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Monday
Apr152019

Khmer New Year

On New Year’s Day a Kampot guesthouse mother in blue cotton teddy bear pajamas decorates the family altar with cans and bottles of soft drinks, coconuts, durian, perfume, two crystal glasses of milk, candles, candy, bread, rice, oranges, apples, water, incense, photos of dead relatives, cockroaches, howling vicious canines, baboons, balloons, clouds, clones and clowns.

She has a terrible temper. Genetic truth. She is one of a million plain sad angry women. She turns on the TV. LOUD. Her daughters, 4, 6, are entranced and captivated by the visual circus. They never read books.

This is weird because their father was a bookseller in the capital for six years. What happened to literature, what happened to paper, books and education?

Now he sleeps alone having performed his sexual duty, rents out rooms and roars around the forgotten river town on a soaped up 125cc noise machine to alleviate his boredom, spinning his intellectual wheels, pretending to be important making noise, stirring up dust.

Survivors read empty streets on swivel necks. Survivors read food. Survivors read money. Survivors read blank faces in rear view mirrors. Survivors fall in love with their reflection pretending it is real. Hello Beauty. Survivors read the sky for rain.

Survivors read mad dogs yapping, growling, fighting and fucking in the middle of empty black streets without electricity. Screaming survivors read kick boxers killing each other on television. Survivors read their face squeezing pores in a bike mirror Waiting For Godot.

A guesthouse idiot box and cell phones allow the kids, servants, tuk-tuk drivers, families and foreign rats their big chance to give up their consciousness. Another distraction, another day on new years day.

April fools is a new day, replete with new diversions and new superficial heart breaking distractions of immense random chance as people pretend to be busy. Pretending to be busy is a full time job with no social security benefits.

People sing we are pretending to be exactly who we are because we have no initiative or incentive or ambition. We are the offspring of genocide survivors in a fairy tale. Tra-la-la.

On new year TV scream day Angkor Wat Hindu dancers in gold lame silk dresses with towering headdresses perform ancient rituals. Apsara fingers, delicate hand and finger food movements. They celebrate 1,000 tears and years of seasons, fertility, rice, fish, nature, courtship and joy. They are dancing storytellers.

Friday
Apr122019

Defrost Your Imagination

“Today is a good day to be empty. Practice 10,000 breaths until you disappear,” said a Lhasa monk petting a Sumatran tiger facing extinction by Malaysian villagers burning down forests to develop cosmetic palm oil exports.

“Yes, not too detached and not too sentimental,” said Zeynep sitting at a restaurant table creating surrealistic art in her notebook.

She drew stick figures with wild forested hair eating purple paper mache houses beneath a startled orange sun as disoriented Bursa talking animals crammed in spinach, green salad, tomatoes, grilled meat, rice and beans.

Across town on the TLC teachers’ apartment balcony sentry ants alerted the tribe to food. They marched from a drainpipe in single file, climbed over the edge of a plastic pot discovering good dirt. Teams fanned out sensing discarded muesli particles.

A mottled wingless insect living in bamboo detected worker ants approaching. Insect couldn’t fly. It scurried up a thin stalk to a green leaf blending in. Its feelers cleaned dirt off head and shoulders sham poop.

A gravedigger eating a hazelnut and strawberry jam sandwich on whole grain bread with grade A black olives harvested from Mudanya orchards nestled tight against Marmara Sea soil spoke to the insect as ants preparing their final assault gathered below the leaf.

“I need to move you.”

“Thanks. If I’m discovered I’ll perish. What do you suggest?”

“We use a leaf. Climb on it. I will let it go, floating over the garden. It will cushion your fall from grace. You will have a soft landing and better than a 51% chance of survival. Ground zero with better cover, food and dew you understand?”

“Ok. Thanks. 51% is better than zero.”

“You sound like an investment banker. Don’t mention it.”

“I need a new adventure.”

“Don’t we all. Here you go.”

Digger did what he had to do. Found a broad brown leaf. The insect climbed on. He released the vein-lined parachute into thin air. It floated. It landed on a huge exploding yellow sunflower.

“Goodbye,” sang the insect, “you extended my little life. I’ve survived to walk another day.”

The gravedigger sang, “Happy trails...to you...until we meet again.”

Weaving A Life V1

The Language Company

Wednesday
Apr032019

Bahrain-Brunei

I worked in Kuwait from 1985-1988.

Brunei enacting anti-LGBT laws reminded me of meeting Dave in Bahrain. He lived in Saudia Arabia and told me a story.

I put his story in two books, A Century is Nothing, and Weaving A Life, V1.

______

 

It was raining in the desert before Christmas as Gulf Air Flight 212 departed Kuwait. I encountered gray turbulence in neutral airspace where Islamic law against the consumption of alcoholic beverages had no influence.

By Carlsberg numero dos we were at 25,000 feet in blue sky and white thunderheads. Airmobile again.

In Bahrain I collected a visa stamp, took a cab to the Diplomat Hotel and room 621 with an excellent view of the aquamarine Gulf and new civic center construction project.

I opened windows, an ice cold beer, calibrated rock and roll music on the radio and ordered a three-egg omelet with hash browns and whole wheat toast complimented by thick Turkish coffee. A Filipino waitress in pink room service motif brought it up.

