Thursday, March 20, 2014
Friday, March 14, 2014
Coyhaique, ChileMarch 13, 2014The pursuit of the end of the world has begun. Not prosaically, but in a practical, increasingly exercised search for bus tickets out of town. And considering that we just got to town it should tell you something about the town.Actually, it's a settling, easy on the spirit sort of place. Low to the ground - like the people. The only humans over 5'6" are wearing Patagonia jackets, high slung backpacks and looking everywhere but in front of them. For my part It marks the first time I could be invited to play center. Some of the street dogs are taller. Seriously. These aren't Dickensian dogs. Think Steven Segal with fur.After a 22 hour push ever southward, from Baltimore Washington International Airport, with a Double stop through airport security born of a determination not to lose my fedora before the journey even started and a realization steps from the gate that as I stood gate side it sat atop the Delta self-check-in. That hat has been many places, securing sand in Wadi Rum, misted mornings climbing Mach Picchu and provoked endless "are you from Texas" conversations on airplanes, boats and cafés. Often it was the sum total of the English exchanged. After that it was gestures, with a special series of thumbs up's and Indiana Jones whip-slash body English. After all that that hat wasn't going into the rubbish bin at Delta. Loyalty has to start somewhere. Besides, how many hats have a genuine Starbucks flavor to them. There's enough Pike's Peak saturated into that felt to squeeze a cup of coffee out of with a good dousing of hot water. So add caffeine addiction to loyalty. The order of priority subject to change.The air on the road to the end of the world is in constant motion. All the stories - fables more than stories really - short cut its actual presence. It's not air so much as spirit, willful, dashing through tree and teenage waist length hair, thick Southern hair, jet black and fluid hair. Whipped about like $2,500 an hour photo shoot with wind machines hair. Who knew you could get the same 24/7 on the road to the end of the world.The teenagers are teenagers. They entangle on the knobby park benches in the central square and nuzzle in that breathless steeped in innocence way first love allows but can never be found again once it comes crashing down. Unless it doesn't. Sometimes on a street corner, or the center aisle of some supermarket, or in a furtive noticing through a car window you catch the amber light of a first love that never faded, set in the touch of one vastly wrinkled hand to another, a glance filled with 65 years and 65 seconds; that look that says that really the world is whole in two pairs of eyes.On my second cappuccino and first wedge of lemon merengue pie, angled forward on a slightly too high bar stool which left the step down calling to mind first lessons on riding a two-wheeler in my grandmother's Katonah lawn in Westchester, a first love candidate couple in their early 70s walked up to the floor to ceiling window of the town square site of the Red----- cafe. Wind tossing them about ever so slightly they looked inside in a way that made me feel a bit like a glass enclosed zoo animal in the Great Apes exhibit in the zoo below my house in DC. Come see the pie eating gringo - get a free mug - sort of look. Whether it was my appearance that kept them walking in I'll never know. I know I'll never look at the orangutans again in quite the same way though.Above the other corner window the small, remarkably efficient speaker threw out a high tech re-mix of 10 years worth of Pop hits, from Justin Timberlake to John Legend, a string of English-only 20-something boys filling the Chilean cafe with that slight thump that goes when the bass on the mix is set to overload. Next to I, hung left to right we're a white polo helmet, a traditional blue and white cap that looked like it came from crown of a young Tajik woman and a slightly psychedelic-ly painted Moai.Francisco -- the leader of our two-man expedition - hangs up his Nokia. "Our guide can meet us at 8. We can head back to the B&B before going to see him to make our plans for tomorrow."The search for bus tickets has come up empty. Day one yields it's first lesson - plan to re-plan. With no buses out of town Friday for Corcoran, our next point south, we set to the map, and to the B&B.And all the while the wind dances.
Monday, April 1, 2013
Saturday, August 4, 2012
All that separates us from Afghanistan is a rushing, frantic river; 30 yards of water and the pitch dark of a moonless night. Including the one emanating from my screen I can count 16 lights, single 60 to 100 watt incandescent bulbs in my entire field of vision. All are on the Tajik side. Afghanistan, so close, is utterly black. When we arrived there were no lights at all. Electricity is a capricious thing in this hamlet, appearing when if feels like it and vanishing with equal impishness. The river’s rush is a constant companion, along with the trills of night birds and amphibians, insects and mammals.
