UnReality Check

Words by John Angiulo. Photos by Jonathan Nimerfroh

I’m sitting underneath a palapa (wood and palm leaf hut) on the beach in Mexico. A left point break sits in front of me and the waves warble in the now onshore wind but still hold an alluring shape. I’m with five friends and we are awaiting the delicious food that by some miracle is prepared by a family owned and operated cocina on the beach there. It’s been there for generations and, without electricity, they provide food to foreigners who travel there from all over the world.

I ordered shrimp empanadas. Diego, who was hungry and acting like it, ordered that and a chicken plate. Enrico had several cigarettes, Jordan also had empanadas, Filipe had rice and bean and Michele (pronounced Mikali) had a bight of everyone’s food, a cigarette and a beer. We had taken his van there so food was like gas money.

Sitting there I reflected on a strange encounter that had jolted me. On our way to this surf spot, we had been bouncing around in the van playing music, and feeling as though our time travel back to the sixties was virtually complete. Then, out of the shadows of a mango plantation walked men in military regalia, each sporting a handsome AK-47.

They stopped our car and spoke to our amigos in the front in rapid Spanish. After a few moments of them conversing with one another in hushed voices they passed us through and we were off on our way. One of my companions muttered, “Well damn, that was a reality check.” Then we went on our way to the surf spot where I surfed and forgot about the entire encounter.

But sitting there, outside the heat of the simmering sun, I began to think. I began to think about the men with guns and the phrase “reality check”. The men with guns have to do with the fact that where I was is one of the most violent states in Mexico, tensions between the Federales and the cartels creating hostile situations that often lead to gun use and casualties. Which, frankly, sucks in lots of ways. It sucks that this paradigm exists and that people have to live and die in fear because of it. But what concerned me most was the phrase “reality check.”

Reality is what we believe the truth about our existence is. Whatever we consider reality is what we consider to be most real, which make sense since real is in the word 2reality”. However, I believe we are giving violence, power and destruction to much fucking credit.

Mexi_Log_2018 (123 of 293) The “real” Mexico. Photo: Jonathan Nimerfroh 

With the exception of that one encounter I was not dealing with armed soldiers while in Mexico. I was in a vortex of amazing people. Strangers from all over the world were gathered for a surf competition and lifestyle festival. People who didn’t know each other, who were competing, were becoming friends in just a day, spending all day long surfing and all night long eating, drinking, talking and most of all, dancing.

And there are communities like this all over the world, people creating, co-existing and generally, enjoying Life.

Now, the power situation in Mexico, and across the world really, is a complex web of avarice, fear and tradition. It is a difficult thing to fully grasp, how many people living simple good lives are controlled by a few people, living complex and corrupt ones. Yet, the reason I write is I believe in the power of words and that how we describe things changes what they are to us and what they will be in our lives and in this world. So it is with that in mind that I make this suggestion.

Don’t refer to violence, abuse, destruction, deceit, corruption, coercion and violence as reality. Don’t give those ideas that kind of power over our lives. Those things are just a …unreality. It’s like Bizarro to Superman or the upside down in Stranger Things or anyone without comic or science fiction references, it’s like a nightmare compared to waking up on a sunny morning. One is just a reflection of our fears, a warping of our sense that makes it feel real, but when we awake, the true reality is waiting for us.

It’s not a life without danger or violence or destruction. It’s just life that jumps over those things while focused on achievement, unity and creation. That is “reality”. So next time someone points at something shitty and calls it a reality check, think of that as an Unreality Check. Save the “reality checks” for things that are magical and beautiful. After all, you gotta ask yourself, isn’t that the kind of reality you want to live in?