“In my madness I bought the ticket. I took the ride. I needed to live. I needed to suffer. I had to go.” Rob Binkley
Rob Binkley is a young Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has it all at twenty-seven: a thriving business, beautiful girlfriend, and great life. But something is missing. Despite his success, Rob fantasizes about shedding the shackles of his American Dream to live wild and free like his hero Hunter S. Thompson. As Rob’s world begins to fall apart, a visit from his Zen madman of a best friend, Brian, convinces him to hatch an escape plan and follow his bliss for authentic life experiences. Will he find the meaning of life while backpacking through twenty-three countries, or will he and Brian go mad wallowing in the extreme debauchery the world has to offer?
A tribute to gonzo beat literature, Let’s Go Mad is the amazing true story of their year abroad backpacking across the globe on a sideways search in all the wrong places, with all the wrong people, at all the wrong times. After Brian’s lust for life inspires Rob to embrace his inner lunatic, pushing the limits of sanity (and their friendship) into one merry blurthey come to realize there’s more to life than mere mad experience. They must have a “personal renaissance” or die trying.
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About the Author
Rob Binkley is an Arizona-based entrepreneur and avid backpacker who looks back on the adventure of a lifetime in his first book, Let’s Go Mad. Back in 1997, Rob could only dream of getting lost like Hunter S. Thompson in Brazil with his alcoholic monkey until his destiny was changed forever by an alcoholic monkey of another color, his mad best friend Brian Rakow. He resides in Phoenix, Arizona.
Murphy Hooker is a Texas-born writer who has coauthored and ghostwritten five books. Driven by a passion to heal the world by laying bare the shared absurdities of the human condition, some call him a verbal swashbuckler, others a dream nurturer, acclaimed journalist, filmmaker, altruist, and all around troublemaker. With a Hollywood career in perpetual turnaround, Murphy is steeped in silver celluloid reverence for all things filmic and, by all accounts, is full of the elusive “it.” He resides in Los Angeles, California.
Read an Excerpt
Shanghaied into Oblivion
THE WHOLE CRAZY TRIP ERUPTED in a mad burst of psychosis last December when the wild devil of my youth shanghaied me into oblivion.
Before it happened, I was living a fraudulent existence some might classify as the American Dream. I thought I had it all: I owned a successful chain of coffee houses, I had an amazing girlfriend. Life was good, but something was missing — something big I couldn't put my finger on until one Sunday afternoon.
"Are you listening, Rob? They could put you in jail."
"No ... I was tuning you out."
I was in my lawyer's office in downtown Palo Alto. It was one of those sunny afternoons everyone on the East Coast dreams about when they're shoveling snow. He was laying out my options for dealing with the coming crisis: a surprise audit by the state of California on my "cash-only" coffee bars.
"I just want to know what I did to deserve this."
"They found some discrepancies in your books. They claim you owe them back taxes in the amount of — let me get the exact figure — seventy thousand, nine hundred and sixty-two dollars ... and eight cents."
"That's ludicrous. I got a hundred grand stolen from me by the same CPA who they say didn't pay my state taxes."
"It appears your ex-accountant really embezzled one hundred and seventy-two thousand, nine hundred and sixty-two dollars ... and —"
"Eight cents. I can add."
"I filed criminal charges against the guy six months ago, and the Palo Alto Police Department did nothing. Does the state of California know about this? Tell them to go put him in jail. He's the criminal."
"That's not how it works. In the eyes of the state, it doesn't matter who filed your return; your company owes the back taxes."
"I don't have seventy-three thousand dollars in cash. He cleaned me out — I'm cash poor."
"Then they will seize your cafés."
"If they take them away, how can I repay them? They're squeezing me! This is my livelihood, everything I've worked so hard for."
"I believe you, Rob. You got screwed by this guy, but that's not the issue. With the prospect of a felony tax fraud conviction hanging over your head, I advise you to work with these people."
"I'm not paying for a crime I didn't commit. I'd rather —"
"Refusing payment is not an option."
"What if I just left? Pulled a 'Lex Luthor' and left the country?"
"You could lose everything. They could put you in jail if you're found guilty of tax evasion."
"Not if they can't catch me."
"You're not thinking rationally."
"Because you're not helping! Maybe I need to seek counsel elsewhere." I grabbed my bag and left.
"You'll be sorry you did this."
