Before S. (the American) left for the States, he highly recommended a trip out to Byron Bay. S. described the small town setting, the relaxation, the attractive girl he met at Global Gossip – I should have stopped him there. Surely, meeting an attractive girl anywhere will leave you with fond memories, even if that occurred in Tijuana or a third-world prison. I was just looking for places to go, and based on his exuberance, booked seven days here. This is the longest I will be staying in any area outside of Sydney, so I was banking on his experience.
After S. left and I had made my bookings, I started to hear from several people things like, “Byron Bay? I’d only go there if you wanted to surf.” Or, the most common one: “Man, there’s a lot of weed down there.” Yes, yes. There is a lot of weed down here. I’ve never seen a joint rolled as large as the one I saw last night. They offered me a hit, but I said ‘no’ to drugs. Mom, you should be proud.
Before I continue, you have to realize what a germaphobe I’ve become on this trip. I used to live in a scummy, three-bedroom house with man everywhere. Nothing there was really sanitary, but we made it our home. “Whose pubes are these?” and “Catch the Cockroach” were common games we would play. I’ve since upgraded to a sanctuary of sanitary status by moving back in with the parents. I’ve gotten used to luxuries like showers without sandals, no traces of human waste on toilet seats, and – gasp – being able to lie down on the carpet without taking some of the “carpet” with you afterwards.
Byron Bay has posed a new set of germaphobic quandaries for me. Take, for example, arriving at the Cape Byron YHA hostel yesterday. I walked into the room, and immediately thought, “It smells like pot in here. Hey, is that a homeless man?” In any other context, I would have been 100% sure he was homeless. However, I could clearly see he had a home, and it was right next to my bed. Luckily, I had secured a locker for my nice things (laptop, wallet, scuba gear, towel). It was at this point that I was confronted with a reality. My church back home is situated quite near a large homeless population. I want to help with their plight, but the challenge then becomes putting those ideals into action. So rather than avoiding him, I talked with him… for two hours.
I quickly found out S., my hostelmate, was not homeless and my “idealist moment” was all for naught. I asked him what he was doing out in Byron Bay. “I have some things to take care of.” It was vague enough, as long as the vagueness didn’t include “To Do List Item #17 – Kill Young American Boys with Fork.” Soon into our conversation, I found out S. was a hippie-cum-philosopher. He was familiar with Buddhism, Christianity, metaphysics, Biosphere 2, the population of most any country, Phoenix, math, sciences, politics, psychology, and astrology. He even said at one point, “You seem like an April birth.” I am an April birth. I don’t really know what to say about that.
As we talked, this conversation came from a man with a scraggly beard and long hair, wearing nothing but this towel-kilt-hippie thing around his waste. He sat in the most improper way you can whilst wearing a kilt. He picked his teeth and frequently scratched his everything. Half the time I was thinking, “I hope he doesn’t want to shake my hand.”
S. and I had a fascinating conversation. He’s very deep, and a lot of the stuff he talked about (in Christianity and in general) had significant truth. He probably knows more about the Bible than most churchgoers. I didn’t buy into everything he said, but he got me thinking on several things. One thing I’ve discussed frequently with a few friends is this fear I have of returning back home. No one has really been able to speak much to this problem I have. School and self-employment have fed a workaholic attitude. I don’t feel comfortable unless I’m working every waking moment. I feel guilty when I stop and relax like there’s something more productive I could be doing. In turn, this leads to the inability to experience and know the moment I’m in. I tend to live in the mindset of two-to-three-days-from-now or in the mistakes of the past. Over here, I’ve learned to slow down, stop and live in the moment. One thing I don’t want to do is to leave Oz then come back to that attitude. S. quoted something profound in our conversation: “You can’t un-know what you’ve already known.”
We talked for a while more, but I had to cut the conversation off to grab dinner. I stood up and packed my messenger bag. “Live in the moment of positivity,” he said. The comment struck deep on the cynic within. “My name is, S., by the way.” He held out his hand.
“Good to meet you, S., my name is Greg.” I shook his hand as I walked out the door.