Shaman. I once knew a shaman named Cio. He would never claim to be a shaman, he was just a guy who sold tipica at fairs. Ropa tipica, Guatemalan fabric folk art. But he played the role of a shaman in my life, and I'm grateful. And no, he didn't give me drugs; I did fine in that department all on my own. Instead he gave me Guatemala.
Hats. I met Cio in Boulder. Every few months he would fly into Guate then travel to Panajachel to stock up. He sold at fairs that drew hippies. Hippies love Guatemalan tipica. Cio specialized in palm fiber hats, cheap knockoffs of the classic Panama. Each hat was labeled by size, but that number was unreliable. Cio sized a hat by putting it on his head. Just a touch and he knew what the size was. I see him sitting cross legged, working his way through a mess of hats, sorting them by size.
Pana. He liked having someone to help out at the fairs. He also liked good company, and we got along well. Sometimes he liked to have company in Pana as well; that's how I got lucky. Guatemala was a new world, and I was dazzled. I'd never been anywhere south of the border before. The people, the culture, the food, Lake Atitlán and oh sweet christ the volcanoes. My week in Panajachel was sheer magic.
Fireworks. I'd already moved to Seattle when we took our last trip to a fair together. It was in Minneapolis over the Fourth of July weekend. What I remember most was the flight home. We worked all day on the 4th and took an evening flight to Seattle. As it grew darker across the Dakotas and Montana we could see firework displays in all the little prairie towns. One last magic moment with Cio the Shaman.
The fellowship of booze. After I wrote that much of this story I shared it with Cio, at home in Panajachel, via the magic of online chat. In response he shared kind thoughts and reminiscences of our times together. His parting words hit home: No doubt the makers of Jameson and Bushmill have elevated many a friendship to stratospheric heights of heartfelt conversation and connection. I feel privileged to have surfed the ethers of alcohol with ours. Our friendship was circumscribed by booze. We were brothers in the vast community of users, the misery that so loves company. Now that I don't drink or go backpacking my only friendships with men are incidental, guys I see at dances. My friendships with men all revolved around drinking, so no drinking meant those friendships had no legs. My friendships with women also involved drinking but booze was never part of the core: romance and sex, then also dancing. I find the deep connection of embracing each other and dancing together works much better and goes much deeper without booze, though all the boozing dancers would no doubt disagree. I don't dance with guys so I don't get close with them. Without booze it's clear: my friends are women. I had to stop drinking before I could make much headway with friendship outside the misery of alcohol loving company, the unholy fellowship of users.