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Middle Kingdom Podcasts (2005-2017)

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Question Authority - Ice Girl

Chapter 4.

Leo carried buckets of night soil shit. It was the price he paid for quest-ioning Authority.

  -why, do we have to read Mao’s little red book, it’s mush for pigs, he asked Authority.

  -because you are a tool of the state, said Authority.

  -this shit stinks.

  -here, said Authority. Carry some more.

  After that melancholy loss Leo didn’t take shit from anybody. He burned through levels of existence as an exiled ghost. He slept with shamans in cemeteries.

  He didn’t suffer from PTDS. He didn’t prowl life’s perimeter at midnight with bandoliers of munitions and Howling Wolf, his M-16 on full automatic.

  He wasn’t a suicide bomber hijacking ambulances in Gaza or Baghdad or Karachi or Damascus. He wasn’t blowing up cafes in Haifa or Spanish trains of thought watching children and adults fly through the air with the greatest of ease in the Greatest Show on Earth.

He did not attend pre-9/11 flight training school in Florida on a secret mission of revenge and miraculous destiny.

  Being a worthy asset with nonofficial cover he was quieter than a mouse. The second mouse gets the cheese.

  He disembarked, disabled, distributed, declassified, delineated, discussed and detonated unconscious trip wires. He was a silent night hymn, a predator practicing silence and cunning with his tantric eye wide open.

 I am a camera, he said to Rita, cutting ice. Like you I see the big picture. We are ahead of the future. Wandering storytellers accepted my willingness to walk point. It's the Tao of insight, intuitive friendship and leadership. I don’t sweat the small stuff.

  It’s all small stuff, said Rita. God, the Devil and Allah are in the details.

Checkmate, said Death. I only make one move and it’s always correct.

In Cadiz, Spain a well-dressed bald man with gypsy blood wearing polished black wing tipped shoes used the financial section of a daily rag to collect his dog’s shit off Roman cobblestone. He dumped it into a metal trash basket nailed to a postmodern yellow splattered wall.

  Five minutes later an obsessive-compulsive cleaning woman in her ground floor flat yelled, “What’s that smell?”                                              


Ice Girl in Banlung 


Gateway - Ice Girl

Chapter 3.

Banlung is a gateway to isolated animist villages up river.

The Tonle Srepok River is the heart of darkness. The Apocalypse Now River.

The river overflowed with tedious years of silence singing a slow meandering song before being punctuated by random acts of violence, gunfire and exploding land mines swallowing eternal cries for mercy as innocent men, women and children were slaughtered in fields, homes, and villages along twisted dirt jungle paths or murdered inside animist cemeteries wearing crude carved wooden faces remembering the dead with ceremonies, laughter, animal sacrifice and rice wine hearing the low dull roar of high altitude bombers releasing enraptured napalm canister lightning bolts through clear skies rendering humans, mountains and jungles obsolete accompanied by the steady rhythm of a girl sawing ice.



Someone said there was a war, said Ice Girl. Mother saw a whirling bird, called a helicopter. She wove it with our traditional motifs of weavers, people carrying water, harvesting, dancing, playing music, sitting, resting, flowers, fields, cows, chickens, ducks, birds, banana and palm trees, rivers, sky and nature. She weaves our long story. Before writing after cutting and selling ice I weave.

Animist people believe in the natural world. Every living thing has spirit energy.

A shy woman shaman performed a family ceremony and healing sacrifice.

She smeared chicken blood over a sick infant’s stomach. Villagers are superstitious and trusting.

Bored dead eyed humans wandered red dust.

One prolific business in Banlung was mechanical. Along and adjacent to the single east west paved artery were brown wooden homes and shacks of rusting corrugated tin.

Single men or teams of laborious boys hammered, welded, pried, manipulating iron and steel, adjusting belts, guided grinding gears, solidifying particles, firing cylinders, filing metallic blisters, reworking tired 125cc engines and formatting hard drives as spokes on crude machines sang.

Repair and restoration work implied basic life skills using eye-hand coordination, communication theory modules with colleagues, decipherable brooms, grease, balloons, laughter and a high degree of universal understanding and empathy.

Freedom worked 24/7. Under a broiling sun tempered by a soft breeze they carried buckets of cement over boards, pouring it on red dirt. Freedom shoveled 21 muscular sandy efforts into a wheelbarrow. Freedom pushed it to a new world order construction site filled with profound expectations and poverty’s paradoxes.

After dark Freedom caressed a hungry $10 passive lover inside a plywood shack along a dirt road removed from neon, Zircon and the tooth fairy. Dirt floor, bed, OK condom.

Her clothes hung on rusty nails embedded in exploitation. Stale perfume, lip-gloss and mascara sang lost memories. Her dead eyes said, plow my field with no emotional connection. She stared at a brick wall as Freedom assaulted heaven’s gate grinding desire.

After fifteen minutes longer than forever she joined five girlfriends sitting around a fire below stars. See who shows up, said one, the night’s young. We are tools, said another. I don’t give a shit, said a sad one remembering her mother and siblings upriver.

