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Street 21
Street 21
Yangon, Myanmar
By Timothy M. Leonar...
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Saturday
Jun152019

Teachers Meet in China

Yes. English teachers unite at a university in Fujian, China.

Let's get dressed and gather our Moleskine notebook filled with poetry, drawings, dreams, stories and visions. Let's collect one fountain pen filled with green racing ink. Remember water. You've gotta have H2O where you go. It's gonna be a hot one. Seven inches from the mid-day sun.

Let's go to a classtomb on old campus surrounded by luscious green trees straining to light. They are a canopy of welcome relief. Rose petals wither on the ground.

Smile and greet your compatriots, your stalwart educational guides. Take a seat. Look around. Engage your senses.

Gaze out the window toward the lake. It is shimmering. You hear scraping. What is it? Local workers are building a wall. A new Great Wall. Exciting. History in the making. How do they do it?

It's simple. Materials and raw labor.

Ten local village men and women - who do the heavy lifting - with bags of cement, trowels, shovels, a few plastic buckets, water, piles of gray bricks, empty drums for support, some boards, and a couple of wheelbarrows.

Step 1. Build rickety scaffolding using drums and boards. Remove the old steel fence. Discard to side.

Step 2. One team mixes cement and water. Shovel into buckets. Another team puts bricks into a wheelbarrow and pushes it to a dumping area.

Step 3. Men wait for women to hand them bricks and buckets of cement. They slather on the goop and align bricks. Brick by brick the wall goes up. It blocks the green sward, blue lake, rolling hills and wild flowers.

Only the sky is safe.

Step 4. Another team coats the exterior with a bland gray mixture.

It will never be finished. Art is like that.

It's so beautiful we feel like crying.

Someone steps to the podium and starts speaking - using exquisite language - about the value of education. Cost benefit analysis. Profit and loss statements. How we have a huge responsibility to our shareholders.

During a brief moment of silence you hear a shovel, trowel and laughter.

Another day blossoms in the people's egalitarian paradise.


Saturday
Jun082019

Writing Is An Adventure

“’I did that,’ says my memory. ‘I can’t have done that,’ says my pride, and remains adamant. Finally memory gives way.” - Nietzsche.

The interpreter in the left brain strings experiences into narratives. A novelist in our heads. A novelist called memory ceaselessly redrafting the short story we call “My Life.”

Writing and telling a story is all about detail and realising the significance of the insignificant.

"Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public." - Goethe

...In both Irish and Welsh myth and saga, the art of foretelling the future is an essential part of the story. More often then not, it is to escape their fate, prophesied by the Druid, that leads the protagonists into adventures which inevitably lead them to the fate they seek to avoid. 

...At one point, the narrator irreverently criticizes the author and the book, saying: "You've slapped together travel notes, moralistic ramblings, feelings, notes, jottings, untheoretical discussions, unfable-like fables, copied out some folk songs, added some legend-like nonsense of your own, and are calling it fiction!"

- Soul Mountain by Gao

"I want to know one thing. What is color?" - Picasso 


Monday
Jun032019

Suicidal Clare

A cell phone sang on the train between Marrakesh and Tangiers.

Omar rummaged in his robes. A depressed suicidal woman named Clare in Washington State was on the Suicide Hot Line. It may as well have been shit out of luck S.O.L. He switched from Arabic to English.

“Yes?”

“I am trying to save my insecure relationship from jealousy.”

“Jealousy’s a disease. It eats people alive. What are you looking for?”

“I am looking for love and meaning. Can you help me?” She had all the questions.

“I am only an emissary between people. Between you and your dream.”

“It’s a nightmare. What’s going to happen to me?” 

“You’d best be prepared for armies of touts, hustlers, beggars, thieves and economically loveless destitute men. They will want to escort, guide, lead, and administer their opportunity,” he said.

“Will they be gracious or benevolent with their tricks, traps, deviations and detours offering fake potential to save me? Will their well formed greed based on my desire, an illness of imaginary needs plead for my attention deficit disorder?”

“Yes. Eight hours on the ground in Morocco will seem like twenty-four. You’ll become a character in your own low budget film. It will open in small art theaters. You’ll be all the characters in the comic tragedy.”

