Archive for the ‘about me’ Category

Dell and life in general

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

Dell-heading-blog

flying over Laos toward Viet Nam

This is really about my friend Dell and a tribute to him but I do wander in about Dell in particular as I am tossing in some updates about travel between China and Australia this past month as I do not have the time or inclination to write a separate blog about before last week. I am sure Dell would understand that my narrative goes astray at times. We both lived those kind of lives that seem to go off track, whatever track we were on.

  • Dell died today 19th July 2014 at 9 AM.
  • In real-life terms he died in May 2013.
  • When does actual death occur?

Below – one of us is not Dell – San Pedro, Guatemala 2008 DSC01578   Death of someone else to us is really when we become conscious of the event.

Before our knowing we are still speaking/thinking of the person; even nurturing them in our thoughts which if we believe we are all connected the mind begins asking “what then becomes of those thoughts/feelings/virtual warmth rays we surround another with? We die when the last person to have known us in real-life dies. There is a difference between the death of someone we have had moments with and someone that has died we did not have any interactions with such as a cut-out character viewed through non-touchable media; sort of a part of our psychic DNA. I worry about my parents because of this kind of thinking. My father died at age 102, I will be 67 in a couple of weeks, there are very few people left who knew him and when we die off then he dies. People exist through memory but only live via shared experience. Of course we all have a different view of someone dependent on our interactions with that person. Even names are changed and they live as those names. For example, Dell who was Dell to everyone that I know and we seldom heard any other name was known by his birth name to his cousins; Delbert, one of whom recently told me that he did not know that he went by the name of Dell. Of course we did not know his name was Delbert and maybe how we knew him would have changed if we had called him Delbert instead of Dell. Perhaps there have been ten-billion people who have lived and died and now there are seven or so billion more all destined to be remembered to someone for a moment then forgotten. I never understood why people grieve or experience loss when someone they have never met but who they may have seen on TV in a movie, read a book of/about goes belly-up. What? Someone can not take from us that has never met us therefore it is impossible to have a loss. Maybe a virtual loss, a mental loss because someone who was writing great scripts no longer is around to continue to enchant us but really how selfish? It is when someone we have encountered and shared and bounced around with leaves that a part of us leaves. That part of us that only the person who has left would know – they took it with them. I know this as I have had two mothers a couple of fathers, girl friends, a son, brother and friends die. People take from me. Each one another piece. I wish people I knew would stop dying.

view from the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital in Honk Kong

view from the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital in Honk Kong

I think it is because I have Saturn conjunct Pluto conjunct my Venus that I get these losses. And with my Moon in Taurus in the 8th house of death of course I get emotional but with Mars conjunct Uranus in Gemini in the 8th I can still intellectualize about it. And of course I do not believe in any of this astrological mumble jumble so it is easy to dissect my chart and then dismiss it. And now with transit Saturn in 17 degrees Scorpio in my first house in conjunction with my Jupiter and exact square my Sun – damn I’m screwed. But tonight with the moon in 29 Cancer conjunct my Mercury and going on through Leo tomorrow this is the time to write about my friend Dell. It was that Saturn making all the constriction on my Sun in Leo that shoved me in a hospital again last month in Hong Kong to get a party balloon put into my heart valve (get it Party Balloon – I’m a Leo). Back in October 28th when I was in Hong Kong with Saturn at 13 degrees 8 minutes Scorpio it was squaring my Saturn and Pluto both at 13 degrees and five minutes of Leo and I had five stents. How astrologically spooky that was. I tell you I tore up my chart after seeing that. Well not really but I should have. Back to Dell in a moment… But I have left Hong Kong. We had stopped in thinking I should visit my cardiologist who had put four stents in my heart area six months earlier. Surely just a short ‘how ya doin’ mate?’ would suffice. He lined me up for tests to see how I was doing. Lots of them. A day of tests. Machine after machine. Each one leading to another. By late evening after a full day of tests good ole Dr. King says there are concerns. Doctors saying stuff like this is a concern. The next morning he says I need another endogram. ‘The Endogram works by occluding blood flow in the arm and then gauging the post-ischemic pulsatile component of flow and the artery’s largest volume change…’ I hate these things. They put a tube up through the arm starting at the wrist and into the heart area. I just get a local in my wrist and I feel it all. There are big monitors to observe what is going on… for three hours. I get a balloon or two stuck in and told this is a new cardiovascular disease. Yeah go tell someone who cares. Last October I showed the DVD of the procedure to my film class and some liked it. Patrick showed his 8th grade science class that was working on a unit on fiber optics, so the movie of my heart being poked at got a showing in a few classes at Dalian American International School. After a few days and some ‘moments’ with our insurance company I was patched up and sent on my way. I have left China after three years and I have left Hanoi and we had a great time in Laos if following the lives of old people as tourist could at all be interesting. I like Laos the people in general seem content and not so attached to the slavery of western style consumerism. I did my part and kept to purchasing fridge magnets; not overly consumptions but enough to give me a memory of Laos. !!Laoswords A third of the population of Laos live below the international poverty line which means living on less than US$1.25 per day. Laos is a low income economy, with one of the lowest annual incomes in the world.” According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laos). How is one to feel in these situations? We surely have no restraints with spending money wherever we go so I am sure there were a lot of people who got more than a buck twenty-five out of us before the week was over. “As of 2008, Laos is the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in the world. An average of one B-52 bomb-load was dropped on Laos every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, between 1964 and 1973.” How forgiving humans can be. A few decades later and they are happy to have the Yanks come spend money along with people from the rest of the world. My how places change. We did the sightseeing adventures Luang Prabang, Kuang Si waterfalls, Wat Xieng Thong temple, Tat Kuang, Si Bear Rescue Centre and taking a ferry across the Mekong. Staying at the Thongbay Guest house (http://www.thongbay-guesthouses.com/was great. It is on the Nam Khan River with views of the Phousi Mountain.Narda and I had a cabin and Narda’s son, Brendan had a cabin next to us. I would suggest that is the place to stay if one were looking for a place to stay in Luang Prabang.

Luang Prabang,  Kuang Si waterfalls,

Luang Prabang, Kuang Si waterfalls,

A few youtube videos I made from Laos

I have said a few times I think maybe Dell died but there was no one to confirm or deny this. I felt this for more than a year. But should we trust our feelings? In 1973 (maybe it was 1974) I went through a time when I heard my birth-mother calling for me. I was a street artists in New Orleans at the time and I knew nothing of my birth-mother as I had been put up for adoption in 1950. I confirmed the date I was feeling my mother had died with my sister who I met at the end of the 1980s and it was like the same month. I do not remember the details at the moment. In 1973 or maybe 1972 – do dates really mean that much after a few decades? I met Dell, or rather he met me. I was a street artist selling my picture poems in front of Jackson Square in New Orleans (know little about the image below except it is me with a passing horse in the background and a passing girl next to me. This is the only photo I have of then and 40 years on is a long time to remember much though I think I have seen that horse before.

Jackson Square New Orleans with a passing stranger and a horse

Jackson Square New Orleans with a passing stranger and a horse

(from “Leaving Australia, page 120 – re. 1973) January 27th took three …. painted 160 pictures – took two hours to do it and two hours to clean up. END OF VIET NAM WAR – Dell stopped in, brought some good LSD. (have no idea what that could mean – 7/26/2014 – but surely it was not me or the me who I have become)

I was selling picture-poems

alongside Jackson Square

in New Orleans

reading astrology charts to the lovely ladies

(telling each how well our charts matched: “my Mars to your Venus – what a night we shall have”)

and selling esoteric sacred secrets to the Christians

when I saw her standing there

reading my picture-poems She said what my poems said shouldn’t be said she came and told me that every day at noon But I paid no attention (like any man would) Until the day she took me to her home somewhere north in the constellation of Andromeda (the chained lady)

I met her anthropomorphic parents

a tree and a shirt

Then I awoke twenty-years later

in this small harbor town

on a large island North of Antarctica

where I began selling picture-poems (poems saying what shouldn’t be said) in a park

again

(come and purchase your picture-poems at Rymill Park on Sundays in Adelaide that

aren’t rainy or windy 9-5)

But I watch for her like a criminal does for justice

knowing someday it will all make sense

and I will be like everyone else

free of me.

4-17-94 Victor Harbor South Australia

A lot of what I write about Dell below is edited (after all decades later I am a member of today’s society and much of the experiences one has when they are younger are best left on the shelf) from a 560 page book (150,000 words) that I wrote some years ago; ‘Leaving Australia’. I made two leather bound copies, one for Sacha and one for me. It is a large book (A4 pages) with lots of photos and poems and having two copies seems excessive but I am an excessive person.

Dell was always a bit of a scary person. He was a bit Gothic, a bit strange at a time when everyone was a bit strange. Dell was several years older and better off materialistically than the rest of us. He was the only one I knew who had a car. He dressed better than the rest of us. He had better… (I will say recreational enhancers for here but in “Leaving Australia” there are different words) I think he worked on oil-rigs for a few months at a time, making large amounts of money. Dell had a spider web tattooed on his hand which I had not seen on anyone else then or even now. In the 1970s, it was not so common to have tattoos as it is now when to be different from others is not to have a tattoo such as Narda and I who are different because we do not have tattoos do not have.

Dell has been a friend for the rest of my life and I saw him several months ago (this is from “Leaving Australia written years ago) before he went to South America. He believes that America is becoming a police state and that it is safer living in one of the small scary countries below Mexico. Dell defies logic when it comes to living. He just keeps on living no matter what. He has been knifed in foreign cities, he has taken heaps of drugs even did crack for a while but did not like it. He was in a Mexican jail for a year (and liked it).

One afternoon I went to Dell’s apartment and he invited me to friends who lived on the other side of Lake Pontchartrain. Before leaving the city, we (in “Leaving Australia again I am not repeating what is written there but there was an altered state involved). We drove across Lake Pontchartrain Bridge, which at the time was the longest bridge in the world, 24-miles, in a dense fog. I will always remember that drive as being the most frightening of my life. I was … and I am sure Dell was too but we got to where we were going and I spent hours throwing up from the fright of the ride and …. I stayed overnight wherever it was we went to party and got a ride during the day the next day with someone else. I did not see Dell for about a month. He use to come and go in people’s lives. Often I doubt he even knew where he was going or where he was. He lived in the moment better than anyone I have ever met and to this day I am trying to get to a point where I totally live in the moment.

I know that Dell use to visit me in my constantly moving houses (something that has never changed in my life even to this day in July 2014; Narda and I have lived in eight houses in three countries the past twelve years and there was a time when I was a single parent that my boys and I lived in ten houses in ten years in South Australia).

I remember that I was intensely studying the Qabbalah – Kabbalah and the occult. I was very intrigued by Aleister Crowley. Good old Alex had been in an Order too, very similar to the one I had been in. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was one of the early occult orders that believed it was part of the White Brotherhood’s plan. Alex though went his own way eventually. He believed he was ‘The Beast’ and went by the number ‘666’. He wrote several books, ‘Sexual Magix’, (The sexual magic of the Ordo Templi Orientis – a Thelemic Order ‘OTC’) and his motto was ‘do what thou will shall be the whole of the law’ which he wrote he says whilst in a trance. I had many of his books and I still have one on astrology and a little white book on ‘The Law’. I used his brand of Tarot Cards and I thought that he was really quite the dude to follow.”

Obviously all that is in the past and the only reason I thought of Crowley was when I was unpacking boxes that had been in storage for 12 years while we lived in the States and China.  I saw piles of astrological work I had done over thirty or so years and lessons from the Order I had been in and boxes of astrological and occult books. I kept them because I seem to keep everything. I have lost interest in all that is metaphysical for quite some time. I enjoy living in the moment and not trying to interpret what is going on or what could possibly happen. I am amazed at how many astrological charts I have. I used to do them on everything. From when I first met someone to when I thought up a business idea or any other idea. What I have realised is that my life has been far more successful since following astrology than while doing so. I even have lots of subliminal tapes none of which really made a difference in my life. It seems my life has gone the smoothest the past decade without any of this stuff. For example this morning, the third of August, seven days before turning 67, I got up at 5:30 am and worked on this blog. Twenty or thirty years ago I would do an astrological chart on what I should do today or try to see what would happen this week. I know what will happen this week; whatever and then some more whatever and I will face the whatever and deal with it in whatever way I feel like at that whatever moment. I do not need to have an iChing reading or Tarot card or mediation or read a chart, tea leaves, or my palm. The sun will rise the sun will set and in between I will do stuff and have a variety of thoughts.

I saw Dell in June 2004 and again September, 2005. He was always trying to get me to read his astrological chart. I never would. I no longer lived in the New Orleans mindset and no longer believed in much of anything except lets live in the moment and enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZ70yXtLHvc (http://neuage.us/travel/2010/SanPedroTruck.html) http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xecdib_san-pedro-la-laguna-horses_travel

Dell in Lake George, New York June, 2004 age 60 something.

Dell in Lake George, New York June, 2004 age 60 something.

I had lost my cell phone (mobile phone) on this particular day that I had gone to Lake George with Dell and Narda and when I got home, I used another phone to ring my phone in hopes that if someone had found it they would tell me where it was. I thought that maybe I had lost it in my day’s outing to Lake George. I rang for a couple of days and finally Narda went to the shop where we bought it to buy another one and she tried one more time and Dell in his spacey distant voice said, “hello”. It turns out that when I had visited Dell at his motel after our day out so he could show me his art he was putting on his computer that my phone had fallen out of my pocket into the back of the chair I was sitting on. Dell said he frequently heard music coming from his chair, my ring-dial, but did not know what it was so he did not look until, after hearing it so many times he decided to investigate, he finally looked and saw it was a phone. That really sums Dell up. A cool person but a bit spacey.

To continue on this moment; Dell had been living at our house in 13 Second Street Round Lake, New York but being a night person and our needing to sleep so we could go off to work in the morning we could not have Dell banging around the house all night. We put him in a motel up along Route 9 on the other side of Clifton Park, a fifteen minute drive. He lived there for a couple of months though we did not know why except he wanted to be near us as Dell never seemed to have many friends in the world.

His motel room was more cave like and defied how one would think people should live. It was a bloody disaster zone to be specific. Aside of no clothes seem to ever finding their way into drawers there were boxes of unfinished meals, half drunk bottles of alcohol, cigar smoke and really no where for a visitor to sit comfortably. The shades were always down as Dell liked it dark all the time. He would usually have no shirt on and his long stringy hair to his waist would give one an impression of caveman. Dell was always very underweight. In the midst of this disheveled person and an extremely messy room Dell would be sitting cross-legged with his 17-inch Mac-book. There were partially completed paintings all over with paint on the rug on the furniture on the table and even some on the canvas he was working on. What was out of place was the computer. If you can imagine a caveman living in a messy cave in a cave-time era working on a laptop then you have a picture of Dell’s environment. Then one day he left. I do not recall him even telling us. The next we heard was a letter saying he was in Guatemala.

To backtrack just a bit… when Dell arrived the first time in Clifton Park in about 2003 to visit us; we were living in a trailer in a caravan park across from my father who was 98 years old at the time… he rang me to say he was at a petrol station nearby but he had lost his keys. I walked over and we spent hours looking for his keys which he had in his hands when he stopped to get petrol and to ring me to get driving instruction to our home. Somehow he had lost them which made me wonder how in the world did Dell get from place to place in life? Dell had a van that he lived in when he did not have a home to live in. He eventually drove it down through South American and had it when we visited him in Guatemala. His worldly belongings filled his van and we had to empty it to find his keys which turns out he had dropped between the car seats when he had gotten out to ring me.

Narda (well Narda more than me) spends huge amounts of time on keeping track of our life of where we are going; for example if we are going to Burma or Thailand or Paris and etc. she does a lot of research unlike Dell who is just where he is. I supposed I was more like Dell and only because of Narda there is some sort of order in our life. I like both life styles; having a sense of where stuff is and what to do is good, but the chaotic whirlwind life of Dell and that I lived all my life until I met Narda is cool too.

To add one more little story before going back to the original time-frame I was working in (1973); one time I was with Dell in Walmart in Clifton Park (the really big supercentre on Route 9) and Dell as usual had his shirt unbuttoned and being the skinny person he was with his long hair and a knife hanging on a string around his neck he was enough to startled anyone. I looked up the aisle we were walking in and a lady with a child was walking toward us and as soon as the woman saw Dell she grabbed her child and turned and quickly went into another aisle. I have always found that so humorous. Dell does look frightening and not what one expects to see in your local shopping centre but if one knew Dell; he was really quiet, peaceful, he was strong about his opinions and his anti-society views but he was in a morbid sense a great person to know. I always enjoyed being around Dell. He made me feel human and regular. Dell could just have easily spent his life as a monk on the top of a mountain but with a laptop and his paintings. Most of us see road blocks ahead of us and drive around them but Dell would just drive through. Dell was not self-conscious or worried at all about what others thought of him. If anything he really was shock value personified. We see celebrities who put on their makeup and who try to look outlandish and be weird in public but they just do that for the publicity. Dell was just real. I often thought if I could be ten-percent of Dell it would be his lack of caring what others thought and just do what I felt like doing in the moment.

During the summer of 1973, Dell was driving to his parents in New Lenox, Illinois. I wanted to see Carol Ann and Desiree. Carol Ann was living with her parents in Mokena, a few miles east of New Lenox so I went with Dell. I stayed with Carol Ann, Desiree, and Carol Ann’s parents for a few days. Desiree was seven years old and she only knew me through the stories Carol Ann told her. On a footnote to Carol Ann who I joined a cult religious order with in Hawaii in 1969 and was in and out of for another decade I am Facebook friends with her daughter who is about 46 now. I spent the first few years of her life with her. I was at a concert in 2002 in NYC when Carol Ann’s sister rang me and said that Carol Ann had died. My once-long-ago circle of friends gets smaller each year.

Wichita Kansas HOOM 1975

I returned to my Order in April 1974 and lost touch with Dell for a year but somehow we connected. I was in Wichita Kansas in the Brown Brothers of the Holy Light (really) and celibate branch of the Holy Order of MANS. Another side-note; I never did very well with the celibate part and was constantly getting myself in strife. Nevertheless there was a time when I really tried to toe the line. I had been successful with doing the ‘right things’ in the Order in San Francisco then Cheyenne Wyoming for a winter. I was in Wichita when I had two visitors both of whom did their best to get me to leave. Firstly there was Robyn Harper (who died about fifteen years ago without getting to Australia to visit. She wrote many times saying she was on the way but never made it.) who tried all her best feminine persuasions to lure me out of the Order but I was determined and sent her on her way back in 1975. We had been close in New Orleans but I was working toward becoming a priest and I wanted that more; at least at the time. Dell showed up a month later with mind-altering substances none of which I was interested in. He had a lot of convincing arguments for my leaving the Order but I stayed on.

