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Luke Melia

6/30/02, 12:02 am

Great day at the beach today. Anthony and I made a respectable showing in our first volleyball tournament together. We won three before running out of energy and losing our last three.

Meanwhile, Liz and Jeanhee managed to take first place in Women’s Division B with a dominant 15-2 win in the finals. And this despite the fact that they went winless in their pool play. It was confusing, but what will be remembered is this: first place!

April came out to the beach with us and all in all we had a grand time, taking dips in the cold but refreshing ocean between games, walking along the boardwalk, and watching some impressive play in the finals of the Men’s Open division.

On Friday night, I helped my friend Jess celebrate her new job and engagement, and then went to a birthday celebration for a friend who moved to Charlottesville not long ago. It was fun talking to her and thinking of life in that wonderful place.

At the party I met someone who traveled to Myanmar to the ruins at Bagan a few months ago. That destination had been on my list, but after talking to him, it has moved up a lot higher. I wonder when I can do that trip… maybe January…

Anyhow, it’s time for a shower to get some stubborn sand off and then dear, dear sleep. Tomorrow promises to be another wonderful day — it’s back to the beach to play coed doubles!

6/28/02, 1:13 am

My Palm went on the fritz tonight. Didn’t realize how much I rely on the little bugger. I’m feeling pretty lost. I think (hope) it’s a problem with the cradle. Putting it on the cradle (which is supposed to recharge it and let you sync the data with the computer) seems to erase all the data and reset the Palm. I’ve got another cradle at work. We’ll see if that one does the same thing…

Sand volleyball indoors tonight at the gym with Liz, Ant & Jeanhee. Great fun, and good practice for this weekend’s tournaments.

Mother Summer was doing all sorts of crazy stuff with the weather tonight. Incredible winds earlier and then thunder, lightning and torrents of rain later. On my way to the healthfood store for lunch, yesterday’s afternoon shower drenched me to the point that I was looking for excuses to work standing up the whole day, because my pants and boxers felt like sitting on a sponge.

Caught up with Alec for a guitar lesson and dinner last night. It’s great how our programming lessons for guitar lessons barter has resulted in us becoming good friends. I’m quite excited about electric guitar at the moment. Not as obsessed as I am about volleyball, but excited.

Yeah, I think I ‘ll play some through my headphones before this muggy night puts me to sleep…

6/26/02, 12:52 am

There’s a Swoosh on your sneakers
Sony headphones in your ear
How much did it cost you
To proclaim you’ve got No Fear?

The symbols we’re collecting
They just want to be famous
Just like you and me
And the companies trying to tame us.

Saturday morning cartoons at 4 years old.
Yeah, it started with TV
Remember that rabbit: Trix are for kids
and Ronald McDonald – yo that guy was sleazy.

The GI Joe show designed for one thing
Make you beg, jump, whine and sing.
Make you go nuts at the corner store
Come on, mom, can I get just one thing?

Back in those days they were just learning
Turning a kid into advertiser
McDonald’s and Disney breaking us in
handing us off to Merck and Phizer

Gimmee a blank t-shirt.
I want the logos out of my life.
Give me a home-brewed beer.
I want Bud out of my life.
Make me a birthday card
I want Hallmark to stay away.
Write to me, you’re a free man
Your own man, happy, happy birthday.

No, it’s not my birthday or anything. This was just for kicks. Partially inspired by the book I’m reading, “Fast Food Nation.” Maybe I’ll use some of it in a song sometime.

Worked a long day today. Sometimes it feels good to earn my paycheck, especially when it’s hot as heck in my apartment and nice and AC’d in my office…

6/22/02, 4:48 pm

Mom’s fifty! I went out to Long Island for dinner with her and the family last night. Funny thing about restaurants outside of New York City– there’s so much space! Big tables with plenty of room between them. It’s odd when the normal becomes odd.

Anyway, I’m happy to report that my Mom has a wonderful attitude about her birthday. Turning fifty is an occasion for self-reflection, and it seems that my mom likes what she sees. She’s healthy, in love and happy with her business and hobbies and kids.

