Notes along the way

Notes along the way.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

On the fly

Our time in Portland is quickly coming to an end. It has been utterly delightful spending time with the family and the grandkids in particular. What can I say? I'm totally under their spell.

And yes. Swami is here. It's great to be reunited with him but more about that later. As usual, it's late and I've got to try to sleep. Ta.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Somnambulists

We are now about 33 hours into our return trip home. We are all as rummy rheumy as hell. I don't think I mentioned it earlier, but Lee's 84 year-old mom joined us for our last two weeks Thailand. She came to Bangkok on her own, which I think is kind of amazing. How many 84 year-olds are up for that? But she loves to travel. And actually, if it wasn't for her, we would never have seen the puppet theatre. It was part of a boat tour that we wouldn't have done on our own. More about the puppets later.

Bangkok night

Anyway, we are all as rummy rheumy as hell. Did I mention that already? But right now, it's morning in Thailand and I am feeling oddly awake, although it also feels like a long time since that 3 AM when we started out. At the moment, we are enjoying a 12 hour layover at the Los Angeles airport. There is only one direct flight a  day to Oregon, a little little propjet. And, since early afternoon we've been sitting in a really dreary wing of the airport. Half the room is casually draped with cloth that looks like gigantic white bed sheets and partially walled with bare drywall. Either we are dead and in some nether world, transitioning to the next dimension or LAX is doing some remodeling. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Goodbye Thailand, for now

We're seven hours into a 36 hour trip. We left this morning at 4 AM and are currently sitting in the Hong Kong airport waiting for our connecting flight to LA.

As we are flying back in time, we will arrive in Oregon two hours after we left. At this point, I don't have time for anything more than a quick update.

Hanuman grabbing Swami

Yesterday Swami almost ran off with Hanuman and the Thai Puppet Theatre.

You could say Hanuman kidnapped him but I'm guessing it was a collusion between the two.

Either way, Swami took off with him and, for a moment, I thought I might never see him again... again. But Haunman brought him back.

He is a gentleman, after all.

It was a strange and perfect reenactment of Swami's disappearance in Cambodia last year and s his return this year. He's waiting for us in Portland. We should be there by the weekend.  Can't wait to see him and those grandkids. They are all growing up way too fast

Monday, January 12, 2015

Je suis Charlie

Nous sommes Charlie

Graphic by: by Lucille Clerc

Here are a couple of thoughtful articles reflecting on some of the more obscure, but extremely important issues, related to the horrific massacre at Charlie Hebdo last week. They are right on and well worth a read.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Monkey time

Dusky Langur & me - Thailand
Me and a basically wild Dusky Langur

It's 2558 here in Thailand, at least according to the Thai (Buddhist) calendar. That's okay with me. I love that different cultures have totally different systems for measuring the passing of time. The Gregorian calendar (as in Pope Gregory XIII) used in 'merica, is not the one and only system. In Nepal this is the 2071st century. The Persian, Kurdish and Afghan calendars all agree that this is 1393. Of course, everyone knows it's the 13th baktun and the Islamic calendar calls this 1436 and leap year so watch you don't go down that rabbit hole.

Tasty treat for a Dusky Langur - Thailand
Me handing a Dusky Langur dude a tasty almond.

Then there's Unix time. Wisely, implementations defining the result of the time() function as type time_t were added which will keep the whole system from going negative on January 19, 2038 (in the Gregorian calendar) thus saving us all from the dreaded doomsday second. Thanks guys. And, no. Don't ask me to explain that.

So, what's my point? Ten Eleven years ago I was waiting out a snow storm and in geological time none of this amounts to the twinkling of an eye so I don't know. Do I need one? Ok. Like the Buddha said, "When you meet a monkey on the road, give 'em a tasty treat".

Dusky Langur & me - Thailand
By any calculation, it's treat time

As for me, we're in Bangkok now, so no Dusky Langurs, I so miss those little guys, but I'll try to be nice too.

Happy 2558 aka 2015 etc.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Swami, one year later

Before anything else,
I want to wish you a very merry Christmas
because, well, today is Christmas,
 even if it's not Christmas today
or you don't celebrate it.

Okay on with it.

A story is like a river. Sometimes a river disappears, but that doesn't necessarily mean it has dried up. Sometimes it goes underground where it travels, not just miles, but hundreds or thousands of miles through the secret earth before resurfacing... to be it's own same/never-the-same self again, like it always was.

The thread of this story disappeared amid the ruins of Angkor Wat, leaving us with the clangorous ring of the cicada and the rattle and whir of Mr. Keen's tuk tuk as our only comfort in the dark broken heart of Cambodia.

This is where our story ended
and begins so yes, watch it first, before going on.

One year ago Swami, our beloved traveling companion of nearly 15 years, disappeared at Angkor Wat. It was totally my fault. I was careless. He was very vulnerable riding in his little bag. I kept telling myself I should make a harness for him but never did.

