We were in Madagascar. Tony and I.
He was long-limbed and tattooed and a little rumpled with a loose shirt that was untucked and we were walking along the narrow streets of Tana and I could see him sweating like all other men under the African sun and I instantly liked him for that.
But what I liked even more about him was his words which were uttered in his gruff, bruised voice and reflected the duality and absurdity of that fabulous country so eloquently that I wondered if I should keep traveling with him.
And I did.
South Africa, Sao Paulo, Spain. And the further we went, the more I saw how his deep empathy for the people of the world and his willingness to share a meal with them, regardless of how it was prepared or served, drew out stories which would have otherwise gone unheard. It was like intoxicating; his love of the world. It was like looking at the world through a new window. A window which led to beers and laughter and good, hot food.
To him, the best way to truly get to know a city was to eat on her streets and get drunk with her people and sing with them and listen to whatever they had to say?
Of course, Tony wasn’t perfect. He was vulgar and he got mad at the unfairness of the world and could be quick to judge sometimes. But he knew it and he I suspect he never wanted us to believe everything he told us either.
“The camera is a liar,” He said at the end of that first Madagascar episode. “It shows everything. It shows nothing. It reveals only what we want. Often what we see, is only seen through a window… My window! If you were here, chances are, you’d have seen things differently.“
But even those flashes, seen through his window, were still truer than almost any other renditions of the world I had ever seen. His window opened into a sweaty, chaotic world which I had seen first-hand and was much closer to the reality of travel than the deceptively glossy fabrications on the Instagram feeds of ‘travel gurus’ and travel publications.
And if I were to be as honest as him, I would have to say that I don’t quite know how to finish this piece.
I guess I miss him. And I want to binge watch all his shows. But that won’t do, because his shows weren’t made just to be windows. The whole point of his opening windows, I think now, was to compel us to do likewise. He wanted us to go to new places and new states of mind, — or even back to places we had already been to — and see them, really see them for what they were.
To not take what the net, or the books, or others told us of a place without question. To go and see it through our own windows. And to, like him, take it all with a grain of salt.