Went to a late showing of “The Minority Report” last night. I liked it. Good sci-fi flick. I’ll have to read the Philip K. Dick story that it came from.

Played sand volleyball with Jeanhee at the gym this morning. She had the brilliant idea the other day of sitting in the hot tub after our tournament, and we did the same today. I feel silly that I never did it before, because it’s wonderful. As you sit there, you look out over the Hudson and see Jersey and the Statue of Liberty as the bubbles massage your feet. An excellent complement to beach volleyball.

In musical news, I got an guitar amp. It’s a small 12-watt Marshall with some nice sounding distortion. As I took the elevator up with it in my hand, I said a quiet apology for my poor neighbors. I’ve played both my acoustic and my electric through it, and it is so much fun!

That’s the update for today. Back to doing tech support for my grandma.

6/18/02, 10:52 pm

Busted by the park police!

It’s not nearly as good as my dad’s park police story (ask me sometime), but it’s worth telling anyway. I met up with two friends from high school (and junior high and elementary school for that matter) downtown and we sat on a blanket in Battery Park eating bagel chips and drinking red wine from paper cups as the sun set. We were laughing (a bit too boisterously perhaps) over ex- and current girlfriends and boyfriends as a bright orange sun came down over Jersey. We had nearly finished the bottle, when a park policeman marched over and told us he’d have to take it from us.

“But it’s empty,” Sarah said. He took the bottle anyhow and asked us to pour out the wine in our little paper cups. “Into the grass?” I asked. He said yes. “How uncouth,” I thought, as Sarah, Don and I poured red wine into the green grass.

We watched as he walked off, the setting sun shining on him, a bottle in one hand, looking suspiciously like a green-clad wino.

6/17/02, 11:57 PM

Back to work. I was so spent after playing volleyball all weekend that I was asleep before ten last night. I dreamed what I think may be a recurring dream. I’m in high school and it’s near the end of the year. The adults in the school are just realizing that I’ve been cutting spanish class since the beginning of school. In the dream, I’m filled with anxiety about it. Any dream experts want to take a guess on that one…?

Yesterday was a beautiful beach day. Jeanhee and I did well for our first time out, though we didn’t won only one game (on a forfeit!). We played our best game against the brother and sister team that went on to the finals, losing by only four points.

I played hard court threes at Chelsea Piers tonight. I’ve almost met enough of a community of volleyball who are members there to have some good competition regularly.

New York Times Op-Ed columnist Nicholas Kristof is right on with his perspective on the international women’s treaty awaiting ratification by the U.S. Senate.

And, yes, if you’re wondering, that last political bit was to prove that I think about more than volleyball.

6/15/02, 9:37 pm

It’s the Ides of June. Is there such a thing? Coming up on the longest day of the year, which I guess must be the shortest day of the year somewhere else. Peru?

Whatever the case may be, this I know… I have a new reason to love the summertime.

Beach volleyball.

It’s been a fun sport to pick up because it’s similar enough to indoor volleyball that my skills translate, but different enough that it’s a new challenge. The fact that you generally play on the beach near the ocean helps a lot, too.

I had plans to play with Matt today in a tournament in New Jersey. Unfortunately, he had to cancel at the last minute because his thesis deadline was looming large. I decided to go down on my own and try to pick up a partner during registration. I ended up playing with a nice guy named Chris, who just finished his sophomore year of high school and has been playing beach volleyball since he was twelve. His mother was playing in the women’s open division a few nets down.

A quick interlude for the uninititated on beach tournaments: The entry-level division is called B. Then it goes BB, then A, then AA, and, finally, “open.” Open is where the prize money is and where people that you might see on TV would enter. The most common formats are men’s doubles, women’s doubles, coed doubles, and mixed fours. The format of the tournaments I’ve played works something like this: You get placed in a pool with three of four other teams. You play each team twice, and the top two teams advance out of their pool to the playoffs. The playoffs are single-elimination and your pool performance determines ranking for the playoff tree.