Listening to Omar, I imagined everything as the suicidal woman’s voice assaulted the blind man.

Clare was too poor to pay attention.

She was beat. Omar knew Clare would be an expendable extra in an independent film. If she didn’t get real smart real fast she’d be lost in the drama. She needed a new identity theory. She’d change her name to Clarification.

The story was complicated with many jump cuts.

I remembered Ann, a New York literary agent’s advice. “Keep the big themes in mind and give us strong narrative structure.”

“Why? It’s not linear or logical.”

“I can only represent you if your work has these ingredients. Publishers want books for a general readership. It’s a tough market now. 175,000 books were published in this country last year.”

“I’ve survived markets in many countries Ann. It’s a miracle I’m alive to tell the tale. Traditional publishing is all about marketing, branding, product, price and placement with a hook.”

“True. It’s too disjointed and sporadic as it stands. You need to express more artistic and emotional beauty. I expected more from your time in Vietnam. I want to feel what you felt. I want you to expose your vulnerability. I want to detect patterns and opportunities.”

“Vietnam was FUBAR, Ann. Like Iraq, like any conflict.”

“What’s that mean?”

“Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition.”

“Oh, I see.”

“This is honest work Ann. Memoirs and stories are about hunger. Some are even about food. This is edgy gonzo shit. It blends creative nonfiction with memoir, travel writing, literary journalism, social autopsy, and magical realism. I’ve asked myself, who or what has come alive? I’ve let it speak. I’m a conduit.”

“Tighten it up and send me your revisions. You can’t be a one-trick pony in this business. I need to make 15% off your genius because I’m the expert. What else are you working on?”

“At the moment I’m traveling with Omar, a blind Touareg Berber from Morocco who lives in a Spanish cave with a tribe of survivors after 9/11. He’s one hell of a storyteller and we’re sharing tales. He’s given me a stack of paper higher than Everest to read and revise. His daughter is a word-weaver working on a new narrative structure in an isolated Spanish pueblo. Together we’ve weaved 180,000 words so far. It’s about levels of personal and spiritual awareness, emotional growth, 9/11 repercussions, economic terrorism, cultural prejudice, and healing.”

“What’s your hook in fifty words?”

“How oral traditions, myths, and truths are passed in verbal form from generation to generation in a metaphorical way. Stories are primarily a comic vehicle for moral instruction or spiritual guidance. Tragic narratives have been overused since the Greeks and Europeans. A tribe’s customs and structure...Themes are healing, authenticity, awareness, alienation, loneliness, boredom...it’s just a fucking book for God’s sake ...sheets of paper inside two pieces of cardboard...we’re breaking up Ann. I can’t live with him and I can’t live without him, this blind muse of a seer. I’ll call you when I get back to the states of conspicuous consumption. To the states of amnesia.”

Meanwhile, Clare changed long distance carriers to get a better plan. She failed to plan and planned to fail.

She whispered to Omar on a tenuous connection, “I played a willing manipulative victim. I wanted to kill myself. I wanted people who loved me to feel guilty and responsible for my suffering. My life is fear and ignorance. I collapsed inside my chaos, fear and grasping. I had to ask for help.”

“I see,” said Omar in a clear clairvoyant voice.

“I tried a walking meditation. It was really hard. I crawled. I walked. I tried to run. I collapsed into the quicksand of my neurosis. I wanted to fly like an eagle. My monkey mind went nuts. I slowed down sensing a new beginning inside me, inside my life. I walked on the curvature of the earth.”

“Marvelous. You have to break down before you break through.”

“I need to see you,” she said. “Where can I find you?”

“At Paleolithic caves south of Ronda.”

Before their connection died Clare related a quick story.

“There was a horrific accident.”

“What happened?”  Omar knew what he didn’t know.

God and Allah and the devil are in the details.

“Crazy men took planes and crashed them into city sky scrapers. The big apple.”

“I see.” He paused to hear more. It was a learning tool he picked up moving through the world’s worst nightmare manifesting historical fairy tales where Poverty and Wealth raised children named Expectations.

“Yes,” she said, “it was shocking.”

“Has the healing started?”

“Healers are working overtime. It’s going to take forever,” she stammered.