The fat male moneyman slouched in a porch hammock watched reality reruns under a red light special.

 Ice Girl in Banlung


Questions ask questions - Ice Girl

Chapter 2.

Red dust town turned windy. Swirling quality gem stone particles and degrees of indifference spiraled through air. Redwood slats covered open sewer drains.

Locals in Banlung, Cambodia watched Leo with curiosity and suspicion. They stared from a deep vacuum. When he made eye contact they glanced away with fear, uncertainty and doubt. They didn’t see many strangers here. They listened at 49% or less saying yeah, yeah with panache.

Leo discovered his quest-ions were constantly repeated.

Quest-ions grew tired of repeating themselves.

This is so fucking boring, said one quest-ion. We are abused. We are manipulated and rendered mute. Useless.

Think of it as a test, said another quest-ion. Patience is our great teacher.

I’ll try, said another quest-ion.

Yes, said a quest-ion these non-listeners have a distinct tendency to say more and say it louder when they’re leaving, when their back’s turned away from eye contact and potential real communication.

I’ve seen that too, said a quest-ion, who, until this moment had remained silent. My theory is that it’s because of the genocide and fear. 

It’s also a delicate mixture of stupidity or indifference, said another quest-ion. Why is the most dangerous quest-ion, said one.

Can you explain, asked a quest-ion.

Sure, people ran away to survive. People started running and others would ask them a quest-ion like why are you running, who’s chasing you, where are you going or what’s the matter or when did you become afraid or why don’t you stay longer and the one running would keep going trailing abstract quest-ion words behind them like memories or disembodied spirits or molecules of indifferent breath.

I see, said a quest-ion. That explains it.

Yes, said a quest-ion. Being correct is never the point.

Tell me why oh my. How did I grow?

Ice Girl in Banlung



Ice Girl in Banlung, Cambodia

Chapter 1.

It’s fucking hysterical.

Now and then mean the same in Ratanakiri, Cambodian animist jungle languages.

Leo is incognito and invisible perusing the Wild West. It is replete with wandering literary outlaws, animists, shamans and 25,000 natives. Rambunctious young Banlung cowboys and cowgirls dance 125cc machines through spiraling red dust.

How long have you been here, said Rita a 12-year old girl cutting and selling ice along a red road.

All day. I started in China. I walked to Vietnam. Then Laos. I’ll stay here awhile. We can talk.

Ok, she said cutting crystals. Is a day long enough to process a sensation and form an impression? Is it long enough to gather critical mass data about the diversity and evolution of humans in this total phenomena? My name is Rita.

Good to meet you. I’m Leo the Lionhearted. Yes, if you slow down. How is life here?

I work, I breed, I get slaughtered. This is my fate. My fate is a machete slashing through jungles. Fate and destiny are two sides of the same coin.  Janus. Yeah, yeah are two of my favorite lazy words. She smiled. Especially when I am talking with illiterate zombies.

They are same word. I spit them out twice at light speed. You accent the last consonant, drawing it out like a sigh, a final breath a whisper. Y-e-a-hhhhh. It’s crazy English believe you me. Impressive, eh? I can also say OK twice with a rising sound on the k sounding like a meaning I understand without internal meaning or personal truth-value. It’s vague. Why be precise? Many people have conversations using abstract metaphors. Ok? Ok?

Ok. Address the very low literacy rate.

Hello, literacy rate, how are you, she said.

I am well and speaking with improved elocution. My English is getting better. I know my English is not grammatically correct but I know my English is fluent. The more I see the less I know.

Well said, said Ice Girl. Someone said literacy means reading and writing.

I doubt it, said Literacy, Who needs reading and writing? Humans need food, sex, air, water, shelter, clothing and red dust. Hope is in last place. In fact, hope may be the greatest evil because it’s a myth. It’s the last thing that dies.

Let’s not have this conversation in the abstract, said Ice Girl, sawing cold. I love myth, fiction, truth and inventing stories.

I thought you said eating and fighting, said Literacy. You must be fucking crazy. My survival depends on eating and fighting. Reading and writing is for idiots. Millions never learn how to write, let alone scribble stories. No chance. No money. Poor people see education and school as a waste of time and money. Education and medicine are expensive.

I see, said Ice Girl. When I write my stories filled with immediate direct sense impressions and precise details they lose their magic. They are like ice. Ice loses its essence in the big picture. Existence precedes essence. It’s lost between heart-mind-hand-tool-paper. Spoken stories lose their edge fast. Spoken words float around looking for a character, like plot.

Too many people talk out their stories. Lost in the telling. Lost tales float around looking for ears. Talking kills and rejuvenates magic and mystery. Ghost stories.

World tribes memorize chants, rhythms, songs, tales and star trails with a side order of red dust. You never hear a kid say, Let’s take the day off and be creative.

