-around good human. I also noticed him doing headspins on people's back after a rastera (pulling your legs out from under you). Needless to say that even though he was slowed down somewhat by a nail that he wanted to remove from a piece of wood with his foot he was still faster than everyone else, other than Mestre Acordeon of course.

We are at the old Rainier Brewery every day all day, training, stretching, BBQing and learning about Capoeira. (fact: 99% of Capoeiristas stop trainiqng before they reach 5 years). Its the usual heady mix of martial art, rodas that last for hours, excitement and learning. Always learning. The remodel of the Brewery is originally Papagaio's idea. He convinced the powers that be that it would be better to put a bunch of artists, artisans and straight up hippies in the place instead of condos. And a capoeira school. The structure is a labyrinth of color, box like structures, amazing views of the Seattle skyline and of the harbor cranes marching into the foggy distance. Or did they escape from Starwars?

    old Rainier Brewery and Seattle


Eric Pixador's work at Seattle Males Capoeira

The days start early. Stretching out the kinks from the previous day like one day old fresh laundry. Everyone is in tight white pants and shirts. OII BELEZA!!! You can take the Capoeira out of Brazil, but you can't take the Brazilian tight white pants out of Capoeira. Flat stomachs bend backwards to open up for ponchos. Long, sinewy legs spend time suspended in splits. European closet-sized shoulders push their owners up and down, our slow minds think of our own feeble bodies and that pure will alone suspends them. But if you spend half your days doing handstands and one handed, two handed, no handed variations thereof your shoulders would be fairly door frame busting as well. After the stretches we start on kicks, 50 legs knife-cutting the dense, hot air in precise choreography, at least in the first two rows. Sequences, take-downs, escapes, backflips and triple Axels follow.

Mestre Mindinho's workshop presents Capoeira fighting techniques in a theoretical framework that even my slow academia-overloaded brain can digest. The plateau I have been stuck on for six month dissolves in my mind when he tells us to watch the opponent instead of thinking of our next move. This is so important for my self confidence in the roda. I stop thinking about my game and just play - only what Professor Fenix has been telling us for two years. Sometimes you don't hear what your parents tell you. I also get smacked in the face a bunch of times. Parabens!

Then Mestre Acordeon makes an appearance and I take my first workshop with the man. He seems exhausted but keeps on moving. Only after having gone through preparing for the B2B trip does it become clear how important M. Curisco's event must be to M. Acordeon, because Mestre's preparations must have been 100 times as difficult as mine. Yet he still came out. Life was KA-RAZY and Karate would not have helped! After the workshop M. Acordeon gives a little talk about his upcoming trip. And he drops a bombshell that may have been meant for my ears only "If you want to join us for some time, just come along".

- Shift -

Saturday, October 19, 2013

six month before B2B

Six months ago my Capoeira was plateauing. What does that mean? It means blood, tears and sweat without any discernible improvement in skill or knowledge. You keep training, you keep playing in the Roda and you keep making the same mistakes, the same foolish seeming moves and you hear the same instructions from your teacher (Arms up Pirata!!!), over and over again. This is not like computer programming or Basketball, where any skill that you acquire will translate to improved performance pretty much immediately. It may be part of the reason why Capoeira drops 99.99% of all people who start. That, and the Cirque du Soleil moves, the music and the weird sexy language that you pretty much have to learn to function in this world. Moving beyond a plateau gives you an incredible sense of accomplishment. As with all things life, the longer, harder and flatter the plateau is, the more rewarding it will be to surmount it. However, if you are not used to this, or willing to put up with it, your clock is already ticking at your first Batizado.

Around this time I found out that the letter that Bebum had written Mestre Acordeon was well received and that he was definitely joining the trip to Brazil. It sounded amazing, a little bit like your distant cousin winning the lottery. Just distant enough for you not to get a single penny of the winnings. There is another Capoeirista in Utah, Beleza, who is very important to my Capoeira because he is the one who introduced me to it. I took my first intro class with Volta Miuda because I was work-visiting Salt Lake City, staying with Beleza instead of the local Courtyard Marriott (Oh, I hope you didn't think that Microsofties stay at the real Marriott, did you?). From this intro session I took with me blisters on both my feet because I jinga'd for an hour on carpet in the corner of Mestre Jamaica's old studio - and a vague sense of being cheated out of something for the past 20 years of my life.

The first thing I did back in Seattle was go online and look for Capoeira in Seattle, found Grupo Candeias and started training that week. A couple of months later I thought I should call Beleza and ask him to check with Mestre Jamaica to suggest a group I should train with. He told me I should definitely train with Professor Fenix. Capoeira is like that. I met Beleza in Maui on the back-end of my around the world trip in 2008, bumming around the island in a Ford Van with my Kite-surfing brother, while he was on a 420 sabbatical from University. The many little coinkidinks that life threw my way to get me into Capoeira are slightly startling. But wait till you hear the road to join Mestre Accordeon's B2B journey laid open to me in rather celestine ways. I swear none of this is based on superior selective recognition ability.

