Thursday 22 July 2021

Worst to Best: Jarexit III

Worst to Best: Jarexit II (July 2019 - December 2019)

If Jarexit I - III were a film trilogy, it would be The Matrix because I AM THE ONE.

Moreover, these releases followed a similar pattern. From the 8th of December 2018 to the 9th of June 2019, the first Jarexit flew its course as an ambitious standalone project, tasting the waters of an unknown notion within some strict limitations (10 countries in six months or bust!). I had high aspirations already, but the sheer calibre of its success was so overpowering that my ordinary life cried sickly in comparison after the dust settled. It didn't take long before the imaginary studio in my head called me up and requested a sequel. And what's more, there would be no restrictions this time. Do what you want, baby! We trust your vision!

I can't remember my precise thought process when Jarext II launched on the 27th of July 2019. Still, much like the Matrix franchise mentioned above, the venture outgrew itself until it split like healthy cells, dividing into two very distinct creatures. The solution became apparent soon after: keep moving without the standard London break between escapes, no rest for the wiki. So, on Xmas Day 2019, I ended the second instalment in Madrid, Spain, boarding a flying machine and igniting Jarexit III immediately.

That said, Jarexit III wasn't merely an extension of the 2nd Jarexit's irresponsible randomness. It had its own style going on, a sibling of a more focused breed. Undeniably the most obvious of these specifics were the locations chosen. Jarexit I and II had achieved an outstanding job frolicking around Europe and Asia while flirting with Australia and giving Africa a tiny kiss on its bottom. But that did leave a gaping hole in my chase for global domination.... ANTARCTICA! Fuck, no, I mean, AMERICA!

Jarexit III was the American Explorer Story, doing my best to stab some dots on both the north and south of that side of the world. Furthermore, I had enhanced the documentation process for my friends at home. After multiple complaints that my photography skills were wasting my trip, I spent months preparing for a meaningful shift, studying perspective techniques online while downloading apps to pop the hell out of reality. Finally, I unleashed this accumulation of knowledge not a second before Jarexit III kicked off, creating a definite turning point in the quality of my snappage. And almost everyone loved it.

But perhaps the most unexpectantly unique factor of Jarexit III was that the entire world fell apart in the middle of my quest, causing great disruption to my plans. No one else's plans were affected, only mine. Due to COVID's selfishness, Jarexit III never reached its intended number of stops, but I am grateful for what I collected regardless, and it does make for a more emotional tale. A tale we shall begin right now. Did you get the milk?

08. Orlando, Florida, USA

(Cocoa, West Palm Beach)
Dates: 2 Feb - 9 Feb 2020
Accommodation: Stu's House [N/A]

Orlando finds itself unfairly dropped into the dregs because this entire slice of my Jarexit adventure is built upon a fatty-fat lie.

Sure, I initially entered the US of A via its Floridian butthole, landing in Orlando on 02/02/2020 (which is a good omen if there ever was one). And, sure, I grinned up at the Disney-esque airport for about 10 minutes. But then my mate Stu swooped in, sheltering me under his wing from the big scary world as he zipped me to safety into the quieter town of Cocoa. Because he lives there!

"But who is Stu?" ugh, I feel sorry for you even asking! He is a legend beyond legends who I spent many dodgy years partying with back in Cape Town. Despite our best efforts, we both grew up into adults, and then we moved so far away from one another that it took roughly a decade and a half to reunite, in fucking Florida of all places. And considering the bumpy ride that was South America (more about that shortly), this friendly pause was a godsend. I mean, I had a private room, for starters! And within these non-hostel walls, I enjoyed a week of recovery, assisted by Stu and his wife Lonny, who I now consider a good friend too. But, to be frank, their doggo Aria was way cooler than either of them. Every morning she’d forget who I was, and every evening we’d be besties, cuddling on the couch like it was our first date all over again.

We took a quick drive into Orlando one lunch break to check it out, and I liked it even though the city is basically one giant Disney advertisement. That said, the court that convicted Ted Bundy was a fun sight! But the fact remains: this piece of our story was nothing more than a break from the Jarexit madness, appreciating the simpler things in life such as bonding and drinking, and drinking, and drinking. We drank so much! Other than that, I watched Stu fishing while drinking, and then he'd throw the fish back, then I watched a ton of Netflix while drinking, and then I watched my drink being drunk by my drinking.

But hidden beneath the blanket of alcohol was a secret training session where Stu blessed me with guidance before he released me into the wild. Because if there's one thing crazy about Florida, it's everything. I spotted Florida Man a few times along the streets. Still, he's not half as intimidating as the Trump supporters who dominate the landscape, wearing MAGA caps unironically, each one holding a gun somewhere. My comrades warned me that I must never under any circumstances wear my Make Racists Afraid Again hoodie in these parts, so I didn't. It's a scary place.

Such a tragedy, really, because if you could zap the people away, Cocoa has a fuckton going for it. Despite the winter season, it was hot hot hot! And the vast bodies of water everywhere provided fun running trails for me, even if the regular warning signs about alligators did giggle me nervously. I never encountered one of those fun boys, but a snake did leap out at me during one of my jogs, rearing its aggressive head, ready to strike. I jumped so high that I heard God whisper my name, and then I took off like the roadrunner fueled by nitro-boosting farts of adrenaline. If you ever want to run fucking fast, a snake attack is highly recommended!

Anywho, I love Stu! And to send me off proper, we spent the final days skipping down to West Palm Beach, where I met Lonny's family (hey, Shells!). I waved at injured turtles being cared for at Loggerhead Marinelife Center, and I saw manatees for the first time! So it goes without saying that this Great Escape was not only great but also necessary for my mental state, a buffer period to find my footing in The Best Country in the World™ before I resumed my loner travels. The fact that it's so low on this list does not mean I had a bad time. It was merely a qualification formality, and I intend to get back there as soon as I can.

Top Five Recommended Sights
Eola Lake, Old Orange County Courthouse (Ted Bundy trial), Fay Wilderness Park (Cocoa), Square Grouper (West Palm), Loggerhead Marinelife Center (West Palm)

Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Summary Shot

Monstrocity Drawing

Worst to Best: Jarexit II: 07. Pucallpa/Lima, Peru

07. Pucallpa/Lima, Peru

Dates: 26 Dec - 28 Dec 2019; 4 Jan - 11 Jan 2020
Accommodation: Andrea's Parent's House [N/A] (26 Dec - 28 Dec 2019; 4 Jan - 5 Jan 2020)
Hospedaje Marvento - 7/10 (Pucallpa, 5 Jan - 11 Jan 2020)
1900 Hostel - 9/10 (Lima, 11 Jan - 18 Jan 2020)

What a peculiar Jarexit entry this Peruvian jumble is! Disjointed by a subplot splitting it down the middle while its core components are two very different locations associated by nationality alone. Sorry for any confusion this causes, call me if you need help.