I walked outside to collect myself when my best friend Brian pulled up in a rental car like he just robbed a bank. "Binkley!" he yelled through the open window. "How would you like to escape from all that's right in your world?!" I stuck my head in the passenger side. Brian looked like a mix between the Unabomber and a Blues Brother.
"How'd you know I was here?"
"I called Elena."
"Right. You steal this thing?"
"You don't wanna know. Get in."
I got in.
"Where you been? Thought you were dead in a ditch somewhere." Brian hadn't answered his phone for two weeks.
"I had an experience." Brian was being mysterious as he pulled into the parking lot of one of my cafés. "I've got a story to tell."
"So do I," I said.
We walked inside. Brian had a wild look in his eye as he sized up the crowd. No one bothered to look up from their laptops. Everyone had their heads up their asses — an average Sunday.
Brian followed me to my back office and laughed at the studious café vibe. "We're invisible." We found some privacy behind closed doors. I grabbed two chairs I usually reserved for interviewing hot potential employees and told Brian about the audit.
All he could say was: "You're screwed."
He whipped out a bottle of rum from his backpack and a lime-green candle shaped like a giant phallus, which he lit then placed at the center of the table.
"You should put a hit on that accountant," he said while he carefully poured two shots.
"I tried...." I looked at his candle. "Whatever you've got planned for tonight, count me out."
"Don't worry." He slid a shot of rum to me. "Trust me." These were Brian's famous last words from high school. "Just allow for this idea to wash over you ... Soon you will see the world like I do ... It appears I've come at the perfect time ... Focus on the flame."
I downed my shot and pointed to the candle. "Is this really necessary?"
"Yes. This is for your own good. I want to open your mind to what's possible."
"You know I hate spirituality. And giant green phalluses in my face."
"I know." He stood behind me to make sure I was staring directly into the flickering candle, then he rubbed my shoulders and went into a story about how he had just "got choked out by corporate America" and had resigned from his corporate tech sales job last week. Brian said his fatal error was "telling the truth to a group of clients during a national sales event," which got him fired; the resignation was just to save face.
"Moral to the story is: I'm screwed too." He downed another shot.
After a few hours Brian had filled me with so many shots of that 120-proof elixir, I felt sick. "I need to lay down" was the last thing I remember saying before fading to black. I hadn't blacked out in months.
When I came to four hours later, I was lying on the roof clutching my flip-flop. People were carefully stepping around me. I sat up. Either I was hallucinating, or there was a party going on.
"Here, drink this." One of my employees, Rachel, rushed me a glass of something. I was hoping for water, but it was more rum — the same stuff Brian was totally ripped on now. I wanted to obliterate my pain, so I drained another glass.
Rachel sat in my lap. "You okay? Hope it's cool we're on the roof. Brian said we should hang out to see if you needed your stomach pumped. Do we need to take you to the ER, or something?"
"No. Just haven't been eating lately."
"Poor baby." She got up and went back over to Brian, who was on fire, preaching to my disillusioned wait staff.
"I'm talking about an escape. An out. Run away with me, all of you! I've got life figured out!" Brian squeezed Rachel's butt.
"If you've got it all figured, why are you still here in Palo Alto?"
He roared, "Great question!"
Brian stopped ranting to check in with me. "What the hell happened to you? Your tolerance is for shit, man."
I tried to re-focus. "I dunno. Haven't been eating from the stress."
Brian wasn't listening. He'd gone back to railing on the girls for being "numbed out" to reality. "The point, my lambs, is American consumerism hasn't delivered us into any angelic realm — it's turning us into yuppified zombie shitheads."
He held up his giant old-school cell phone from 1990. "Look. This is how civilizations die. I'm going off-the-grid from consumerism, TV, Vegas, porn, the Internet, whatever — and I'm most definitely going off American women."
Kali, the part-time hostess, let him have it. "If you don't like the Internet or American women, go live in a third world jungle."
"That's not a bad idea," he looked at her name tag, "Kali." Brian plopped down next to me and moved the candle close to my face. He quietly inspected my soured mug like a crime scene investigator. When he got too close, I pushed him away.
"Stop it, will ya? How long was I gone?"
"Who knows? Time is just a concept."
Eventually the party died down, and everyone went home. With no female buffer, Brian set to brainwash me with the fervor of a cult leader with a plane to catch.
"What if you had died from alcohol poisoning tonight?"
"I still may die from alcohol poisoning."
"Can you say you really lived? Fulfilled your pure potential? Accumulating wealth doesn't count. Was your life spent following your bliss?"
