Are the stone walls only used to mark roads?

Location: Santa Elena, Yucatan

No, they were also used to mark property lines, a practice that dates back in the Yucatan at least 500 years. This was the ancient way of saying, “This is my property. Do not cross without my permission.”

We have quite a few of these on our property. The walls have been removed in some of the flat fertile areas, but have remained for decades or centuries it the rocky hillsides. They go on for a few feet or a few hundreds of feet. They could have been put up decades ago or hundreds of years ago.

The archaeologist in me wonders what old neighborhoods used to be here. Were they slowly abandoned due to economic decline or were they destroyed in the bitter internal wars that were fought here?

Do you travel the road less taken?

Location: Santa Elena, Yucatan

Heck, yeah.

I even take the road overtaken…
Overtaken by the forest and the jungle that is.

The town of Santa Elena has a population of about 3,500, but two hundred years ago it had a population of over ten times that number. The pole and thatch houses have long since disintegrated, but the calles (roads) remain.

You see, whenever they wanted to mark out a calle they would edge the borders with a mortarless stones walls on both sides. The walls run more or less north-south and east-west. The path between the walls is anywhere for sixteen to eight feet wide and make slight bends and twists for no apparent reason.

The ones that border property lines still belong to the city.

You are not allowed to build on them and the city could legally open them up at any time if there was some political and economic reason for doing so. For example if a strong supporter of the president of the village would like better access to his back acreage, they just may clear and pave the road If a section of road is entirely within your property and it has not been used as a road in living memory, the land could become yours to use as you please.

Our property is just outside of the current village and much of it is overgrown with tropical forest.

When you see the old calles running through the forest, you have to wonder who used to live here, and how long ago.

What’s in the bag, Mister?

Location: Mereda, Yucatan

Today I attempted to open a bank account in the Yucatan.

It turns out that this can be a rather complicated process. They won’t just accept my money, there are some new regulations, and they needed to check my documents at some special office before I can open an account.

I was told to hold on to my money and come back in a few days.

So here I am walking around with 100,000 pesos (about $5,500 in US, over twice the average annual wage for the area) in my shoulder bag.

Walking around finishing my shopping, going to restaurants, and strolling down the streets in a foreign city, doing my best to look like your ordinary old gringo with not much in his pockets.

What’s in the bag?

Just some sentimental old papers.

How is your Spanish coming?

Location: Mereda, Yucatan

My life has always been a bit surreal, but arriving in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, has only increased the voltage. Here I am without an interpreter and barely know enough Spanish to order a hot cup of coffee.

When carrying on conversations with taxi drivers, hotel staff, vendors and strangers, I am not really sure what they are asking, and I am pretty sure that my answers are equally opaque.

Then there is the art of finding my way in a city that has numbered streets, but the numbers seem to be in the order that they were recorded, and do not follow any decipherable sequence or grid. And should I find the street, there are no numbers on the building.

So, I am not exactly sure where I am or how to get where I am going, And if I say, “Sí,” what am I agreeing to, and if I say “No,” what exactly am I refusing?

It is a rather confusing experience, but I love it, sort of like living in multiple realities simultaneously, or going to a job interview after taking hallucinogens.

Adios, Amigos.

How do you sleep at night?

Location: Henderson, Nevada

I am back home to my Southern Nevada abode.
Sleeping in my own bed.
The bed is memory foam. But the bed does not remember me.

Apparently it is short term memory foam.

We wrestle for position most of the night.
It ends in a draw.

Perhaps it will remember me tomorrow.
And then after a few days,it will conform to my sleep positions.

Then I will leave, for a few weeks or a months and upon my return we will rediscover each other all over again.

The question then becomes,
“Do we reframe our memories to adjust to the present, or do we reframe the present to adjust to our memories?”

What are you doing in Mexico?

Location: Santa Elena, Yucatan, Mexico

For the next few months, we will be shifting our international headquarters to Santa Elena, Yucatan, Mexico.

I have been acquiring property over the last year and now have about 280 acres of land. This includes vast tracks of forest jungle, and some possible archaeological features. We are currently employing machete men and chain experts to clear out some trails to see exactly what we have. This is in the Puuc region of the Yucatan.

I am learning to speak Spanish and Mayan to communicate with the workers and the townsfolk. Foreign language has never been one of my skills, but I do not think the Yucatan is going to adapt “English only” anytime soon.

The ancient Maya built vast pyramids at Uxmal and Kabah about a thousand years ago. In Santa Elena, they constructed more modest structures, although I am told that when the Spanish came four hundred and fifty years ago they tore down a Maya pyramid and used the stones to build the Santa Elena Cathedral. I can see old building stones in the stone porches of the buildings in town. The archaeologist in me is quite excited in threading the ground where the ancient Maya built their civilization.

Concurrent with this, in the flatlands of the property I have several acres of neem and avocado trees. And they have just planted several hundred lime trees and a score of coconut palms. We have plans to expand into experimental organic agriculture. I am a city boy, and don’t know much about agriculture, but I worked with a lot of back-to-the-land hippies in my youth, and have to admit there is a real satisfaction in drinking orange juice that came from one’s own trees.

Sadly, they tell me that the tequila agave plant does not grow well in these soils. But, we can always experiment. Who knows?

At your age, why are you still playing dress-up?

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

Because I refuse to act my age, that’s why.

James Steampunk 1

I am attending Steamathon II in Las Vegas. I am here mainly to support Doc Phineas in his endeavors to make history fun and spark a well needed dose of whimsy and fashion into the world.

I was asked to speak on “Burning Man as an Alternative Reality.” This is not a hard topic for me to talk on. I have lots of pretty Burning Man pictures, and this helps me to keep my lecturing skills up to date.

But in reality the event gives me a chance to wax my mustache, don some flashy garb, and buy another hat.

One really can not have too many hats.

What do you do?

Location: Walker Lake, Nevada

Again, this is an essay question.

I am a photographer archiving my past work, and involved is several ongoing photo projects.
I am a producer for Mystic Madness Myth and Media.
I am a businessman starting up a Transformational Journey program.
I am an archaeologist, studying the ancient Maya.
I am a speaker giving presentations at various conventions and seminars.
I am an agronomist, working with experimental agriculture.
I am an owner of multiple properties, building a new structure, and making plans for more.
I am a stock investor working to finance the start up of all these projects.

Can I do this on my own?

No, I have found much to my surprise, that I have scaled up to where I can no longer work as a sole individual, or as a two person partnership, but am now a corporate executive over a complicated empire. I am blessed with a terrific staff, but all of us are in for some very interesting times.

What a shock. My wife tells me that sometimes I am developing the mindset of a typical startup executive.

She does not mean this as a complement.

Where are you from?

Location: Lahaina, Hawaii

For many the question “Where do you live and what do you do?” requires a simple answer.

For others it is an essay question.

I divide my time between my hacienda in the Yucatan, a palm tree grove in Maui, the ancient desert waters of Walker Lake, the art ghettos of San Francisco and the sacred hills above Las Vegas. All places where myth and reality have become so commingled that there is not actual distinction between the real and the surreal.

I was born in Kentucky and still get nostalgic with the scents of bluegrass, horses, honeysuckle and bourbon whiskey. As a young man I worked briefly as a community organizer in Chicago, but was too much of an anarchist to catapult this into a political career. Instead, I spent the early seventies as a road hippy exploring the counter-cultural phenomenon that then blossomed throughout America. Since then I have worked as an archaeologist, photo lab technician, van driver, librarian, tech writer, mailman, cat breeder, investor and other miscellaneous trades.