Chris and I played Men’s B, and won all the games in our pool. Playing doubles necessitates keeping a clear head and communicating frequently and clearly with your partner. Those aren’t generally strengths of high school students, but this kid was an exception. In the playoffs, we lost in the finals and ended up taking second place in the division. I think we could have beat the team that took first, but, well, we didn’t.

Tomorrow, it’s back out to the beach to play coed doubles with Jeanhee. Woo hoo!

6/14/02, 2:58 am

My friend Celinda (who, shameless plug, is walking in the Avon Breast Cancer Walk – Donate Here), sent me some questions to help me reflect on my trip. They follow, with my answers….

What was your favorite part?

My favorite part was being there with my mom, and my brother and sister. When my dad and mom split up, it was just us four, and so there was something special about being together again. I wrote a song on the trip about it. Some of the lyrics go:

My brother and my sister
Grown up under so many suns.
This southern sunshine kissed here;
Drew us here to this mountaintop town.

All together at the top of the world
It’s all so clear what matters
All together at the top of the world
It’s all so clear what matters
Give me some love and some air to breathe
All together
at the top
of the world.

Which part did you most dislike?

I most disliked not being able to take a full breath in the high altitude of La Paz.

When were you most fearful?

I was the most fearful walking back with my sister Jessica to our hotel in Cusco, Peru, down a deserted, narrow street. I had spoken to a traveler who had been strangle-mugged outside of Cusco recently, and my andrenaline was definitely pumping walking along that dark street.

When were you happiest?

I was happiest at the top of Wayna Picchu, a peak that overlooks the ruins of Macchu Picchu. It was a strenuous 45-minute hike up the mountain, and the satisfaction of making it and watching the mists part to reveal the grandeur of the ruins but a big smile on my face.

What was the greatest learning experience?

Hmm. Entering a new culture is always sort of a general learning experience. But specifically, I guess it had something to do with seeing the difference that the economic prosperity makes in the happiness, habits and friendliness of the people we met. Peruvians and Bolivians have a tremendous economic disparity between them.

6/12/02, 2:00 am

A relaxing first day back at work, Thai food for lunch, a stroll up Museum Mile tonight with four beautiful women, my trip photos online, and an email to the travels list…


I’m back in New York, with a rediscovered appreciation for hot showers, good plumbing, and other conveniences my privileged butt generally takes for granted. Before these wonderful muggy streets displace the images of ancient Incan ruins from my mind, I want to write more about my trip. And so, two quick stories from Bolivia…


Snake Vodka in La Paz

One night in La Paz, we walked to a touristy restaurant (huffing and puffing unsatisfyingly shallow high-altitude breaths) that live music and traditional dancing. We only caught the tail end of the performance, but it was nice, and the food was overpriced but fine.

After we finished eating, our waiter came by. He was an stoic, wrinkled, stocky Bolivian man in his fifties, and I got the feeling that bringing by the after-dinner liqueurs was his favorite part of the job. He put three bottles on the table. Anise. Mint. And inside the third bottle, which was twice as large as the other two, a huge green-black snake wound its way through a clear liquid.

I pointed to the large bottle. “Que esta?” I asked.

He looked back and broke his stoic expression with a grin. “Finlandia.”

My mom wanted the thing as far away from her as possible. My brother and sister’s mouths hung slightly agape at the sight before them, their eyes big.

Having braved cobra whiskey with Elbert just a few months back in Bangkok, I felt prepared for our toothy host’s generous challenge. “A shot?” I asked my brother and sister. It’s proof that my dad’s blood runs through our veins that they agreed without another moment of hesitation.

Old Toothy poured us three shots of the snake vodka and we toasted to a lifetime of adventures together as brothers and sister. And we drank up.

[pic] The bottle

Crossing Lake Titicaca by Bus and Boat

At a certain point on the bus ride from La Paz to Copacabana, we passengers were asked to get off the bus, leave our luggage behind and get on a boat. Despite the seeming idiocy of such a move, we did it, and on the boat, I looked back, wondering what would become of our bus, and, more importantly, the dirty clothes in my dirty backpack.

