Paul Can Eat Glass And It Doesn’t Hurt Him
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Paul Sobczak can eat glass and it doesn´t hurt him. Or at least, that´s what he´s told scores of people in dozens of languages since starting his “I can Eat Glass Project.” This project is one of many travel projects Paul has undertaken. Of all the travelers I have met on The Road, few travel as creatively and eccentrically as Minnesota native Paul Sobczak. I suspect that when Paul was a kid, he was one of those kids dismantling his parents´ radios in order to gain insight into the hidden mysteries of how the world works.
When Paul is not moving about the world he works as an electrical engineer designing wind power systems. His job allows him the flexibility to sneak off to some far-flung corner of the world during the winter months. Wherever he goes he comes equipped with some oddball project to keep himself entertained on The Road.
His “I Can Eat Glass Project” began when he was studying abroad in Norway. Every time he met someone who spoke a foreign language, he would ask them how to say “I can eat glass, and it doesn´t hurt me” in their native tongue. Paul would then record an audio clip of the phrase. Being a self-described computer geek, he uploaded them to the web and included an interactive map of where he had recorded the sound byte.
Now, whenever he meets someone whose language he cannot speak, he is usually able to at least tell the person, “I can eat glass and it doesn´t hurt me.” Paul explained to me once that if you’re going to learn to say one thing in dozens of languages this should be it. People of a foreign culture will be instantly impressed at your ability to consume glass without it harming you. People respect people who can eat glass.
Paul explains that he readily finds companions to accompany him on parts of his trips, but this is one of many projects that keeps him entertained on the road, and keeps him moving forward, giving him continuity and purpose from place to place.
For example, when he was traveling through Scandinavia, he collected 120 pictures of toilets and later compiled them into 12 hand-bound books that he handed out to friends when he arrived home. On another trip that started in San Francisco and went up the coast across Canada via train and down to New York City, Paul recorded street musicians along the way. He later put all of these songs into an album that is accessible from Canada Goose Records — another of his brainchildren.
While traveling through Central America, rocks were the rage for Paul. Paul picked out rocks and named them after friends. He then uploaded the pictures, did a bit of coding and posted them on an interactive map so Paul´s friends could see where their rocks were located. He sent everyone who´d had a rock named after them a postcard with a picture of their rock and the GPS coordinates in case anyone wanted to visit his or her rock.
Paul says that there is an inherent freedom to solo travel, and this freedom allows him to invent and execute whatever quirky ideas spring to his overactive mind. “While alone,” he says, “I make use of that freedom, otherwise solo travel for me can get kind of, well, lonely.”
He adds that, “All of these little projects and artworks I bring with me when I travel, they let me engage with the culture, the place, the people, and they let me create with it instead of just consuming it. I like to think that doing projects like this brings me to a different place in the society — one where I am actively contributing, and I like that.”
I tend to agree with Paul. He has found a way to use the world to satisfy whatever whim his creativity can cook up. Since meeting Paul, I´ve had a rock named after me. I have visited Luke Rock. It´s a very nice rock — large enough to sit on. It’s the kind of rock that makes you think, Wow, what a rock! It comforts me to know that whatever happens to me, wherever my life ends up, there will always be a rock that remembers me thanks to Paul Sobczak. To meet my rock and check out Paul´s many endeavors visit his website The Mountain Fold and his record label Canada Goose Records.
About the Author
Luke Maguire Armstrong lives in Guatemala directing the humanitarian aid organization, Nuestros Ahijados. His book of poetry, iPoems for the Dolphins to Click Home About (available for sale on Amazon.com) is especially enjoyed by people who “don’t read poetry.” (@lukespartacus)