This branch of the adventure kicked off strange enough too. It was Christmas day in Madrid airport when I crawled onto a plane and soared across the map, the hazy clock-wipe effect indicating the arrival of a new Jarexit. Number 2 had reached its natural conclusion, and as the wheels touched here and there (including a fucking nine-hour stopover in Lima, ugh!) I finally appeared in the relatively unknown jungle town of Pucallpa. The familiar arms of my older brother, Gareth, and his girlfriend, Andrea, awaited me, along with Andrea's welcoming parents as well as her sister, Sandra, who features much more further down this blog's line.

To reflect on Pucallpa is an interesting mental trip. Lack of sleep became a standard chat due to (a) the mutant mosquitos who deflated us at night and (b) the booming dance club several houses down the road that bounced the muddy grounds beneath us. My brother and I booked a hostel away from the family home for one night just to get some peace. But during the day, the home-cooked meals and non-verbal communications with our local hosts were very appreciated! Especially when the dad took me to get my trusty Jarexit hiking boots 100% fixed for only £2.30! These good boys had hugged my feet from Jarexit 1! And now they were tightened up to survive the entirety of Jarexit 3 and beyond! Why buy shoes??

A couple of days into the Pucallpa chill and we were ripped sideways to explore the Sacred Valley, but that's a different story coming shortly. We returned the next year, on the 4th of January, and one day later, I moved out of the family home and into a private hostel room of my own because I still had work to do! It was here that I dropped an entire pot of pasta into the sink, lost. I took a snap of the tragedy, but my friends were far more repulsed by my cooking skills, many of whom still talk to me about it today (last photo in this series).

Regardless, I recall Pucallpa wearing a smile. So hot and humid! A billion tuk-tuks! Vultures instead of pigeons! No white people! Such iconic symbols of the Inca everywhere! Peruvian Hairless Dogs! Inca Cola! The Pablo Amaringo School is well worth the visit and research alone. What's more, the deep spiritual magic of South America was working, and my mind was already cracking open in an unusual way, which became a running theme through 2020 as a whole.

On January 11th, I packed my bags and said goodbye to my Pucallpa tribe, including my brother, who I haven't seen since. We bonded very strongly during this experience (as you'll read soon enough), but sadly, our contradictory opinions on COVID split us apart later in the year. He doesn't even follow me on Instagram anymore; that's how you know. If a secret organisation is trying to shove wedges in society, they did an impressive job with us. Nevertheless, I hang onto this piece of South America as to how I like to remember our friendship, the bittersweet hug of shared blood who experienced something deeper together. Then, I boarded yet another flight to hit up the capital city of Peru, namely Lima.

Lima and I had unfinished business. Besides the aforementioned nine-hour stopover, we also had to change planes here, back and forth from the Sacred Valley. So I landed in Lima for the fourth time, except now I could finally step outside to check what this place was about. It was about a lot, as it turns out.

These types of stories get me into trouble, but hopefully, you'll understand why I have to mention it. So I arrived in Lima, opened my dating apps, and they exploded. One thing I've learned about solo travelling is that you translate well in certain nations, others you do not. South America? Peak Jared. I threw my luggage down, took a shower, and went on a date the same night I arrived. This happy female whisked me around Lima, showed me some drinking hot spots and then invited me back to her house, where we got all intimate and stuff. I could get used to this! The only problem is when I awoke the subsequent morning, my brain still swimming in alcohol, I nearly had a panic attack. Where the hell was I? I didn't recognise this room and wasn't even sure what country I was in. I rolled over, and when this beautiful girl greeted me, my brain took at least three terrifying seconds to work out who was in my bed! Those were a weird three seconds! But as it all settled, I felt an enormous sense of wellbeing. Oh, hey, there! This is your bed! Welcome to Lima, Jared!!

In the end, I had to switch off my dating apps because I did not have time in my schedule for the attention. Not a bad problem, eh!

My following week was a memorable one. Lima's beating heat solar-powered me to explore extensively, in awe of the ocean views and artistic expressions splashed throughout the city, most notably across the Miraflores boardwalk and the Barranco neighbourhood. Inspiration kept me light on my toes until I'd literally turn one corner and swiftly find myself in Dodgeville, every head-spinning my direction, let's eat the white boy. I'd moonwalk out of there back to safety so fast that my fear lingered in the air long after I was gone. And that's where I penalise Peruvian points. I didn't feel safe for shit.

Part of this unsettlement came from my central-located hostel. I always try to book accommodation in the middle of the action, and it's an approach that has served me well. But Lima? Do not do it! I'd step outside only to catch Ubers because these streets want to kill you. Then again, when your hostel is as close to perfection as the 1900 Hostel, why ever leave? 100% geared towards the travellers, substantial lockers, comfy beds, an in-house travel agent, an overpriced cash machine, foosball, and a pool table. Plus complimentary yummy breakfast! Plus its own bar with 650ml beers for £2.77!!! The one evening, the barman played the entirety of Unplugged in NY by Nirvana, and I stayed put until the end. The general atmosphere was spot-on, relaxed and social, for only £6.25 a night. Did I mention the doggo?? They have one!

Quick obligatory shout-outs to Paloma and Melanie!! Thanks for making my Lima stay much happier with your lovely faces!!

One final fault with this country is not necessarily the country's fault but the nomads it attracts. They are the worst kind! Everybody one-upping their stories of spiritual wokeness, each of their ayawaksa trips more profound than the other, nobody listening to anyone else, merely awaiting their turn to demonstrate how they touched the divine light's G-spot better. I sat there, rolling my eyes, ignoring my hypocrisy that I was in the early stages of founding a religion. But at least I kept it to myself! I'm embarrassed by how enlightened I am, ughhhh!

Such a minor complaint. In the grander scheme, I have very little to criticise Peru for, hence my difficulty in justifying such a low position on this list. I guess I can only jot it down as a testament to how powerful Jarexit III was comparatively as a whole. Perhaps this stop was too frantic for me to get the papers in order, slipping into incoherent disarray within my memory, never combining to make a singular entity and subsequently suffering as scattered pieces, overshadowed by the mid-Sacred Valley excursion to come. But know this: there is an energy running through this country (and, indeed, continent) which I've never felt anywhere before. Lima, in particular, is known for its witchy shenanigans and a transmission of that electricity merged into my Chi, following me forever. That Peruvian voodoo jolted my spirit and germinated the Janthopoyism seed, blossoming rapidly from here until... well, it's still growing! It's consuming me in the best of ways! Oooh, so good! And I'll never overlook the role that Peru played in this. Genuinely life-changing.

Top Pucallpa Recommended Sights
The Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Pablo Amaringo (art school)

Pucallpa Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Summary Shot

Top Five Lima Recommended Sights
Miraflores Boardwalk, Parque Kennedy and its hundreds of stray cats, Huaca Pucllana, The Bosque el Olivar, Barranco street art/ocean views

Lima Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Summary Shot

Monstrocity Drawing

Worst to Best: Jarexit III: 06. Miami, Florida, USA

06. Miami, Florida, USA

Dates: 9th Feb - 16th Feb 2020
Accommodation: Hostel Brazilian - 6/10

When you bump Will Smith as much as I do, then you’ve spent a large portion of your life telling the Universe that you’re “goin’ to Miami” because it’s where you’re going to “party in the city where the heat is on all night, on the beach till the break of dawn”. I took my sweet time to fulfil the Will, but my destiny finally lined up on a bus from West Palm to the Capital of Latin America.

