I’m going to have to see if my old passport still exists deep in some storage space. That’s probably the only way I’d be able to work out exactly when I was in Silvia, Columbia. I would have been about 23 years old. Oddly enough, it was when I got over it about my parents. It seems to me that most of us have a period starting in our teens when it’s all our parents fault. It’s never clear what is meant by “all”, but there is no question who is responsible for it. They did it and that’s all there is to it. There seem to be some people who never really get over that, but most of us seem to reconsider, more or less, by the time we his our mid twenties. For me it happened as the result of a comment by a friend while sitting on a hillside in Silvia, Columbia.
I have no pictures from those days. I’m sad about that. Silvia was just a stop on a long journey I took back then. It was full of excitement, and strangeness, and ups and downs. The visuals from the journey would likely be spectacular, but by now they’d be faded and have that washed out look of so many ageing memories.
I’ve got stories. Lots of them. We all do of course, but my stories are the one’s I know best. And my stories are among the one’s that don’t get told, or haven’t gotten told much. I’m not much of a story teller. But my son is embarking on his own travels. He’s heading to Columbia as one of his first stops and has asked for some thoughts. I’m sure nothing I remember is at all like it was 40 years ago, but I’ll see what I can come up with. Here’s one.
I was going to Silvia to get together with the woman who eventually became Ben’s mum. The road to get there was filled with adventures and near misses, but that’s not what this is about. When I got there she wasn’t there. Mandy had been travelling with Barry and they were off scoring a pound of weed in some other part of Columbia. But the hacienda, the big sprawling house on the hillside above the river, was full of people and I was welcome. We played guitars, we talked, we smoked weed. And I got to know a few more travellers while waiting for Mandy to arrive.
Barry and Mandy no longer liked each other very much. They have a story that preceeds this one. I’m part of that story too, but that’s not what this post is about either. Maybe it’ll get told one of these days. As I remember these things I’m struck by how good some of those stories are – the ones I’m not telling right now. I wonder if everyone’s stories are great. That being young and doing things is by its very nature exciting and memorable. Or maybe the stories I’ve got are just good stories. Maybe I should be telling them, because otherwise what good are they.
When Barry and Mandy got back we all stayed in the big hacienda for a week or two. One day all of us went out on a hunt. In those days Silvia was a tiny villiage in the hills. Mostly the area seemed to be used for cattle grazing and that, along with the climate and the proximity to the river, was just perfect for gold tops. Gold tops. Magic mushrooms. We went out among the fields looking for hours with virtually no luck. But when we were about to give up and go home we found the mother-lode. A field that was speckled with perfect large gold tops everywhere we looked. We filled bags and pockets and anything we could find and took them all back to our hacienda.
For the next few days we had gold top omelettes. Gold top sandwiches. Gold top and honey snacks. We had a ball. We’d sit on the hillside and watch the water flow. We’d talk and not talk. We’d watch how the hours passed or didn’t pass. I don’t remember much.
What I do remember, and the point of this whole post, is a conversation I had with Barry. Sitting on a hillside, being stoned and everything that went with that, I somehow got to complaining about my parents. It was their fault. I was 23 years old, and it was their fault. It was South America and it was their fault. I was doing the late teen early twenties rejection of my parents, and I’m certain it was phenomenally tedious to listen to.
Then Barry said one thing that I remember to this day. “I don’t know what you’re complaining about. You seem to have turned out Ok.” Then he walked away. I suppose it was a conversation finisher. A way to say “enough already”. But somehow, in a second, I got it. I saw what I’d been doing and stopped doing it. From one moment to the next. I think I switched from complaining about my parents to accepting them. After that I think I painted over my childhood and took the position that it’d been great and my parents, no matter what, were great. It was no more realistic that I’d been when I was complaining about them, but it felt a whole lot better. There was a time and a place to have that conversation and that 3 seconds with Barry was my time. I remember it well.
The story goes on. There’s the bit about what happened to that pound of dope. Because we were in Columbia there had to be something about Cocaine, but I won’t tell that either. Or even how I got to Silvia from Cali (this was before the drug cartels but obviously not before drugs).
All I wanted to say was that I never had to forgive my parents at all. After that conversation I just got over it.
This would have been the river. There was only one.