1975 wichita kansas in the Brown Brothers of Holy Light - the sub-order of The Holy Order of MANS that I was shipped off to because I broke the vows of celibacy repeatedly; oops...

1975 wichita kansas in the Brown Brothers of Holy Light – the sub-order of The Holy Order of MANS that I was shipped off to because I broke the vows of celibacy repeatedly; oops…

 

Before the Internet era how people kept track of one another over the years is a mystery. I did not hear from Dell (that I remember now) between winter 1975 and 1983. In 1983 with my first wife I was in the States (we lived in Adelaide, South Australia) visiting tofu factories (I was a tofu manufacturer for eight years in South Australia, see: http://tofu.neuage.us/) when we stopped in New York City. Dell was living in a bit of a rough area down by the Brooklyn Bridge on the top floor of a tenement building. Nothing unusual about that as I have done that many times but what I remember from Dell’s apartment hearing neighbourhood sounds such as a baby crying all night, people screaming at one another, sirens on the streets; and building on both side of his building were burnt out. The wife and Sacha (age about one and a half) and I moved to a hotel after that. I had been at an astrological conference in New Zealand in Sydney at the start of 1980. While in Sydney I met someone I did not get along with and for some stupid reason gave her my address in Towson, Maryland where I was living at the time. After the conference I went back to Towson and low and behold the person I did not get along with at the Sydney astrological conference rang me saying she had driven across from LA to D.C. and wanted a place to stay for a day on her way to NYC. I was in the process of moving back to Hawaii at the time and had nothing left in my house except a bed which we agreed we had to share but under no circumstance would we touch each other. Five days later we basically got out of bed and drove to San Francisco. Half way across the country we began to argue and realised we just had to get away from one another. The woman I was with (who yes it is true rang me a month later when I was in Hawaii to say ‘guess what?’ then she was there in Hawaii and we had Sacha then one day she said if you want to see your son anymore you will have to go back to Adelaide with me, which I did, and as this is not about that part of my life I am now telling suffice it to say we had Leigh then separated and my children and I lived in our tofu factory then on a farm in Mt. Compass then Victor Harbor and a bunch of other places for the next twenty years) anyway we stayed with Dell somewhere out in the country on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. I dropped her off at the SF airport and stayed with a female friend of Dell’s. I remember she was a Pisces and she helped me forget my recent traveling companion or at least until she rang me when I had gotten to Hawaii saying ‘guess what’? I kept in touch with Dell after going back to Australia after he we had stayed with him in NYC for a night. He never mentioned coming to visit like my other friends. He did write letters. They are very difficult to read and I try to piece them together almost one word at a time. His handwriting was amazingly difficult to read. Years later when we could communicate via email I still had a hard time reading his writing because his spelling was so bad. His letters were always about trying to get to Europe until around 2000 when he started speaking of then moving to Guatemala. What I could make of his letters were that life was always difficult.     dell scan leeter

I would like to have my friend, Marc Seifer, who is also writing a book about my brother, Robert Adsit to look at Dell’s handwriting some day. Marc is a handwriting analysis specialist. He has published many books including the Definitive Book of Handwriting Analysis, Franklin Lakes, NJ: Career Press, 2008. When I was visiting him in Rhode Island a few years ago he was telling me about my brother and how his handwriting showed that he was a genius. I showed Marc my handwriting and he did not say much. Oh well. Though I would like to know what he has to say about Dell. Not to worry I have always believed that my friends were cooler than me and that is OK. Dell was always an artist. Like 97.6% of artists he wanted to be known for his work. The only image I have is of a painting he spent more than a decade on which I will show further below. Dell was a night person and would sleep during the day and paint all night. Several of his letters speak about some slides he took and sent to galleries and that usually no one replied to. He was excited for awhile saying a gallery in New York City was interested in his paintings but nothing came of that. I do not think Dell ever had a show anywhere which has always been such a sad thing in my thinking. He did a lot of work which now a year after his death I do not believe exist anywhere. He had a large volume of work in storage in Illinois. There is such a fine line between one who is a successful and famous artist and one who creates for fifty – sixty years almost daily then has nothing after they die for anyone to see. My brother was an artist (http://neuage.org/robert_adsit.htm) who did a lot of work and fortunately Marta Waterman http://martawaterman.com/ along with Marc Seifer http://www.marcseifer.com/ are writing a book on him which gives him a live-on sphere of influence to others or at least those of us who were and still are; if the dead are still alive within us, being influenced by him. I know the artist mindset or at least I believe so. Since being a street artist in New Orleans I rarely have had a time when I was not creating something. Like Dell I have a large body of work, like Dell no one sees my stuff, unlike Dell they still exist; in my closet I have boxes of picture-poems and on a ship between China and South Australia there are more boxes. I have put some on our wall but because I share a home I can not put them everywhere. Narda http://narda.us/ has suggested we do a whole wall just of my picture-poems (http://picture-poems.net/) which is really nice but I won’t do it. I am hanging out for a gallery show like Dell always was and like my brother often did.

After 1990 Dell was living in NYC we went to visit him in Chinatown; actually we went to visit my brother (who died of AIDS two years later) and my father and a few others in the States, but he wasn’t home I don’t think, the front door was missing and there were many broken windows and a lot of graffiti on the walls. We did not go inside as it was all too spooky. Dell then said he would meet us at Grand Central Station but didn’t so we went back to my brother’s and then took the Amtrak to Albany. It would be the last time I would see my brother. A week later my children and I went to Europe for awhile then back to Australia.

Dell wrote me for the next decades, and when he got onto the Internet we stayed in touch. Dell was not happy with politics in the States and said it was all getting too difficult and insane. He was particularly unhappy with Bush – Bushes actually. I have never paid much attention to politics so I was not a good sounding board for Dell. He moved to Guatemala and started saying we should purchase a piece of land next to him. Narda and I decided to visit him and we had planned a trip with two other people who Dell and I had wandered the French Quarter of New Orelans with back in 1973-74; Randy Dandurand and Shane (now Mariya Fields) but when it came time to go only Narda and I went to San Pedro la laguna, Solola, Guatamala. Lake Atitlán Aldous Huxley famously wrote of it: “Lake Como, it seems to me, touches on the limit of permissibly picturesque, but Atitlán is Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes. It really is too much of a good thing.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Atitlan)

Lake Atitlán

Lake Atitlán

Guatemala trip 2010

What is it about friends that lives deep in our consciousness that we will not reveal even to ourselves? I think one aspect could be comparison. Perhaps it is part of our DNA something to do with survival. We immediately compare ourselves to others when we meet even for a few seconds; friend-foe, sexy-give-it-a-miss, potential this or that; of course I do not do that but others do. I can feel/see/sense it when I am shopping, being a tourist (I am always a tourist – never being settled; on my gravestone someone will write ‘tourist’ probably because it is obvious that I never did anything else on this planet except be a tourist. Though I stayed away from tours, I did a lot of sightseeing, had heaps of opinions about too many things and as any tourist probably a bit too loud, too flashy – except now in old age I just drag my sorry ass from destination to destination.) I have a few photos of Dell but no video. I was saying to Narda this morning that we must take more video. Of her aging parents, of friends and family. I should have filmed Dell sitting in the motel room with his laptop, or in Guatemala. I have video of Guatemala but not with Dell in it. Now days with Instagram and all it is so easy but I do not think it is being saved long term. What I find so frustrating about the Internet is how lousy a retrieval system it is. I can not find anything on Dell and all that I can find about my brother is what I have put up. The Internet does not replace correspondence such as letters. It adds to correspondence a bit; I can find emails from Dell but none from my brother who died just as the Internet was coming into being. I have some emails but not many from my son who took his life and left little behind even though he was a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers and his baseball card is available on Ebay all that exists are the many pages I have made for him. http://neuage.org/leigh.html I have no video of Leigh even though I was a single parent and raised him. I have heaps of photos. Now I take videos all the time and have several hundred on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/neuage09, https://www.youtube.com/user/tneuage and a few other places though I forget where at the moment. But letters trumps all the electronic correspondence. They show who the person is through their writing style, even how much pressure a person puts on the paper, according to Marc Seifer. Dear Dell We will be in Guatemala city June 17 – 19th and two nights in Panajachel at Hotel Princess  It looks as if we will arrive in San Pedro toward the end of the day Monday the 21 st of June. We will come across the lake from Panajachel. And that we did. Global Nature named Lake Atitlan the ‘most threatened lake of the year’ in 2009 (http://blogs.egu.eu/gfgd/2014/01/30/field-research-in-guatemala-3-environmental-hazards-at-lake-atitlan/

Back to Dell in a moment

now back in Adelaide August 2014

We signed up to do relief teaching and thought maybe we would get a day or two a week. We have been relief teaching since the day after and that put off our getting settled into our home today I had reception and grade one; reception is the same as American kindy. Walking in to say good day to 29 children as their teacher walks out (she had a conference to attend) is always a humbling experiencing. As there is often difficulty with saying good morning Dr. Neuage between about K and 2nd grade I say they can call me Dr. N. That always works fine. Of course they think I am a medical doctoring dude and I have given up trying to explain the difference between a medical doctor and an academic doctor; not sure if academic doctors are surgeons or not so we go through the day with me being Dr. N. I have not had a kindy class since Ross Global Academy in NYC five years ago when I would have a computer lesson with them once a week. I have never been left with a class full for a day. They were beaut we read a story, watched Hansel and Gretel and made gingerbread houses, played outside and on computers. There were a few tears here and there: someone said someone else would not play with them, another said someone said something rude, another said another said they were weak there were a few spills and we went through a few band-aids but overall what great children. I am unable to edit video in Adobe Premiere or shoot some good chroma-screen footage or philosophize about anything at all. There was a point when I took them out to the play area and so did a lot of other classes and soon I realised there were no other teachers and I was surrounded by at least a hundred children many of whom had issues about someone not playing with them or someone saying something they perceived to be as unkind. My favorite as always were issues with not knowing what to do. Hey we are on a playground with playground equipment and a hundred children and you are asking someone who will be 67 in two weeks what to do? I would just say, “go play” and they would say “OK” and be off. And I got a PhD to come up with these lines? Eventually some other teachers came out and stood around talking with one another so somehow I became the go to dude for issues. I think it is a bit rare having a male in primary or maybe they are amazed someone so old is still walking around. One stray child probably about grade five of six followed me around telling me all the words he knew that Americans spell differently. OK so we leave out the u in lots of words and use a z instead of an s. Yesterday I had grade two and they were like taking the best children one could find in a country and putting them in one classroom. We had a great day and actually they enjoyed learning. Last week in a different suburb I had a class where they took all the worse kids in Australia and put them in the same class. How do they do that? Those children did not want to do any learning activities and spent most of the day wrestling, running around and yelling along with using toys for unguided missiles. I have been called back some more as they say no one wants to work at that school as a relief teacher. I wonder why?

I have a history of being surrounded by children. When I was a hippie in California Eileen Busby and I lived in Glen Ellen. Glen Ellen has a bit of fame from Jack London who write such things as ‘Call of the Wild’, White Fang‘, ‘The Sea-Wolf’, ‘The Iron Heel’, and etc. We lived on this side road of about six houses that was named Hippy Hollow. All the other houses had single mothers with children and as the mothers were often in states of consciousness that impeded their parenting children would come over to our house for meals. Often we would have five or more children eating a spaghetti meal I had made. There were also times when a mother or two would go into San Francisco – a few hours away – and not return for a day or two and their children would camp out in our lounge. We had a pickup truck (a ute in Australia terms) and being one of the few people on Hippy Hollow road with a vehicle children would pile in the back and off we would drive. We never got a ticket for having people without seat-belts in the back of our truck or perhaps there were no laws about that then. Today taking a third-grade class a boy asked if it was true that kids in high school are allowed to have sex. I replied that I was from American and was unsure if that was allowed here, trying to be a bit diplomatic about the subject. A girl answered that yes they were allowed to have sex in high school. I moved us on to another subject but there was a continuing discussion about this among several of the children. Maybe I should stick to reception and first grade they do not come up with these kinds of questions.

San Pedro

We decided to stay with Dell in San Pedro instead of staying at a hotel. Guatemala was a part of a world-trip that summer. Narda and I were teaching in NYC and not being soccer fans we got a bit swept up in the World Cup of that year. We watched games of Australia and The Netherlands in San Pedro, and while driving through France, seeing the final in front of the Eiffel Tower with thousands of Spanish fans (Narda had her Dutch flag wrapped securely around herself) with Spain beating The Netherlands 1 – 0 at the end. Of course this last World Cup in Brazil we watched as we traveled between China, Hong Kong, Hanoi and Laos only to see The Netherlands not quite make it to the final. We saw the previous World Cup of soccer in Istanbul sitting outside watching Australia get thrashed by someone. I only bring this soccer stuff up as a shadow of our life that summer of 2010. We do not follow soccer and Dell was not interested but Narda and went and watched a few games at a pub in town. We were in pubs because we could not really eat at Dells. He tried to make his home comfortable for us and we did appreciate that. We spent our first day at his house cleaning his kitchen which kind of embarrassed him but it was really beyond what we could cope with. Dell built an incredible house. I have never seen anything like it. He had bought land on the side of a hill and there was no road to his house only a path. All material for his house was brought up by horse and on the backs of the workers building his house. Dell had drawn out a plan for how his house was to look. He did not have an architect look at the plans until it was almost done.
With a large portion of the house done Dell asked an architect to look at how it was going and the architect said it would all collapse without pillars and braces. Dell had the pillars put in – see below for the lounge;

6-lounge

Dell had a beautiful view of Lake Atitlán but he had bars over his windows and due to mold and dirt it was impossible to see outside the windows. He wanted to leave Guatemala for several reasons. One was his health which had been going downhill for years. He had something wrong with his back and to be able to walk without pain he would carry rocks in a bag over his shoulder which of course gave him quite a strange presentation. He said he was always in pain. He spoke of wanting to go to Berlin. He had been there the summer before and stayed with a lover or a friend, I could not sort which, but the person did not want to see Dell ever again. This happened many times. I think I am one of the few people who stayed friends with Dell so long. I remember my friend, Linda, who lived in Lake Charles in Louisiana who wrote me back sometime in the late 1970s to get Dell to leave her house. Linda was one of our friends in New Orleans and Dell had written me if I knew someone he could stay with while he worked on a painting. I had stayed with Linda earlier and thought she would be fine with it. She wrote me that he insisted on having the lights out and that he would just sit in her lounge all night staring at the wall. He even had a falling out with Randy when he stayed with him in California. They each told me different stories so I am not sure what happened really. But Narda being the caring an nurturing person she is felt sorry for Dell and we both tried to make our stay with him good. And Dell tried too. He was depressed as he has been every since I met him back in 1973 and he was very anti-religious which he has been since I met him but we all tried to make the best of the visit. For Dell it was very important because no one had visited him in the seven or so years he had been in Guatemala. We brought him lots of stuff like cigars, an ipod and several other items such as tea and herbs he was unable to find locally. His cousin in New Lenox had loaned him a thousand dollars so we could bring him things.

Dell had sort of a toy-boy, an 18-year old who we thought was hustling him and we had a bit of difficulty adapting to. He gave the toy-boy the ipod which we were opposed to but Dell said he made him happy and it was all a mutually beneficial situation. The toy-boy was a street person whose parents had kicked him out of the family due to his sexual persuasions. Having always been strongly heterosexual I have not understood really a lot of what people are on about. My brother died of AIDs, Dell just always did his thing and I never thought much about it, and being a non-judgmental person for what people do with their lives I don’t put any thought into stuff like ones sexuality. However, I still felt Dell was being taken. Narda looked the other way when she showed photos of her sons and Dell said ‘I like that one’, gulp! OK so why do we hang around people that we do not understand. I use to say with Dell that I am amazed that he stays alive for so long. I think I have studied Dell for forty years, probably not something to base friendship on but not knowing anyone that is so different from every life style I have known or people I have known I am just fascinated by him.

2-back-stairs

At the end of March the rains from Tropical storm Agatha triggered a landslide. Rocks and mud came down the San Pedro volcano. We were quite concerned for Dell. He wrote that the mudslide was meters from his house but that he was fine. We set up a donation centre at St. Luke’s School in NYC where Narda was working as their music teacher and collected several boxes of shoes and clothes to take with us to San Pedro. The shoes and clothes were new designer stuff still with labels on them. St. Luke’s has lots of celebrities’ children at it so there was a great pouring out of help. Unfortunately we were limited with luggage and ended up taking a suitcase and a half of stuff with our meager poor persons personal clothing stuffed in between the good stuff to give away. Due to Dell’s strong opposition to anything to do with Christianity we could not give it to a local church-mission place but we did find someone who was a part of the relief efforts and we gave what we had. We toured the path of destruction next to Dell’s house. I do not know if his house would have withstood the onslaught of huge rocks tumbling down the mountain – though he did have a lot of concrete involved in building his house.

His house was huge. It was three stories with each story being about fifteen feet high. There was no railing on the stairs and the toilet and shower was open with no privacy which Narda was not thrilled about.

DSC015669-front door

Dell’s primary complaint was the government had cracked down on drugs and there was not much good cocaine around any more. He was also concerned due to the mold everywhere and the effects it was having on his paintings.

He was quite excited when we there about one painting in particular. I probably would be the only person in the world who would know when Dell was excited because he does not give any outward clues. He was working on a painting when he was staying with us in Round Lake New York. He showed it to us and said he had been working on it for years and it was to be his masterpiece and he would sell it then buy a house in Paris and we could come and stay with him. When we were in San Pedro he told us how he had spent a lot of time recently working on his painting to have it finished while we were there. He had been working on it for more than a decade. We were not allowed to see it right away as he had little more to do on it so his 18 year old toy-boy showed us around town for a day and we went and watched soccer another day and another day we took boat rides around the lake until the last day we were there he was finished and he brought us up to his balcony to show us his painting he had worked on for ten years. We did not know what to say. He told us it was the universe or actually many universes exploding and life was beginning in various areas of the painting. I would say the canvas was about 36 inches by 36 inches maybe a bit bigger. He was reluctant to have me take a photo of it but I insisted and I am so happy I did as it may be the only record of its existence.