My lodging snuffed the dream almost immediately; Hostel Brazilian reflecting its rundown area aptly. Within moments, the receptionist cracked a vagina joke which I found funny at the time but less so as other building blocks of hindsight clicked in. The amount of sexist, homophobic, and even racist comments I heard bounced between the staff and occupants shifted my spirit uncomfortably. Piling onto that, there was one bathroom shared between 20 people; there were no lockers to keep your valuables safe; and, worst of all, the internet was shoddy. Horror! And then, when one ex-military man proudly informed the table that he slept with a gun under his pillow at times—a pillow a few feet from mine—I retreated into a mental space of solitude for the rest of my visit.

But I suppose the above is simply the Miami (or Florida) way. Because this place is way rougher than anyone (least of all Will Smith) let on to believe. So what is a boy to do? I embraced the unpolished vibez and adventured out every day in the fiercely hot (winter!?) sun to seek any explanation for the city's reputation in the slightest. Naturally, I uncovered a ton of it.

Top three? For sure!

Wynwood Walls! An expansive fenced-off space dedicated to unquestionably the best street graff I have ever seen in my life. Fuckloads of it, too, spilling throughout the area, hundreds upon hundreds of towering pieces exploding with more colour and talent than I care to see again. There is nothing like it and would be my first go-to must-see place for any Miami tourist.

The Holocaust Memorial! When you travel the world, you see many monuments remembering these atrocities that shook history, but none compete with Miami's level. I can't even recall a sculpture that comes close to what this did to me. I refuse to attempt to describe it, but if you're not going to visit Miami any time soon, I implore you to at least look at images on google. And when you do, please imagine an eerie soundtrack complete with human voices to match the pain. It was a fucking punch in the gut, and I confess I lost a tiny man-tear.

Miami Beach! Oh, wait! Ok, so this is what Will Smith was talking about! It's 100% what the postcards promised. Toasty days of boundless sands slipping beneath the waves where models splashed in their sexiest swimwear and lifeguards watched from colourful huts. And the explosive nights where the streets flooded the sky with neon bulbs, the party atmosphere ready to suck your wallet dry or perhaps take it off you at knifepoint. The only sadness I felt in this pink-flavoured fantasy land was that I was experiencing it alone. Nowhere else in the world did I wish I could pick five of my best male mates and tear this place to shreds. It felt like the biggest stag-do in history waiting to happen. I might actually get married for this reason.

Sadly (or fortunately?), I'm not much of a lone drinker; hence I only managed to get drunk once during my Miami time, and it was all on account of Valentine's Day. Be fucked if I spend the date of love on my own, and I promptly purchased tickets to a singles event at a place called Blue Martini Brickell. In a word, disaster. Of the perhaps 15 (mostly male) people there, I was the youngest one by quite a drop, so I resigned to downing beers which cost £6.19 a bottle. Eventually, my buzz was buzzing, and the live band kept me smiling, so I made the most of it by chatting to a woman who looked over a decade my senior but attractive enough relative to the options. The conversation was going well until I slipped the critical mistake of insulting Donald Trump. My foggy brain remembers someone ripping the needle off of the vinyl. Heads turned to me with aggressive questions, and that's when I remembered where I was. You can diss Trump anywhere in the world, but not in Florida, bro. These people love the guy. And they all carry firearms.

I speedily diffused the threatening interrogation by exploiting what Americans love the most: food for their egos. I declared with a clear conscience that I was but a British child, so my opinion on their politics was irrelevant. I then combo'd the move by praising the democracy of their country, factually stating that Trump won his presidency fair and square, his critics be damned. My company accepted my submission, and a normal pace resumed. I escaped shortly afterwards.

In the end, Miami was an uneasy excursion, one I would never regret taking. There was an identical redeeming factor for every fault, and the loose Latino vibe that blasted loudly from every angle kept my joy operating at an acceptable rate. Writing this piece now, I admit I had a stack of fun. That said, I remember leaving without turning around, happy to get the fuck out of Florida for the foreseeable future. Great state! But the people are fucking cooked!

Top Five Recommended Sights
Wynwood Walls, The Holocaust Memorial, Little Havana, The Original Coppertone Sign, Miami Beach

Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Summary Shot

Monstrocity Drawing

Worst to Best: Jarexit III: 05. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

05. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Dates: 23 Feb - 1 March 2020
Accommodation: City House Hostel Philadelphia - 9/10

The most impressive element of Philadelphia is how much the locals adore it there. They are obsessed with their city! Everyone I met wanted to talk about how Philly is the best, they used to live somewhere else, but now they live in Philly, and they could never ever leave Philly, because Philly is where it's at all the time, don't bother looking anywhere else for the thing because Philly is the thing, you've found it, it's Philly. It was inspiring to hear such love!

The least impressive element of Philadelphia is that it's not always sunny! I had it on good authority that it was always sunny in Philadelphia, yet it rained about 50% of the time I was there, which quite literally put a dampen on my parade. Zero degrees at its worst! I was housebound in my City House Hostel for many days and nights! Woe is me! Except, not really, because this was one of my favourite Jarexit hostels of all time, where I conversed with people who still bless my newsfeed with their happiness. Loud, immediate shout-out to Lazar and Kim! You dudes were the perfect partners in crime. Hanna, you were a sunshiny face I am determined to see again. And mad love to Chelsea, my hostel BFF, who I had an overwhelming secret crush on the whole time.

Beyond my enthusiasm for the people, Philadelphia is hard to define as one singular idea. But, I guess as the birthplace of America itself, we can appreciate the solid patriotic flavour? Its extensive list includes Betsy Ross' house (where the lady sewed the first American flag or maybe didn't), Benjamin Franklin's grave, the Liberty Bell, and the Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed. And that's cool! But also not what I'm all about.

The iconic LOVE sculpture was fun. There's a ton of fascinating Edgar Allan Poe stuff lying about. The trippy Magic Gardens is a must-see. And the Wanamaker Organ (the largest functioning pipe organ in the world) can be found inside Macy's Center City. All lovely locations! Yet none of which pulled together a unified feel in me.

Perhaps my love for the entertainment culture is where I best slipped into my groove. The Paddy's Pub said to inspire the very same Always Sunny location? It's here! Where Will Smith plays basketball in the intro for Fresh Prince? It's here! And the stairs Rocky runs up during the most famous training montage in cinema history? It's here! Naturally, I bounded up those steps like every tourist is obliged to do, and let me assure you, it's freaking easy. Embarrassingly so, if anything.

The activities don't end there either. I devoured my first Philly cheesesteak, which was obviously born here. And even though it was of the vegan variation, goddamn, they knew what they were doing!! I still dream of that fucking meal; it was enough to make a weepy child out of me. I want to cry right now! It was that good. Another interesting exchange was when one hostel worker couldn't shut up about how Philly was the greatest because they invented street art. New York City may have claimed the honour, but deep down, even NYC confess that it originated here. And I was like, suuuure bud. But I googled it, and it's totally true! All street art in the world started in Philly! That's huge!