The next afternoon I took Taxi #1 into Bubba Bahrain, a maze of haphazard streets. I bought vitamins at a pharmacy and escaped expensive shopping zones entering the old suq lined with herbs, spices, textiles, fruits, vegetables, secondhand watches, goats, sheep, brooms, tea and ancient emulations.

From an inside secret pocket of a worn olive drab photographer’s vest, I pulled out a small, simple and precise European designed 35mm range finder camera loaded with 125 ASA black and white film; a gift from the gods of optical ingenuity, a well-designed tool, a work of art.

I imagined a donkey's head covered in burlap feed bag to prevent attacks on unsuspecting humans. Down twisted alleys I wandered, shooting old men and women, trapping spirits on negatives. Children’s faces were captured forever wearing cartoon character masks with innocence preserved behind wide glowing eyes.

Delicate eroding architecture, thatched reeds on woven bamboo poles embedded in mud, iron grated windows and carved balconies of blue and white mosaics were threaded into a black canister.

In early evening I stopped at a Persian carpet retailer to learn about his business. Over endless cups of tea he shared facts:

1. There is a difference between “expert” and “well knowledged (sic).”

2. Carpet making is based on tradition, history, quality and time. Takes 14 months for some carpets.

3. Design and a particular technique is required to produce a good quality carpet.

4. His carpets were woven and stored in a warehouse in Iran before being smuggled by dhow to a Dubai wholesaler. A buyer in Bahrain purchases them by the bundle paying a single price for the lot before shipping them to the shop.

5. Cotton costs BD (Bahraini dinar) 2/lb.

   Neck wool BD 7/lb.

   Silk BD 9/lb.

6. Good prices were available now with the recent devaluation of the Iranian Rial.

7. Be aware of specifics. Is it pure silk or combed wool? What are the precise number of knots per square inch?

I thanked him and walked to the Dolmen Hotel, an old foreign oasis constructed for aircrews. Interior pseudo classic Arabic architecture featured vaulted windows, wattle thatch and poles on low ceilings.

Dave, from the Twin Cities sat at the bar complaining about needing a third operation to correct poor metatarsal bones in his left foot. Saudi doctors messed him up twice so he came to Bahrain for another operation.

"I saw three Filipino males have their right hands cut off in Riyadh for stealing,” he said, meaning Sharia law. “Justice is served every Friday at high noon in the town square. Authorities tied their arms down on boards to support the wrists.”

 “Amazing,” I said.

“Yes," Dave said. "The multawa, an official, approached one man, flashed his sword into the air and severed his right hand off. He screamed. The multawa moved down the line doing his job. Another man carrying a blazing torch applied fire to the stump to cauterize the wound.”

Lynnette, a 31-year old Filipino waitress at the Dolmen was pleasant, lonely and bored. After five years doing cashier work in Manila she found a job in Bahrain.

“My dream is to save money and buy a house back home.”

“Do you like it here?”

“Not really. The wages are poor, they give us lousy Indian food and there’s no social life.”

“Why’s that?”

“Hotel management locks us in at 7 p.m.”

“Sounds like slave labor. Been going on in the Gulf for a long time.”

“Well," she sighed, "it’s just a job. It's not forever.”

At happy hour, the Intercontinental Hotel was jammed with Arabs, English investment suits and punkers. I ordered a beer at the bar. A small Bahraini man asked questions.

“Where are you from?”

“Everywhere.”

“What do you do?”

“I kill people. I'm a mercenary.”

“I don't believe you,” said his eyes.

“Yes. I kill people for a living. I am very busy 24/7. It’s a job. It passes time. People pay good money for me to take care of their problem. I’m paid to clean up other people’s messes. The only rule is no woman, no kids.”

He wanted to know something about his life. I predicted his age, family history, occupation and future. He left me alone.

Outside the Kuwait suq battered red and white rusting water trucks with chipped paint stood idle inside a wire compound leaking H2O into dust. Two Bedouins sat on metal folding chairs with crushed plastic buckets and sacrosanct rags collecting dust near the Fifth Ring Road waiting for drivers needing a car wash.

Waiting was their patient life in the desert, waiting for dusty cars, waiting for oil to be discovered below sand, waiting inside an omnipresent yellow haze swallowing everything.

A Century is Nothing

Weaving A Life V1

Funeral in Ho Chi Minh

Sunday
Mar312019

Dance

My life dance is ambiguity, acceptance, independent detachment and creative imagination.

Dance is isolated yet cooperating and independent. I believe in the magic of dance.

When you dance for a fleeting moment you feel alive.

What do I see? I see a circle of movement, a connected unity, language in space.

There are five rhythms in dance.

You start with a circle. It’s a circular movement from the feminine container. She is earth.

Then you have a line from the hips moving out. This is the masculine action with direction. He is fire.

Chaos is next, a combination of a circle and line where male and female energies interact.

This is transformation.

After chaos is the lyrical. A leap. A release. This is air.

The last element of dance is stillness. Out of stillness is born the next movement.

I’ll dance until I die. What is life?
 Dance.

Nepal