"Are you your essential self, Rob? Do you even know who that is? While hiking on mushrooms recently, I had what the Japanese call a satori — what your hero Kerouac once described as a spiritual kick in the head."
"Good for you."
"Consider this your kick in the balls."
"Kick your candle in the balls. I need to eat!"
"The time is now. I've got a plan, and I'm bringing you with me."
"Bringing me where?"
"To a better tomorrow, away from this Brave New World."
"Every time you start conversations like this, we end up on some moronic adventure."
Brian held up an advertisement for some airline hocking an around-the-world ticket sale. "This is the solution to what ails us. Two 'Around-the-World' tickets. We can fly anywhere, anytime, one way for a year, until we run out of planet. The offer expires soon, so we gotta move on this. C'mon. Let's go grab your stuff."
We'd been planning to take a trip together for six months, but that was before he disappeared for two weeks. It was the last thing on my mind tonight.
"You seriously want me drop everything now? Weren't you listening to my predicament?"
"Yes! I was." He poured me another drink. "Weren't you listening to mine??"
Maybe it was the rum, maybe it was the audit, maybe it was me realizing Iwas unhappy with this modern life. But after about the seventeenth shot, I confessed I had not been following my bliss. I felt doomed to die a nameless cog.
"My life does feel meaningless," I slurred into his candle, which had burned down to a flaccid nub. "I don't want to die alone...."
He scribbled in a notebook. "Aha. We all die alone. You're afraid of death, are you?"
"Stop scribbling!" I threw his pencil off the roof. "This is our lives I'm talking about."
"That's right. This is our lives."
Brian put away his notepad. "Rob, the truth is I'm liquidating my 401(k) as we speak, selling my suits, my car, and even my pornography collection. I'm dumping it all because it's time for us to blow."
"We're only on this earth for a microsecond. If we don't leave now, they've already got us."
"I could go to jail. I'm in a legal quandary! I'm trying to grow up and be responsible, and you're trying to infect me with your madness all over again."
Brian sighed. "That's just the stress talkin', man. Don't make me resort to extreme measures. I'm giving you a way to escape your 'legal quandary' and this shallow existence we've built for ourselves. You should thank me."
"Look. I love you like a brother, but I love this country, too. And we're both wasted and I could go to jail and I haven't heard from you in weeks. It's possible you need psychiatric help."
Brian blew out the candle. "You already knew that. Look, if you're not down to evolve with me, then say goodbye to your little friend. I'm cashing in my chips. I may never come back."
"Just ... wait. Let me puke, and make some arrangements."
Brian put his foot down. "No! Stop purging my lessons! We book our trip now, or never! We have one month to liquidate everything, then we take LA, then the world."
"LA?" The world was spinning.
"We leave out of LAX, my friend. If we delay any longer, the machine will eat us alive. We'll both get locked down with mortgages, taxes, car payments, insurance, wives, kids, child support, alimony ... One of us will be dead or in jail by age forty, trust me. Our departure date is January 7th. You've got exactly one month to get your shit together."
I came to my senses. "Aw man. I need to call Elena! I missed our date night!"
I grabbed for Brian's cell phone, but he yanked it away. "Not in your condition." He dialed Elena's number (my house number), then held the phone to my ear.
I got our answering machine. I mustered a steaming pile of bullshit. "Hi sweetheart ... I'm alive ... you won't believe." Brian made some fake static noises into the phone. "I'll explain later ... you're breaking up ... I got robbed, food poisoned! Brian's having a psychotic breakdown! I'm driving through the canyon. I love —!"
Brian hung up on her. We looked at each other.
"I'm a bad boyfriend."
"Yes, you are," Brian said.
Somehow Brian drove us back to my condo even though we were both completely wasted. We rolled in stealth with the lights off, and parked out in front so we didn't make a total spectacle of ourselves.
Samba music was coming from somewhere inside the condo. This was not normal for a Sunday night.
We stumbled in the front door. The music was blasting. It was conspicuously dark. Brian raided the fridge. I flipped on the kitchen lights. There was no food on the stove.
Something was off.
I left Brian in the kitchen and went to find Elena. I followed the samba music to our bedroom. I stood there swaying outside the closed door for a minute, then I heard the most awful sound any man can possibly hear.
My girlfriend having sex — with someone else.
I shook the doorknob; it was locked. I didn't bother knocking.