The sheer geologic power of the Indian Subcontinent slamming into the Eurasian land mass, bending the flat earth into thick folds which reveal layer upon layer of sediment, at one time buried under the sea floor, now bent like so many slices and hurled up thousands of feet into the sky. In places volcanic rock, magma which had poured out millions of years ago, lay dolloped on top of the sedimentary rock, so much topping on the land.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
|Killer Pig by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar|
Sunday, May 13, 2012
|Killer Pig by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar|
Friday, December 2, 2011
Sometime within the next 36 to 48 hours I will become a rice ball. This much is certain. We have been here a shade over four days and my consumption of the many and varied (albeit delicious) forms of rice has overshadowed virtually all other sensory impressions of this time in China thus far. 130 pounds of ambulatory, verbally challenged rice inside various wrappings from Hudson Trail Outfitter s or Hugo Boss navigating the startlingly cold streets of the French Concession in Shanghai. Jasmine scented rice. Brown rice. Saffron rice. Rice with tofu. Rice at breakfast. Rice at lunch. Rice at….
And I like rice. Really.
How it is possible for a nation of 1.4 Billion to grow enough rice to feed itself boggles the mind. There are vats of it, seemingly endless vats of it everywhere. Bags of it in various weights dot the small street-side shops abounding here. Stacked, stuffed, packed and shelved from the street to the back of the diminutive rectangular notches cut into the low buildings which have stood since the 1930s in this part of the city under the linden trees planted by French colonialists who carved their enclave in Shanghai and required the Chinese themselves to obtain papers to enter parts of their own country for the privilege of working for people from Europe.
And we wonder why revolutions happen…
Even in the cold December air the smell of food dominates. Open-air preparation abounds, the scent of wok oils sizzling, the sound of stir fry flipping, cooks and their beans, tofu, onions and sprouts slipping in and out of sight through the steam of water and sesame oil. Hot coals on a fog-thick night turning heavy air red as the bicycles slip by and the occasional bone-rattling heavy truck bores a hole in your skull.
China, it seems, is always hungry.
At four am on a jet-lagged sleepless night walking down deserted streets the only things open on Shanghzi street is the 24 hour Japanese sushi stand (which makes great cappuccino) and McDonalds. The rain comes and the air clears and you smell, faintly, the sea after the water absorbs the dust and the carbon monoxide and the almost touchable dirt in the air. Beyond being hungry, China is every bit as polluted as it is reputed to be. You smell the food, but you taste the air before the rain.
Yet when the air clears the taste is sweet, the air so pure. It makes you long for it, and draws your awareness of what we sacrifice in pursuit of “modernization.”
A colleague told a story the other day of Shanghai. He said that he went out of the country for a week on business. When he returned he had friends arriving from overseas. To meet he chose a popular, delightful restaurant not so far from his house. When he arrived, not jus the restaurant, but the entire block was gone. Razed. Vanished.
In a week.
He thought he’d lost his mind. “That’s China” he says.
On Shanghai’s east side entire neighborhoods, the size of cities, just spring into being. The Green Tree Hotel where we found ourselves on our first night was in a neighborhood that didn’t exist a few years before. “This – all this was vegetable gardens.” Re-bar loaded trucks, stacked metal - like old kindling - fill at every corner as history vanishes in days, replaced by towers erected willy-nilly everywhere. The city grows and people have to have places to live, and so the charm of two stories surrenders to the necessity of 40. Elevated roads out your sixth floor hotel window layer like some madman’s cake and you see, from that window, the old lady sipping tea as behind her the traffic clogs the elevated. Gardens spring up in the areas underneath the tangle of traffic exchanges and thick vines crawl in spyrograph-like patterns. Plantings drip over the highest elevated roadway, and you feel like you’re looking at a fantasy.
The US feels small, New York modest. Its like Los Angeles was supersized in a McDonald’s patterned-world. Come across the largest bridge in Shanghai, the carotid artery between East and West and you are so far up that you have to spiral down to the ground in three consecutive 360 degree loops, a hot wheels track run amok. It takes minutes to spin to the bottom and spill out into the semi-dark of the underpasses and “old” Shanghai.
Yet, in the end, it is magical. Shanghai is magical – a city spinning in multiple centrifuges at the same time. Shanghainese are clearly proud of their city, their enchanted city locked in the embrace of central planning and controlled infrastructural chaos.
Down the street a wok turns, the coals glow and the food turns in deep elegant twists from a skilled arm. The sound of traffic fades, the sound of mandarin rises in the laughter of a late night meal, chopsticks clicking and laughter spilling over into the night.