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Podcast 2019
Middle Kingdom Podcasts (2005-2017)

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Directional Capabilities


After two weeks avoiding whizzing whirling dervish motorcycle drivers, with clear intentions I ventured forth to the train station before high noon. It is your basic long cement blocked projectile with a neon sign saying "Ha Noi Train Station."

On a Friday few people were there. Wait until it's time to leave. To the left was a room with counters selling tickets. I passed a window where a red sign read, "Brigade Leaders Collect Team Tickets Here."

The counter room is narrow with plastic seating and numbered glass windows. At the end of the room next to the W.C. is a huge mirror wearing a heavy brown lacquered frame. The illusion of space. Counter #2 is where foreigners get their tickets. There are a variety of trains and options; softsleeper, soft seat, hard seat and no seat.

I'm taking the SE1 overnight train from Ha Noi to Hue. Leaves at 1930, arrives at 0809. A great city on the Perfume River known for art and architecture. Resplendent.

From Hue I travel by bus to Hoi An. 

"I would like a ticket to Hue please. One way."

A woman looked through her thick glasses. "Soft sleeper." It wasn't a question, it was a statement. She knows foreigners taking the night train want to sleep, have children to take care of them when they are old, cook over open fires while admiring the natural scenery before it's gobbled up by profit oriented companies as locals try to improve their standard of living dreaming a little dream. 

"Tonight?" asked the woman. Sharply. "No, Sunday please."

She pointed to a calendar on the counter. Number 19. Yes, I nodded. She punched in the numbers. She pulled out a pink ticket.

"That's 533 Dong." ($33) She showed me the number on her calculator. I paid. She handed me the ticket and dropped the crumpled extra bills on the counter like so many leaves fluttering from a tree. Boredom enveloped her.

"It leaves at 1930." "Thank you." I wandered away.

Excellent. My last train trip was from Hydarpasa in Istanbul to Ankara. 

Metta. more

Hoi more





My dear friend Sir Thomas, knighted by William Butler Yeats in Sligo, asked about floods here. Am I drowning?

I sang, row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream, life is but a dream. When I say I am floating I don't mean in a boat, at least not yet. We've had some rain, often heavy. Cleans the air.

This is the rainy season and you know how the media likes to present disasters, epic dramas of humans battling the natural elements, battling themselves and so on.

I am floating in the clear sense of sitting, writing, reconfiguring this web site, aligning stars and exploding galaxies, nebulas and infinite diversity. I've been here two weeks tomorrow. A delightful respite from civilization and the abyss.

After working in the morning I wander through narrow twisted alleys to a side street clogged with motorcycles, women hawking fruit, veggies, meat, tofu, used clothing and babbling in their incomprehensible tongues. I covered a lot of Ha Noi ground the first two weeks so it feels good to sit down and organic stuff.

For example, I cleaned all the useless shit off my hard drive to free up space. Here's to free space, outer space and inner space!

I sit down off the curbing street on a red kinder garden chair at one of my usual eateries. The woman serves delicious freshly grilled spring rolls filled with veggies, cold white noodles and a plastic container of greens along with the bowl of chilies and sauce. Using your clean chopsticks you dip the noodles and spring rolls in the sauce. You smell, chew and swallow. It's cheap and filling. Great taste. It runs less than a buck. Some people stare at you. Others have seen you here before so they accept you. To them you are just a little stranger than yesterday.

She is busy - only doing lunch. She's gone before dusk when a woman selling fruit uses the stone space. 

I wander up the choked street dodging speeding motorcycles, women lugging baskets balanced on bamboo staves past merchants selling merchandise out of their ground floor flats. Mechanics hammer metal fixing bikes and broken appliances, salon girls cut, wash and dry, old women sit and gossip about how the younger generation is wild and crazy, young boys haul bricks on a deranged pulley system up to a flat undergoing renewal, older men in their pajamas play GO slapping scarred wooden pieces on the board while drinking beer or tea with their friends, children scamper through the maze.

No one bothers you because they know you live nearby and no foreigners are crazy enough or lost enough to find this narrow area filled with families and life daily.

I sit down with a delicious thick iced coffee in a cafe where the owner smiles and watches family dramas about love, hope, deception and scheming hollow scripts on the box. Everyone has a box here. It's the BIG diversion, all entertainment. Loud and louder.

I return to my little cave and go up on the balcony with a chair, blue plastic table and two plants - one a flowering bougainvillea. I enjoy green tea, watch the clouds fly past, savor quick rain storms sharing whistle songs with birds, some free, others on distant balconies in sad cages.

Riding the rails south to Hue soon. Playing my blues harp.





Young men and women haul mud from an excavation site where the owner will build an extension to his home.

One man chops it with a shovel, a girl grips a severed block and dumps it into a bucket. Another girl carries the bucket through mud, handing it to a boy who dumps it into a cart.

Women do the heavy work. Lifting and carrying and pushing.

He pulls and she pushes the cart down a narrow alley, turns right and maneuvers along a narrow potholed road jammed with motorcycles. Beep-beep. They get it to a central dumping zone filled with discarded bricks, debris, plywood and used mud. They dump it. Their return trip to the excavation site is light. They repeat the process. 





Lens is a New York Times blog featuring visual journalism. Recent material covers photographers using their cell phones. Editors received 1,500 images and present their choices. 



MK podcast #74


Yes, after a month of silence, meditation and movement here's MK 74 for your listening enjoyment.

It's always amazing to record these little audio adventures and now that I am "settled" in a room, house, neighborhood, city, and country I hope to chronicle the adventure with regular podcasts. 

It feels simply marvelous to return to a real Asian zone of influence after the tyranny of a private Catholic school in Jakarta for a year. Private school, parents rule!

Believe you me. 

Thanks for your patience and giving your ears a listen. Send me a comment at your leisure.


MK 74