One Shaven Armpit in the Twilight of Mexico City Airport

Mexico City Airport, 12:43am. There’s no better time to start writing than when I haven’t slept in 2 days, and the only thing keeping me going, besides a lukewarm cup of airport coffee, is the incentive to stay awake so I don’t miss my connecting flight. If I put my head down now, the next moment I’ll be waking up to the poke of a janitor’s broom and a missed flight. I know this because it’s happened before. After getting off the plane I immediately got lost and somehow managed to have to go through immigration twice tailed by a Colombian named Hugo who was in a similar predicament. After immigration we’d been asked to leave the gate area until 4am and wait in the cold snack area. I was feeling a little edgy. ‘A little edgy’ is how I tend to engage with life. However it’s not the lack of sleep or the lukewarm coffee that has me vexed, it’s the razor burn that’s having a party in my right armpit. My left armpit is ‘au natural’ and it”s all part of a empirical study I am conducting on the advice of my friend Todd. An avid adventurer, Todd told me you an bring less clothes when traveling if you shave your armpits. I planned to travel light but I decided to not fully adopt the technique until I tested it, after all, Todd was also the kind of guy who implanted a magnet in his finger so he could sense magnetic currents. What works for Todd might not work for everyone and right now I would wax my left eyebrow in exchange for some baby powder.

In 6 hours I’m going to catch my connecting flight to Buenos Aires. Then I don’t have a plan until my return ticket, two months from now. It’s an unbelievably refreshing feeling to have absolutely nothing to plan for, and no one relying on me for at least the next two month period. Some friends even wanted to join me and I politely declined the offer; I don’t even want to have be be somewhere at a certain date, but more than that, I’m taking this as an opportunity to break from my typical social habits such as networking, drinking and sexual debauchery, a goal that might be made more challenging if I import my old, faithful distractions.

The last couple of months in LA were spent delegating my various responsibilities, tying up loose ends and having some healthy alone time in the form of hikes, self education and acquisition of some new skills I might benefit from – such as some motorcycle courses in case I need to express my inner Che. As a final preparation for my journey I completed my 3rd 10 day Vipassana meditation experience – a wonderful technique for achieving inner contentedness (for a spiritually comedic recount, see my blog from my first experience here…). Finally I began to consider what, besides some much needed downtime, I wanted to accomplish in the next couple of months. I decided that I would spend much of the time reading books that I have been meaning to read and writing – the creative outlet that I most identify with. While I’m an energetic force to be reckoned with in person, I often feel like my brain rarely works as fast as my mouth, so I greatly enjoy reworking my writing to make it a more concise and accurate reflection of what I’m trying to express.

At this point I’d like to add that I had finished my coffee and it’ was surprisingly cold in this goddamn airport. Some people had blankets (perhaps prepared, regular travelers though Mexico City at 4am?) but since I didn’t really consider my stopover I’m prepared for the 90degF heat of Buenos Aires and packed all my warm clothes in the backpack that is now somewhere behind of the walls of this frigid maze.

OK, and so it begins. What exactly am I going to write? Well, of course I don’t want to get compulsive about it where it’s going, but I have a loose idea to take my readers on a journey of two simultaneous paths; one of course being my physical journey through Argentina and any other destination and the second being a parallel exploration of some ideas I’ve been meaning to expand. I am interested in exploring the synchronicity of the cosmos, oddities of human behavior and the societal cannibalism of much of the worlds golden-handcuffed population. I want to outline some of the problems I see and optimistically point towards possible solutions of how we can engage more intentionally with ourselves, other humans and this planet that we seem so intent on destroying. But for now, it’s time to get another lukewarm airport coffee.

After briskly walking the length of the lobby/snack area, I struck up a conversation with a fellow traveler who was headed the exact opposite direction from Buenos Aires to LA. We traded stories and he gave me some good tips on the city, as well as and electric plug adapter. It was yet another auspicious gift from the serendipitous universe. Aaron was 32, a burly real estate broker who after reading Neill Strauss’s book “Emergency” had completed his EMT training and taken a month to travel – and yes, he had managed to use his new skills twice in that time. We chatted, took more brisk walks and eventually wiled away the time until the gate area reopened. By this point in the early morning people had draped their jackets, scarves or sweaters around their heads and were lying on the food hall tabled in a final quest for heat retention. Our planes we actually leaving from the same gate although his was two hours earlier, so we continued discussing the topic of hitting 30 and how the age seem to bring a new level to the challenges to the obtainment of inner contentedness. We both agreed that with more income also came the seemingly insatiable desire to fill your life with meaningless junk, in what for many becomes and endless cycle of desire. The “Dirty Thirties”, also seems to herald your acceptance to ‘the club’. For no actual reason other than age, people seem to take you more seriously, generously serving up opportunity, and in what has been the wildest couple of month’s of my life, women have been no exception. Eventually his plane boarded and we said our goodbyes, with a certain sense of “I’ll see you again sometime”, in fact he said he was going to check out Mindshare.LA, the monthly event I run in downtown Los Angeles, which he’d heard about but never attended.

