“I’m looking at the river, but I’m thinking of the sea.”

– Randy Newman’s “In Germany Before the War” from Little Criminals


I once was bitten by a monkey.

It had been a rainy morning that day, as I recall – light pelting of drops on the walls of my little tent waking me – but gray skies had parted to reveal a lovely afternoon.

Funny what you remember and what you don’t, about far-flung treks of years gone by. Was it the Basque film-maker so expert at table tennis, or was it that proprietor of a hostel in Japan, the one who could imitate so well the singing of the gondoliers of Venice? I cannot for the life of me remember which one of those companions kayaked with me to Monkey Island that day. Yet I remember the morning rain.

Monkey Island had no enclosure to separate the many, many animals there from us visitors. Immediately upon making our landing on the beach, we were among them. No brochure announced what manner of monkey they were. No sign warned not to feed them. The only bastion of civilization I saw was a small concession shack. I went there and bought a can of beer.

Only a sip of the beer had I had when a monkey almost my size snatched it out of my hand. He took a long pull from the can very naturally, then casually tossed it away.

I looked around.

On a near, low rise, under some Dr. Seuss looking trees, there appeared to be an area somewhat less thick with monkeys, so I made my way over there. I hunkered down and was adjusting my hat so that its brim would shade my eyes from the long light of the afternoon when I felt pointy teeth sinking into my leg.

Needless to say, I was back in my kayak in a flash and paddling away. I tend to be a sort of a slow-going person, but can indeed move quickly when circumstances dictate.

Back soon at my tent, I poured into the little puncture wounds some alcohol I’d bought the day before at a ‘floating village’ (which is just a bunch of boats all moored together, so you can easily hop from one to the next). It was a clear liquor with a little seahorse floating in the bottle. I remember the film-maker when he saw me buying it mentioning something about the androgyny of seahorses.

Here I am now this dozen years later, back in the land of my birth. A river runs through this little town, and I look at it sometimes and think of other waters, feeling quite like Frodo back home in the Shire after adventuring far afield.

Had I never left here, I’m sure I’d wish I had. This place has its limitations as well as its charms. Sometimes, I find living here… underwhelming. But, overall, having gotten out and about a bit in the world, I’m glad to be back.