Poetry Tuesday: An Admonition to Myself

By Chao Meng-Fu, 1254-1322.

Your teeth are loose, your head is bald.
You’re 63 years old.
Every aspect of your life
Should make you feel ashamed.
All that’s left that interests you
Are the products of your brush.
Leave them behind to give the world
Something to talk about.

;o)

Advertisements

Poetry Tuesday: Daytime Dream

By the marvelously simplistically named Tu Fu (China, 712-770).

In the second month, sleeping a lot, all sleepy and dazed,
Are the nights not shorter?—asleep at midday.
With warm air of plum blossoms, eyes grow drunk,
At sun’s set by the spring sandbar, dreams lead one away.
The gate and path to my old home lie beneath brambles and thorns,
Ruler and officials in the Central Plains lie by wolves and tigers.
When, when, may one attend to farming, the fighting ended,
And the whole world be without officials seeking money?

;o)

Travel Thursday Encores: Around the World in 24 Days

Couldn’t sleep last night, so I watched Spinal Tap; I wonder what made me think that was a good idea. . .

This time on Travel Thursday, I go on a trip I would never take in another million years for a billion dollars. Someday I’ll know how to get out of my own way. . .
As usual, before I left I got a lot of advice about the places I was going, most of it by people who not only had never been there, but were repeating what I had told them!
Like in Japan: Don’t open the taxi door. The driver loses face if you don’t wait for him to perform the little miracle of modern engineering that is the automatic door. Of course I never took a taxi. . .

Japan
In Japan there’s this twist on gift-giving where you give a friend a gift and it raises your standing in the community, so to speak. If you’re in someone’s home and you say how lovely that painting is, they’ll try to give it to you. The downside of this is that the receiver of the gift is then expected to return the favor, and even top it. This can have severe consequences if you’re poor like me. . . or, in a very extreme case, if you’re drowning, they won’t save your life because they don’t want to burden you with returning such a huge gift.
The only good thing about this is that, as a gaijin (the polite translation for foreigner, don’t ask for more than that), I was exempt from this tradition. I wasn’t even expected to know about it, which suited me just fine.
And what was this giant gift I would have been unable to return? A night with a geisha!
Okay now, a geisha is not a prostitute. She had to remove her kimono when we got into the hot tub–or whatever it’s called–to finish the massage, but I was the gentleman I always was. . . I mean, am.
Check this out: she played both piano and violin! She knew all my violin requests, and then it turned out she was one of those memory players: she only had to hear a song once and could play it on her keyboard. She did Kat Parsons’ “Miss Me,” Adrina Thorpe’s “Did You Think,” Libbie Schrader’s “Come When I Call,” Killarney Star’s “Signature,” Marina V’s “Underneath Your Sky,” Arden Kaywin’s “Over You,” Tiff Jimber’s “Doin’ Fine,” and most impressively Riddle the Sphinx’s “Lullaby.” That was almost more fun than the massage. . .

Vietnam
Nothing much to see, unless you’re into war history (did that rhyme? Poet, and didn’t. . . realize it). Some incredibly beautiful women, though, which is really all I need to make my job worthwhile.

China: Xi’an
Imagine, if you will, row after row of terracotta warrior statues, over 6000 of them, with many more still in the ground. Even more impressive, they were made two millennia ago. And the most impressive: each of them has a different face, both in features and expression, no mass production here. Plus 200 or so archers and longbow guys. Horsies too. Some have called it “the major archaeological discovery of the 20th century.” Take that, King Tut.

China: desert
Three separate cave complexes called “Temple of a Thousand Buddhas.” None of them came close to having that many–not that I was counting–but then, according to legend, they were stolen by German and French archaeologists 100 years ago. Oh well.
One place had an absolutely Giant Buddha carved into the mountainside, three stories high. It was easy to tell, because there were stairs next to it.
On the third day in the desert the jeep I was on got a flat tire. So while the guys were fixing it, I got out and looked around. Since it’s October, it was only 100 degrees instead of the usual 120. The hills in the distance are called the “Mountains of Fire.” Why there isn’t a resort out here, I’ll never know.
No photos here, because this was boring landscape, not like the huge 100-foot-tall dunes we saw earlier, the ones that looked like they had an orange bulb inside. So I find a boulder big enough to provide some shade and flop down, after checking for scorpions and such, of course.
A little background: after the first time I heard Libbie Schrader in concert, I wrote her an e-mail about it, and besides all the wonderful things I said about her and her music, I mentioned how weird her “eagle” lyric was. Of course she wrote a “thank you” back, but also mentioned she had no idea what I was talking about, there being no eagles in her lyrics. I think the term she used was “baffled.”
So there I am under the boulder listening to this Libbie song so I could finally solve the mystery. Instead of “someone’s eagle is being fed,” the line is “someone’s EGO is being fed.” Which, admittedly, makes a lot more sense, but at the same time, try to imagine what a wonderful love song it would be with my version. Almost as good as when a friend mistook Arden Kaywin’s lyric of “where dying dreams go” as “where diet drinks go.”
Anyway, when we got to the next town–the one that had internet but no French fries–I triumphantly reported my findings to Libbie, who promised to tell the story the next time she played the song in concert. Hope she’s already done that, but I have the sinking feeling she’s waiting for me to be in the audience so yet another musician can embarrass me live.
The last stop before leaving China was a town that had a site called the “Temple of the Fragrant Concubine.” I asked the guide if I should really go in, because I’m allergic to perfumes, and got a stony glare in return. Didn’t know humor was outlawed here.

Kazakhstan
Only stopped in Almaty, a huge, dusty kinda town, but a beacon of civilization after the desert. Hey, any town that has an “American embassy” (as a bus driver in New Zealand calls McDonald’s) can’t be all bad. As some of you may remember, I was in potato withdrawal at the time.