8-painting

Dell wanted to sell his house so we brought up a real estate agent that we found online living in San Pedro. The person was amazed and simply told Dell he had no idea how he could sell it. There were not really rooms. Upstairs there was sort of a lean-to structure with a bed and a few shelves. Narda and I stayed in there the week we were at Dell’s. The bed was uncomfortable the house was shocking but to this day we both say we never slept so well. Narda and I are really bad sleepers in that we wake up many times during the night which means we wake each other up. Rarely in the thirteen years we have been together have we slept through the night without waking at least once if not many times. In San Pedro La Laguna at Lake Atitlan we slept through every night and felt so rested the next day. I usually have to go to the toilet more than once at night – OK so I am old – but either because we slept so well or I was terrified of the stairs with no railings but I did not get up once. We spoke about how well we slept to other people we met and they said the same. Lake Atitlan is known for its peacefulness. In such a dangerous country it is something to have a place so peaceful. Before seeing Dell we stayed in Guatemala City – one of the most dangerous cities in the world according to web reports – people at the hotel we stayed at said we should not cross the street after dark unless we had one of the armed hotel people with us but we did to go to a restaurant down the street. At the restaurant there were two men one at each door with machine guns – that is how dangerous the city is. We were told it is dangerous to walk around in the daytime too but we were told that in Mexico City and we stayed during some horrific drug feud squabbles. We own a house in a rough area of Jersey City and lived there for three years. Like Dell we just go forward until we are unable to anymore.

Dell built his house like a fort because he had been robbed so often and even this peaceful part of Guatemala was really dangerous. There are no buses in San Pedro so one gets about hitching rides in the back of pickup trucks; similar to the songthaew in Thailand. It seems dangerous but it is fun. As Dell lived on a bit of a back road and his van was parked in storage in another town the only way to get around was on horseback or in the back of a pickup truck. Narda and I did ride horses through the coffee fields one day but that was more as tourists than transportation.

riding through the coffee fields near Dell's house

riding through the coffee fields near Dell’s house

One night we just could not eat what Dell had – nothing against his kitchen – well… but I being a vegetarian we will suffice it to say we wanted something else so Dell and Narda and the toy-boy and I walked down the hill; which in itself was quite a project as it was always muddy and steep and we are all old, well except for the toy-boy to the road. We walked for awhile when Narda saw a pickup truck in front of someone’s house so with Dell shaking his head no and me say ‘it is OK she does this kind of thing all the time’ Narda went to the door and asked for a ride into town. Of course we do not speak Spanish and Dell was back on the road looking embarrassed and they did not speak English but it was obvious what Narda wanted pointing at their truck and pointing in the direction of town and besides it was starting to rain. To our amazement; well Dell and me – not Narda she usually gets what she goes after (at St. Luke’s School in NYC the teachers have a saying, she worked there for five-years ‘what would Narda do?’) they agreed and we all piled into the back of the truck as well as about five family members and off we went. The end of the story is that we got a good meal in town does not matter as it was getting there that was fun. We found another pickup truck to take us back home and we climbed up the steep hill in the mud and rain and were happy to be back home. We were concerned about the scorpions in the house. Dell had said just watch for them. He had been bitten twice. The first time he said was quite painful the second time he got high. We were lucky I suppose as no scorpions bit us

Dell's studio was on the balcony in the upper right area of this photo

Dell’s studio was on the balcony in the upper right area of this photo

Antigua Guatemala

We decided to go to Antigua for a few days and I forget why but Dell was going to meet us there instead of go with us. We had come out from Guatemala City by car for a hundred dollars US as everyone says the chicken buses (really old USA school buses painted up) are very dangerous and we had read so many stories online about people being robbed and killed and beaten up on them that we did not take any. But to save some money we took a van to Antigua with about a dozen others. The others were young people traveling around South America. In the three hour or so ride we heard lots of horror stories about travel in Guatemala. I know Dell said once that he was driving along on a back rode and a bunch of bandits tried robbing him at gun point so he threw a bunch of money out the window and drove as fast as he could.

We stayed at the Four Seasons at Radisson Villa Antigua Resort in Antigua Guatemala. Not because we are snobs or rich; it was just affordable and we needed a nice place. Dell arrived a few days later and rang that he was in the lobby. Now picture a five-star hotel with its fancy lobby and in the middle is Dell with his bag of stones over his shoulder because of his back pain and a tattered bag with his clothes all of which obviously need a wash and – well there he was. We went to the front and collected him and as we had a two-bedroom apartment for that week or it was less than a week but for ever how long we stayed it was all quite good. Dell said he had not stayed at such a place for decades or did he say ever? We toured around Antigua the best we could – Dell could not walk a lot but we had lots of laughs and we even watched a soccer game with The Netherlands at a restaurant.

We really did plan to go to see Dell again. We were with in June – July 2010. The next summer we went to Ecuador then on to China to live for the next three years – until a month ago actually. We did not tell Dell we were going to South America as he would have wanted to meet up with us or have us visit him. He was quite stressed and we just did not know what we could do. I started making a webpage to help him sell his house but we could not come up with what his house could be used for. We thought maybe some new-age centre or a place for a craft/artist person. The view is amazing but the house is just so huge and strange. We wrote back and forth and thought maybe after our China tour we would go to visit meaning like now. I had said to Narda for the past year that I thought Dell was dead and I was feeling quite sad about it. There was no way to contact him. He did not have Internet on at home and could only use it when it went into San Pedro which was maybe once a month or so. His phone at his house did not work. His cousin said that he had put it on my Facebook a year ago that Dell had died but I did not see it. Facebook is banned in China and I would view it rarely using our VPN.

Dear Terrell and Mrs.–

Glad I found the correct email address for you.

Delbert died in an accident at his home in May 2013.  He had locked himself out of his house and was attempting to climb the outside wall to get in.  He fell, as I understand it, from between two and three stories.  A neighbor heard his cries and went to help.  (I didn’t even know he had neighbors.  I thought he was out there by himself in a remote area.  He never spoke of neighbors.)  A doctor and others were called to help.  In the process of taking him to town, he had a heart attack and died.  The death certificate indicated thoracic trauma.

A person from the US Embassy in Guatemala contacted me about three days after he died.  It took them that long to locate my information.  He informed me about the accident and that deaths were handled differently in Guatemala than in the US.  No refrigeration, no embalming, etc.  The heat and humidity had bad effects on the body and burial was done as soon as possible after death.   He is buried in a cemetery in Sololá in an unmarked grave.  A grave can be rented for 6 years and then the person is either buried like Delbert, or rented again.  It was not possible at that time to dig him up and ship him home, so he is forever in Sololá.

I do miss him.  Miss the unexpected phone calls.  Miss hearing what is going on in his life, mostly problems.  His legs and back were bothering him and causing him considerable pain, and I cannot understand what possessed him to think he could climb a house in his physical condition.   We will never know.

I hope all is well with you and your wife.

Karen

 

Dell tried to climb into his house and fell - he had leg and back problems so to climb something so high is a mystery

Dell tried to climb into his house and fell – he had leg and back problems so to climb something so high is a mystery

How is it we think ~ dwell ~ feel someone that is not in the physical and create in this moment with them? I do it. I am influenced by my dead son, by Dell, by my brother Robert, by my son, by girl friends; not all at once of course but I can be writing or talking or going through my day then suddenly this person from the past influences me and I change or add or morph – whatever I do at that particular moment. I disassociate with the moment, even sometimes with myself and associate with someone else. But I do not become who I was when I was with them but maybe who they are now being with me if there is life after life where the dead can embed themselves into now.

 

All my dead family and friends keep asking me

for favors

Last night one of my dead girl friends

asked me to feed her dead cat.

8-25-94 Victor Harbor

here is to you mate:

Delbert L. Crowther

  • January 22, 1940 – May 11, 2013
  • New Lenox, Illinois
  • New Orleans, San Francisco, New York City, Paris, Berlin, San Pedro Guatemala and so many places in between

Mariya Field There are many things to have been said about Dell and I also was part of the Musketeers who knew him in 1973. I was a teen run away on the streets of New Orleans, Terrell, Randy and Dell were my protective, loving, quirky, generous big brothers. I was never afraid when I was with them, and trust me the streets in those days could be brutal. Dell had a way of making silence beautiful. He introduced me to some of the most amazing and haunting music I ever heard, all on vinyl, he loved a good glass of vine, some serious pasta and an evening with a few of us contemplating the universe even the darker side at times.. (Terrell will remember a late night trip to Charity) . A few years ago I received a somewhat rambling email from Dell mentioning this coffee house on Royal street called Until Waiting Fills it was a true artist hang out (Like only existed in the 70″s) and over many cups of tea or carrot juice we contemplated the magic around us….Dell’s life was a bit harsh at times, he followed no known path he definitly was creative, different,, smart and loyal….and I hope wherever he landed his spaceship he can listen to his Voltaire and drink some killer red wine….Cheers dear brother

Durand Dandurand Dell was so different from anyone I’ve ever known. Dark and moody, always interesting; he did what he pleased, even if he was living in your house. Very strange guy, but I always liked him. A toast to you, Dell!

sunset

Last!

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

June 18 – 24, 2014

Last!

Add-on at end of page as of 8 pm Tuesday 6/24/2014

Last week at our school, Dalian American International School, Golden Pebble Beach, Dalian Development Area, Dalian, China.

Last time at Discoveryland. That is good after four times. This is one of those places I would never have gone too. I took my children to Disneyland in California in 1992. Discoveryland, here, five minutes from our school in Golden Pebble Beach, is a diluted Chinese version of someone’s concept of what a Western theme park should be like. For the third year we have taken the upper school for a day out. There is a blurry, merging shadow between parenting and being a teacher. As a teacher I can say meet me at our meeting point at noon but I am not saying anything about those ninth graders holding hands and going into some area that does not appear to be supervised by a so-called responsible adult. I recall as a single parent hearing one of my sons kissing in the backseat of the car – he was about 12. I did not turn around or look In fear of what I would see. Even worse was one morning when I went into the kitchen and there were two girls in pajamas. They informed me they were staying with my 14 year old. Holy cow. Was I to say something? What had they said to their parents? Was I a bad parent? Then there was the time when my younger son, about 16 at the time, when I walked into his room and he was curled up with a girl on the bed (they had their clothes on) and I said hi to the girl by the wrong name. She had long blond hair like the one I thought was his current girl friend and in my defense she looked the same. I was in the dog-house for quite some time following that.

 

I am sitting here next to some roller coaster ride eating fruit; everything else to eat is so Chinese —- The last time I was here I was with Narda because one of our teacher friends had his 60th birthday party here, not sure why as Narda and I really dislike this place. Anyway we went into their eating area in hopes of finding something to eat. And sitting down with our overcooked white rice and slimy MSG infused vegetables we were treated to the spectacle of a girl throwing up next to us. We got up and left quite quickly without eating. Really! When the Chinese throw up their own food it is time to move on. This time I brought sandwiches.

 

So sitting here my ex-parenting days come back of my role in life. I am surrounded by children’s bags. Dr. Neuage can you watch our stuff? So off they go leaving me with their gear. Now I am being asked to take a video clip when the roller coaster and their screaming selves comes around. Another child wants to know if I know where her phone is. How would I know that? Wait I am a teacher. My parenting days are long gone. What is the teachable moment? I know…. “Hey keep track of your stuff or you may lose it”.

 

Last! Last few days of using Internet in China. What a horrible place to try and get stuff done online. Not only is wireless almost non-existent but often when it is available it is so slow that little will download. Now I am home back in Campus Village trying to recall pages of text I wrote on the iPad which somehow disappeared when I got home.

 

It was a good day compared to the past three times when Discoveryland was packed and the weather was hot. Because it rained part of the day… damn this was actually interesting back several hours ago before I lost all that I wrote.

 

I had commented on, as it was live at the time, the daily parade that goes through the parkbut now it does not seem that interesting. It was overpopulated with scantly dressed Russian and Chinese girls.

 

Last! This could be my last official school teaching job this life-time. Good. Bad. Yet to know. We left Adelaide shortly after 911 occurred in NYC and I started teaching at the State University of New York at Albany. I taught ‘Globalization and Culture’ http://neuage.org/gc.htm for a few years then taught as adjunt at a couple of other colleges and became the Director Of Technology at the Albany Academy for Girls and Albany Academy for Boys which is not the Albany Academies. After six or seven years upstate we went to NYC and I taught at The Dwight School then at the Ross Global Academy before our three years at Dalian American International School. Now we are sitting in Hong Kong with last week being our last week in China and the starting of this blog which I was writing at Discovery Land and wrote some more at an airport or two and now in our hotel in Happy Valley Hong Kong. I am hoping this is our last trip to Hong Kong for what is the third time here for. Last October I had four stents put in to keep my heart pumping along then last November to see if things were still flowing OK and now to see if the past is equal to the tasks of the present.

 

Yesterday was a bit difficult. The Adventist Hospital is tops. A good vegetarian hospital with really great caring staff. The little downsides yesterday were the five hours of tests I had to have. Things like having my arms tied down over my head for twenty minutes at a time (did that twice) as I laid in an x-ray machine that made me feel like I was in a coffin. I am claustrophobic as is and I had waves of panic but somehow managed through it. I have no idea how people who are tortured maintained any sanity when I barely manage 20-minutes. Whatever you do keep from giving me any state-secrets because I would pass them on after the first few minutes of torture. I grew up in a heavy Christian family that used to tell me that the Russians (1950s) then the Chinese (1960s) or whatever communist group was in fashion would pull us out of our farm house in Clifton Park New York and torture us because we were Christians. Maybe that is why I have spent the last 50 years of getting away from Christian indoctrination because of the torture that the Russians and Chinese would inflict upon us. I had Chinese nurses and doctors torture me yesterday but it was because of my heart so maybe that is OK. Other torture silliness yesterday included being on a treadmill until I almost was dead. They had lots of wires hooked up to me and the treadmill would go faster every few minutes and then they would take my blood pressure. They got me up to 180 and said just one more minute. Now I do exercise going for walks every day to the beach and I lift weights almost every day. But walking on a treadmill that was going 4.2 times faster than my legs possibly could move was really nuts. I kept thinking what state-secrets could I give them to stop this torture but I was coughing and panting so hard I could not get any words out. Then of course there was the intravenous in my hand pumping in who knows what to my body for their tests. When I was in the x-ray machine I was told I could not fall asleep, not that I would but if I did and began to snore they would need to start over. There were other less stressful tests and lots of blood-letting and tube fillings as my life essence was drained out for them to look at underneath their microscopes. OK just tell me I am old and I have a faulty heart and let me on my way. I go back this afternoon to see what those results are and hopefully they won’t say that I moved when I was in the machine and have to do that test over though this time for five hours and that spending 20 minutes on a treadmill until I was close to death was not enough and that now I have to be a part of an upcoming experiment that involves being in some Honk Kong marathon up their mountains with intravenous fluids flowing through needles into several parts of my body.

So Discoveryland was not as bad as yesterday at hospital but it was a bit annoying. I amused myself looking for creative Chinglish signs;

IMG_0746

and getting a new Facebook ID photo;

Discoveryland Dalian China

Discoveryland Dalian China

and taking photos”

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Last time using squat toilets. I managed to make it through three-years and not once to have to have squatted on a squat toilet http://neuage.me/2013/06/02/skip-to-my-loo/squat-toilet/ though I use them but not to squat and more I will not say.

 

Last time I get to watch Narda’s elementary music classes when she has other stuff to do. For example, the last class was kindy; most of whom were crying because she is not returning next year. One child has been crying since 9 am and it is now 11. Good golly when I was that age my mother was putting me up for adoption and then I got adopted by a house full of Christians which twisted my brain into difficult to repair fragments of reality. The children wrote notes to Narda such as:

 

Dear Ms. Biemond I will miss you

you are in my heart

for evey and erey

I will relly miss you …”,

 

Dear Ms. Biemond

you do evey thing for us

we love you Ms. Biemond

you see evey people is crying

because about you are liveing (I think she meant leaving and not living – it would be mean to cry because she is living)”

 

Not to worry we are watching “Muppets Take Manhattan”. Meanwhile my own middle school advisory class is running amok next door but it is the last day so it is all groovy. Of course no-one is crying because I am leaving though an 8th grader gave me a hug and I thanked her and recalled when I returned from heart surgery last October that she was the only one to run up and give me a hug and say she was glad I was OK. Middle-Schoolers are to adolescent obsessed to see much beyond their own world and to high school students I am a means to an end (to get good grades to get to university). Elementary are the ones to teach to get great emotional stroking though when I taught them at Ross Global Academy in New York City (a Charter school full of public kids from Harlem) they were quite terrible. Students at Dalian American International School were exceptional. I have never seen students that were so good. Maybe it is because of the international community that we were sandwiched in and lots of students actually lived in Campus Village and we saw them all the time outside of school too.

 

And all the pressures of not knowing if we could even get out of China. Now over as we head out. What happened was that soon after returning from my softball tournament http://neuage.me/2014/05/25/softball-and-wedding/ I had my passport on my desktop at home in Campus Village. We needed my passport to get a hotel room and realised it had gone missing from my desk on the same day that the cleaners cleaned our apartment. They come in Tuesdays and Tuesday after school it was not there. We looked everywhere. We spent two days looking through every speck of our apartment. Thursday morning when Narda went to get some clothing she found a credit card of mine that had been with my passport amongst her nickers that had been returned from the wash on Tuesday when they cleaned our house. We had notified Campus Village that my passport was missing and when we found the credit card – which was fortunate as we were going to cancel our card which would have made travel difficult with no way of getting a new one sent to us from the States before we were to leave China for good. We figured that somehow the wallet with the passport and credit card had fallen into the tub of laundry and the cleaners had found it melted and my passport probably ruined.

 

Getting a new passport is difficult and is only one-half of the problem. I went to Beijing to the Australian Consulate to begin the process which eventually took three weeks. But when I did get the new passport it took us three more weeks to get the Chinese work visa put in. We got it four days before flying out. Of course getting a work visa for my last four days of work is nuts but that is the nature of our lives.