Full of boozy rage, I kicked in the door with all the pent-up anger I had welling inside me from the goddamned audit. It was easier than I imagined; what was not so easy was processing what I saw. My loyal girlfriend was riding some jackoff like it was the Kentucky Derby.
Rage. Sickness. Flames on the side of my face. I wanted to puke, but I didn't. Then I did. All over the carpet while they kept screwing. They didn't even really slow down.
I slammed the door, then broke some shit and stormed outside.
Brian was already sitting behind the wheel eating a cold chicken leg and drinking a can of beer by the time I got to the car.
"Did we just see that??"
I was apoplectic. "She's having an affair?!"
"Told you. You got nothing left here. Your life is a lie. Just like mine."
"I'm gonna kill her!"
"Noooo, you're not. You're already going to tax jail. We don't need any electric chair–type scenarios tonight. Here, have some chicken." He handed me a half-eaten piece of chicken.
"I have a shotgun!"
"No. You have a pellet gun."
I went for the door, but Brian was too fast. He hit the locks and buckled me in with the seatbelt. He tried starting the car. Nothing happened.
He looked at me. "More bad news: you're out of gas."
"I've got bullets!" I jumped out to go commit a double homicide. Brian chased me down and pushed me away from the front door. I ran around to my backyard screaming like a maniac.
The neighbor's lights came on the moment I jumped the back fence. Brian followed me eating his chicken leg; he spotted my two mountain bikes. "C'mon let's go for a ride and cool off!"
Elena's samba music came back on quietly inside the condo. I lost it. "They're still screwing in there!? On my bed! In my condo! Using my condoms!!"
"Come on. Let's go before the cops come."
The scene faded to black.
When I came to, Brian and I were pedaling our drunk asses to a nearby park. I was beyond dazed and confused. I heard myself repeating, "I don't know how to deal with this!" Brian just laughed. "Well, obviously she is a whore."
We pedaled into the park and dropped our bikes on the dirt. Brian cracked open a fresh bottle of rum from his backpack. I threw my bike against a tree. "This is not happening. My life is perfect, my girlfriend is perfect. I am perfect!"
"Trust me, there's room for improvement."
I tripped over a tree root and fell down in a cursing heap. I stayed down, silent for a moment. "I know what you're gonna say. 'Just say screw it, Binkley ...'"? Don't let this setback bring you down.' Why is life tormenting me?? What did I ever do? Why can't we all just live like the Beat Generation? All I ever wanted was the freedom to live like Hunter S. Thompson — but they won't let me here! There are too many backstabbing vipers screwing with my head!"
"You've hit on something there."
"I did?" I was out of breath.
"We gotta hit the road to find our true freedom. Just like the Beats, man."
I perked up. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. We could take a year just like we planned and backpack around the world.
Backpacking is the new hitchhiking, right? We could find our souls on the road ... Self-discovery is freedom — no ties, no guilt. All experience is good experience. Grace before God!"
Brian laughed. "Screw God, man. I just wanna test the limits of everything. I've been driving the speed limit for too long. Our lives are in flames — so what? We fucked up! Let's pour gasoline on our open wounds. What do we have to lose?!"
"Yeah! 'The Man, wants us to pay their fines?
Play their games? Punch their clocks!?"
Brian yelled, "Yeah! Eff clocks!"
We heard the sirens of the Palo Alto Police Department. We shielded our eyes from their lights as they pulled into the parking lot and drove our way. Like good little boys, we got up and fled on our bicycles, but I don't know why — we weren't criminals, dammit.
At least not convicted ones.
The cops just watched us go. One of them yelled over their PA system: "We don't want you here!"
As we raced away, Brian shouted, "'The Pigs' are right. They don't want us here! Let's go! The world's gone bad — let's go mad!" I pedaled like a drunken wino on a stolen bike. "No conformity, Dean Moriarty!!"
The next day I awoke on my front lawn to sprinklers going off around me. I was still locked out of my condo. I'd left my keys inside. The goddamned samba music was still playing inside. Brian was sleeping in his rental car.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Let's Go Mad"
Copyright © 2016 Rob Binkley and Murphy Hooker.
Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 Shanghaied into Oblivion 1
2 Wanderlust in Bali 31
3 Getting Down Undah 64
4 Philistines in the Philippines 90
5 Torn Up in Thailand 118
6 Cambodian Zen 148
7 India Is Burning 175
8 A High Nepalese Adventure 203
9 Turning Point in Tibet 225
10 Westward Bound 246
11 Epilogue in Amsterdam 271