Friday, March 8, 2013

The unseemly death of a bee.

It’s the story of a bee who we’ll call by the bug name: Maya. Maya was born one January morning and she was quite pretty. The main problem with being born in a hive is that if you’re not the Queen, you’re one of the workers. Maya’s blood wasn’t blue and this lack of lineage meant immediate recruitment on the selfless hordes caring for the community.

Maya doesn’t have free weekends, she’s on duty every holiday and doesn’t have the incentive of a cold one at the end of her shift. The hive has no mall or internet service, so Maya’s social, or virtual, or real life for that matter, is non-existent. Maya has no dreams for the future and doesn’t drown her sorrows, because there are no sorrows or corner bars at the hive. One day, Maya goes out on reconnaissance, to pollinate or whatever bee chores were assigned to her that morning, and in the lapse of a microsecond she dies, splattered across my helmet.

Quoting Boris Yellnikoff: “ In the vast, black, unspeakably violent and indifferent Universe, and through an astronomicalconcatenation of circumstances, our paths cross” Maya’s and mine… and she dies. I wipe the helmet’s face-shield with my glove, which is something you should never do because the smeared parts are worse than the initial bit of dead bee than would eventually dry up and fall off.

Boris Yellnikoff in "Whatever works"

Maya never anticipated her death, she probably wasn’t even conscious of her very existence. I’m different. As a human biker I anticipate my death innumerable times when I’m on the road. Had I failed to do this, I would already be experiencing the great unknown, propelled onto that journey by a Peruvian truck, my mortal limbs scattered on some hilly road.
Anticipating a cow's moves.

We humans have the capacity to anticipate things in a matter of seconds, which comes in handy in extreme circumstances such as riding along certain South American roads. This guarantees we’ll be able to tell our grandchildren about our little battles someday (it bothers me not to have kids because that basically means I’ll never have grandkids).

Anticipating stuff has saved me countless times, and that’s the good side of that heartless bitch. I cuss her because she deserves it, considering Ms. Anticipation mostly ruins it for real life. Reality is never as intense as the anticipation of it. When you’re planning to go away on vacation, what’s the best part? The planning, that last day at work when you’re super excited about all the wonderful things you’ll do when you’re away those few days. The anticipation of something good to come generates big expectations that are rarely fulfilled. Reality is always duller than our imagination. Even when it comes to anticipating suffering, or pain, the idea of it is a thousand times more intense than the real thing when it arrives, and in turn, way more interesting.

Let’s take the anticipation of death. You always imagine yourself dying a dignified and noble death, even heroic. Poor little Maya died a sudden death at the hands of a passing biker, I can’t imagine a more unseemly death than hers. She’s just an insect, you’d say, not a big deal. But what about those who fall victim to stupid accidents everyday: The lady who dies of gas intoxication because she didn’t turn off the pilot; the man who crashes while taking his kids camping because some idiot decided to pass a truck on an uneven hill; the guy who dies of a heart attack because he decided to take the stairs; the kid who got too close to the edge of the pool; the aneurism that was caused by a paid orgasm (that one’s not so bad, actually); the douche who electrocuted himself while jerking off at the shower because he placed the ‘romantic lamp’ too close to the border; the girl who was crushed by a stampede of bride-to-be’s at a Bridal gown super sale; the guy who dies of a Viagra overdose.
Most people die in the most absurd ways, but no one anticipates the joke. This is why “to be realistic” is the worst advice anyone can give, because reality is boring enough as it is. I say, let people have their fantasies.

I arrived at Nazca, Peru a few days ago, excited to know that I’d be able to see the famous lines of which no one has been able to figure out origin or reason. For years my idea of Nazca was that of a magical place and the anticipation of finally seeing it created huge expectations. When I finally got to see the lines, from the air, that heartless bitch (anticipation) had its way with me.

Flying over the Nazca lines.
The plane took off and when we were flying over the lines they looked miniscule. The plane has to be really high up, something about license regulations, and even though the drawings are truly enormous, at such altitude they become tiny. This makes me think that the whole theory of them being made to be seen from space is bullshit. They are spectacular, it just wasn’t spectacular to see them that day. They were too far away.

I didn’t snap a single picture of the drawings, because I don’t like to take pictures from a great distance. In my opinion, photographs should be taken at close range. I’ve always known it, and it’s always been a challenge because I feel like an intruder every time I get too close to a stranger that I want to capture with my camera. I still try, though.

I was in Lima when I had the opportunity to not only meet but also see a truly professional at work: Rodrigo Abd, a photographer from the Associated Press.

Rodrigo Abd
Rodrigo gets close to people, takes their picture and smiles. I was with him for a full day while he worked and didn’t see anyone complain. There’s this aura of friendliness around him. But he says that it doesn’t always work and there have been occasions when it’s taken him time to be accepted, he’s had to spend a few days living among a certain community, making friends, before he can take the first photo. But he succeeds and he has a true eye that captures the story he wants to tell. Rodrigo says he’s a journalist first and a photographer second. He doesn’t think he has a good eye, and says that’s why he takes thousands of photos not knowing what he’s doing. No matter what he says, the results are astonishing.

He has the balls to enter war zones and capture the tragedies of armed conflicts in a unique way. And that’s not even what really moves him. What he loves is to follow a story that’s never been told, infiltrate an environment that’s never seen a photographer up-close. That’s the thing: up-close. The only pictures taken with a telephoto lens I respect is of birds in their natural habitat, quite tedious. You obviously need to be sensitive to human idiosyncrasies to get close to people without getting slapped in the face. Rodrigo knows how to do it, he’s almost a psychologist, and he has my deep admiration for that… and for his aesthetic eye.

Most people seem to think the lines of Nazca were drawn to be seen from afar. “They’re really big drawings and you can’t understand them when looking from the ground. So, the obvious explanation is they were made to be seen from the air”. The more I think about this, the more I think is a stupid conclusion. The Incas were definite megalomaniacs, I’m sure the pre-Incas were as well. Those drawings may owe their size to the sheer desire of making something gigantic, something that would express the grandiosity of their civilization. The European idea that the Incas had help from aliens to create the lines makes some sense. Especially those that are very geometric and suggest “landing strips”, and another one known by the very unimaginative name “the Astronaut”

The "Astronaut"
I’d rather think that the size of these drawings has nothing to do with E.T. and his pals at the phone company, and more to do with this people’s unprecedented artistic capacity. They made them so big so as to be near their creation. To experience it up-close, not from afar.

Poor little Maya died when we crossed paths because she couldn’t anticipate the crash. Mainly because she was a little insect and lacked a somewhat developed brain like that of a human. She got too close to my helmet and that was the end of her. I, on the other hand, can use my capacity of anticipation to understand the value of proximity. As a thinking human being, I want to imagine that the lines of Nazca were built by artists that, like me, thought proximity was something important. I say this, of course, because I’m a true egocentric and I want to think that my opinions are the most relevant and appropriate. But aren’t they?

Three graves in the desert, near Nazca

Time to fly

A view from the aircraft

With Rodrigo

Leaving Nazca behind and going to Cuzco

Diego, a shepherd on the way to Cuzco

Rodrigo gets wet to get a good photo

Arriving at Nazca

Close, always close

Arriving at Cuzco, saluting the Andes


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