But, in the end, what truly sticks to my pallet was what I mentioned in the beginning. The rainy evenings hunkering in that hostel, drinking and playing Jenga, that's what topped up my social tanks. There was a communal family vibe to that hostel, and indeed, the entire city. I would recommend it to anyone.

One final recollection. It's was here where a previously small conversation had begun to visibly snowball after following most of my Jarexit III travels throughout. It was that some pesky virus had been spreading rapidly across the world, and it'd recently touched down in 'Murica. The murmured concerns were getting louder, but if I remember correctly, I laughed it off. Remember bird flu? Swine flu? Guys, this is no big deal!

Top Five Recommended Sights
Philadelphia's Magic Gardens, Rocky Stairs at Philadelphia Museum of Art, Irish Memorial, LOVE sculpture, Fresh Prince basketball court

Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Rocky Stairs (video) | Summary Shot

Monstrocity Drawing

Worst to Best: Jarexit III: 04. Sacred Valley (Cusco, Santa Teresa, Machu Picchu), Peru

04. Sacred Valley (Cusco, Santa Teresa, Machu Picchu), Peru

Dates: 28 Dec 2019 - 4 Jan 2020
Accommodation: El Quetzal Machupicchu - 8/10 (Machu Picchu, 31 Dec - 2 Jan)
1900 Hostel - 9/10 (Lima, 11 Jan - 18 Jan 2020)

If there ever was a Jarexit stop that doesn’t adhere to the standard criteria, this is the cheat card you seek. Shooting off the Pucallpa/Lima leg, this was not a singular destination but a multi-location adventure for which even the most expert of travellers would clip on their seat belts. Here is Peru at its deepest, bru, and I was ready for the big game! As were my three teammates (my brother, Gareth, my brother’s girlfriend, Andrea, and her sister, Sandra), a collective the world now recognises as the Los Cuatros Chullos.

It was a curious dynamic, partially because Sandra spoke minimal English. Still, everyone got along nicely thanks to Andrea’s ninja translation skills, her dual dialect saving our lives on more than one occasion. As for me, a black-belt lone traveller, it was just a relief to let go of the wheel and spread the mental weight across other minds, granting my thoughts the luxury of wonderment, thirsty for a trip that would change my life forever. And it did. First-order: a flight to Cusco!

Cusco is one crazy place! It's situated 8,000 feet above sea level. Such an elevation means that if you get overly excited and take one step too quickly, the lack of oxygen would power your brain off, and you'd go tumbling facefirst to the ground. Curiously, I appeared immune to this disorder, never once feeling the slightest bit woozy, masochistically jealous when the people around me kept fainting like goats. Regardless, this ailment only lasts a few days before your body adjusts, and then you can explore the surprisingly large city for all the cultural richness it's worth. The endless views were invigorating, the markets were buzzing with strangeness, and the dietary horrors eventually settled in my mind (deep-fried guinea pigs, anyone?).

A day passed, and then a man named Enrico let us in his car because we paid him. We drove six hours to Santa Teresa, and this road trip itself is a memory that shines brightly on its own. The infinite green landscapes that rise and fall like they're breathing, many hills reshaped by the Incas to summon their gods or entertain the aliens or whatever. We desperately chewed coca leaves to ward off altitude sickness while swerving around narrow mountain paths, tyres scraping the edges of cliffs haunted by bodies that annually plummeted to their deaths. Not us, not today, no thanks.

With sleepy butt cheeks, we finally reached our destination and promptly dived into the Santa Teresa Cocalmayo hot springs. Now, as this tale continues, you'll appreciate how many soul-melting landmarks we witnessed, but when we tallied the overall experience in hindsight, we unanimously agreed that this watery break was (perhaps) the highlight. Natural springs were gushing into manmade pools surrounded by mountains that dominated every direction, and it paused my puny mind. It was impossible to take everything in, but there is no past nor future in places like that. You are forced into the moment by mother nature's beauty, a reboot while she cleanses your ghost, a necessary process to grant access into deeper realms of the valley. They sell it as so.

After this otherworldly energy had seeped into our pores, we crashed out only to awake on the 31st of December, the concluding day of the decade, and we were amped for the final push. We cartwheeled onto a train that tore through a portion of the Amazon jungle which in itself was an incomprehensibly exhilarating bucket-list deal. Eventually, it screeched to a halt, and we stepped off into The Sacred Valley's main course: Machu fucking Picchu town. Bag drop then a causal visit to one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, some 15th-century Inca citadel or other.

That Peruvian timezone was way behind most of the globe, making for a trippy social media session. My friends were already screaming their countdowns while I held several extra hours to enjoy the decade-end, doing so by exploring old Inca architecture, smug about my superior life choices. Sadly, a murky mist crept into our vision, and droplets of rain interrupted many incredible photo opportunities, but how nice it was to remember how little control we have over nature? And what mattered was we were there. Where else would I want to be? Retrospection has been very kind to the occasion. Your present moment can never swallow something like that in one go. Even now, as I type these words, I feel like... what the fuck? Was I there? How is that possible?

Back to the mainland and we ushered in 2020 at some touristy bar where one round of drinks cost more than two nights of accommodation. I only had two alcoholic beverages, Peruvian pisco sours if memory serves me (it doesn't), but we danced to cheesy music and then dodged the loud fireworks that the local children threw at us specifically. Bedtime was early, and I awoke on the 1st of January without a hangover, the first time in perhaps 21 years. And while wearing smiles, we predicted with optimism how 2020 would be our best year yet. Aha. Ahaha. aHAHAHAHA!

A day of Machu Picchu exploration blurred past, then we took a train back to meet our car man. He was late, and we were tired, our once vibrant South American energy depleted by the inevitable unrest of waking up in different places for so many consecutive days. After some time, an unrecognisable fella approached. He knew our names and relayed some news which immediately flipped our emotions. A destructive mudslide had occurred on the pathway home, meaning there was no direct passage of escape. The solution was for this stranger to taxi us as far as possible, and then we'd cross the earthly barricade on foot. We did so, scrambling over rocks monstrous enough to crush a torso while ominous stones continued to bounce from the skies, rolling across our shoes. We met our original driver, Enrico, on the other side and got into his car as he rushed us along. Bits of the mountain ceaselessly rained around the vehicle, and the pained creases on Enrico's face indicated we were in genuine trouble. At times he would slam on brakes so Gareth could leap out and roll a sizeable earth-chunk off the road, allowing us to resume our getaway. We were fully aware that it would take only one of those adult rocks to end us. We were holding our breath, nails digging into the seats, the threat of death snickering over our necks. But, of course, I'm telling the story; therefore, we survived with yet another epic page in the diary. These are the tales worth living to tell.

Once we'd regained our chill, the ride turned into one of great joy featuring various other notable events. First, we paused in the blinding fog of Abra Malaga, 14,160ft above sea level, the highest I've ever stood in my life. Next, we stopped at potentially a witch's hut where she showed us the skulls of her grandparents before feeding us home-brewed corn beer—which was delicious! And we completed this windy path at Cochahuasi Animal Sanctuary, where we fed llamas, shook hands with sad monkeys, and ducked as the soaring wings of condors brushed our heads. Quite a start to the decade!

