Daily Post: Nut Shell


Mark Coulbourn

Rockport, MA 01966

Tel: (978) 546-2078

Email: <baka8@verizon.net><mcoulbourn1@yahoo.com>

 

 

Born in the US in the early 60s, I have been fortunate enough to travel the world, make more than a few mistakes, zip around and repeat the same mistakes. All the while, I have come to really appreciate books, reading and writing, travelling and more. I have come to see how near, clear, and dear they are and have always been to me over the past fifty years. The collections of letters, books, and words have been much more than actors on a stage or minstrels in a magical mystery tour. Words have been my escape and for more than half a century. Books, reading and writing have served as a launch pad to a “larger meaningful literary purpose”. My personal Go to adventures and classics have always been: Gulliver’s Travels, Marco Polo and Moby Dick, Billy Budd oh and Ana Karenina:  books that have kept me going from middle school till today. Since I was a kid, I have always practiced the cart before the horse approach (also known as ass backwards approach). Before I was ten, I dove head first into life and kicked it off by studying Farsi (Persian), and its different set of words which I came to appreciate for the next two years while living in Iran. By the end of elementary school, I gingerly squeezed out of my stylish skinny jeans of the early 70s and leaped from the scourge of the humpty back camel (which was a Herculean task in itself or a pre-pubescent redhead). Life in Iran was hardly the exotic cultural awakening that Mom and Dad had built it up to be. To this day, I vividly remember my parents practically pleading with my little sister, me and my brother to go to Iran (as though we had any real choice in the matter), “Think of it,” they said, “as a long family vacation, you’ll love it”. I guess I had also been reading a little too much about the Silk Road, Hannibal, the Great Wall and all that stuff (Don’t blame me, I was a just a kid). Come to think of it, I never really did suffer from a lack of subject matter for social studies projects, writing topics and even current fodder for tales and travails of a Life of making the most of my bee bee gun, or checking out our Iranian neighbor’s daughter (when I thought nobody was looking). But, I shouldn’t disregard all of the sincerity. I was also going over to the Middle East as a mini -emissary of heir Richard. Richard Nixon. So, when the Iranian adventure was said-and- done you can imagine how delighted I was to hop down from the hairy beast (the camel) and on to an Italian Vespa, to zip to wherever the damn thing would take me. My raging hormones thanked the gods too. Iran, which you can probably imagine, wasn’t comfy for a tall redhead whose testicles had dropped like a lead balloon and felt all eyes were on him as he wandered through the streets and bazaars of Tehran, with attempted but failed discretion. By the time I had managed to earn my second merit badge in the Boy Scouts of America, I had the “privilege” of “misplacing myself” somewhere around the Caspian Sea, and later at the GUM department store in Moscow. I somehow sensed a theme of getting very lost among total strangers. That theme has stayed with me till this day, and I am now into my fifties. It is also curious that of all the stories, all the colorful memories, that are recalled and retold, one that remains so vividly in my mind is of when my brother and I took my bee bee gun and shot out a string of lights that a neighbor had strung over his store front. Surely, it was a vandalous and childish act committed by two fools, and I’m sure it pissed the guy off to no end, but why should this be one of my brightest memories? Why not the trip to Persepolis where Alexander the Great, the former King of Macedonia rests? What about the family of American blondes learning to ski in northern Tehran? But no, my strongest memory has to be about a string of lights being shot out with a bee bee gun. How strange that I feel obliged to even mention it in the same breath as the Macedonian hero.

I can also see how the antics and mischief of my brother and me must have driven my Mom and Dad a bit batty. A few months later, this aspiring chemist (me) decided to discover at what temperature iron would burn or melt in a field of dried hay–a stunt, which this former aspiring young chemist admits deserved a good spanking. But, despite all of the tricks and trouble that a slippery redhead could manage, I think I came out smelling like a rose. Well, maybe not quite as nice as that. I suppose that is due to my “good” Catholic school education, a dedicated Language Arts teacher and a few years at a New England boys’ school.