M. Lee and I were heartbroken. It wasn't "like" losing a family member. Swami is family. It was devastating. But, traveling without him is inconceivable so he immediately "reincarnated" as coral Swami. You can read about that herehere and here if you want to know more. In any case, I know. We're odd.

The cursed temple of Ta Keo and the last photo of me & Swami
Me flouting a warning at the cursed temple of Ta Keo

But here's the thing. After that first, heart stopping moment when we realized Swami was gone, the idea that we'd never see him again was simply and totally unthinkable. To even consider such a thing was not only preposterous, it was impossible. We knew he would return. He just had to.

So, this last year, we've combed secondhand stores, gift shops, baby boutiques, toy stores, junk shops, art museums, Pintrest, Etsy, Ebay and countless other websites hoping to find him or someone who could make a new yellow Swami body. Family and friends, old and new, joined the search, some even volunteering to sew a new one and finally we realized that, unskilled as we are, M. Lee and I would have to figure out how to make the yellow Swami body ourselves.

Swami with his friend Andy
at the old Whitney Museum in New York

Then a few weeks ago, almost exactly a year to the day since Swami disappeared, a very strange thing happened. Totally out of the blue, and in his usual innocent and cheery way, Coral Swami turned to me and said, "Yellow Swami is coming back". We didn't know what to make of it. How could he know? On the other hand, how could he not know?  But last week, when we were still in Chiang Mai, M. Lee stumbled on this.

Yes, yes. Click the button and watch the scary, bad clowns.

We replayed the part around 0:35 seconds, where HAM sprinkles vinegar on everything and stuffs his mouth with more chips. The music is building as he picks up the newspaper, sees the picture of a little yellow dude in the ad section, throws his bike into high gear and roars off into the store to claim him. And we paused at 1:07, the part where HAM first sees the little yellow dude on the shelf. so that we could read and re-read the name on the wall.... Flat Eric! Of course, we had checked out Flat Eric before but the searches never led anywhere. This time was different.

And don't miss this one. It is part of the narrative.
Flat Eric

What happened next went as fast as the gunfight but had a better ending. M. Lee did a quick search for Flat Eric. That took him to a six-year-old discussion where someone had posted a link to the German Ebay account of a guy named buecherfritzke01 who sells second hand collectibles and there he was... Swami! We bought him immediately and, within the next 24 hours, buecherfritzke01 sent him on his way. Thank you very much. And a couple of days ago yellow Swami arrived in America! The mailer was beat up and taped back together, but he is still smiling. Now he is waiting for us in Portland, Oregon. I hear he's hanging out with some crazy Christmas angels there. We'll be home in January, Swami! See you then.

Swami, resurfacing at last

So, thank you HAM, Mr. Oizo (aka Quentin Dupieux) and Flat Eric. And thank you Dalai Lama and the Tulkas. And especially thank you, our family and friends. The fact that you guys get it and care, or at least care, makes all the difference. And thank you, Mr. Swami! Welcome home!

Swami contemplating the moon
Ko Kood, Thailand, 2013

PS.  No. I do not think M. Lee is at all like Mr. Oizo and certainly I, in no way, resemble his tailgate buddy so don't even go there.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice is my personal New Year's Eve but I've not got anything special planned this year. I'm not at home. I'm not in my own country. I don't even have a candle to light. I am observing the solstice quietly, in passing, a moment of reflect ion on this, the longest night of the year, a moment of peace in the pause as the earth rounds it course and begins it's journey back towards the light. Best wishes in the coming new year.


I'm not posting it like I have other years but, if you like, here's a link to a Winter Solstice poem I wrote some time ago.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hua Hin

Big Buddha near Hua Hin

So we're now in Hua Hin, a beach town located on the west coast of the Gulf of Thailand. It's a lot like Florida's gulf coast towns in that it's half ghost town. Hua Hin is close to Bangkok so there are a lot of second homes, weekend get-away condos and apartments. Even the King has a residence here.

Dogs will be dogs and so will we

We're staying in an apartment M. Lee found on Airbnb. It's right on the beach overlooking the Gulf and much nicer than the tiny room we had in Chiang Mai. It's way to nice for the likes of us but we're willing to be corrupted. The odd similarity is that, like our place in Chiang Mai, we are very nearly the only people here. It's like we're ghosts in a vacant house. We're the only people on our floor so we've been sleeping with the front door open for the breeze.

Hobbit monk blue door into rock inner sanctum

It's a bit creepy but a nice draft. Our isolation here is compounded by the fact that not one member of the skeleton crew that runs the place speaks a word of English. That just seems like a bad idea to me but that's the way it is. Anyway, we met the owner of the apartment next door this afternoon. He is preparing the place for a family coming this weekend.

Me, Swami and Giant Golden Tortoise

Bummer. But it's late. More on Hua Hin later. I've got to get to sleep.