I have finally finished reading The Masked Rider, by Rush drummer Neil Peart. It was both wonderful and disappointing.
Wonderful, because of the story that he tells, of the journey that he took across some of the hardest, as well as most beautiful, land on earth. For reasons that were apparently not even clear to himself, he biked across Cameroon with a handful of other North Americans, staying in all manner of hovels and hotels, meeting peasants and chieftains, and enduring difficult (and non-existent) roads and roadblocks. But, wow, what an experience.
Disappointing because in so many places Peart’s contempt for the portion of humanity not himself, comes through loudly. Much of the book was a tirade against his fellow travelers, or with the people around him, or with the pointlessness of West African inefficiencies. One wonders why someone would choose to bike across Cameroon if one wasn’t expecting abject poverty, terrible road conditions, and long stretches between running water. I’d love to see the marketing brochure.
Strangely, for his grim painting of the experience, I came away from it wishing that I could do it myself. Always a junkie for an experience, I would *love* to see the things that he describes, even at the expense of the physical difficulty it took to get to it. And in many of his disgusted tellings of interpersonal turmoil, I found myself siding with the person he was berating. He is *so* completely goal-oriented, that even when describing the beauty around him, he seemed to miss out on the experience he was complaining about – a bit of a paradox, I suppose.
Peart remains my favorite lyricist, writing song lyrics that actually mean something. But I have, so far, found his books frustrating – a wealthy traveler expecting the world to be a place of luxury when he arrives at his destination, and not get in his way getting there. I, on the other hand, love the journey more than the destination. For me, the experience is the thing, and actually arriving there is less interesting.
Or, to quote my favorite lyricist:
From the point of ignition
To the final drive
The point of a journey
Is not to arrive
Anything can happen…