We crashed out in Cusco for a few days to recover, but my computer-brain's hard drive was maxed at this point, so I was no longer storing memories. I recall playing Uno? I also managed to hang with a friend named Evi, who I knew pretty well in London but hadn't seen in close to eight years. How we both ended up in Cusco simultaneously is difficult to calculate, but as I say, I ceased asking questions way back when. And then the Jarexit slipped back into the mainstream, the Pucallpa timeline resuming as if nothing ever happened (see entry #7).

No question that this was the mission of a lifetime. I'm acutely aware of how dramatic it sounds when I announce I had a spiritual awakening-ish of sorts here, but I possess the texts to prove it. Not much time later, I began authoring my Janthopoyism scripture, time and time again crediting South America as the conclusive oomph I needed to tie it together. Yet if this is so, how could such a historic undertaking only land at 4th place on my little list? Well, it wasn't easy! But I've pinned it down to two factors.

The first is that the Sacred Valley was no leisurely stroll. On the contrary, it was a perpetual forward motion, which provoked acute anxiety in certain team members. Make no mistake, the awe was superglued to my face, and my seasoned travelling coat swatted troublesome vibes away, but as the only one who'd spent the last five months galavanting around 12 countries, I can see why other people struggled. Because it was no relaxing ting for me neither!

And the second factor is that the Jarexit stops from here were just too cool to place any lower on my article. So get pumped for that shiiiiit.

Top Five Recommended Sights
Machu Picchu, Cocalmayo hot springs (Santa Teresa), Inca Lienzo Pétreo wall (Cusco), the scenic drive from Cusco to Santa Teresa, Plaza de Armas de Cusco (Cusco)

Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Set 2 | Set 3 | New Year Machu Picchu Greeting | Summary Shot

Monstrocity Drawing

Worst to Best: Jarexit III: 03. Washington D.C., USA

03. Washington D.C., USA

Dates: 16 Feb - 23 Feb 2020
Accommodation: Duo Nomad - 8/10

Washington D.C. was a hyperspeed smudge of passing frames, shoving as much meat into my mind suitcase that could fit over a one week period of time. It was the impossible mission considering the infinite scroll of a to-do list I had to do, but by God, I was going to try. And this is the story of a tourism rollercoaster, without a doubt executed at the most expert level I've ever achieved, initiated before the plane even squeaked the tarmac. Because as you're gliding into the capital city of America and you instantly recognise that National Mall stretching across the land, your guts get restless. I've looked at this place a billion times on the TV since I was in nappies, and now here I was, no longer in nappies.

The excitement continued the moment I stepped out of the airport and ordered an Uber. An intensely chatty black lady picked me up and took me to my hostel, our conversation ending with an agreement that she would drive me to Philadelphia, and we were going to film the whole thing, creating a movie about us. Unfortunately, I never took her up on the offer, but her smiley face set the stage for the friendliest community of people I've experienced anywhere in the world.

The following seven days were nothing but a game of dot-to-dot, connecting a series of locations as quickly as my feet would move me. I licked up every corner of this city like something was chasing me, visiting on average 13 soul-shifting landmarks every day. On my final day alone, I walked 20.5km over five hours just to really slurp up as many floaty bits as I could. Consequently, it would not do this Jarexit entry any justice to simply dedicate a paragraph to the historical highlights. Because that's all this trip was! Historical highlights! I didn't make any new social media friends. I didn't go out on a drunken night. I just put my head down and devoted my energy to the cause of becoming one with Washington D.C. Here are some of the best things I've ever seen in my life:

Firstly, I ran around the National Mall on the daily. The Lincoln Memorial (complete with a tile indicating where Martin Luther King Jr.'s delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech), the Reflecting Pool, the Washington Monument, the Capitol Building... these are all iconic structures that one can only respect as symbolic pinnacles of American pride.

Scribbled around this land are an unreasonable amount of buildings to visit within a week. But I gave it a shot! I loved the National Gallery of Art, where I marvelled over famed masterpieces such as a Van Gogh self-portrait, The Sacrament of the Last Supper by Salvador Dalí, and stacks upon stacks of Picasso works. Yet, weirdly, I enjoyed The Library of Congress even more, primarily from an interior design perspective. I also saw the five (P)EGOT awards in a row on display here! That throttled my lungs deeper than I would have anticipated.

Within this same vein, I must mention The United States Botanical Garden (the oldest in the country, 1850), the World War II Memorial, and the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Whew!

Not far from this familiar madness was The White House, where Trump resided at the time, rambling away. I waved at his windows from the fence while wearing my Make Racists Afraid Again hoodie, a passive-aggressive statement I purchased around the time they inaugurated the dude. It felt like that clothing item completed its life circle that day, even if I still have it.

Moving forward, and here's the best joke in the world: The South African Embassy's Mandela statue stands across the road from the British Embassy's Winston Churchill statue. Churchill's peace/v-sign for victory is high in the air, as is Mandela's raised Black Power fist. Rock beats scissors, fucker! Hahahaa. This match-up was 100% intentional, by the way.

On my lonesome, a Scientologist tour guide showed me around L. Ron Hubbard's former house, which we now recognise as the first church of the religion. I touched the keys of the typewriter where he smashed out his first scripture! My anxiety always maxes out in Scientology situations (I've had several), but it was an appreciated education nonetheless!

The Washington National Cathedral charges entry which is against my principles, but I'm glad I made the sacrifice! The reasoning is two-fold. (1) You can get semi-close to Helen Kellar's final resting place, and (2) there is an actual fucking piece of rock from the moon stuck into one of the stained glass windows!! Have you ever seen a chunk of the moon a few meters from your cornea? I have.

Hey, do you recall that long staircase at the end of The Exorcist? That's in this city too! I skipped up and down those steps more times than my pride will admit, and I wasn't the only person doing so. This activity was a bigger deal to me than I'm making it sound. It's the best horror film ever produced, surely.

The Dupont Underground art gallery (set in an abandoned subway) was closed when I visited. But, again, Washington D.C. peeps are so kind that they let me go down anyway while they were setting up. I've run out of space on my scorecard.

Important: if you are EVER lucky enough to slide through this city on a Wednesday or the weekend, forget everything and march on down to the Culture House. This brightly coloured church serves as an art exhibition space, including two rave dancefloors set to serve the surrounding black community. I was one of the very few white people there, but they were more than welcome to have this skinny cracker hanging around, pretending to fit in. A genuinely exhilarating party that caught me completely off-balance, my heels spinning 360. I exploded a little. I get the jitters thinking about this spot as I type this.

