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Do not try this on your own. This article is for entertainment purposes only! —The Editors

Not really a sword to swallow?

After a successful lesson, Adam left me with my homework, and any feeling of accomplishment was soon to be squashed by this assignment. The homework quickly proved how challenging learning the talent truly was, despite the physical simplicity of the assigned task. He had begun his teaching by comparing the difficulty of learning sword swallowing to the difficulty of quitting smoking. At that time I cockily thought to myself that I, who wakes before dawn and walks through frigid east coast winter air to practice yoga daily, would have little problem dealing with the “discipline” aspect of learning a new talent. Oh, how wrong I was.

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Missed the throat

Do not try this on your own. This article is for entertainment purposes only! —The Editors

My friends and I spent the week wondering how exactly one starts sword swallowing. Carrot sticks? Pocky? Butter knife? Fencing sword? Very curious.

Adam and I arranged to hold the lesson in my lower east side apartment. After some heckling and loving encouragement from the guys I work with, I was able to slip out early to get home for my first session. Running late I called Adam from two blocks away, to let him know I was almost here. I saw a big man standing in the snowy twilight outside my house holding a long kevlar bag…obviously the guy. Standing at about 6’3” with a handlebar moustache, cowboy shirt, slicked back pompadour, and thick Buddy Holly glasses, Adam’s style undoubtedly said “barker.”

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Varanasi: the good ole days of 1834

While in India I had intended to write “articles” about the places I was visiting. That’s not going to happen. Too much to see to bother writing it all down. Instead I’ve decided to post some short little things here and there.

2/8/2010 (Varanasi)
Last night it rained. That means the already precarious allies of Varanasi (Kashi/Benares) are covered in what you wish was mud, but is actually the slippery brown gold that is cow dung, which means the cobblestones are now hella holy. It’s everywhere, and I am constantly walking in it. Some people are walking barefoot.

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Our friend and fellow Reveler, Briar, emailed this description of the hassles he encountered while trying to enter England in 2007 to tour with a vocal ensemble singing folk music from all over the world.

E–, I just tried calling you but the phone here is so old (it pulses, somewhat like the old dial phones) that the calling card I bought doesn’t work. The house dates back to at least 1250, which is the age of one wall in my room with stone imported from Italy. A magical place with a backyard that backs up to a river and ley lines (look it up) that date back two-thousand years. That was where we arrived yesterday afternoon after an insane day of almost deportation. I’m debating whether or not to type the whole story but if not now, when?

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What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Travel isn’t healthy. Travel might not even be smart. The human body didn’t evolve to wake up in a different place every day, fight jet lag, hurtle down highways at 80 mph or through the troposphere at 500 mph, sleep in hotel rooms where the windows won’t open, or battle unfamiliar microbes lurking on the handlebars of rented bicycles or in the handshakes of cruise ship social directors. The digestion rebels during travel. The muscles ache from doing too little until they ache from doing too much. The brain demands a “getaway”—an exit from the stressful 9–5 routine for a day or a week—and, upon return, is grateful for the vacation from vacation. When traveling, one often wonders: Why travel?

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Welcome to Springfield, IL

Springfield, Illinois, is a tourist Mecca. There’s just that certain je ne sais quoi about a dead president that makes people flock to the schlock erected in his memory. Thanks to state and federal funds from the boom times of the bipolar economy we find ourselves in, Springfield now boasts a presidential museum and library, with the accompanying hordes of camera-eyed tourists and hyperactive and bored school children. The effect on our downtown has been pernicious. The buildings in which poor people previously lived have been torn down or remodeled into upscale condominiums. The homeless (ever-increasing in numbers) have been “encouraged” to go elsewhere. Downtown used to be a lively place, with regular people—citizens—hanging out and having fun, but now is cleansed so as not to give tourists indigestion; there is even a man whose job is to vacuum the sidewalks.

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travel

Ho!

While our companion in revelry, Onalistus, is off seeing distant lands we at These New Old Traditions have been thinking about what it means to travel.

Though the necessity and ease of travel has evolved quite a bit, our core reasons for doing it seem to have not changed much. Ye Olde Hunter/ Gatherers moved around out of the necessity for more food or better weather. Fancy colonizing explorers set out in search of…well, more food and better weather. Lords and ladies and later Jane-Austin-type society folk traveled for long periods of time to stir up trouble, see family, and heal their ailments with better weather. (Those folks never seemed to worry about food, but considering that each time someone new arrived they threw a big party in their honor, one could easily suggest that “more food” was not out of the picture).

Now?

Now We Revelers head off to “see the world” almost because we are scared to know what will happen to our souls if we don’t. Travel is about taking ourselves out of our normal patterns so we can see what they are when we return.  Travel of the body–or the spirit–is never easy. Whether we are traveling far, or simply taking our souls on a little trip to our own backyard, there are borders to contend with, unfamiliar languages, and new things around every corner. So, we head out bravely, to learn more about ourselves and the world around us, hoping that in doing so we will find a greater understanding of our every day lives. And, if we’re lucky, more food and better weather.

HO, REVELERS! The journey starts tomorrow.

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