I had my answer soon enough. A “flat-bed” boat pulled up to the shore, extended some planks wide and strong enough for tires to roll on, and the bus pulled up onto the boat. Then it floated on across the lake to join us on the other side, where we got back on and went along our way.

You might ask, why not leave the people in the bus? I wonder the same thing. Somehow, though, if the boat and bus drivers don’t think it’s a good idea that the passengers stay in the bus, I’m with them…

[pic] The bus on the boat

6/11/02, 12:37 am

Ah, back in New York. I love it here. Coming home from a developing is a great way to cultivate extreme appreciation. I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of blogging, get my trip photos up, etc…. but not quite yet. For now, here’s a mail I sent out to friends and family about the first portion of my trip:

Humbled in Bolivia

Greetings from Cusco, Peru. Iīm off to Machu Picchu tomorrow, but thought Iīd take a few minutes to jot down some thoughts from my time in Bolivia…

We flew into La Paz and were greeted in the small airport by my sister Jessicaīs shining face. It seems that the months living and studying in Bolivia have been very good to her. She wore a brilliant turquoise sweater made of alpaca wool. Alpaca is a funny-looking (to me) llama-cousin prevalent in these parts.

Within a few minutes, I was feeling very out of sorts. Iīd had a few warnings about the effects of flying into the high altitudes here, but with typical 20-something-male perspective, I never figured, it would apply to me. It took me several days to feel normal. Hills and stairs left me unnervingly breathless…

And thatīs unfortunate for a traveler in La Paz, because the city is as full of hills as San Francisco. Charming colonial squares and big cathedrals, and locals who took the hills up and down at a pace that made my lungs and head hurt even more to watch.

The poor of La Paz live mostly in el alto, above the city. The socioeconomic breakdown means that those poor are mostly of an indigenous group called the Aymara. The dress of the Aymara women is wild — flat dress shoes, big wide skirts, brightly-colored textiles that carry babies or goods on their back, and topped off by a bowler hat. The origins of this outfit have something to do with the Spanish, but I havenīt figured out exactly what.

Close to the Peru border, a town called Copacabana was my jumping off point for La Isla del Sol, and island in Lake Titicaca where itīs said that the sun was born. On a day my body granted me respite from altitude confusion, we took a boat-ride to the island and hiked around for a while.

The ruins there are interesting and the scenery striking. Around one turn of the trail, I looked over my shoulder to see nearly tropical blues and greens lapping gently against the islandīs shore, and my frame of vision was topped by the snow-capped Andes mountains above. It reminded me a bit of trekking in Nepal, where the Himalayas are ever-present.

The natural scenery left my mind though, when I stepped into a circle of earth defined by aged and mostly buried bricks. Within the circle was 8 or 9 small white stones arranged in a smaller circle around a large white rectangular dais. Our guidebook passed us rumors that the spot was used in Incan days for animal, or perhaps human sacrifice. The space overlooking the huge lake, gave me shivers…

Speaking of human sacrifice, Iīm on this trip with my family… Seriously, though, itīs wonderful to be away from everything and together with my mom, my brother and my sister. A family friend of ours that lived with us when I was three years old is along as well, so weīve filled the restaurants and hostels of Bolivia as much with reminiscing and laughter as we have with travel plans and reflections.

Itīs a pretty different experience for me, as Iīm used to being on the road with one other person max. Once I let it be its own experience, itīs a perfect one, and a milestone in my the relationships between my mom and her eldest kids.

As I was humbled by the altitude and beauty of Bolivia, Iīm been amazed by Peruīs differences and culture. More to come from here in a few days.

I imagined Iīd be signing off “adios,” but in Bolivia everyone says “chau,” so…

Chau from South America,

LukeMelia.com created 1999. ··· Luke Melia created 1976. ··· Live With Passion!
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