I could go on for a much longer time, but for the sake of you, here is a quick splurge of must-sees if you're using my blog in that manner: the USNO Master Clock Display (the most accurate clock in the world), the Old Stone House, the triple-life sized statue of Einstein, the "secret" FBI house across from the Russian Embassy, Rosa Parks' former house, the 930 Club (holy ground for the DC hardcore scene), the Barbie Pond On Avenue Q (I can't explain this, check their Insta), the famous Ben's Chili Bowl, the Big Chair (19.5 feet tall), the Chinatown Zodiac intersection, and the Uline Arena (where The Beatles played their first-ever American show to 8,000 people in 1964). That juuuuuust about covers the essentials.

The only icky feeling Washington D.C. provoked within me was the inescapable wealth disparity dampening the fun. Here are these remarkable landmarks that define the entire landscape of the United States, and yet the poverty that sprawled the pavements below is some of the worst in the country (19% of residents, second only to Mississippi state, I believe). Certain blocks were unbearably sad, so you move on as fast as you can because if you don't, they will take everything you carry.

A brief sidestep to supply some much-deserved respect to my hostel. My stylish six-person bedroom was cramped af, but otherwise, it's an accommodation I'd recommend. One of the staff members was a highly attractive female who had flirtatious tendencies towards me, which always goes a long way. She fried chocolate-chip pancakes for the lodgers every morning, and even though I was trying to lean more vegan with my diet, I would never say no to anything she offered.

I left Washington D.C. with tired legs but armfuls of smiley faces, willing to do it again without changing anything. My cab driver to the bus stop was yet another cheerful fella of African descent, and I sat back in astonishment, attempting to digest what I'd just swallowed. The unsettling vibes of Florida only a week before had me questioning the USA as a whole, but the nation's capital slapped me right back in line, reminding me why this great country always boasted itself so grandiosely. Here was the wide tasty bite of America I always pictured, and I still regard the area as the ideal representative for anyone wishing to encounter America's patriotic energy charged to the brim.

Of course, within one year of my visit, this city flashed upon our news screens multiple times for various tense reasons. Just over three months later, the Black Lives Matter protests steered the world by its balls, but the booming cries for justice rightfully tore through the President's city the loudest. Frustrated hands set cars on fire while Trump built a wall of protection around his White House, scenes so historical that the council ultimately renamed a nearby street to Black Lives Matter Plaza. And then, only seven months following, Trump supporters rushed the Capitol building as an opposite breed of protest, fighting against what the soon-to-be ex-president called a "rigged" election result. It was pure insanity accurately reflecting our blemished zeitgeist. One always feels more attached to lands they've visited, and I shook my head in disbelief that I had been merrily skipping along those bright streets such a short time ago. And you know who I thought about? I thought about that Uber lady from my first day. I wondered if she was ok.

Top Five Recommended Sights
The entire National Mall, the Exorcist Stairs, the Culture House, the first Church of Scientology, the South African/British Embassy's statues

Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Set 2 | Summary Shot

Monstrocity Drawing

Worst to Best: Jarexit III: 02. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

02. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Dates: 19 Jan - 1 Feb 2020
Accommodation: Rio Earth - 7/10 (19 Jan – 26 Jan)
Mojito Hostel & Suites Ipanema Rio de Janeiro - 8/10 (26 Jan - 30 Jan)
Cantinho da Familia - 9/10 (30 Jan - 1 Feb)

Some cities pull us towards themselves using an invisible string, the very name stirring a beckoning action within our tummies. For the life of me, I don't know why Rio had such a draw for my energy. And I do mean "for the life of me" quite literally, as I was fairly certain that if I went to this Brazilian hotspot, I was going to die. I'd heard the rumours from almost everyone I spoke to, nothing but horror stories around the campfire, some of my bestie friendies warning me not to go. But the heart wants what the heart wants, and my heart was like, "stop being a willy, let's gooo to Riooo!". So with my wallet shoved into my sock and my iPhone never on display, I lept from my mind-cliff and into my gut-pool.

I wish I could tell you that the moment I landed in the city, all of my unwarranted paranoia dissipated into the ether, but this was not the case. Rio is fucking dangerous, buddy! And when you witness the heartbreaking amount of poverty, the numbers add themselves. Desperate people make for desperate situations. Still, I was here now, and I wasn't going to let a little fear of murder slow me down. If anything, it sped me up! When that man charged at me on the beach screaming Portequese madness through a foamy mouth, my legs moved in ways they hadn't shown me before. High alert adreno-glands all day, every day.

The surprising thing is that I found my groove relatively effortlessly, and I understand exactly how this happened. It's because I spent my most formative years living in Cape Town, South Africa, my "home" if home is where the family is. And these two cities are sisters from another mister to such a degree that I grew nostalgic for a time long forgotten, the loudest flaring of appreciation for my former residence since I left in 2008. Yes, the urgent dirty hands on the streets are comparable, and yes, the constant threat to your survival keeps both towns on their toes, but it pulsated far deeper than that. These places feel like they're on fire. The vibrancy of the culture and the colourful explosions of vitality dance across the land, leaving trails along the endless beaches, slipping between the forestation, and shouting from the mountains, every offering powered by the eternal drum of the joyful sun. Like a feral beast, Rio is unchallenged as the most "alive" city I've ever felt, every moment forcing you so hard into the present that you're unsure when you last knew you were real. Because Brazil is real. Brazil is so real that their currency is called Real. Ah man, my words can't compete with that.

And there is rad shit to see. Tons of the rad shit, tons and tons of it. The Royal Portuguese Reading Room is in the peak tier of gorgeous libraries I've set foot in (and I've visited many). The Rio De Janeiro Cathedral is like an alien spaceship, the most exciting palace of worship I've ever attended (and I've visited many). The crammed Cemitério São João Batista cemetery is in my top three cemeteries with the most character (and I've visited many). You've seen the Escadaria Selarón Mosaic Steps in pictures before. The largest mural painted by a single artist in the world is here (Etnies by Eduardo Kobra). Museu do Amanhã. Copacabana Beach. Ipanema Beach. Açaí. OMG, açaí. If I were a god, açaí would be the food I officially sponsor.

Of course, when you visit Rio de Janeiro, there are two major sites that you have to see, otherwise, you're a loser with their zipper down, and my zipper isn't down. I had to take half a day off work for this, but I got it done, I hope you're happy. The first is the World Heritage Site of Sugarloaf Mountain, which is fun because of its sugarloaf shape! And because it boasts the best fucking panoramic views over any fucking city I've ever fucking seen. And the second is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue. I must say, it was an epic atmosphere, more than I'd envisioned. Jesus is a pretty influential celebrity and to see him towering above the city at all times is a gift. And then to see him again up close, it's one of those moments where you're intensely aware that you're going to be telling everyone about this for the rest of your age. I'm a big Jesus fan, and this was a big Jesus.

Now would be the perfect juncture to chat about people. If you throw that much spiritual energy into a bowl and mix in a heaped cup of sunshine, you're going to bake some friendly faces. First, mad shout-out to Sara and her two offspring, Gustavo and Cassi. They were a family who adopted me during the previous paragraph, keeping me company the whole way as if one of their own. So nice! If it weren't for these genuine humans, I would not have any photos of myself at such famous landmarks, and I will treasure that forever. Good people. I felt honoured to share that memorable day with them.