 

Last shipping of same stuff around the world. We sent stuff at the start when we went to the States in 2002. For a decade we went back to Australia sometimes twice in a year and each time dragged more crap back to New York. By the time we left New York we had more than a five-thousand dollar bill to send our stuff to China only half of which the school paid for. Some of that stuff originated in New York during my past before I took it to Hawaii then to Australia in 1980 and back to NY in 20012 then to China. Last month we sent our crap to Australia more than six-thousand dollars worth; ten and a half cubic square meters of what? Some of which originated in NY then went to Australia in 1980 back to NY in 2002 then to China and now back to Australia. We had 86 boxes which included such crap as my yearbooks from Shenendehowa Central School between the years 1954 and 1965, letters from people in the 1960s (actually letters are like antique collector’s items as few write them anymore), Mardi Gras coins from 1978; along with our bikes which we have become very attached to, my father’s desk that he had since the early 1900s (he was born in 1905) and even a chest that originated in China and that my missionary aunt brought to New York in the 1930s. It is all now on a ship somewhere floating past pirates and where the Malaysian Airlines plane fell into the sea headed for South Australia to fill our garage along with a shed full of crap we have had in storage since 2001 and stuff stored in family’s sheds. Amongst all our stuff are two books about decluttering that Narda picked up once from a course we did in NY on how to declutter our life which I think we have failed miserably at.

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Last time of taking photos of business that makes me wonder what were they trying to say? Did this shop say you would get a stomach ache from eating their cakes?

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And the last time of living in what we called our assisted-living quarters.

 

I forgot that I will be 67 in a few weeks when I pranked a neighbour. Brandon our mid-20s neighbour who as strange as life can be is from the same area of upstate New York that I grew up in (we have two others; Sean and Jean, who also are from the same area and even so close that Jean’s sister lives across from where I was adopted) started the Asian thingy of putting his shoes outside of his door. First his sneakers and work shoes then a few more shoes. People started to do things like put his shoes on the elevator or in front of other people’s doors then eventually someone put a shoe rack out for him and more shoes began appear. I wanted to put a pair of female Asian style glittery high heal shoes amongst his manly shoes but did not want to spend too much. A couple of weeks ago we found the perfect shoes and for 25 RMB (about four US dollars). I put them amongst his shoes on a Sunday night. Monday other teachers asked him if he had a visitor – actually we all had a bit of a go at him and he just kept saying he had no idea where they were from. Then Erin put an ironing board against the wall next to his door so I put it up and put the shoes on them. More things appeared over the last week there including condoms, beers bottles, Vaseline, and when we left it was a sort of a piece of art. I will miss our time in China it has been good.

 

In front of Brandon’s door. Note the hair dryer (a few more ended up there) considering he keeps his head shaved or very short this was definitely needed. This display was much larger when I left with many more things added.

Brandon's shoe rack before we added much more on the last couple of days

Brandon’s shoe rack before we added much more on the last couple of days

The shoe rack started off like this

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Add-on

After five hours of testing yesterday I saw Dr. King who put in four stents last October and he was concerned about some results so he sent me to take another test. The one where they inject dye through your body and shove you into a large x-ray machine. Much like yesterday except this one gives a metallic taste and whenever they inject more dye it burns through the whole body.

 

So after the test he says he will call me at six tonight which he did to tell me I have more heart disease – new disease that was not there eight months ago. Damn ! Now we have to run around and get our lame ass insurance company to OK the surgery to happen in the next few days. We have already canceled our trip to Hanoi but hope to still get to Laos next week. Bloody heart…. having five planets in Leo with Saturn and Pluto and Sun and Venus and the like squaring Jupiter – give me a break I don’t even believe in that stuff.

 

June 26

 

Get heart surgery tonight at 7 pm at Adventist Hospital Hong KongDSC_7592

watching the world go by in Hong Kong

watching the world go by in Hong Kong

Embedding Thailand

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Embedding Thailand

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Three years ago our school, Dalian American International School, gave us our spring break unfettered. Professional Development, as a Common Core (a favorite buzzword at our school) active-learning-function, should be embedded within school-time, according to values held amongst staff, was separated from holiday time. Professional Development of course is part and partial of instructional education and as the name implies (professional development) is a segment of what enhances the teaching environment which is what people pay to send their darlings to our school to learn. Three years ago the EARCOS (East Asia Regional Council of Schools) conference was in Bangkok and as usual went from Thursday to Saturday. Spring Break holidays followed the next week. As our school gives us a thousand dollar stipend for PD we usually use it for a conference and the thousand dollars US comes close to paying the airfare, the conference, and the hotel. So naturally when the conference is during school days prior to a holiday why would we not combine them? which we did three years ago and about half the teachers pissed off on a Wednesday went to a conference in Bangkok then on to holiday the following week. I think we went to Viet Nam that year after the conference. Which made sense as our airfare was paid for most of the way by going via Bangkok.

 

Not to worry we made do and Friday right after school we were on the way to the airport, one hour away, with Jolly from our Jack-controlled fleet of drivers. Being five o’clock in Dalian add a 45 minutes but we were in flight and arriving in Guangzhou before mid-night. We chose to get out of town thinking we would get to our sea-side town by Saturday noon and to have five-days before being burden with the great mind minds in the educational world; should not be sarcastic here as there are always a few guiding lights at these conferences though a large quantity of ‘look at how great I am‘ presenters too.

Staying at the Pullman Hotel at Guangzhou Airport, a five minute walk away from the entrance to Gate A – International is the best way to start a holiday. Yes, there are soft beds in China and large soft pillows. Even at top hotels we find hard beds waiting for us but not at the Pullman and five thirty Saturday morning came just too soon for the comforts one craves at any age. We got to Bangkok and taking the Airport Rail Link (06:00-midnight) that connects downtown Suvarnabhumi International Airport with Bangkok we were at Hua Lamphong Railway Station (สถานีรถไฟหัวลำโพง – ah the joys of cut and paste), or for those of us who struggle with any language of any sort, the Bangkok Railway Station.

(my youtube video for this is at http://youtu.be/tjxnVU4FoGk).

Bangkok Railway Station

The train station is a typical older big city Asian place. The toilets are horrible (bring your own tissue – and be prepared to squat if squat action is what your body needs to do), there are restaurants, we ate at one upstairs that was very grubby but the tofu stew I had was fine though I suspect that like most meals was heavily laced with MSG which makes me more hyper than usual which is fine after a cup of coffee and a long train ride. The noon train was fully booked and the only place left on the next train at 2.30 was first class sleeper which sounded groovy and comfortable and elitist and we bought on for those moments of merging with the chosen and higher echelon of whatever social grouping we were to be embedded with. Eventually we were off to Hua Hin; promoted as the closest beach resort of Bangkok, located 281 kms away.

 

Hua Hin Train Station

The photo of the Hua Hin Train Station below is the next day.

   

We brought snack food with us which was good because I was unable to eat the dead-animal-laced meals that were on offer but we did have drinks in the restaurant car and a good view of the landscape which was mainly flat and rice fields (see the video). The upper crust we were on board with looked pretty working class or below which probably coincided with the fare of about $15 US. So this was not Amtrak and the sleeper car definitely was not what we expected (see image above) but was actually our seats folded down with a pull down bunk on top and a thin mat on top and curtains. OK so it was mid-day and we did not need sleepers but we thought it would be a hoot (I think it was me that was thinking in turns of ‘oh boy this will be kool‘) to get the beds made up and I went off to find a porter type of dude who made up the beds with pillows and sheets and the half inch piece of foam that would serve as our mattress. Of course as we live in a world of ‘hey they are doing it so we should do it too‘ and of course with us being the only westerners on the train obviously we knew what we were doing so the people across from us did it. They had a child of about five who thought it was all a big Cubby House and chattered the whole trip (six hours, two hours longer than the advertised time) and climbed between up and down bunks.

Then the next seat did it and soon as shown above the whole car was one big sleeper and it was only about four in the afternoon. Not to be a trend-starter for no reason I climbed up on the top bunk and promptly fell to sleep for about an hour and I was not even sleepy to begin with. But I tend to relax and go to sleep quite easy. I do it on airplanes; often being sound to sleep from starting on the runway to waking in the clouds – maybe something about my level of consciousness being played out there. One of my stranger times I suppose was going to sleep whilst the dentist was drilling a few months ago, they woke me up a couple of times. And forget massages – Narda will tell me that soon after they start I am snoring. The bad part of my sleeping habits is that I awake a few hours later, like around one or two in the morning wide-awake ready for the day and I just lay there, usually quite frustrated for a couple of hours before going back to sleep. I tend to fall asleep always within half an hour before it is time to get up.

Nevertheless we got to Hua Hin station about 8.30 PM with the people who we had arranged our airbnb waiting the extra hours for our arrival. In contrast to our smartypants idea that leaving Friday night would have our toes in the warm waters of Thailand and away from the still freezing weather of Dalian was quite in error in judgement as some others left our school Saturday morning and once at Bangkok Airport took another flight and got to their beach side resort early Saturday afternoon with us leaving a dozen hours earlier and getting to our destination hours later than the others.

We stayed in a small apartment owned by a Dutch couple@ the Tira Tiraa Condominium (http://www.tiratiraahuahin.com/). The whole joint is full of Northern Europeans, lots of Danes and Germans who live there for several months at a time and of course Narda was thrilled and the word retirement came up multiple time. (It sound like an echo off of a distant mountain filtered through many layers of resistance in my brain stem scratching against the reptilian part of my brain.). Good western restaurants and we went to the ‘S & S Indian Restaurant’ which is listed a Ranked#9 of 348 restaurants in Hua Hin in Tripadvisor and we ranked it as number one of three restaurants we ate at which of course is a higher ranker but not as credible because we are no-body. We had several eats at ‘I Rice’ which was only a block away and we ranked it as number two out of three though Tripadvisor Ranked it as #70 of 348 restaurantsin Hua Hin. Forgot where we ranked number three, I think it was where we had breakfast.

The Tira Tiraa Condominiums have a wonderful large swimming pool and we made use of it and a gym which I made use of everyday. The rest of the time we wandered around, took a random bus to Cha Am which is a distant extension of Hua Hin and is full of Northern European tourists beneath kilometer after kilometer of umbrellas. See below:

 

 

Songthaew, taxi truck

Bus to Cha Am

As we usually do we took random tuk tuks to places we did not know including this random bus that went to the next town, Cha Am. The town centre is nowhere as nice as Hua Hin so we started down the road to the beach (see umbrella infested shore photo above) on a very hot day and fortunately were able to hail a taxi truck (“songthaews”) most of the way. We walked all the way back to town which was miserable, taking an hour in the noon-day sun.

We got the bus back toward Hua Hin but being the tourists that we are and having read about The Venezia Hua Hinwhich online (http://www.theveneziahuahin.com/) and on our tourist map boasted its significance: The Venezia Hua Hin: The inspiration of this magnificent project came from the charming of the world famous river city named ‘Venice, Italy’. Venice is known as a city that massively uses water transportation by using the canal as a traffic channel through out the city. In addition, the Venice has also preserved traditional stores with beautiful sculpture surrounding of the canal area. These charming can be compared to one of the most charming in Thailand, Hua Hin.

Hua Hin is the major tourist destination and long time famous city in Thailand. As of the fact that Hua Hin is currently regarded as the prime tourism potential in terms of rapidly and steadily growing in the business and numbers of both Thai and foreign tourists. As the distance between Hua Hin and Bangkok, it is very convenient to travel as same day trip between Bangkok and Hua Hin; It takes less than two hours by car. Hua Hin, the city of relaxing place for living and visiting supported by surrounding many major attractions. Of course, huge buying power of over 65 million people across the country and oversea visitors.

We loved being in Venice and all the other places of Italy we have wandered about in so a day at a Venetian Shopping Centre – of course, why not?

Holy Cow! The shopping centre had to be the most tacky and ill conceived place I have ever seen. To make it even more idiotic they charged 50 baht to get in; OK so it is only $1.50 US but the nerve… Surely it was built by the Chinese as I doubt any other country could have come up with such a stupid concept. Due to the heat being in an air-conditioned mall was a relief but what a bunch of stupid shops. Everything was so overpriced and the place so empty.

There were mixed styles; some I think were suppose to mimic Italy in someone’s twisted dream and some just did make sense. I think they were a Thai copy of Disney, not sure. There was a sort of Christmas theme happening too I think even though we were in the middle of March.

A Christmas theme in the sense that there were reindeer or horses with horns and trees with lights and packages beneath. I doubt whether the builders/designers had ever been to Venice. It was even more tacky than the The Venetian Macao (see my blog of Macao @ http://wp.me/pcHIf-iz). We discovered that we needed cash and the ATM did not take our Chinese Union-pay Card (most countries and ATMs do including in Hua Hin, Bangkok, Burma and etc) but not at this strange place which was good as Narda had found some wings she was buying for her two-year old granddaughter and a soft sheep. We had just enough cash to get on a bus back to Hua Hin.

The Venezia Hua Hin
The Venezia Shopping Centre
The Venezia Shopping Centre
The Venezia Hua Hin

Once we had dragged our sorry asses out of the air-conditioned mall and alongside the sun-killing highway we waited and waited though it was only 20 minutes for the bus. There was no shade and I tried entertaining myself and Narda (she was not entertained) by making fun of a bullock in the paddock next to us.

don’t eat animals they are kool

Not to worry we got home had dinner at ‘I Rice’ and had a swim in the pool and Narda talked about retirement and I checked out the bandwidth which needless to say was a lot better than what we get at Campus Village back home in Dalian which is close to non-existent. I am not sure whether it is funding cuts at our school that has gotten us less bandwidth or the fact that the Internet mainly filters through student housing first to keep them happy or if it is because of the government. No one is enlightening us on why our Internet in China is so much worse than it was two years ago. So I hastily uploaded YouTube clips of our travels so far on this trip. And of course posted to and read Facebook and Twitter and other sites banned in China.

We walked along the beach in Hua Hin stopping at the Hilton Hua Hin Resort & Spa because when one wants a proper toilet a western hotel is the place to go. The Hilton did not let us down and we rested in their beautiful lobby overlooking the sea (picture below)

The lobby of the Hilton Hotel with water falls into a pool and on into the seathen we went on to the Centara Grand Beach Resort Hotel

(http://www.centarahotelsresorts.com/centaragrand/chbr/) which was formerly the Hua Hin Railway Hotel (when it was affordable). The lawns are amazing with sculptured bushes and all the old world charm in the lobby before whatever bad-tastes-tourism’s wrecking ball has done to the beautiful places of the world. If we were not staying at the Tira Tiraa Condominium and had three-hundred dollars per night to spend on lodging we would have stayed at the Centara Grand Beach Resort Hotel. Narda says we will stay here for a week to celebrate our twenty anniversary of when we did the ‘M’ thing back in 2001 so we have seven-years to save our coins in a jar and by then if the world has not gone on some crazy end-of-the-earth bang we will stay at the former Railway hotel.

gardens at Centara
gardens at Centara – Old Railway Hotel – elephant style

 

just a random school but I took a photo of it to remind me how easy our school name is to say – Dalian American International School

 

jetty in Hua Hin

 

Narda and a local shop in Hua Hin
Narda checking out a place to purchase so we can face retirement

 

We went off to grab a photo of the train station and inspect more of funky Hua Hin – which is good at this moment in time because it is not filled with tourists like the other resort areas in Thailand.

Narda on train to Hua Hin

 

There are the retired and semi-retired who have homes for months at a time (Narda’s direction for us – just make sure there is fast Internet and I will be OK) but for packs of tourists, not yet. Narda had a bag she bought in Yangon a few weeks ago that needed repair so we stopped at a sewing place. I looked down the road and saw all the traffic stopped two blocks before the one round-about in town. Walking to the one round-about in town I saw traffic was stopped in a directions and the road crossing town was empty except for police and military lined up. Not having a clue as usual I went out to the centre of the round-about to take photos and video and cops from several directions came running toward me waving to stop filming so I went down the street and behind a pole began filming again; see http://youtu.be/XvOScADNIKQ, turns out that the King of Thailand was going to his summer palace which is just outside of Hua Hin. The people lining the street were chanting and waving Thai flags. It was all rather quaint. Narda was nervous that I would be arrested. Actually I am a bit of a journalist as I have a BA in Journalism from Deakin University in Melbourne and having never really had much chop at using it in a real world situation I thought this would be a good time to get a story but in actual fact there was no story to get as apparently the king spends a lot of his time at his Hua Hin home.

Narda always says we need to live somewhere beautiful, it does not matter whether it is in a poor area or – well I think a poor area is what we can afford and Thailand is so full of beautiful places but it is gradually, like the world itself getting overrun by… well I suppose it is people like us. We all want to live in a beautiful place and not in polluted choking places like most major industrial areas. But we bring our industrialized values with us which is stuffing up the once beautiful places. I don’t know what will happen to this planet in the next couple of decades but from first hand viewing it does not seem as going too well. Of course we would just be happy with a reasonable shack with some solar panels, a veggie patch and some chooks on a beach somewhere in Asia but then the water rises and a tsunamis comes or radiation from North Korea or everyone is running out of drinking water and food and gosh…

We took a bus back to Bangkok. It was a 22-seat-coach to Suvarnabhumi Bangkok Airport, comfortable and less than four-hours. A lot better than the train. I slept most of the way, not sure why as I was not sleepy when we got on at noon but I seem to sleep wherever I am.

We arrived Bangkok in the evening and caught up with Kay and Frank our neighbours last year here in Campus Village and recently our host at their home in Yangon, Burma and a few others grabbed a foot massage, I fell to sleep and snored and Narda in the next seat woke me and the next day Thursday we were at the EARCOS conference.

I of course attended the tech ones such as ‘Innovate now or become irrelevant’ and about Digital Badges which has merit but after digging around in it there are too many companies just in it for the money. Of course education is about money and when you get into private schools and narrow that down to international schools the flow of money overrides it all. I attended too many sessions that were in essence a sales pitch either to take a course to get credit but of course these are paid courses and what more do I want to add to a PhD I am not sure but this is perhaps where open badges comes into play. That we can get cred for whatever we do. But then again to issue badges costs money. Ryan our elementary tech person is working on it and has already issued me with a badge;

though somehow I think it misses the educational systems hierarchy of sustained learning. I in turn made him a badge with something about educational rapping as he is our local rock star (Cronkite Satellite) and in fact I filmed the video for one of his songs for a you-tube clip – http://youtu.be/sOide6Bf140 and I have been doing some chroma-screen (blue screen) work with him for projects in our video suite at school.