By High School I had carved out my own “literary niche,” a special place to retire to, whether I liked it or not. High School in Naples, Italy was an experience in itself, to say the least. To no great surprise, I sometimes failed to take advantage of what the Mediterranean’s richest cities had to offer. For example: rather than enriching my sole by taking in the beauty, bounty and history of Pompei, I chose to skip school and go to pizza-by-the meter (which I paid dearly for with a month in detention!).  But, after a few years of living the Neapolitan experience, which included everything from being the worst on a local futbol team (which I really got a kick out of) to joining in on outrageous neighborhood New Year’s fireworks celebrations, some good seems to have rubbed off somewhere. From my time in Naples and then onto Moscow for a couple of years, along with several months in Germany, I was “good” to go. My years in Russia were life-altering, to say the very least. Just one day spent in a country as backwards as the USSR was mind blowing, so imagine being there for two years. My stay there was an experience of a lifetime, whether it was learning to play chess (shaxmati) from a soviet worker who saw me, (this 19-yr. old college kid), as a spy and intelligence operative. Life in Moscow was sort of different— as an American intelligence operative, ha!  Or going cross country skiing with my best friend and CIA operative or on a date with a Soviet lady friend (whose name shall remain anonymous for her own safety, but even more so because I can’t remember it). And there were outrageous outings with  the US Ambassador, which often ended up doling out state secrets from a vodka bottle .

Next, after a stint in Moscow and several months at the Ludwig Maximililian Universitat and the University of Maryland in Munich, Germany; and time at Moscow’s Patrice L’Mumba University,  it was off to Japan, which coincided with the cherry blossom season. For the next eight years, the Orient and a personal gem captured my attention. Writing, travel writing to be specific, was clearly rearing its head. But no matter how much I wanted to stay in Japan, I understood that I had to get back to the states to get a BA, which is now next to worthless. After all, BAs in Russian and Russian Studies are hardly worth a plumb nickle these days. A few years later, after receiving my BA and working part time as a journalist, I finally landed a job at the Japan Times (Japan’s leading English language newspapers) in Tokyo. During this time, I was able to get to places like Nepal and Thailand and more than a couple of tropical islands with the help of a few buddies, who are still spread out across the globe. On one of my trips back west I got an eye full of Korea; China, the Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan, where I snacked on monkey brains and a bunch of stuff, most of which I can’t even pronounce. When Dennis and I weren’t trying to see what culinary mischief we could manage; we were off on some trek or another, trying to steer clear of some of the more unique delicacies short of the Singapore, Thai, and Taiwanese forbidden delicacies like rhino horn.  After nearly eight years in Asia, I was sort of intent on getting back stateside for some of Mom’s home cooking and putting down roots of my own. It wasn’t long after that when I finally found my feet back on American soil.  A couple of years later, I had picked up a Masters degree in Middle school Education, but I found I still hadn’t shaken the wanderlust out of my system. Feeling kind of antsy, I headed off to Mexico, for what turned out to be a couple of years as a Professor in a few universities. In my spare time, I backpacked around Mexico, exploring the hidden delights that most tourists never get a chance to see. My favorite adventures included learning white-water rafting as a second language, which was especially interesting since it was also my introduction to Spanish, skirting the infamous Col. Marcos’ Polizia and his drug lords. It wasn’t long after that I met some of the Mayan Greats who originally brought Jai-Jalai to North America. It wasn’t long till; the “misplacement” of me was challenged once again. I don’t understand how I got into the predicament, but I had to find my way from Guatemala and Chiapas, which I had somehow trespassed and returned to on horseback.  The kicker is that I am dying to get back and do it again. That is me in a nutshell.

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3 comments

  1. Samuel Flores · · Reply

    Very interesting life!

    1. Re the interest: Rumor has it. It’s been real, but not finished; And…I am sure you all have had you’re hands just as full out there in there in never never land.

    2. Why, thank you Senyor Sam (where ever you are these days). Well, come to think of it, thank you from where ever you are any days? By the way, check out the other posts: more nutty than than the one before.

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