I also had the absolute privilege to hang out with my ex-housemate and top-top-top-shelf mate Pepê, as well as his lady friend, Ingrid, who I knew and now know even better. This duo came with a vast collection of other people, and for an evening, I was one of the cool local kids hanging with the other cool local kids, watching the sunset from Mureta da Urca, sharing massive beers into smaller cups so they didn't get too warm. I was off my tits by the end of that night, and, by God, I was so joyous too. Quick additional sprouts of love to Shenna and Alice!

Should we talk about Brazilian girls for a minute? Can you handle it?

As Peru illustrated, South America interpreted my dating profiles well, and two specific ladies deserve ample space in this blog and so much more. The first girl was one of those immediate connections like live wires touching. We conversed about the Law of Attraction and our attraction towards one another, and where those topics overlapped. We drank giant beers that cost £2.42 and kissed each other around the city centre like we were already a couple stuck in a whirlwind. We then accidentally stumbled on an explosive street rave which punctuated the night of meant-to-be's, like a sign from above that we had finally found one another. And then I fucking ruined it. The subsequent morning I awoke with a self-deprecating hungover and felt overwhelmed. Our following conversation was cold from my side, and she picked that up immediately. Once my hangover subsided, I recognised my tenseness and tried to patch it up, but she had turned her back. Try as I might, she would not see me again before I departed. I regret that so much. We are still in contact today and communicate regularly, but this is a tragic story as well as one of the most fascinating human interactions I've ever had. I'm still bewildered by all of it. Sometimes I wonder if I will see her again and then we'll live happily ever after? Maybe.

The second encounter was less profound but more satisfying. Pure rock 'n' roll chick, she arrived at the date already wasted, spent some time evaluating me and then invited me back to her place in record time. She lived on the uppermost floor of a favela, and as I stood on her balcony, marvelling over the expansive view of Rio's nighttime skyline, she sucked me off, Christ the Redeemer blessing us from a distance. We then banged to Aerosmith. I fell asleep, woke up hungover and rushed back to my hostel to make it to work on time. This event took place on my third day here. Too much information? I am aware, but try to see this from my perspective. Do you recognise how grateful I was for such a moment? How could I not tell you about it?

Just quickly, Rio Earth was an ok hostel/guesthouse where the owners are super smiley. Yet, it was a bit shitty, especially when we had a public argument on about their temperamental internet connection. Meanwhile, Mojito Hostel & Suites was much closer to my vibe, a proper backpackers hostel with sufficient social opportunity, and Cantinho da Familia is ideal if you need a private room to break from the madness. Oh, and if you're seeking a dentist, Rio Implants was suitable. I decided I needed a checkup and a polish, so I did that too because I'm an adult. So interesting!

The gifts from Rio (and this continent) were of value unmatched anywhere else in the world, continuing to guide me until this day. There is a spiritual vibration beneath this earth's crust which many attest to, a region that is less clouded by prioritised intellect and instead driven by a primal intuition. Janthopoyism sprouted in Peru, but in Rio, it blossomed, and I will always hold this city dear for such nurturing abilities. It is second on this list, so my love is evident, but in many trains of thought, it's criminal that it's not number 1.

Two weeks down the hatch, and I booked my ticket to the United States. I arrived at the airport and the native counter lady asked if I'd "been to Sheena?". I was like, "Sheena?" and she responded, "Yes, Sheena!". Hmmm, "No, I don't know who or what that is, so I don't think so." But she persisted. "Sheena! SHEENA!" eventually, I was raising my voice, "Listen, I obviously have no idea what you're talking about, so it's fair to assume I have not been there!!". She accepted that. Through the gates and the English announcer announced, "Please let staff know if you have recently visited China and if you're feeling any of the following symptoms..." and I was like, "Ooooh, not Sheeena, CHINA! And also, lol, everyone is really freaking out about this silly virus thing, huh?".

Top Five Recommended Sights
Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro; The Royal Portuguese Reading Room; Cemitério São João Batista; Christ the Redeemer; Sugarloaf Mountain

Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Set 2 | Summary Shot

Monstrocity Drawing

Worst to Best: Jarexit III: 01. New York City, New York, USA

01. New York City, New York, USA

Dates: 1 March - 27 March 2020
Accommodation: Blue Moon Boutique Hostel & Hotel - 7/10 (Lower East Manhattan. 1 March - 8 March)
HI NYC Hostel - 9/10 (Harlem, 8 March - 15 March)
NY Moore Hostel - 6/10 (Brooklyn, 15 March - 20 March)
Genae's House - N/A (the Bronx, 20 March - 27 March)

Ever since the fateful day I crawled out from my mama, there appeared an obvious holy trinity of global cities. First and foremost, London, which I've conquered as many times as she's conquered me. Secondly, there's Tokyo, which effortlessly topped my Jarexit II list, living up to its hyperspeed sugar reputation perfectly. And finally, there was the mighty New York City.

Every step I took upon every land I visited felt like merely a course marching towards this metropolitan zenith. And so when the bus from Philly turned to face that famous skyline, I confess I lost eye-liquid. I couldn't believe it was finally happening. I was about to explore New Fucking York Fucking City, baby, fuck! And you already know how it went, because we're coming to the end of this article.

The most remarkable feature about any Monster City is that there is too much stuff to keep you busy. For comparison's sake, my previous Philadelphia mission had a respectable 64 landmarks that I wanted to check off my list. NYC had 260, an itinerary that expanded even longer once I'd set up camp. And herein lies what makes this account challenging to write without just spewing an oversized tally of daily observations. Because one thing no one told me about New York is that it's compact as fuck. Yes, it's enormous, but not really by landmass, rather by height. It's very tall. And every crevice and every corner boasted something unique, not a street uncramped without notable magic, enriching my life with an overwhelming amount of Instagrammable content. It was so insane, and even as I reflect on those memories over a year later, no power is weakened. I remain enchanted by the weirdness of NYC.

I gawked up at some of the biggest things you've ever heard of, permanent iconic structures forever carved into the human psyche irrespective of where you grew up. The Empire State Building, Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium, Central Park, Wall Street and its Rockefeller Center... their names alone shake the memory tubes of anyone who has ever watched TV. Times Square is overpowering enough, so when my phone abruptly died despite its 50% battery display, I was worried no one would ever find me again. I retraced my steps back between bright superstructures that shrunk my existence until I found the subway and navigated those unfamiliar underground networks to my hostel, proud of myself. And then there was the 9/11 Memorial, where the weight of those towers came crashing down into my stomach. As I stared at that haunted concrete beneath my feet, the tragedy genuinely sunk in, and I felt sick, and I felt angry.

I toured the Museum Of Modern Art and bowed my head before pieces by Picasso, by Pollock, by Kahlo, by Mondrian. I smiled at Campbell's Soup Cans by Andy Warhol, I pressed my nose to The Persistence Of Memory by Salvador Dalí, and I nearly fainted when I casually bumped into The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh. Oh, hey! I didn't even know you were here! I'm such an uncultured idiot! I could've easily missed it, wtf!