Uzbekistan
Ever stand next to a redwood, walk around it, look all the way up, feel really small? Now pretend it’s covered with blue and white tiles, and it’s the same thing with some of the ruins in Uzbekistan. HUGE! Forget Alexander the Great or Genghis Kahn; Tamerlane’s your guy for pyramid-size monuments to himself.
Finally saw Lt. Kije, which has to be the silliest plot ever, but at least it was a comedy. Good thing I knew the story, because it was done in Russian. Where’s Marina V when you need her?

Kyrgyzstan
What a friggin’ beautiful place, once you get outside the cities. Took a long drive alongside this huge lake that reminded me of Balaton in Hungary (ok, ok, I realize the comparison doesn’t mean all that much to you, but just go with it). Parts of the landscape reminded me of Tahoe, others of Switzerland. In some places the pines were still green, in others they were covered with snow. And other parts would give New England a run for fall foliage. Remember that poem you read as a kid, about how you’ll never see something as lovely as a tree?  Then there’s the sequel by Ogden Nash:
I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree
Indeed, unless the billboards fall
I’ll never see a tree at all.
Spent the night in a yurt, which is a round hut with a hole in the middle of the roof to let the smoke out, but the thing was warm enough not to need a fire. Had the thing all to myself, which inspired me to think that any place in the world can be romantic. . . well, not alone, obviously, but you don’t need a giant erector set in Paris or even a huge beautiful mausoleum in India to feel romantic.
Or maybe I’m just fuckin’ lonely. . .

Armenia
Almost ended up going through Iran, but found a last-minute seat past it. Love the archaeological sites, and the people are lovely, but the Tehran government scares the shit out of me. And I’m a Liberal. . .
A few interesting little mountain places in Armenia, all visited in a day, and some cultural stuff in Yerevan. This was the most American-like of the places I went to, because a lot of American Armenians had returned to the homeland, probably thinking they would strike it rich somehow. You already know what happened, musically, from the last blog, which started out when I mentioned one of my faves, Adrina Thorpe, is of Armenian descent. This got the DJ really excited and he promised to play her stuff. I wonder if Adrina is going to get CD orders from there and have to figure out just how much postage it’s gonna be. . .

London
Because I spent extra time in Central Asia, I ended up going from Armenia straight to London, when the original plan was to go to Istanbul and then meander on back to England through Vienna and so on. I have two London musicians amongst my friends, but neither had a concert those days, so the time I wasn’t involved in photo shoots I spent trying to avoid future jet lag by sleeping during the day and trawling the internet by night. Already rather nippy here (damn, I said “rather” again).

So there’s some of the highlights, and if you think I’m going to write down the lowlights in a place where other people can read them, HA!
So, another round-the-world trip, and all I learned was I’m too old for this shit. . .
This year (2005) I’ve been to, in chronological order, Italy (Venice, Tuscany, and Cinqueterre), London (3 times), Seattle, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Japan, Vietnam, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrghyztan, a couple of hours in Turkmenistan (narrowly avoiding Iran and Azerbaijan), and Armenia. Last year it was Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, Canada, Seattle again, London again, Italy (Rome this time), 3 weeks in Greece, 5 places in India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Bora Boring, and Hawaii. The year before that featured places like Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Mali, Egypt, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Madagascar, Israel, and the ubiquitous London. And I haven’t been to San Diego, Frisco, or Vegas in years.
I’m taking next year off. . .

{In case you were “baffled” by all the mention of French fries in China, here’s the e-mail}
Oct 14, 2005 4:10P
Help me, I’m starvin’!
HELP ME! I’M IN A DESERT IN WESTERN CHINA AND I REALLY NEED SOME FRENCH FRIES, STAT! MC’D’s OR IN-N-OUT PREFERRED, BUT IN NO POSITION TO BE PICKY. CAN SOMEONE FED EX A LARGE?
GO FIGURE! THEY HAVE INTERNET HERE BUT NOT FRENCH FRIES! WHAT A BACKWARD COUNTRY. SIGH. . .

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: On the Slope of Hua Mountain

Anonymous Chinese ditty from almost 2000 years ago.

O flowery mountain slopes,
Now that my lover is dead
How can I live out my lonely life?

O my lover, if you still love me,
Open your sealed coffin for me,
And take me with you.

Why is it, with the world full of men
I am desolated, and long only for you?

I wish I were the ivy,
Climbing high in the pine tree,
And you were the moving clouds,
So we could see each other
As you pass by.

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: Spring Thoughts

Spring Thoughts Sent to Tzu-An, to be precise, by Ya Hsuan-chi, all the way back in ninth century China.

The mountain road is steep, the stone steps are dangerous;
The hard climb hurts me less than thoughts of you.

Ice melts in a far stream: your voice in its sad tune.
Snow on cold peaks like jade reminds me of you.

Don’t listen to the singers, springsick with wine.
Don’t call your guests to play chess at night.

Like pine or stone our promise stays,
So I can wait for paired wings to join.

I walk alone in the cold end of winter.
Perhaps we’ll meet when the moon is round.

What can I give my absent man?
In the pure light, my tears fall: a poem.

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: T’ung Pass

By Chang Yang-hao, fourteenth century China

Masses of mountain peaks,
waves as if in a rage–

the road to T’ung Pass
winds among mountains and rivers.

Looking west to the capital,
my heart sinks.

Where the thousand armies
of Ch’in and Han once passed,

I grieve: ten thousand palaces
ground into dust for nothing.

Dynasties rise, people suffer;
dynasties fall, people die.

;o)