Back to the conference – so presenters seem to be focused on selling their courses or selling a web-based program. The venders all line up in the lobby but all we do is taking pens, thumb-drives, bags and other crap on their tables. One presentation I went to was identical to what he presented at the last couple of conferences I have been to. The good part of these events is to hear the lingo I suppose, though I do not feel I moved forward with anything useful. I have known about digital badges and questioned their usefulness years ago. I am on-board with them and once we figure the java scripting for them I will issue some for my film class. Of course they will not have the currency that one issued by a university or the United Nations will have but I will at least have my students mindful of earning more in life than grades.

Narda and I took a river cruise and of course as usual got lost.

 

 

Don’t ask me how one gets lost on a river but we did it. We were told we could get off wherever we wanted and catch a river-taxi back. After an hour I was busting for a loo so we got off at a stop that looked useful and that was large enough to catch one back to the Shangri-La Hotel where the conference was. Off of the boat we realised we were kind of nowhere and we after walking found a bustling centre of whatever suburb we were in and after using the loo and sitting on the pier until the sun set we asked a chap about when the next boat back to the Shangri-La Hotel was. OK so there was none because the last boat stopping there was the one we were on and the ones we saw going by were only stopping somewhere where we were not. The man write out what buses to take – and as all people do with us either because we appear to be old, and possibly are, or because they think we are deaf they say the instructions louder over and over. Saying stuff louder in a foreign language does not make the meaning any clearer.

This happens often in China, people just say stuff slower and louder like we would understand it. So we dragged our sorry-asses to a bus stop asked some people where to get the bus got on and rode for a very long time until we got stuck in traffic and grabbed a taxi. We were rushing to get to the Shangri-La Hotel because they were having their conference dinner at the pools and by the river night. We have been to these before and the food is not too bad; a little light on the vegetarian crap but for meat loving Narda there was plenty. And of course it is free tucker and we figured we would catch up with the rest of the 18 teachers from our school and others that use to work at our school and are now elsewhere but still being sent to these conferences being in Asian schools and all but we saw like two or three people. We ate as much as could shove in, had a few drinks and that was it.

We went to the Cabbages and Condoms restaurant with a group – see below and that was good. The restaurant at 6 Sukhumvit Soi 12, Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok 10110, is a bit of a condom crazed place. Their profits go to help poor people and it is all very interesting. We gave our condoms back that they give at the end of the meal saying ‘look at us do we look like we need them?’. Some interesting things are shown below –

Cabbages and Condoms restaurant with Jean, Frank, Kay, Narda, Terrell and condom friends
Cabbages and Condoms restaurant – Santa’s little helpers
Cabbages and Condoms restaurant: good cops vs. bad cops
Cabbages and Condoms restaurant
Cabbages and Condoms restaurant

Now back home shopping in the Jinshitan market Saturday morning bundled up.

shopping in the Jinshitan market Saturday morning bundled up.

We have twelve weeks left here before our little three-year journey in China is over then we go to Hong Kong to check my four stents put in awhile back and on to Laos for a couple of weeks and back to Australia after a twelve year absence. We went to New York back in 2002 for a couple of years but that turned into nine years and then three here. I am sure we will be back in some other country within another year or two.

 

Today was good; Sunday the sixth of April. I practiced softball with the Taiwan team this morning as we get ready to go to Shanghai for our tournament in two weeks. We had a whole school bar-b-que at Campus Village; something we will miss in the future. Last night I had the whole gym to myself and shot baskets whilst listening to the Delta Blues station on my iphone. Being a fan of anything from my New Orleans era of the 1960s is incredible so many years later. Yes, I will miss this place. And even better, tomorrow, Monday, is a holiday; tomb sweeping day. Yes, I will miss this place.

 

 

 

Best Place to be

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Video for this blog at http://youtu.be/AzaiYZU3zZk

Where we are always seems to be not as interesting as where someone else is though why we say that I am not quite sure when wherever we are is where we are because that is the totality of all we have done so far in life and the final destination at this moment. One turn anywhere in life and most likely we would be somewhere else more or less interesting than where we are now.
Think I will come back to that thought in a bit.

Two weekends ago we where in Hong Kong or was it the weekend before two weekends ago? I stop and think for a moment what did we do yesterday – or even worse – what did we do earlier in the day. Not because at 66 I am slowing down in memory – I did that back in the year 1966 – go figure – what I did in 1966 and of course those interesting years later – effects the way I think now on the eighth of December is how long since we were tromping around Hong Kong. I went to see my doctor – who I think is quite kool though why a doctor is kool I have no idea but he just seems kool. Dr. King. I believe his name is TIAN LUNG but thankfully for me he goes by Dr. Peter King; Chief of Cardiology, who speaks English, Mandarin, Shanghainese, and Cantonese. I know I have been in China for three years and this may sound quite stupid but saying one speaks Mandarin, Shanghainese and Cantonese to me sounds like me saying I speak New Zealand, British, Canadian, Australian and American. Nevertheless Dr. King speaks great English. They did their slew of tests on me from lots of tins of blood to scans of various sorts. After a couple of days meeting again with Dr. King he said I may need to have some laser treatment on my heart. A month earlier he slipped four stents into my arteries. I could use some laser treatment to get rid of some wrinkles here and there but shooting at my heart?

DSC_2095To celebrate something – most moments of a day should be celebrating something though what we were celebrating at the time I do not currently recall; anything from we did not have to get to morning meeting at 7.30 AM at school or stay after school for meetings until five PM or that even though we just spent two-thousand dollars for three days of Hong Kong – it is as expensive as Australia, or it could even have been something to do with my stents still being in place though I am still not sure if I needed them anyway… for whatever reason, as it should be, we felt like celebrating a bit. We only had one day when it was not full of hospital tests and doctors visits as the other two days takes us most of the day to get to and fro. We leave home at ten in the morning to get a one PM flights to get to Hong Kong at 4.30 then an hour train into Hong Kong and another half hour to our hotel. Coming back we leave our hotel at noon and get home at midnight then back to work Wednesday morning. Not really a fun way two spend two-thousand dollars (that is US not Hong Kong dollars) but nevertheless we did have a day and making the best of any day is good.

We took the fast ferry over to Macau. I wanted to see the old Portuguese section.

The Ruins of St. Paul's (Portuguese: Ruínas de São Paulo, Chinese: 大三巴牌坊; pinyin: Dàsānbā Páifāng)
The Ruins of St. Paul’s (Portuguese: Ruínas de São Paulo, Chinese: 大三巴牌坊; pinyin: Dàsānbā Páifāng)

And since this is China there were a few people out for the day. In fact there were moments when we could not move forward or backward and this was just the foot traffic. Getting a taxi around Macau is even more fun and more up close. We watched the movie ‘World War Z’ last night – believe me not worth watching except for the graphics and being a film teacher ‘but I am watching this for my film class to teach about stuff’‘ I use chroma screening with my kids though we are not quite to the level of ‘Games of Thrones’ or ‘World War Z’. Whilst watching ‘World War Z’ which is about a virus attacking the world and everyone becoming zombies as Brad Pitt runs around looking like your typical everyday hero I could not help but associate the crowds we get stuck in here in China with the crowds going nuts and everyone biting each other and becoming zombies. In a way that has already happened. There are always crowds of zillions of people all in a shopping frenzied madding way. ‘the shopping zombie-virus’

DSC_1968Someone else wanted to see the casinos. We spent about two hours being historical tourists seeing old shit then we were off to the casino across the causeway. We took the Macau-Taipa Bridge over to Taipa (Governor Nobre de Carvalho Bridge) to the Cotai casinos. See my youtube video – http://youtu.be/AzaiYZU3zZk

Governor Nobre de Carvalho Bridge to the Cotai casinos, Macau-Taipa Bridge
Governor Nobre de Carvalho Bridge to the Cotai casinos, Macau-Taipa Bridge

We took the fast ferry over to Macau. I wanted to see the old Portuguese section someone else wanted to see the casinos. We spent about two hours being historical tourists seeing old shit then we were off to the casino across the causeway. We took the Macau-Taipa Bridge over to Taipa (Governor Nobre de Carvalho Bridge) to the Cotai casinos. See my youtube video – http://youtu.be/AzaiYZU3zZk

These are supposed to be some of the great casinos of the world. Not sure. Firstly, they are quite a distance apart but there are buses going to the next casino at each one. Unlike Las Vegas where a lot are within walking distance or that groovy monorail, Macau is like being in individual cities for each place. But of course China has to overdo everything.

As soon as we got to Macau Narda got a lot of text messages as one does when they arrive in a new town – at least that is what happens here in China. We figured they were advertisements to casinos, especially the first one which said ‘City of Dreams’ with lots of foreign stuff following. So after being dutiful tourists and seeing a bunch of old shit for a couple of hours we got into a taxi and Narda showed the first text message on her phone, without us having a clue what it said. That is when we got on to the Macau-Taipa Bridge. After awhile we began doubting our choice of communication but then we saw The Venetian (the largest casino in the world ~ the sixth-largest building in the world by floor area) followed by the ‘City of Dreams’ a huge hotel-casino complex which looks bigger than The Venetian. We spent almost twenty minutes in there. I tried taking video and photos but every time I took out the camera I was stopped. But I did get a shot of their ceiling.

DSC_2012And a shot of Narda kissing a gold bear so that we could have heaps of good luck whilst playing in the casino. It didn’t work we invested $20 Honk Kong dollars = a couple of bucks US, and lost it all. So we decided from that to just tour several casinos and keep our money for useful stuff like a fridge magnet.DSC_2027We had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe which would be an easy place to give a miss to. We waited for more than two hours to be served. I don’t think it was because we are old and ugly but they were understaffed and everyone seemed upset. The food was good but for people in a hurry to tour every casino in Macau in a few hours it was a time waster.

The Venetian Casino, being the biggest casino in the world, though not having been to every casino in the world I can not verify that – just read this fact in several places including their own propaganda. Casinos really are all the same. Huge noise making flashing lights places to give people the illusion they are having fun and that of course giving their money away to strangers who own the casino is really a worthwhile thing to do. I lost my interest in all forms of slot machines back in the 1980s. About mid-1980. I was a single parent living in South Australia. Up until about 1985 the pubs in Adelaide were a good place to go to hear live music and pick up chicks (did I really say that?). Then in came the pokies. All the good pubs took out their areas of dance and frivolity.  There were no live bands on weekends just stupid sounding machines with people hunched over them. It was difficult if not impossible to meet people and my life of a would-be wild single parent transitioned to a stay home parent writing children stories hunched over a computer. Of course back then we did not have the Internet and my computer had a green screen and I could do little else than type but I suppose staying home and being on a computer heaps was just as non-social as going to a pub and sitting in front of a slot machine. Hey I still sit at home hunched over a computer so my evolutionary path has not really evolved a whole lot. I never got money for my stories except for once I got a story published by Scholastic Magazine; ‘Vegy Fighters’ http://neuage.indiko.com/vegi_fighters.htm which I got two hundred dollars for. ‘Vegy Fighters’ was about a kid who would not eat his veggies because he thought there were flying saucers and etc. in them. I just looked at it – a couple of decades later – a bit of a lame story but I made more off of it than I have in all my casino gambling triads of my life which probably amount to an expenditure of less than fifty dollars if I add up my world-wide gambling investments. I realised back in my twenties that I was not lucky. With a Saturn conjunct my Venus I could see I would never do well economically and with Saturn squaring my Jupiter in fixed signs and in cardinal houses it is obvious that I will never be lucky. I am really happy that I do not believe in astrology or I would be really really spooked by my chart. Especially these months with transit Saturn squaring my Venus, Saturn, Pluto and Sun whilst sitting exactly on my Jupiter and bloody Uranus stirring up my heart by being in Aries trine my Venus in Leo home of the heart. This is such a bad astrological period for me that if I believed in any of this I would go hide under the bed.

The Venetian of course has that Italian look to with its gondola ride. We did not do the gondola ride because of the time factor and in fact we spent less than half an hour at The Venetian which was spent walking quickly through it to find the bus stop to get back to the ferry to get back to Hong Kong. This photo below I took after dark (this being winter that was about six pm) but they do quite well with the illusion that it is day.

"Gondoliers will serenade you as you take a leisurely ride through, the San Luca, Marco Polo or Grand Canals, aboard our beautifully crafted Venetian gondolas.'
“Gondoliers will serenade you as you take a leisurely ride through, the San Luca, Marco Polo or Grand Canals, aboard our beautifully crafted Venetian gondolas.’

We went to The Galaxy and a few other casinos but after awhile they all blend and blur and we had more fun hopping buses from casino to casino. From the last casino we got a bus back to the ferry port. Here is a tip; plan on going on a ferry hours after you plan on going on one. Those zillion shopping-zombies we saw back in the Portuguese section of Macau as well as the zillion slot-playing-casino zombies were all back at the ferry ten seconds before us. How did they do that? We had planned to take a seven o’clock ferry back to Hong Kong but discovered that the next one with any seats was going to be at 10.45. Our bed time is nine pm so of course this troubled our aging brain. There was a ferry to Kowloon at 8.30 so we grabbed that and got a subway close to home and home, Happy Valley, by eleven, well past our bed time. As is the way in China, everyone surges forward. The concept of a line is as foreign in China as it is to a Dutch person (they are not good at forming lines either – go to the Netherlands and get in a line and you will know what I mean. Or watch a group of Dutch people at an airport or train station – easy to spot they do not get in line). At the ferry terminal everyone, like they do at the train station – especially in Dalian, when the doors open everyone just pushes forward. We were actually in a line that had been started more than an hour earlier and when the doors opened people all came running in from the side. Narda scolded a lady for trying to push in front and when she got teary eye Narda put her arm around her and let her in front but told her that she was a naughty girl which was translated to her by others around us. The woman was our age but clearly had not been taught about social lines. The people from Hong Kong were worse. They went on about how the Chinese from the mainland have no class and do not know how to act. It all got quite political whilst being pushed through two doors with hundreds behind us all trying to get through the same door. We had assigned seats on the ferry so I am not sure why they panic.It is always good though because Narda and I are usually bigger than everyone else. But little ladies can be quite aggressive. I suppose they have had a lot of decades of trying to get anything in the midst of so many people.

The next day, Tuesday, we flew back to Dalian in the afternoon but before that we did another loop of downtown somewhere. All of Hong Kong seems like downtown but I think we were near Victoria Square. I was fascinated, as always, by the bamboo scaffolding that builders construct even on the tallest buildings. out of the videos and multiple photos I think these two show the jest of the work…

DSC_2121DSC_2132DSC_2127Hans, my relative through Narda, in Holland, wrote to my image in Facebook that no doubt they will be growing buildings out of bamboo like this and not just using bamboo for scaffolding. I did take a ten-week Chinese painting course recently, every Wednesday after school, and learned how to paint bamboo but in reality that is not related and I am fortunate that I could find a way to say I did a Chinese painting course. Of course I was the worse in the class and never did get the hang of painting bamboo though my ambition at the start of the class was to paint those galloping horses one sees in Chinese paintings. Again it is no doubt that I have Saturn sitting on top of my Venus in Leo that my artist talents are held back. And having that conjunction in my tenth house makes it obvious to the public.

A friend from awhile back; maybe 40 years since I saw him last, was saying he was stuck in Maryland about 20 miles NW of DC. I remember that area from the 1970s. It is easy to see someone else as being in a more interesting location. I look around where we are now and think I would much rather be 20 miles from DC. I liked that area but of course the me of the 1970s found interesting what I probably would not. I liked Hong Kong but that was just a passing just as everywhere I have lived has been. Sometimes I think it would be great just to stay in one place, though not here. Here is difficult do interesting stuff. The good part about living at Campus Village is that there is a medical clinic two floors down, so as far as assisted living type of life goes that is easy and there is a restaurant on the first floor though the food is crap and there is nothing I can eat that they serve but they have good fresh bread. And the gym is a two minute walk away and of course work is three minutes walk which is better than years I sat in traffic getting to work in various cities of the past. But that is it. To go shopping is such an ordeal. We have to get a driver into Dalian an hour away or Kaifqu half an hour away. We can ride our bike to a real local shopping and that only takes ten minutes and is good for fruit and vegetables but that is about it. I use to have a rule that I would never live more than half an hour from an airport but our airport is an hour away. So much for rules.

Where everyone else has lived sounds more interesting to us. We hear stories from other teachers that have taught in Somalia, Libya (they escaped with their daughter as bombs dropped around them), Syria, and heaps of other places. Then of course there is Lawrence who was going to help me become a great film person but just moved up to Moscow last month after meeting a woman and marrying her and his travels and adventures and I listen to everyone and feel my life has been a bit slow and boring. But still we are in the best place to be because that is where we have gotten to.

I liked this sculpture – construction – hopefully not art that was in downtown. It was two days before the American Thanksgiving holiday. When we got back to school there was the Thanksgiving lunch and dinner in the evening. Thanksgiving is not big in Narda and my world. Narda because she is not American and me because the thought of eating turkey does not fit into my vegetarian world. When we lived in New York we use to drive up to Canada to avoid Thanksgiving and the invitations from people who would invited us to their home feeling sorry for us because we had no one to spend Thanksgiving with.

turkey-plastic-This weekend we went to the Winter Charity Ball at the Shangri-La in Dalian. It was Friday night so we stayed overnight. I am not big into dress-up balls but it is one of those things one should do once. It was a yearly fund raiser for helping local schools and the tickets (given to us or we would have had a quiet week at home) were 500 RMB ($81 US) each and for that we got a meal. I mentioned that I was a vegetarian from the start and it worked out OK. I got some veggies that were not fully cooked. Narda being a meat eater was a bit looking forward to the Australian Rib-Eye Steak that was on her menu. She got four very small thin pieces primarily fat. OK so we didn’t pay and the entertainment was interesting.
DSC_2372My fellow tech teacher played guitar and sang too so that made the evening almost personable. I got credit on his latest youtube video for video creator so there is my claim to fame if he ever gets any. That is not him in the image above she just seemed more attractive.

Dalian is just another dirty Asian city but after three years we are use to it. Here is a new moon night photo – actually after our charity ball we didn’t get back to our room until midnight – we are getting young like again.

DSC_2343And so here we are in the Best Place to be which is where we are at and everything we have done in life has gotten us to here.

Transit Jupiter is exactly conjunct my Jupiter today and trine transit Saturn so I can be thankful for that though I am not thrilled about Saturn giving me all these stupid life lessons I could do without and I will feel better I hope in a month when Saturn moves on a few degrees. Also, I am really really relieved that I no longer believe in astrology or I would be freaked about my upcoming aspects.