But for an entertainment junkie such as myself, it was the spots made popular by modern artistic mediums that sparked my salvation glands. I took photos of the spaces where some of the greatest album artwork ever was captured (examples include PJ Harvey's Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea; Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited and The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan; Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti; Ramones' self-titled debut; The Who's The Kids Are Alright; The Doors' Strange Days; Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique; and Neil Young's After the Gold Rushall of which you can enjoy here). I sniffed out a Sonic Youth trail of my design. I scouted locations from Taxi Driver and Birdman and Breakfast at Tiffany's and Annie Hall. I skulked around the diner from Seinfeld, I danced along the stairs from the Joker, I dribbled down the grate that blew up Marilyn Monroe's dress, and I joined the endless stream of tourists who snapped shots of the exterior apartment from Friends. I thought about drugs outside the Hotel Chelsea. I thought about fucking Meg Ryan at the table where she faked an orgasm as Sally Albright. I said a prayer at the tree where the Hare Krishna movement first started. And I said an even more authentic prayer at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, where the entire hip hop genre was born.

Superior to the above were two extra special areas. The first was the street far below the penthouse where cancer defeated David Bowie, and his soul left the Earth to explore space as destined. Having spent some time outside the Brixton home where his spirit entered his body, I felt about as close as I could get to the guy. And even in my sadness, I was able to recognise a career well-spent and a passing that had achieved more than any man should reasonably expect. However, such a sensation did not apply outside the Dakota apartments, the exact spot where a bullet stole John Lennon from us. There I felt a more significant loss mixed in with a wad of fury. His life was severed far too short, and with every breath, my lungs choked on an atmosphere of absence. I have since visited Lennon's childhood home in Liverpool too, so at least that cycle is also complete. The two most influential legends to my creative life. God bless both of your contributions.

What I have told you thus far are only the highlights, things you would recognise. Due to time constraints, I have left out the seemingly infinite amount of quirky details this masterpiece of a city offers. But hopefully, I have accurately illustrated that I did New York, and I did it hard. I began in a Lower East Manhattan hostel which may not have been the best accommodation but was unchallenged as the best area with its artsy personality fighting off gentrification. I moved to Harlem my second week, which was also a dream, not as scary as the reputation tells, plus HI NYC Hostel was perhaps the most fun and well-equipped housing I've ever stayed in, 100% Jared recommended stamp of approval. I then relocated to the exciting streets of Brooklyn into a hostel that looked like an art piece itself, and that's where all hell shattered our reality.

The COVID conversation was already dominating the airwaves before I landed in the Big Apple, and despite my initial disregard to the seriousness of the situation ("It's just a media distraction!"), it was evident by now that this thing, whatever it was, was chowing the planet like Pacman. The bug knocked Europe down, and as I watched Trump slam the borders to those countries (including the UK), a nervous electrical current outlined my organs. I refused to press the elevator buttons out of fear. Every time someone cleared their throat, the room was nothing but side-eyes. And then New York fell.

The concept of corona truly bulldozed me when I strolled into my local Trader Joe's and found it to be stripped bare. The shelves were just about empty, although I managed to grab a tin of beans, and then I nearly cried. At one point, a beggar man spluttered on me, and I convinced myself that he'd signed my death away. On March 17th, I stopped going out. But nothing can compare to March 20th, when the NY Moore Hostel announced that it was shutting its business, and we had to go.

The staff feigned their most earnest pity towards me in particular. The day before, I'd dropped hundreds of dollars to extend my stay by a further week. "Don't worry," they said. "You'll get a refund within five working days", and then they kicked us to the curb during a pandemic in the middle of the most infected city in the world without my money or a food coupon or a complimentary toilet roll or anything. The lack of professionalism and empathy would have left me furious if I didn't have other things on my mind, like, I don't know, being homeless!? It was a tense period because I had minimal resources and even fewer options. Every door was closing around me rapidly.

Miracles come in big packages, and my good mate Javier got in touch. A friend of his owns an Airbnb in the Bronx, and owed to the disease fog, it was available. What's more, she was happy to charge me the same price as my previous residence. For a private room! Thanks, Javzzzz! I moved in and settled down quickly, developing a strategy. I was supposed to be hitting Boston next and then Toronto, but I was aware that this was a futile projection. I had a flight booked from Chicago to London, leaving in about a month, so if I could sit tight in this comfy room and wait for the airborne germs to blow away with the wind, I could skip down that direction, easy peasy! Life's normality would resume soon enough with minimal disruption to my adventure time! Woohoo!

That never happened. Instead, I watched the bustle of New York grow quieter and quieter. I trembled as every essential supermarket visit imitated the apocalypse. And I was terrified. Existing alone in a city/country/continent where I hardly knew a face was difficult to deal with when a virus was contaminating the human race. But everytime my panicked mom called, I'd tell her I was alright. And all things considered, yeah, I was alright, I was alright.

After my Chicago ticket was cancelled, a meltdown did come. I frantically clicked a bunch of random buttons, accidentally purchasing a New York to London flight for many weeks later. Fuck! I chewed through my lip and bought yet another ticket for the upcoming March 29th weekend, then boarding that packed plane at JFK (which was a nightmare in itself), escaping the epicentre of the pandemic, NYC collapsing in my wake, now flying directly into the other epicentre of the pandemic, go figure. Of course, that's another story, and indirectly, my blog about David Icke serves as some agenda-driven sequel to the madness that followed.

So, in the end, my American Jarexit Tour was snipped prematurely, but I was not bitter. I was grateful. I had plans to visit New Jersey for a week before New York, but I opted to leap straight into the beast after Philly, and I appreciate that as some divine intervention. Imagine I hadn't! I was gifted two glorious weeks where I got to scrub the deepest cracks of NYC and was again impressed by my foresight. I knew in my heart that this was arguably the world's greatest city, and I confirmed that without a shadow. I guess I know me.

And how about that hindsight, huh? My New York encounter was way more legendary than anyone else's. I had front row tickets to armageddon, seated in the exact location the movies promised for decades. New York City evaporated into a ghost town around me. That's not something you can buy nor plan. Most likely, that's not something anyone will get to experience in our lifetime again. But I did. And that's what made it special.

My most aggravating regret is that I was saving the Statue of Liberty for last. Hence I never met the lady beyond a speck on the horizon. Oh well... I suppose... I'll just have to... GO BACK! Like, permanently next time, maybe idk.

And thus ends the third Jarexit at its most vibrantly obvious concluding point: the peak and the end. I hope you had a good time! The absence of a break between numbers II and III meant eight months of uninterrupted travel across 12 countries in five continents. What's interesting is that Jarexit III ended just before April 2020, meaning that I hadn't been out of the Americas the entire decade yet. Needless to say, despite the unsettling circumstances, I was secretly relieved to be home, gearing myself up for death with the people I loved the most. Still waiting.

Top Five Recommended Sights
Times Square, Central Park, The 911 Memorial, The Museum of Modern Art, Everything

Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Set 2 | Set 3 | Set 4 (album artwork) | Lockdown Chat | Summary Shot (NYC and Jarexit III)

Monstrocity Drawing