This is where it starts. Beleza knew my traveling soul and when we randomly chatted about B2B he suggested that I write a letter to Mestre, just like Bebum. I thought he was out of his mind, since I had no intention at all to embarrass myself or Professor Fenix with that sort of over-confident and silly action. He may have agreed since he didn't raise the topic again.

The next time I would see Bebum and Beleza would be at Mestre Jamaika's Formatura in Los Angeles at Mestre Amen's event. All of Volta Miuda came to LA in Bebum's travelling capoeira circus RV. I also met Mestre Acordeon for the first time there. I took this picture there. Yes, it was a big event, lots of Mestres. I thought it was huge. Until I went to a UCA event.

Still not thinking that I could ever partake in the adventure I didn't even ask him about it. And thought "Well, at least I shook his hand one time. That dude isn't coming back! He's just gonna go ride his bike."

Thursday, October 17, 2013

one year before B2B

One year ago I barely grasped that Capoeira might not be just another martial art. Mestres keep talking about how Capoeira is like life, life is like Capoeira. But when I tried to esquiva (a dodging maneuver in Capoeira) my next deliverable at work my boss just laughed at me. Right now I try to remember every day that I know nothing. Which is probably a good starting point for any human endeavor. 

Saying that Capoeira is like life and that life is like Capoeira draws two kinds of responses from an audience. Head-nodding agreement and blank stares of incomprehension. Now I know that this will happen most times when Capoeiristas and none-Capoeiristas discuss Capoeira. But The Now is not the topic of this topic Herr Tolle. Instead you should know that back then I did not think that I could just join a journey such as Mestre Acordeon's. You would be justified to expect Mestres, Contra Mestres and players with their books written full of stories about life and Capoeira to be polishing their bikes, packing their survival gear and reading up on how exactly Montezuma's revenge affects the digestive tract of white people.

So I looked on in envy how Mestre and his group started to prepare. I even knew one Capoeirista out of Salt Lake City who was going to try go on the trip. Bebum, who trains with Mestre Jamaika at Volta Miuda. Every day I trained my butt off with Professor Fenix's Grupo Candeias in Seattle's International district to become better in all aspects of this complex art form. Every day I went to a job that had become stale, not because the work or the group I was in was bad, but rather because I seem to require constant fresh and interesting input. Most jobs don't provide that. Once you figure them out, you go on auto pilot.

I had moved to Seattle on another Software Localization Contract, my 5th,  in 2009 right after a six month trip around the world. I was hoping to go to Marocco for at least as long afterwards. I thought I was going stay 8-12 month before going to Africa but then the pesky world economic crises made me face reality for once and I decided to take the full time job that Microsoft generously offered while Paulson called the Hammer down on 99% of us. You want to know about the fulltime job? Mom was happy. I was feeling old. I did love the challenges of working in that Type A personality zoo called Microsoft. And settling into Seattle was like traveling to a new country for me because growing roots was definitely a new experience.

Seattle grew on me like moss on a rock. Tim Robbins, a native, provides ecclectic if slightly whack imagery if you'd like some nice descriptions of that rather moist part of the world. I liked it. It seemed, for a short while at least, that it could break a certain rythm that constant moving had established. After I went to Australia from my homeland Austria in 1995 to attend University for three years I flew to Tokyo on a one-way ticket with 50 bucks in my pocket and ended up staying for two years. Met a girl there and moved to Hawaii in 2000 before finally arriving on the West Coast and living all up and down that amazing part of the world. I had been a waiter, a barrista, a night club party organizer, a bar tender, a florist, an event planner, a stage builder, an orchid small business owner, a translator, a computer localization tester, engineer, project manager and finally in my last job a Release Manager on the Windows Phone Team. Only in America is it possible to move from working a 4AM to noon minimum wage job in the Downtown Los Angeles wholesale flower market to working a badass job in one of the most successful companies in the world. The USA, like most countries, has many good and bad sides. But it is uniquely great in that sense. 

Yet still, it is not enough. I really wanted to go ride bike.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

when leaving your cushy job at Microsoft

... you usually write a farewell note to all the people who contributed to your success or misfortune, have become friends and the ones whose face you just need to rub in the dirt one more time. Mine looked like this: 

Dear Mircrosofties,

My time with you has come to an unexpected and early end. Its not you. Its me. I have received an offer that I cant refuse. No, I am not going to the competition. I am going to ride my bike to Brazil. Check Mestre Acordeon's journey and project out at and also on FB B2B Joga Capoeira - A  Project of Mestre Accordeon. Riding with this legendary Capoeira Master is like hanging out with Bruce Lee for a year. Please donate a little something to the good cause that drives this project.

<leaving out the thanking and face-rubbing>

 I wrote this email a little late by MS standards. 5 days after I was supposed to return from a 4 week vacation. Circumstances to be explored later prevented better actions. Nevertheless it seems that the vibe in the office about me leaving my job this way is rather good, if a little envious of my utter disregard of financial and career consequence. Both rather not so admirable motivators for any decision making process. But maybe its just a clear manifestation of the common midlife crises, my Mom's preferred interpretation of these events.

So, how did it happen? How did I toss my job, my phat apartment right on Puget Sound and the life I built in Seattle. A city that I called my favorite in the world.