In two weeks we will be in Thailand for a month holiday (hey Thailand stop all your in-fighting and get along we will be there in two weeks) then back to work for a week then to Burma for a week to visit Frank and Kay who write that there are cobras falling from the trees where they live. Oh boy.

DSC_2145

unchain my heart

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Video for this Hong kong trip is at http://youtu.be/aUYG8gn72MQ

I was having a quiet  Friday evening watching thoughts drift by of what to do on the upcoming weekend. Sort of a quiet day. We arrived home at noon from a week in Xi’am seeing Terracotta Warriors, a Great Wild Goose Pagoda (go figure), peddling a bike around on top of a wall going around the city and merging with so many Chinese on holiday during 国庆节 (Chinese National Day) in a very polluted city of less than a trillion people though it seemed as if there were more than a trillion people in Xi’am frantically searching for a clean air-molecule or two. I personally had not found any and for the most part had held my breath for five days to avoid clogging up my airways. See a previous blog at http://wp.me/scHIf-xian

Though I do not think that holding my breath for five days had anything to do with what would happen next.

We had finished dinner and being a bit hungry I was in the kitchen looking for more. As we had been away for a week there was not much but I had found something which at the moment I forget what but as I took a step I passed out and came to on the floor a few seconds later. Narda was standing next to me and thought I had slipped and fell. When I came to I was quite disorientated or more disoriented than usual may be more accurate. And confused to add. Having never had passed out, or at least not in a self-propelled way as I may have on occasion done when I was past my youth but not quite to maturity – some time in a seemingly very distant past, this was all new territory.

I had a sore knee from twisting my leg on the way done and not being conscious to stop myself I had not grabbed anything to slow my descent – OK so it is not like parachuting from a great distance in the stratosphere but it is still a long ways to the floor when the microwave is at eye level one second and the floor the next. I pulled the dishwasher out of its place so I did go down with a thud. It was not a near-death experience because there was no tunnel with angels and whats-his-name at the end shoving me quickly back into the physical so I could constantly work off whatever karmic dept to the universe I seem to be laboring at.

Narda was concerned. I was confused. I assured her that obviously I just slipped on some butter that was on the floor but for whatever reason there was no apparent sign of butter when I went to show her. I said not to worry to her running for her phone to ring the Beijing SOS clinic so they could ring our doctor who actually lives here in Campus Village but we are not to go banging on the doctor’s door but have to go through protocol. Narda has in large print on our door the SOS clinic telephone number because, yes, we have used it before – see http://wp.me/pcHIf-eS when for some reason I seemed to have become unstuck after eating something and within fifteen minutes of her calling Beijing I was in the emergency room of our clinic (two floors below us) and with a drip into my arm. This seems to be my year for medical stuff I think.

To keep Narda happy, which as a useful husband type of tip I can offer, by saying it is always a good thing to keep one’s wife a bit on the happy side if at all possible. Of course that has to be balanced in a sensible and creative way though the sensible part I must admit I have yet to master but the creative part I have down really well. I just say ‘yes dear’. Nevertheless Saturday morning we took the elevator from our third floor apartment to the first floor and walked past the lobby to the clinic. We call life here ‘assisted living’ and any teacher living at Campus Village would agree. Doctors rotate every eight weeks and on this eight week rotation we had our really great doctor, Wilhelm. Steve our other rotating doctor, and the one who looked after me when I had my bit of food poisoning episode is fantastic too. Wilhelm did lots of tests on me from blood letting to EKG and the like and was so concerned he thought maybe I should stay in the clinic for the weekend or at the least to take it easy. I chose the latter and played softball with our school team against the local Taiwan mob as we do each Sunday. I did a bit lighter weights for the next couple of days and no free weights of rather heavy; heavy for me as I am 66, just 60 kilos (132 pounds) that I have been building up from, but taking Wilhelm’s, I thought overly-cautious, approach, I only did the attached weights. I did not swim either as he was concerned I would pass out in the pool and that could pose a problem. I went to work as usual because I love work, I love creating and teaching film and just having a great time with technology. I surely had no intentions of staying home and being old.

Wednesday I was sent into Dalian to the Vitup Hospital and had an ultrasound and a halter-cardiac monitor attached to wear for 24-hours. I felt light headed and a bit wobbly and a bit spacy but that is pretty much how I feel most of the time anyway and have since the 1960s so I am quite use to it except the degree for normal behavior that I have enjoyed or not enjoyed at times for the past 40 years was increased though not enhanced. So of course being the verbal person I am I told my doctor I was not quite the same in the head as I was and he seemed a bit more concerned and started talking about maybe going to Seoul or Hong Kong for a bit of a more thorough check-up. I thought I could do the same in Beijing but he was not so confident. Over the next few days the talk became more of you need to go to Seoul or Hong Kong with Hong Kong being the doctor’s choice. I was in favor of Seoul because it is one hour away and a cheaper flight whereas Hong Kong is 3.5 hours direct flight and twice the airfare. I was still doing my weights and Friday morning we rode bikes to our local shopping area before school and on the weekend I played softball and went to the dentist.

Another week went by and another and by the 23rd of October, almost three weeks since kissing the floor of the kitchen we were on a flight to Hong Kong.

We were booked into the Adventist Hospital 40 Stubbs Rd, Hong Kong and staying at The Emperor Hotel in Happy Valley. On the way in from the airport the taxi dude said this was a very busy night to drive to our hotel as the races were on and it was Oktoberfest. Our hotel was like a five minute walk to the The Hong Kong Jockey Club. Yes this is an actual photo of our walk-in and somehow we managed to get up the stairs and into the stands.

Hong Kong Jockey Club
Hong Kong Jockey Club

The cost to get in was 10 Honk Kong dollars ($1.29 US). I was mixed up with feelings; I was getting tested 9 AM the next morning and possible surgery as a result of it, I just wanted to be back at work. Who wants to be at work? Here we were in Hong Kong at the races, except if things went a certain direction I could be cactus in a few days. I listened closely to my heart – not in a romantic way where I am all goo goo because I am spending a night with this kool chick from Australia – oh wait that is my wife, and of course that is romantic an all but what I was listening to was whether my heart was physically doing the correct thing and thumping away like a normal heart should – and it sort of was but not completely. I wanted to relax and enjoy the moment. I had only ever been to horse races twice in my life. Once Narda and I went to the races in Saratoga, New York. (you know that song by Carly Simon “You are so Vain”?

“Well I hear you went up to Saratoga and your horse naturally won…”

Of course we own houses in Round Lake just a fifteen minute drive from Saratoga Springs and I grew up a short distance from there too but I only ever went to the races the one time with Narda. Another time Narda and I went to a race in Adelaide, South Australia and that is it. We made a couple of bets when at the Saratoga track but I do not recall whether we won. This time Narda said “let’s place a bet‘.

First of all we had no idea what to do, secondly we could not get the folks at the betting counter to understand what we wanted. They did not speak English and we did not speak whatever they spoke. We watched for awhile and by race three we decided it was time to jump in. Narda picked by numbers – the number 23 because it was October 23, we were on the 23 floor of our hotel, we sat in row 23 on the plane and there was some other times the number came up so she picked a horse with a 23 to one odds. I looked out in the paddock or whatever they call the area they warm in and one horse was just not in sync. It would rear its head, go the opposite direction of the other horses and just was generally ready to take off. I thought that if I were a horse that is exactly how I would act, a bit of all over the shop type of animal, so I picked horse number five. Feeling not lucky, how could I? I was off for heart inspection in a day I was conservative and put 10 Hong Kong dollars on horse number five, the same amount Narda put on the horse with a 23 to one odds. Horse number five, King Derby, was behind all the other horses most of the race. Coming around, I think they call it the clubhouse turn – or at least where all the stands are, I could see horse number five go to the outside of all the horses and just pass them right to the crossing line when it drew level then passed the lead horse, to win. The odds were like four to one so we ended up with 44 Hong Kong dollars which paid for our two bets, the entrance fee for both of us and with a bit of a top up there was enough left for me to purchase a small carton of soy milk. I did not want to bet on another horse because I did not want to leave as a loser which could have happened.

King Derby wins giving us a 4.4 times our betting winning sending us home winners.
King Derby wins giving us a 4.4 times our betting winning sending us home winners.

Being Oktoberfest the crowds were probably larger and more rowdy than usual but never having been there before I am not sure. There was a time when we were trying to get out, with me holding on tight to my winnings, and Narda holding tight on to me that we did not move in any direction. I was of course thinking about my heart when I should have been thinking about my luck. Narda had said “just think if we had put down our houses and any cash we had anywhere in the world and then maybe even had borrowed some. We could retire.” Retire? I was wondering if I was going to get out of the racecourse. What if my heart played silly buggers and took me out right here? I was so pinned in if I died I would have died upright (“he was an upright citizen”) and no one would know. There would be no sound of my winnings hitting the ground, no last words heard amongst the blasting music from someone announcing a winner in a drawing, not even Narda would know for a few moments as she was pinned in too. We were all frozen together on a warm Hong Kong night.

Yes of course eventually we got back to our hotel, I am writing this a couple of weeks later and I think I am still alive. As a matter of fact next week today we will be back in Hong Kong and I will be getting a bunch of tests to continue on with what I will say befell me whilst in Hong Kong back at the end of September. So yes, I believe I am alive. Still! Still as in quiet compared to my pre-Hong Kong self.

The next morning, Thursday, I was off to Adventist Hospital to get tests. I met Dr. King the cardiologist who was going to sort me out and I was sent off for eight tests. In Australia when I go to the heart centre and see my cardiologist each year the visit lasts about ten minutes, this has been going on for about a decade. He takes my pulse, does a couple of readings and sends me on my way with a sentence or two of advice. I thought this would be the same, just pop in – OK spending a couple of thousand of dollars to go and get that advice wasn’t what I wanted but Dr. Wilhelm thought it was important. I liked Dr. King. He had a sense of humour, was good at explaining and said he would arrange for a few tests. Then and there. All day Thursday. Seven or eight tests. A stress test on a treadmill with lots of monitors and beeping machines as the endurance speed and difficulty were increased to a point where the machines made more frequent noises and I felt worse. Then on to blood tests, a PET thingy (Positron Emission Tomography). In this test, I had a radioactive dye injected so that my heart showed on the scan. Laying down I was shoved into a doughnut-shaped machine to have images taken of my heart. When the dye went through there was a hot sensation going through my body which was not good. Being claustrophobic from an incident in my adolescence I spent about an hour in semi-panic. But the worse was yest to come; the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Laying down on a table inside a long tube-like machine that produced a magnetic field and again feeling quite claustrophobic with large banging sounds each time the magnets did whatever they did. I had a heavy plastic mask put over my face either because I was too ugly for the nurses to look at or to protect me from I know not what. It was like a helmet players of American Gridiron games wear. When I lived in the States we called it football but in Australia they say gridiron as footy is what Australians play and football is soccer some places but no matter what the sport having one on and being inside a tube fastened down was not fun. What was worse than the banging noses was some weird background music. Someone playing the same piano piece over and over. This went on for an hour. There is a button to push if one gets too stress and at some point I did and they took me out of the tunnel. I sat up said it was all a bit too much and being sympathetic nurses they smiled, took my helmet face mask off for about ten minutes put it back and and shoved me back for more noise and said this time it would be only for another fifteen minutes which somehow I endured. There was another test which I do not remember the name of where I was hooked up to several monitors and laying down they wanted to shove me into yet another machine. There was some problem with it because I have a very irregular heart beat and on their monitor it showed my pulse in such a low range – low in the teens – that the technician in charge got a bit worried. I told her it was her machine that was malfunctioning and not me. She said she had never had a problem with the machine and that maybe something was drastically wrong with me. She called in several other people and they all looked at me then the machine and they all looked a bit worried. I said it was their machine that sucked. Fortunately one technician had enough sense to physically take my pulse and she was relieved and I commented that it was their machine. They hooked me up to another machine and that seemed to work better. Actually this test was before the PET thingy because they had already put the dye into me and they had to have their monitors working before shoving me into the PET thingy. They said the new PET thingy could work with people with irregular hear beats like mine but there was only one of the newest machines and that was at Sanatorium Hospital, which incidentally was across the street from where we were staying and had a view of the horse racecourse. I of course volunteered to be tested there as being surrounded by 5 or 6 concerned, worried, semi-confused technicians, nurses and doctors was giving me the heebie jeebies. Someone rang Dr. King and someone said OK, probably the same person and it was all back on with me being put into the Pet thingy. There was the CT scan and the Ultrasound and a 24-hour wearing a halter-cardiac device all to find out what was in (too much calcium?) and what was out with what could be wrong with me if indeed anything was wrong.

We had spent about eight hours in hospital with me poked and prodded and early evening we finally got to go back to our hotel. Being told to take it easy and with my 24 hour halter-cardiac device with plugs stuck to various parts of my body firmly in place we took double decker buses around town. Being situated in Happy Valley which is a hub or the start of several double decker buses gave us a lot to choose from.

Happy Valley Trolly
Happy Valley Trolley

We just rode, got off; everything looked too Chinese for us – it was like being in China – oh wait maybe we still were – and got back on another one. The evening was so warm. We sat on the top deck and took lots of video which at some point will show up on my youtube channel.

http://www.youtube.com/neuage09 or my previous one http://www.youtube.com/tneuage

stay curious - trolly

Friday we were back to the hospital in the morning to hear the good news; that I was fine, the tests showed that I had had a bit of indigestion and we could go back home Sunday on our booked flight and be back to work on Monday with a bit of an expensive three day break from school. We figured since we were in Hong Kong we would make the best of it and spend the rest of the day Friday and Saturday wandering around Hong Kong. Maybe try to squeeze in a boat trip to one of the islands.

Well that didn’t work out did it?

Dr. King said that I had a few narrow arteries filled with calcium and that I would need surgery. He said until he put a catheter into my arteries he would not be sure but I would need at least three stents. He went over what the procedure was about and that Sunday would be good to do it. Being a Seventh Day Adventist Hospital they were not in full swing on a Saturday. I think Saturday is their Sunday. Go figure. Nevertheless with this not so groovy news we set up for Sunday to be a day of no-fun. I was to check in Saturday night – OK so they let people check-in Saturday but operations get put off until Sunday. I was listening to Janis Joplin sing ‘Another piece of my heart’ in my head and wondering whether I should make this my phone’s ring-tone.

Take it!
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby!
Oh, oh, break it!
Break another little bit of my heart now…

Of course like everyone I have my brush with fame story; Janis Joplin. Back in 1969 I was almost run over by her in her Porsche. I knew it was her. We all knew that car as she sped around San Francisco. I use to go and listen to her at the Fillmore and in Golden Gate Park and I still listen to her when I am lifting weights at Campus Village at Dalian American International School 44 years later. Strange how things stick in one’s mind but I always remember that moment and how close I almost came to my end then but didn’t and she did not long after and here I am writing about her instead of her writing about me. Not that she would but perhaps if she had lived and I had been knocked over I could have featured in one of her songs and she could be tweeting about how even now 44 years later she remembers that moment. But of course that is all silly to think of now when I am writing about something totally different. My heart.

Janis Joplin's psychedelic painted 1965 Porsche 356c Cabriolet
Janis Joplin’s psychedelic painted 1965 Porsche 356c Cabriolet

Picture from http://dedeporsche.com/2011/04/03/porsche-project-recreation-of-janis-joplins-psychedelic-painted-1965-porsche-356c-cabriolet/

We went off to the billing department and they said we would need to get in touch with our insurance company to get pre-approval and that of course there should not be a problem with that. Having had problems with our insurance company for the past three-years we were not that confident. Someday I will put into writing the name of our insurance company but as we need them now and in the near future we will just say ‘our insurance company’. We rang the insurance company from the hospital and they said to send them a bill for the pre-approval. We took a peek at the future bill (the tests were only in the $3000 plus range) and sort of gasped. Seventy-thousand plus (not Hong Kong dollars but USA dollars) for a night in the hospital plus a few stents tossed in. I was thinking the insurance company would be better off paying off my fifty-thousand dollar death coverage than to pay this but over and over we have been told that we have a really good insurance company. Yeah right! So we went back to our hotel and wrote Dalian American International School to say we will not be back until Wednesday as I am having a bit of surgery on Sunday and I need to rest for two days so we will fly back Tuesday night and I would be back at work on Wednesday. Narda and I wrote and sent lesson plans for the extra two days.

Friday night we made multiple phone calls to both the China and the USA departments of our insurance company. This spilled into Saturday when we were told over and over that it would all be cleared up in a couple of hours and we would get the go ahead. By late Saturday afternoon we had to cancel the Sunday surgery as we had still not gotten the OK. All day Saturday we rang speaking to one person after another each saying it would be a matter of a couple of hours because anything over fifty-thousand dollars had to go to an underwriter. We went to Stanley Market and did a bit of shopping and then we discovered we had to move out of our hotel because Sunday night was booked out. We had planned to fly back to Dalian Sunday. Happy Valley was getting to feel like home and of course just a couple of days earlier we had our big win at the local track so moving was not going to be fun especially when our insurance company was being mean to us. One person, she was a supervisor, suggested we go to Florida because I could have the same operation done for about 45-thousand. We could not believe someone, especially a supervisor, suggesting we fly from Hong Kong to Florida to save the insurance company money. We did find a hotel; L’Hotel Island South http://www.lhotelislandsouth.com/eng/front/ and it was really a good four-star place. We got a room with the mountain view on the 32nd floor and thought OK if this is where we have to bunker down for a long time this will be it. We moved in Sunday afternoon still getting phone calls saying it would just be another couple of hours.

Narda was emailing everyone she could find in the insurance company and still at mid-night Saturday she was ringing and emailing. Finally someone said that the underwriters don’t work on weekends and that we should know within a couple of days when they got back to work on Monday. It was looking more and more like we were going to be stuck in Hong Kong for awhile. Sunday we went to Aberdeen and found a great little restaurant on Old Main Street, Myanmar Thai Palace We are going to Myanmar for Chinese New Year in January to see our ex-workmates; Frank and Kay and we are going over with Jean and Sean so it will be quite the crazy week. There in Myanmar. Going back to L’Hotel Island South we took a nap in the afternoon and at 5 pm we got a phone call that the insurance company had approved it. One of the many people Narda had phoned had pushed the whole thing through. Actually it was the head of customer service, a man in India that Narda has contacted many times to sort out situations from the past. Nothing major just some basic tests we get done every year to be sure we are functioning well, stuff like that. The amount of work the insurance company goes through to get out of paying anything is always remarkable. But this one dude on a Sunday morning had gotten through where no one else was able to and got us moving forward.