Here’s my secret. I look for a literary agent. Someone said they help writers. I sent one a query. One wrote me a letter. I will share it with you later. I write at night. During the day I’m busy with school and selling ice. If they ask me I will send them a manuscript. Maybe they will love it. Maybe they’ll find a publisher with a big marketing budget and the rest is history as they say. If not I’ll be independent and publish it myself. Ice is my life and I will never give it up. Besides writing, laughing, loving and living, it’s my life.

Wow, that’s lovely, said Leo.

Yes, she said, I follow my bliss. If it’s not in your heart, it’s not in your head. I’ll tell you about the agent later.

A man arrived on a broken motorcycle. She gave him a blue plastic bag of ice. He gave her Real currency.

Sure. I follow my blisters, laughed Leo.

Where are you staying, she asked.

I don’t have a home. I live in small houses along the road. For now I sleep at Future Bright.

I know it. The woman owner smiles and lies at the same time.

What’s the difference between hearing and listening, Leo asked.

98% are asleep with their eyes open, she said. They don’t know and don’t care. It’s endemic.  They look without understanding. The remaining 2% are dead and long gone.

She opened her notebook. She spilled red ink on white paper. Red is a lucky color of wealth and prosperity. Living in a red dust town brings everyone good luck.

Tell me about your visionary skills, said Leo.

I am ahead of the future. The day after tomorrow belongs to me. I connect the dots forward. I practice detached discernment. My job is to pay attention to direct immediate experience, get it down and make sense of it later.

People here live in a perpetual disconnect. They are talking monkeys looking for a place to happen. They can’t focus. Their attention span is ZERO. Like Year 0 in 1975 before I was born. No attention span? No problem.

How about your town, asked Leo.

Red dust roads in Banlung are paved with blue Zircon and Black Opals (nill) reflecting Ratanakiri, or “Gem Mountain.” Rich city women wear blue Zircon, gold necklaces, rings, bracelets, sparkle bling. Rural women do not wear this wealth.

Married women wear red bead strings. They fashion yellow, red, blue, green, glittering plastic bangles on necks and wrists.

Here it’s about food and honoring Earth spirits. Animists believe taking stones harms the spirits, creating an imbalance in the natural order of things.

Thanks for Life Lesson #3, said Leo. I’m going to have a look-see. See you later.

 Ice Girl in Banlung


I Lost One Day

Crows sang sunrise in Bursa, Turkey.

Lucky opened window blinds at the TLC teachers’ apartment. Riding the blinds sang a metaphorical cryptic railroad life. Hop a fright. Get out of town. Hit the highway. Get down the road.

Ain’t nothin’ but da blues, sweet thing.

When you come to a fork in the road take it, said Zeynep.

Sun streamed to pink-red veined orchids in a brushed silver container.

Tibetan incense curled into light.

Red gladioli, so glad, petaled beginning.

Piano Etudes by Glass tinkled.

A handful of dust labeled fear celebrated tonal frequencies.

Piano fell silent. Violins picked up the slack hemming garments along life’s loom down at the crossroads making a Faustian deal with the d-evil.

In a new world order all the police are children.

They know how the world works.

Elegant clouds observed pachyderms and Staunton designed pawns, knights, bishops, rooks and queens fighting to control four center squares.

Look at the board. Absorb all the data. Recognize patterns. Analyze. Develop a strategy. Continually revise and develop that strategy as the game progresses, said Bamboo.

A black knight waving a curving scimitar and a 1* red and yellow hammer sickle flag driving a Turbo-bus filled with Russian baboons passed Hanoi beauty salons and full-body soapy massage parlors.

Girls trimming, buffing and painting cuticles greeted 1.5 million neurotic European tourists and swarming Chinese locusts in a fat fucking hurry at Angkor Wats happening?

Bright yellow Turkish taxis idled coughing engines. Arabesque musicians fingered ouds as an operatic Turkish singer in Bursa lamented her melancholic love. Percussionists hammered goatskins.

Singing silver merchants chanted, “Mr. Lucky Foot come here. First sale lucky sale make my day.”

He joined a Jewish and Turkish man drinking tea at the Bursa silk market in an exquisite stone Caravansary.

“I lost today,” said the Jewish man.

“What do you mean, said his friend. “You made 3,000,000 Lira.”

“Yes, but I lost one day.”

Inside a 500-year old hammam, steam rising through rusting metal bars discovered a weak Wi-Fi signal from the Achebadem emergency room staffed by Winter Hawk, Bamboo and heartbroken howling Lone Wolf.

After a sauna Omar and Lucky entered a white marble room with a high vaulted dome. Thirty-two pinpoints of sunlight shafted across blue mosaic tiles. In eight recessed cubicles men soaped, slathered and scrubbed off melting skin in humid heat. A robust masseuse worked sandpaper fibers over a stranger removing dead terrorist cells.

Absorbing musical notes the thermal pool bubbled natural mineral water as the literary outlaws enjoyed a sitting meditation up to their necks. I’ve had it up to here, said Omar clearing his throat.

Renewed revived and rejuvenated after a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice they stepped into crisp spring air below blue sky.

The Language Company