It was about 6am and I was in a dreamy state of sleep deprivation, augmented by a sharp caffeine overdose when I spotted a cute brunette a few rows away with her back to me. I decided to move to the seat opposite from her as if I had just arrived at the gate. After I sat down I made a comment about the chilly airport (it might actually have even been COLDER in the gate area) and immediately we began chatting. She was a 24 year old Buenos Aires local (residents are known as a portenos) who had been visiting her father in LA. She had deeply dark eyes and as she talked excitedly, her facial expressions conveyed her feelings as if they had a life of their own. She gave me local advice and was eager to point out her favorite Argentine destinations on a map I had pulled from my bag. Just before boarding we traded information and as we went to our separate seats I joked “I’ll give you a buzz and show you around town..” She laughed and tossed her wavy brown hair for me one last time before disappearing into the next section of coach.

Despite the cold 8 hours in Mexico City Airport I was happy to have met a couple of good people (another benefit of traveling solo) and already written a few pages – the first words of writing I had conjured in a year or so. I closed my eyes and imagined what was to come.

Posted by: Dougie In: Technomad Journals
  • Hi Dougie!

    I’m curious to hear about the results of your empirical study. There’s no clear consensus. Anecdotally it’s worked wonders for me, and many agree, but there is dissent.

    For instance the Wikipedia article says it might even *increase* your body odor: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Underarm_hair#Effects_of_shaving

    On Yahoo Answers the highest rated answer agrees with my opinion, that shaving your armpits reduces the workable surface area for bacteria to live on.

    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20081009171354AA6MGle

    Some of the debate hinges around the intactness of the ‘acid mantle’ of your skin, which is often disrupted in the armpits. Basically your skin is acidic (bad pun, sorry), which makes it difficult for bacteria to grow. Aggressive cleaning with basic soaps lowers the pH of the skin, and armpits are an area which people hit hard with soap. For this reason some people put vinegar in their armpits.

    http://www.skinbiology.com/skinhealth&aging.html#2.281%20Skin%20pH%20and%20the%20Acid%20Mantle

    Personally I only lightly scrub my armpits, and with mild soap. It may seem paradoxical that less washing makes your pits smell better, but it’s what I’ve found to work. Give that a try.

    Here are instructions for men on how to shave your armpits for when you do your second one: http://www.wikihow.com/Shave-Your-Armpits-(Men)

    For full disclosure, I use Brut deodorant, the 2.5 oz is perfect for traveling.

    http://www.amazon.com/Brut-Deodorant-Stick-Trimax-2-5/dp/B000GCLD9O I also travel with a small container of baby powder.

  • HAHA! Todd, your biography should be called “Vinegar in My Armpits” 🙂

    So, after giving it the 10 day trial, the jury is still out. Personally I think the heat of Buenos Aires overpowered even the most prepared and well shaven traveler. Furthermore, I, unlike you, my smooth skinned friend, have a fair amount of body hair already so I’m not sure how effective it was.

    On the other hand, down here in cooler Patagonia I’ve been rocking the same T-shirt for close to a week and still seem to be making friends, so there’s definitely something to it. So it’s getting to be decision time, continued shaving, or au natural. I’m leading towards the latter due solely to the razor burn dilemma.

    An arena that is far more disconcerting is my socks. There’s really no way to sugar coat a damp, 3 day worn sock and when it’s four guys in a hostel room after a trek, you better be able to open the window.

    Much love from Patagonia brother, heading into Chile soon for some hitchhiking up the southern Andes.

    Dfresh

    PS – Yes, baby powder is an absolute must, especially in the humid places. Atheletes foot cream is also recommended. Especially with some of the showers I’ve seen. And we’ll end that discussion there 😉

  • Aaron

    Burly! That’s the best you got? Awful!!!

    Hope you’re having fun down there…LA and I are off to a good start 🙂

    Take good care and hit me up when you get back state side..