Monday, December 04, 2006

Annapolis, MD

0 nm
Wind: W 20 to 30 knots, gusting to 35

It’s been one of the craziest days so far on the trip—one of those days I would never believe if it hadn’t have happened. We stayed in Annapolis to see our friend Terrapin from the Appalachian Trail (hi, Terrapin!) and to take showers. The showers were fantastic. Beyond anything I can even describe. To have hot water flowing over your body, after so long without. I can’t even begin to describe. But that was just the beginning of the day.

After we had our showers, we were picked up by Terrapin and his girlfriend Sara, who took us to the outdoor store, to the grocery store, and the mall, for an all-around American shopping experience. It was a little shocking to us, who haven’t been in civilization for a while. The best part was hearing Bob Dylan’s new song on the radio, though. The times they are a-changin’.

So we ended up at this classic Annapolis haunt, where George Washington used to booze it up in the attic with the masons. Terrapin and Sara took us there to try their raw oyster shooters, a Maryland classic. Raw oysters in cocktail sauce and Tabasco. Delicious. Together, we all ate about a dozen and a half of them, along with assorted other appetizers. Which was when the fun started.

Terrapin and Sara left, to go back to Baltimore, where they’re really from, and we began to wander the streets of Annapolis in search of entertainment. We had entered a lobster-weight guessing competition at the restaurant, in which we would win an entire giant lobster if we guessed its weight correctly. Karl was convinced he had the weight correctly, so we had to wait until the halftime of the Monday Night Football game to win.

So we met Setarcos, our code name for a 71-year-old gentleman who taught us a great deal about life. At first he tried to give us ten dollars, thinking that we were bums wandering the streets of Annapolis. When we tried to explain to him what we were up to, at first he applauded our adventures, and then began to ask us why, what we were doing, what our purpose was, and if we had always wanted to do what we were doing. All valid questions, but ones which I wasn’t sure I wanted to discuss with a stranger on the streets of Annapolis. We tried to explain that our only purpose was just to live and love, but that wasn’t good enough for him. He wanted us to have some farther self-sacrificial purpose, as evidently he had spent his life doing psychotherapy for autistic patients. He argued with us about our knowledge of astronomy, existentialism, history, and philosophy, and as much as I tried to explain to him that I had done reading in these fields and planned to do more, but that I wanted to experience life in addition to reading about others’ experiences of it, he could not be convinced. Karl eventually forced his ten dollars back on him, at which point he almost went to take a swing at Karl.

The whole episode left us both a little shaken. The guy was basically crazy, or at least unable to listen to his own advice. Yes, we need to have purpose in our journey, and yes, we need to learn from others’ experiences. But both of us are perfectly content, or as perfectly content as we can be at our age and with our experience. I know Karl has taught me more than I can even begin to explain about how to be happy. But this guy was saying that happiness wasn’t enough, that we needed to grind our own telescopes out of glass in order to learn the secrets of the universe. Maybe we do need more discipline. Maybe we do need to study other people’s work more. Maybe we do need to think more about the purpose of our journey. And meeting him may have made us rethink all these things. But to have your adventure condemned by a stranger on the street? Is pretty gut-wrenching, even to the most confident adventurer.

So we went back to the restaurant and almost won the lobster, which the winner gave to us anyway, since we were the only people left in the place. Karl’s guess was the closest, but he went over. We chowed down on the lobster, sharing it with the bartender, a supremely drunk guy who showed up, and the little Latino busboy. It was a six-pound thirteen-ounce lobster (Karl’s guess was 7 lbs. 2) and we ate that sucker like there was no tomorrow. Free lobster is not a bad way to end the night.

Still, though. Setarcos haunts us. I know that he was brought into our lives for a reason, and that we do have something to learn from him, despite his utter lack of ability to see us as we are.

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