“Yes,” he said, “17,000 children in the world starve to death every day. Poverty is the real terrorism.”

“Oh,” she said, “I didn’t know that.”

“It’s just a thought.”

She couldn’t believe he didn’t know. Media masters in her right wing country had assembled their militant word/image arsenal and persuaded, cajoled, sold, exchanged, blasted, admonished, punished, harangued and scared them shitless, informing them how it affected their little world.

They ate fear like there was no tomorrow.

She was one weak sister. Being depressed and suicidal didn’t help. Friends, family and media convinced her the world was one huge scary place and she was a small expendable organism. Her habitat was on a well-exploited fault line. They sold her fear, healthy doubt and compassionate uncertainty in a nice neat little package. She consumed the whole enchilada.

“Omar and his friends knew many would remain in their complacent darkness,” said a veiled woman in the compartment.

They turned to her.

“It was very comfortable there. They would always live in shadows, oblivious to historical truths blinded by five senses, colors, sights, sounds, vibrations and frequencies. They were transparent sheep. It went right through them. Clear through.”

“How do you know this?” said Omar.

“Their world is made of glass, their vision obscured by ignorance and compliant stupidity. They needed a large dose of painkillers and glass cleaner for their belief windows. Tears softened their pain. They wiped down the days of their demise,” she said looking out windows flashing their reflections. She had old deep wise eyes.

“How do you see this prophecy?” said Omar.

“My name is Rose. I am a seer. I was born in the dark of the moon. I remember the future.”

“Where do you come from and where are going?”

“I’m like you and your companion here. Passing through.”

The three of us were very comfortable with the dark arts, energies and manifestations.

The Heart Sutra said, ‘emptiness was form and form was emptiness.’

Weaving A Life Volume 4

Friday
May312019

China Street

Here's a passage from an abandoned Moleskine notebook on street life in China.

After a long steady heavy rain

a pregnant woman propped her mop made of discarded rainbows -

as her solemn dispassionate husband shucked peas before removing garlic shells from their protective casing

after sky finished crying

washing student street where parades of disenfranchised youth sought shelter from the storm

open windows released cello notes

as a child sitting rigid practiced tuning their eyes to black notes on white pages

determined to master the instrument to please her parents

another music student hammered piano keys behind locked doors to please his parents

flies gathered around brown sticky paste dripping off a cracked plate

as feelers extended hope toward a thin white butterfly lifting off a green leaf

Type A

Type B

Saturday
May252019

Mindful

Mindfulness gives you time.

Time gives you choices.

Choices, skillfully made, lead to freedom.

You don't have to be swept away by your feelings.

You can respond with wisdom and kindness rather than habit and reactivity.

 

Blindness solved the mystery of sight by crying tears of silence.

A van of sad white Europeans trapped behind glass held repressed rampant desires and expectations in Siem Reap.

Fidgeting with uncomfortable languages floating in inner ears they pretended to be interested in nature's fleeting formless form flashing past starvation's widows.

Assaulting long painful strides navigating tomorrow’s promise they sat stone cold feeling nothing.

Look and leave people.

Blindness resolved to practice the subtle art of Tai-Chi with precision.

Blindness exchanged Midnight Blue ink for a dark shade of racing green in a Mont Blanc 146 piston driven fountain pen.

A handheld hair dryer waved hot air over a shampooed head. Mirrors whispered secret illusions.

A Vietnamese salon owner replaced a straight razor blade. She sprayed water on an invisible traveler's crown. He closed his eyes. She edged her blade over and around his head, ears, down his neck across Buddhist temples.

A 4:00 a.m. gong suspended on a rope carried on a bamboo pole reverberated its magic echo through Yangon stone corridors. A woman flamed incense.

Chattering fish sellers bagged swimming protean.

Elements of silence said farewell.

Random eyes investigating decompression swallowed fresh yogurt with peach slices inside afternoon’s languishing empty promises.

Intention and motivation discovered a new day by day.

Explanations have to end somewhere said a well-dressed mistake.

In her village, the other world, Blindness threaded new rainbows. Her loom experienced pressure and tightness between notes.

Sunlight dressed saliva beads blending a weave, texture, design saying hello Beauty.

Beauty has no tongue.

She whispered, I have been waiting for you.