Arrangements were made for me to check into the hospital on Monday morning and have surgery late in the afternoon. We went back to the Myanmar Thai Palace for dinner, sat along the river and wondered what would happen next. I was a tad bit nervous about the whole thing. Having been an astrologer for forty-years and having stopped looking at planetary positions a decade ago I thought I would have a peek for old times sake. Nothing looked too good and if I were to believe in astrology again I could easily have made some linkage. Uranus was in 9 degrees and 34 minutes Aries which is fine as it was trine my Venus at 10 degrees Leo meaning quick and successful surgery. But the real indicator of all the fuss was and still is Saturn at 13 degrees and eight minutes Scorpio so exactly square my Saturn conjunct Pluto at 13 degrees Leo an eight minutes. And yes you saw it too; square my Venus.

Hello! Wow is this so possible?

Saturn takes 28 years to get to this position and to have Uranus in trine to my Leo planets (Venus, Saturn Pluto, Sun, Mid Haven, Part of Fortune) is statistically almost impossible – maybe the planets get in this position every few thousand years. Lucky me. Jupiter was still in trine with my Jupiter – separating two degrees so that was helpful. Pluto (is that still being used as a planet now that it has been kicked out as a planet?) was inconjunct or quincunx to my Venus and of course square by nature of the qunicunx to Uranus at the time. If I were to believe in this stuff I would have been alarmed that transit Saturn was conjunct Mercury (was there some bad advice being given?) meaning that both planets were squaring exactly my Saturn Pluto conjunction (I used to give presentations and wrote some articles on the Saturn Pluto conjunction in Leo being the symbol of the baby boomers. All that free-love (Leo – heart) with Pluto overthrowing Saturn. I had really lengthy examples and proofs sort of back in the day. Now I just ramble on and no one has a clue what I am talking about. Narda just popped in, she watches all these medical shows; 13 years without fail she watched ‘ER’ and now she is going through season after season of Grey’s Anatomy. She loves all this medical and I don’t. I have never watched any of them.

So Narda asks what I am writing about and I am sitting here with the astrology chart for 28 October on her iPad and I am saying I don’t believe any of this anymore and she says if you did what would that chart say?

See this is what I mean. I tell her and basically all I can say is that it means what actually happened. I did not need the symbolism of astrology to know something was going wrong. OK one more thing; the Moon was in Leo. Holy Cow! There is the moon sitting on top of my Sun dragging all those influences into being. Saturn as Saturn does, delayed and made us go crazy and of course having calcium in my arteries is well explained by Saturn squaring my Saturn in Leo – ruler of the heart. For a couple of decades I was really into medical astrology even to the point of making magic potions and elixirs for people based on their rising sign and the position and aspects to their ruling planet. I was sort of known for this in New Orleans when I was a street artists. I use to drink a lot of lemon grass tea as that was suppose to be a Venus ruled herb and Venus rules my astrology chart (Libra rising with Venus being strongest by being in the 10th house and having so many aspects). Another interesting point is that at the time of surgery for Hong Kong at 4 pm there was Aries rising with Uranus in the first house and the fifth house – the house of the heart – being ruled by the heart sign, Leo, so all my Leo points and planets were in the fifth house during the surgery. I use to love astrology but it got in my way and there was a time I could not just live my life but had to do astrology charts on everything. It was when Leigh killed himself (http://neuage.org/leigh.htm) that I just could no longer use astrology. I was not seeing reality but was off following symbols that were based on interpretation and I got caught interpreting life through my eyes and wants and I missed what was really going on.

The Adventist Hospital being a vegetarian hospital seemed so natural. It went along with what was roughly my life-long life: hippie communes in the 1960s, eating vegetarian foods for the past 45 years, being in a new age cult group for a decade, various religious and philosophical beliefs embraced then discarded over the decades each pushing the vegetarian life style, being a tofu manufacture for eight years in South Australia – see my slowly evolving e-book http://neuage.us/tofu/ There was even a time when I was going to build a big tofu factory – compared to the small tofu factory I had for eight years – and sell to the Seventh Day Adventists in Australia. It is all quite remarkable and now here I was lying in a bed with needles in my arm and an oxygen thing in my nose and eating wonderful vegetarian food. The food was so good I kept ordering more off of the menu. The staff there must have thought that I had not eaten for days.

Every few minutes nurses would come in and take my blood pressure, give me some medication, take pulses and I would ask to see the menu again. At four pm I got rolled down the hall all neatly snug in my bed with my lame looking gown on and things hanging out of me and over me. Not that I see many hospital movies but times that I have passed through the lounge and Narda has one on there is always some poor joker on a bed being wheeled into surgery. Now I was one of them. I looked around for the camera crew and the make up artist but I was put into the operation theatre with little fan fare. Narda could not even come in. To make matters worse I was not given some really nice powerful mind altering drug. All they did was put some local numbing agent on my arm where they were shoving a needle up my vain and into arteries around my heart. I could see what was going on with three big screens in front of me and none of it looked to comfortable. Actually I was very uncomfortable and kept hearing ‘you have to lay still’. I never sit still and never lay still but I was trying. All the time my chest was feeling like a heart of elephants were doing a ballad on top of it. It was all so uncomfortable and there were so many people with jobs. I counted 9 at one time. But this is China. There are always a mingling mob for each job. I think it is called full employment. Everyone looked quite concerned and busy with their tasks at hand. Of course they all spoke in some language that I was not familiar with. If only I had taken those Chinese language courses offered at our school. Narda and I did one and we sort of never got back and here we are three years later not knowing anything.

I tried to take my mind off of what was going on by thinking about useful stuff. Like my lesson unit – that put me to sleep and they said I had to stay away so I thought of places I had lived, things I had done. Most of all I wondered if these people had a clue of what they were doing. I thought about various stuff I had believed in during my time on this planet and wondered if everyone changes their beliefs as often as I do. I suppose it is a times like this when someone is shoving rods into the heart that the question and importance of life become forthcoming. Unfortunately I did not get any insights. I no longer do. I think it has to do with our school taking on Standards. It makes people stupid; both teachers and students alike. We are losing the creative aspect and teaching sameness and in-fusing it into bland world of massive robotic proportions. I use to believe in reincarnation, astrology, evolution and all that kind of stuff.

Now I believe we are just the fodder, unripe food for the next wave of people/machines which of course will be combined and already has its start with Google Glass and other wearable tech things. My son Sacha said if I could wait a few years they would just send in an army of nanobots to clean stuff up and stitch the veins. I could have main vain veins with a search engine embedded that would scour the world’s medical knowledge and new procedures and not only find but implement the procedure and create the fixings by combining DNA strands various cellular molecules and have nanobots fly out of my ears and go off to factories in distant places maybe on another planet or asteroid get what was needed and arrive back to my body and go to the factory somewhere in my body and fly off to the part of my body that needed fixing and life would be beaut. I could have a whole nano-factory built somewhere in my body and a constant movement of things fixing and improving throughout my body as I lifted weights at the gym and listened to Janis Joplin.

These are the kind of things I think about when laying on a bed in a operating room with masked people speaking in a language I did not understand and hopefully they shared as they at times spoke in hurried phrases then a few of them would come running over and my wrist where they had the injection point would sting and then my chest would feel like a herd of elephants were doing the Watusi on my chest.

There’s a dance called the Watusi it’s out of sight,
First you slide to the left then to the right.
The Watusi is out of sight,
You slide to the left, then to the right.
Take two steps up and keep it tight.
And do the Watusi, it sure is a sight.”

There were three large monitors that I could watch what was going on on. I looked up once or twice and it sort of freaked me out so I went back to thinking. This all went on for more than two hours and I just could not find a good range of thoughts to centre on. Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s I use to believe in all the mind control of your body stuff. For years I carried around “The Science of Mind”, by Ernest Shurtleff Holmes [1926] believing all that crap. He was on about how our thinking creates diseases in our body. For example negative thoughts created negativity which manifested as dis-ease, not at ease, in our body. I furthered this thinking for a decade in the Holy Order of Mans when I was a brother in their centres in Hawaii, San Francisco, Cheyenne Wyoming, Wichita Kansas, Detroit, Syracuse New York and finally Baltimore Maryland. They had all this material about the higher Self and how our body was just a vehicle we traveled about in and if things went wrong it was karmic from some other lifetime or the miss use of energy now. I managed to go through their initiations of Self-illumination and Self-Realization before leaving for good and learning to re-live my life without the muddled illusions of superstitious belief systems. I must admit though whilst having stuff shoved into my arteries next to my heart and a herd of elephants doing the Watusi on my chest I tried to rise above my body or at least try to do something more metaphysical than just lay there hurting but I did not have any luck. My mind has ground down into the physical so strongly that I wonder how did I ever get into believing all the hocus-pocus stuff I once believed in.

At some point I got wheeled out of the operating room and there was Narda on the other side of the door. I know this happens all the times in her medical shows she watches but I had never been in an operating room before. Even when my two sons were born, I helped deliver both, it was just a simple room. Especially the one in Kahuku Hawaii where Sacha was born on the North-shore of Oahu. There was just Dr. Branch, the alleged mother and me. Leigh was born in Ashford Hospital Adelaide and I was there and at that birth so was Sacha, age two and a half.

Narda is always there making the continuity of life good. All I felt was hunger and of course a sore chest and sore arm and sore wrist. Dr. King (who has a Chinese name in brackets between the Peter and the King) said it went better than he had thought. Good grief what had he thought? He did put in a fourth stent after he was deep into my chest and found another artery that looked suspect. He kept saying to lay still which for me is very difficulty. I struggle to sit still for ten minutes and to sit still for two hours is gruesome. First I was cold so they put some horse blankets on me then I was hot so they took them off. I think I am a bad patient. Even my dentist is constantly telling me to relax when she has her head half way down my throat. I just am not the ideal ER patient.

The menu is great. I ordered half the stuff on the menu then ordered some more. Narda stayed in the hospital overnight. Lucky for you my photos are on my phone which is over in my classroom at school or I would show a photo of the room, probably one with me all hooked up to oxygen and drips and monitors but smiling because the food was good. It was like staying in a hotel with lots of room service. I had to stay in bed until the next day which was making me go funny in the head but we made it through the night and by the next evening, Tuesday we checked out and went back to L’Hotel South.

It is strange to go back only a day later to someplace when so much has changed. Now for the rest of my life or at least until they crank up the nanobots I have to wear material inside my body up near my heart.

day 3 (10)

Wednesday, two days after surgery – that is me in front of the sign the day following stents shoved in, not feeling great but at least a bit mobile. I liked this sign because I thought it said Old Man Street. I even made it my Facebook profile photo. A week later I realised it said Old Main Street. I felt like a real goose but I have kept the photo for now. No wonder I get so confused I misinterpret everything I see. That was always my problem with astrology. I am sure it is all there but I misinterpret it all.

Lamma Island

We took a boat over to Lamma Island for the afternoon. Lamma Island does not have cars on it. Like Prince Islands in the Bosphorus Sea outside of Istanbul. We like quiet islands with no cars. Wish they would take them off of that island we call home, Australia. I wasn’t feeling to flash, a bit dizzy, light headed and weak. I guess when they poke around a heart it leaves one not feeling their best. We did not make it very far but found a nice quiet beach to sit at and later in the day took the ferry back to Aberdeen and went home.

Thursday afternoon we went home getting back to Dalian at 11 PM. Friday we were back at work. The people at Dalian American International School are the best. Lots of welcome backs and hugs (even though I am a product of the 60’s and lived in communes in California and did all that new age crap – hey my name is Neuage – I am not a touchy touchy person and don’t like hugging but I put up with it this time). The middle school choir, under Tyler, put together a song, Monty Python’s Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life and sent it to me. Of course they left out a line or two which would not be appropriate for middle school children to sing – even to an old goat like me. In my middle school class a sixth grader ran across the room and threw her arms around me and said she was so happy I was now OK.

My students were so good whilst I was away. I had written up my lesson plans and one day even partially taught my high school film class via Skype. The students all did their assignments and emailed their work to me and my high school students put their work in their Google Sites pages for me to review.

I had on my table the DVDs of my heart operation. I had not looked at them and just figured in between classes I would have a look-see. Of course my middle school kids wanted to know what was on those disks and I said nothing that you would want to see – it is my heart operation and of course they then wanted to see it. I was quite unsure, Narda, whose music room is next door, was looking through my door shaking her head no. Can you imagine having a film studio next to the music room? I produce two shows for school a week called DAISlive with stories and events and the like about what is going on around school. In most interviews, stories and what not there is a first grade flute class or fifth grade singing rehearsal for the upcoming Christmas musical or worse, third grade drum class in the background.

I said to the children that it would probably gross them out which of course makes an adolescent want to see it all the more so we watched. Actually there was nothing gruesome to view. On the one DVD we looked at there were 36 video clips – in black and white – showing like a string with a lasso on the end going through the vein to position the stents. One 8th grader who wants to be a doctor after watching for a minute said that I had an irregular heart beat. Well I hadn’t even noticed that.

So here I am three weeks after surgery and we are going back next weekend, hopefully just for three days this time, to be sure everything is in place. I was told not to lift weights for the first two weeks and that this week it was OK to go lightly so I have done that. I said to a nurse “what about my six-pack I am trying to develop” (at 66 years old) and she said “why?” because I was married. I said that matrimonial status had nothing to do with vanity but she did not get that. We have gone for walks which is OK though I feel pretty crappy after about 20 minutes. Of course I am wondering whether ever having anything done was the correct thing to do.

To freak myself out even more I read a story in the New York Times Health blog section this morning,

“Heart Stents Still Overused, Experts Say” By ANAHAD O’CONNOR August 15, 2013 http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/15/heart-stents-continue-to-be-overused/?_r=0
which says one out of ten don’t need them and that doctors and hospitals make good money doing these procedures. Damn!

Xi’an

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Life is good.

  1. youtube clips at http://youtu.be/8CFyFFGaNio (first day – flight and Warriors Apartments): second day (Muslim Quarters) http://youtu.be/8Qbn9fvAusUhttp://youtu.be/GT2uYOwkS0s Terracotta Warriors, Drum Tower – City Wall = http://goo.gl/bSY4io and Giant Wild Goose Pagoda @ http://youtu.be/iu342lr_KFY
  2. photos for this trip at http://goo.gl/0JquHn

When the television is off for a week and there is nothing to do but nothing to do the world is really an OK place. It was not really our own choice but the choice was good. A few things this past week have not been our choice but then again we have been making do with ‘outside’ and ‘others’ choices for a lot this year. The first few days we stayed at the Warriors Apartment in Xi’an. In the Bajiaxian Xihuanmen hood to be specific. There were no television stations in any of the many languages that we speak/understand: Australian English, American English (Narda questions whether that is really English – ‘just a dialectic of the Queen’s English badly butchered’), New Zealand English, Canadian and of course Narda speaks the language of her birthplace up there in Utrecht (The Netherlands) but anything else we have to turn the telly off for and anything else was all there was on the television in the Warriors Apartment in Xi’an. The rest of the week in the apartment we were in we were not ever able to sort out how to turn the television on. We tried every button and every combination of every button and just saw characters on the screen that seemed to be laughing at us in our ignorance of how to put meaning to them. I have a Ph.D in communication (constructed all in Australian English – 155,000 words, 550 pages with diagrams and images – http://neuage.org/ODAM) which is all about the construction of meaning – see image below – but in that whole seven years of research and of course the masters and other degrees leading to that, I never learned how to put meaning to the images we were seeing on the telly so we could figure how to get the bloody thing to go to an actual television station. Of course we no doubt would not have found a station in any language that we understood if we did so we would not have known what was going on in the world after all, especially the first few days of our stay at the Warriors Apartment in Xi’an where we did not get Internet either.

my way of meaning  http://neuage.org/ODAM
my way of meaning
http://neuage.org/ODAM

I will attempt to stay on task of our trip to Xi’an; though, as I have not written since returning from summer break and our little journey to the States, Australia and Malaysia and we have had a very busy month since returning to work and the weekend before going to Xi’an we were on the North Korea border staying in Dandong I probably will have moments of drifting to other thoughts/insights/visions/illuminations/realizations/memories and the like.

Speaking of drifting – I write for myself – if no one reads anything I write ever that is fine. I have had comments that my spelling infuriates some (I switch from Australian to whatever it is the Yanks speak – being a duel citizen and all) so my excuse is color is colour and sometimes a ‘z’ is an ‘a’ and some words are slang and some no doubt I have made up and that is my writing that I do for myself because I enjoy writing and I do it for myself and I do a lot of writing to remember what we have done. I wrote a 170,000 word book called ‘Leaving Australia’ and made two bound copies of it; one for my son and one sits on my shelf and I like to read it sometimes as it helps me remember stuff. I don’t even have portions of it on-line. Anymore. I did for awhile but some characters that I have met along the way who were in my narrative were really upset to find their portrayals on-line; true that it was but of course we all have those sections of life we pretend never happened and hope that no one will ever divulge either. But my story is also the story of interactions with people in specific situations at a certain time and space that we shared and to change or even delete those moments makes the continuum of my story choppy and invested with deep holes – so that is why I only printed two books.

On the way to Xi’an the funnest of funnies… because of the upcoming national holiday the stewardess gave everyone China flags to wave – which they did. Following that people went up to the front and sang stuff. A stewardess came and asked me to sing. I said Narda was not only a professional singer but also a music teacher of course Narda did not hear all of this and the next thing she knew I was pushing her up the aisle. And even though I could not get a video of her singing because of all the people standing in front of me I did listen as everyone on the plane did. She of course could not sing a Chinese patriotic song but she did make up a song using happy birthday. Some words about ‘I wish you well China and on and on…’ we all cheered and my only disappointment is that I did not get it recorded.

Narda singing something about we wish you well China to the tune of happy birthday. She is somewhere behind the crew and flag wavers.
Narda singing something about we wish you well China to the tune of happy birthday. She is somewhere behind the crew and flag wavers.

Warriors Apartment in Xi’an. I will start with that. Because the place had a top listing for places to stay in Xi’an (Ranked #1 of 86 Xi’an B&B and Inns by Trip Advisory) and it looked as funky as could be we booked it some six weeks ago, August 24th to be precise, it was the place for us. We spent a lot of time trying to find the owner of the place. All the web searches for it lead to Expedia, Agoda, travelpod, booking.com and all the rest are just to rent the place. We did find the actual telephone number eventually and rang the owner who had his wife meet us at the airport bus stop. It was fortunate that we did as the place is almost impossible to find. It is located down an alley after a few other side streets. It is not a building dedicated to the Warriors Apartment but in actual fact three apartments, one located on the 7th floor where there is no Internet and two on the second floor. The building is about 25 stories high and is amongst many other tall buildings all several decades old. We booked a one-bedroom apartment for a week and were happy to be given a two-bedroom apartment. Inside is so much our style. Who would not want to have a home with warriors all over the place? In every room including the kitchen and about 40 holding up the bed (no comments please)

warriors under the bed
warriors under the bed

as well as four holding up the sink in the bathroom.

Warriors-Apartment
Warriors-Apartment
warriors apartment  behind the bed
warriors apartment behind the bed

 We were only about five minutes walk to Beiyuanmen Muslim Street which is the in place to hang out. Because we went during the Chinese National Day holiday week (celebrating the foundation of the People’s Republic of China, in 1949) the place was so packed that there were times we could not move in any direction. lots-of-people-1

See http://goo.gl/S2dh8L or click on the QR code. tiny_cc_f7mg4w

We got out to see the Terracotta Warriors in the morning. Bus lines were enormous with a couple of hours wait for the tourist bus that is mentioned in Lonely Planet. We gave up and found a more of a local bus on the other side of the car park – bus 615, which got us there in an hour and we waited only about 20 minutes. We came back on bus 614 which took two hours but that was because of traffic. The pits were will worth seeing once in a life time. (lines were much longer than appears here – they wrap around and go out past the train station and through a large car park out to the main bus station across the road.)

bus-lines In pit one, the largest of the diggings, they have gotten the furthest since starting back in 1974.

warriors-rows

I could never have been one of the people digging these things up. It is all quite painstaking and required endless amounts of time using small brushes and files to scrape off thousands of years of muck. In pit two and one which are smaller – there is still digging and crap going on to expose all this. We have a book written by the owner of the Warriors Apartments which is quite good and of course there is heaps on the Internet.

I wanted to go to the top of the mountains across the road but we did not have the time. We were an hour from Xi’an and still the pollution was so thick that even at noon the mountains looked too hazy to get a good glimpse of.

mountains

To divert a bit. We got home yesterday afternoon and as always had a Jack-driver meet us at the airport and we did our shopping for the month on the way home. In the afternoon we were just chilling and after dinner I was in the kitchen and without warning I blacked out and ended on the floor. I only say this now as I will probably forget somewhere in the future – like next week – and I want to record what happened. As a person who has never fainted or passed out before it was a unique experience. One minute I was putting something in the microwave and the next I was gaining consciousness on the floor. I did not feel light headed or any signs of anything even a second before. I did not even recall going down. Narda said I looked in shock when I came to. The whole event lasted seconds but I did get some aches and pains such as a twisted knee from crashing to the floor. What is slightly interesting in all of this is that things just happen maybe even for no reason. I felt fine after and we went and used the large massage chair on the second floor, coming home feeling great. So today I went to the S.O.S clinic on the first floor and Dr. Wilhelm looked after me. He took some blood, did an EKG which he sent to Hong Kong for a specialist to look at (oh boy maybe we get to fly to Hong Kong next week) and spent more than an hour doing all kinds of tests and at this point we do not know why I kissed the floor. Being a holiday week and the staff mostly out of town I pretty much had the clinic to myself. I only mention all this because nothing like this has ever happened before. In Xi’an the traffic was brutal. Cars, buses, scooters, trucks and people all going in all directions often in total disregard of any laws that would be in place if anyone was around to enforce them. (Travel operators in China have a huge new set of rules to follow now that the country’s first tourism law is in place. The 112-article law came into effect October 1 But I do not think it applies to people trying to get through an intersection) All manner of vehicles go through red lights so they are not a deterrent from disaster. Narda and I surely mingled with the masses and crossed in-between buses and carts and all the rest. Our tactic is usually to use others as a human shield and cross in the midst hoping others will protect us. Luckily for any reason I did not have a black out – my one and only of my life – in one of those crossing the street situations. And luckily we were not riding bikes in our dangerous fashion alongside main roads and darting across roads in front of traffic that would not be aware of a red light or anything else that could possibly slow down their forward motion.

smomggy Xi'an on a good day
smomggy Xi’an

We did ride bikes in Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi province on the wall that surrounds the city. It is one of the oldest cities in China and the largest city in the world in 582 according to people in the know. There is all kind of historical crap to look at. We rode up on the wall that surround the city. It is some 14 kilometers and we rode three-fourths of it. Because we rented bikes for only 100 minutes and we are old and slow and take way too many photos and videos and there are four bike rental areas at the four main turns of the wall: yes, the North and the South and the West and the East gates we only got to the third gate by the time we peeled our sorry asses off of the bike seat.

on-wall

After the first days in the Warriors Apartment we had a bit of a shock. At the door was standing three people and the owner’s wife. She said they too were booked into our apartment. It did not register at first and when I saw it was three teachers from our school – that we live on the same floor as – I welcomed them in thinking they were in the second floor apartment. We knew they were staying at the same place so this was not a totally unreasonable thought to have. It was not like waking up on the kitchen floor wondering how I suddenly passed out. Low and behold they had their bags with them and were told they could stay in our second bedroom. Now we realise that there is a difference in customs and how people interact. Perhaps in the local Chinese world having three people in a bedroom and another couple in the other is not uncommon. But these three women had already paid for the apartment we were in and not only that but more than Narda and I had. So of course everyone, except the owner, was upset. I just sort of drifted out of the picture knowing that four pissed off middle age women would figure stuff out a lot more efficiently than a 66 year old ex-hippie. The owners blamed Agoda saying they stuffed up the booking. The women called Agoda and Agoda rang the owner who said everything was fine and that he was taking care of it. What a balls-up – never seen such a situation. Right up there with fainting for the first time in my life. I suppose that is why life is mildly interesting to me it is so incredibly unpredictable.

We were told to wait until six pm, but it was about 7.30 when Clarence showed up to sort out the dilemma. In the meantime everyone was a bit agro. His initial ‘idea’ was for us all to stay together and he would refund some money. Well that was a stupid idea so he said he would go off and look for something to move someone into. As we had booked a single room apartment it was obvious that we were going to get the boot and we did. Clarence, his wife and son all showed up and with Narda and I were taken out of the old quarter that we were really getting to like and into some crappy new city area quite the distance. The apartment we were given was terrible. Clarence said that it would be very difficult to find a place because of the holiday. The apartment was dirty, there was left over food in the small kitchen and the bathroom was just dirty. We were quite upset but that is where we were left. Whose fault it was, whether it was Agoda not passing on the booking or Clarence’s it was handled very badly. He had no problem with taking the money – which incidentally was on the same day – we independently rented the same apartment in the same city on the same day – 24th of August. Clarence saw them as the same booking but of course anyone would see that there were two lots of money. We were exhausted by the time we got to the apartment and did not put up enough of a fight.

As always is the case we made the best of our new surroundings. We found our way to the subway and took Line 1 which began operation on September 15, 2013, like a couple of weeks ago. I love subways and always ride one in a city comparing them to New York City and Paris which not as old as London are great subway lines. I have never been on a subway line that is less than a month old. OK there was nothing special and it was so crowded because of the holiday that we barely could get on. But it did get us back into the old quarters. We were also near the Big Wild Goose Pagoda (Dayan Pagoda) which was begun in 652 and though another pagoda is not so exciting we did go to the fountain light show in the evening. I have some good footage in youtube but my still photos of the fountain light show are a bit average as you can see but I did get this fairly OK shot of the pagoda thingy.

Tang Paradise Water Show = big Goose Pagoda Fountain show
Tang Paradise Water Show = big Goose Pagoda Fountain show
Xian Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Da Ci'en Temple
Xian Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Da Ci’en Temple

Again there were so many people it was difficult getting around. Outside of spending a couple of more days tromping around Xi’an, riding the metro and looking at huge shopping malls that were fancy from the outside but just like every other shopping mall inside were the same old we just looked around at another polluted over crowded city.

However in one mall was this huge screen on the ceiling,

Qin Han Tang Emporium
Qin Han Tang Emporium

This ceiling LED display of more than 3000 square meters (168 meters long and 17.92 meters wide) located in Qin Han Tang Emporium which is next to the Goose Pagoda was impressive. I will have a clip on my youtube site at http://youtube.com/neuage09 any moment now. At the same time as writing this I am editing clips in Adobe Premier Pro Creative Cloud – my new favourite subscription software in a suite of lots of groovy creative projects. I am loving After Effects and Photoshop along with some 20 plus other programs but Premier definitely does for me at the moment. Having hundreds of video clips and a thousand photos I will have enough to do, along with an actual job, and being a caring/listening/nurturing husband (will there be time for that?) to keep me off the streets for awhile or hopefully off of the kitchen floor.

Thankfully I was not hanging onto the side of a tuk tuk as it found its way through traffic. These things are off-putting to me but as Narda likes them we do ride them in various countries.

tuk-tuk

I started a new series here at Dalian American International School – the DAIS Cooking Show. Well, I have had one show which was with meat eating Patrick. He showed how to make meat burgers – good grief, and in front of me too; I showed my tofu burger making skills refining one of my recipes from http://neuage.us/tofu/ where I showcase experiences/recipes/stories garnished from seven years as a tofu manufacturer in Adelaide, South Australia. We filmed it all with two cameras; a Nike and our new school semi-professional JVC. I now have several hours of banter, silliness, cooking, eating and live audience (Narda, Sean, Jean, JoeFred – not a big audience) to edit. I have several other shows getting lined up and soon the next in the series will be up and hopefully by the end of the school year some mega China television broadcasting networking system will offer me a huge contract to show what to do with tofu on live television… oh wait! This is China – home of tofu. Well I am giving it a shot that is for sure.

I did like the street we were on, it had art all along it much like we saw in Mexico City.

Here are just a couple of the pieces – there were probably a hundred:

 art-street (1)  art-street (2)

At the end of it all after walking 8 – 10 hours a day for five days in a very polluted Chinese city I think we would have been better off on one of the other holidays teachers took this week such as to Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, inner Mongolia and lots of better holidays than we took. Not to worry we are off to Thailand for three weeks at Christmas and lots of other great destinations for the next holidays.

The weekend before we left on our Warrior-less Apartment we went the three hour drive up to Dandong with about 55 people from our school. Dandong is across a narrow river divide of North Korea.

Walking out on Friendship bridge we could see the fake amusement park on the North Korea side. The Ferris wheel is just a cut-out thingy. We did hear children playing and actually saw them playing along the river. Online stories say this part of North Korea has been tarted up for tourist to look across and see that everything is quite normal. ferriswheel

The boat trip is well worth it and I even got up close to some North Korean soldiers,

soldiers

Maybe I could get them interested in my tofu cooking class.

At the Museum Commemorating the War to Resist American Aggression and Aid Korea there is lots of anti-Western stuff to look at. I photographed several of their write-ups but not having been in this part of the world and only having an American view I can not comment on what the beef was all about.

propganda

But Dandong is not just about North Koreans and their possibly tainted view of us – I mean Kim Jong Un is friends with Dennis Rodman, they are BFFs, how could they be anything but sympathetic toward others?

The best thing to do is go along the wall where it starts. Of course this was before I blacked out in my kitchen and twisted my knee (there goes my softball career – every Sunday we play against a team from Taiwan here at school and this was going to be the game that I actually hit the ball far enough to get on base – saying all that, everyone is much younger than me) so I was able to climb and climb and climb. We were a bit worse for wear when we got to the top but the view was fantastic. We could see straight into North Korea but I did not see Kim Jong Un though he may have seen me.

narda-wall

Do not take my Vegemite

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

“Do not take my Vegemite ”

  • Vegemite
  • Storage
  • Letters
  • Chinese police using geese
  • Best loo in Kaifaqu
  • In-flight Movies
  • Lenovo
  • Baggage allowances
  • Australians are easy going, maybe some of the most laid back of any nationality. You will hear “she’ll be right mate” more than anything else. In fact there’s not that much going on down under. The weather is the weather, not much news there. Folks live their lives, watching the footy, whinging about the polllies (translation for Americans: politicians.). Not a lot ruffles an Australian but take away their Vegemite and we have a ‘situation’ at the security desk.

In the past six weeks we have gone through eight airports with their security checks: Dalian, Beijing (three times), Newark (twice), Atlanta, Albany, New York, Kula Lumpur (twice), Adelaide (four times), and Melbourne (twice).

Narda bought a jar of Vegemite and a jar of Promite at Woolies (Woolworth’s) in Adelaide after we had packed our check-in luggage so she placed it in our carry-on. No worries, we went through customs at Adelaide and KL. After a short night’s sleep at Metro Park Lido in Beijing (we arrived in Beijing at one AM and got to the hotel at 2:30 AM, up for breakfast five hours later and to the airport in time for our fight to Dalian which we just discovered has been delayed four hours. Most flights in China or out of China are delayed by many hours.

Customs @ Beijing Domestic was brutal. We had to take almost everything out of our carry-on bags then they took the jar of Vegemite and Promite from Narda’s bag. Narda was far from ‘she’ll be right mate’.

Vegemite ad from the 1960s “We’re happy little Vegemites
As bright as bright can be.
We all enjoy our Vegemite
For breakfast, lunch, and tea.
Our mummies say we’re growing stronger
Every single week,
Because we love our Vegemite
We all adore our Vegemite
It puts a rose in every cheek.”

We’re happy little Vegemites – The original TV Advertisment

The customs agent chick walked off with the two jars in her hands with Narda close by saying ‘give me back my vegemite’. Good grief. I shoved all my bits and pieces into my bags – three carry-on bags because we were overweight for check-in plus Narda’s carry-on bags and ran after the jar carriers. At some desk in a corner of the terminal the customs lady was trying to open the jars which Narda was trying to take back from her. Narda kept saying that it was food and that every other airport allowed it through. Finally Narda opened the Vegemite jar, the woman sniffed it and started to look up on her computer monitor but Narda had the jars in her hand and we were off to our gate. I think the smell was a bit OK as it looks and smells a bit like something that could have been created out of soy bean paste. Narda was still upset but we had the stuff. Granted I remember seeing a few tubes and jars of it at home in our pantry but I suppose there never can be too much of one’s comfort foods. It is like Dutch Salty Liquorice, we always have a bag or two near at hand; well Narda does and I will have a salty drop now and then. Her parents always have a box of them next to their driver seat so whenever we go someplace there is the Salty Liquorice. Most people hate it and will spit out the liquorice right away though I do not mind them. I wonder if we would have had such an ordeal with customs if they took away Narda’s salty liquorice.

We did get out of Beijing though several hours later than we were scheduled to. Standing in front of us were two new teachers at our school and their sons from Peru, though at the time we did not know that. We saw them a few days later when school started and I said to them that I was standing behind them in line on the way to Dalian.

As always our true and faithful driver, Jack was there to meet us at the airport and we instantly felt like we were back at home. Being back in our home after six weeks flying around and rescuing vegemite from the grasping hands of officialdom was a nice experience. Our plants had been watered by the cleaning ladies and our home with all our crap was there shaking with excitement at our return.

On the note of all our crap… as if I have joked/complained/explained in the past it is scattered: in a house in upstate New York, in a shed in upstate New York, furniture in our Jersey City home, a piano in our Adelaide home, of course our home in China with even closets filled with boxes from years ago that we dragged here from the States two years ago and our furniture and now a storage bin in Adelaide full. We get exhausted just thinking about all the material belongings we have and I wonder how I managed to spend decades with just a bag of things when I was in my 20s and early 30s and traveled the world. The stuff in Adelaide has been moved about for more than a decade from being in the parent’s shed to Narda’s son’s shed then he moved and now into paid storage. Our firm confirmation, including a handshake, was that we would go through each box and toss what we did not really really need/want. We had left Adelaide in 2002 bound for New York with the belief we would be back in one maybe two years. Now eleven years later we have made the decision it will be one more year overseas then back home. So what we stored twelve years earlier we have managed to live without and therefore no longer would keep. Narda wants to sell everything and buy a live-in vehicle and travel around Australia for years as normal retired folks would which would mean all the more that we need to dump stuff. When we were in upstate New York a few weeks ago we went into one of those large bus-homes that Yanks trawl the USA, staying overnight in Walmart car parks in. It was ten years old, had pullout sides and would have suited us fine and we considered purchasing it on the spot until reason reared its ugly head and we realized it was not only impracticable but we did not have the money or place to store it not to mention that we have no intention to live in the States again. Nevertheless we got ourselves all psyched up and went to the storage bin with a whole day in front of us to do nothing but go through all our stuff and put it in a locked bin. At the moment it was all sitting outside of bins until we arrived to dump and store. We opened two or three boxes realized we did not know whether we wanted to keep the stuff within or not, resealed the boxes and put them into a storage bin. So hopefully a year from now we will move into our house in Adelaide or get an RV with less worldwide possessions and hit the road. We are following the grey nomads, an Australian site, http://thegreynomads.com.au/ that are blogs of folks that live and travel around Australia in their vans.

storage bin in Adelaide, South Australia
storage bin in Adelaide, South Australia
  • Letters. Today in teacher’s prep for the upcoming school year at Dalian American International School we did an intro of ourselves to one another that included one word or phrase to describe our most significant moment/activity and etc. over the summer school break. There were words like ‘beach’, ‘sunburn’, ‘beer’… I did not say my most significant word for the summer but instead said ‘film’ which I suppose has meaning in the sense that I studied film creation over the summer and worked with Adobe Premiere and the other products in the Adobe Creative Cloud suite (love them all – now if I can find the time to learn and work with them) and I am writing a script. The real word to describe the past six weeks for me was ‘letters’ but of course that is not something to say in public or for that matter put in a blog then post to the web but we all have some idiosyncrasies in us I suppose; mine are based on five planets in Leo with a Venus, Saturn, Pluto, Sun conjunction squaring my Jupiter in my first house (of course I no longer believe in astrology so that is good) – I have Mercury just starting Leo or maybe even with a feather in Cancer (29 degrees and 59 minutes) and my midhaven and part of fortune in Leo all in the tenth house – damn beliefs are hard to kick, probably because of my Moon in Taurus, Jupiter in Scorpio (damn grand square no wonder my life is this way) and the other fixed planets which gives me 7 out of 10 planets in fixed signs. Not to worry I am married to a Gemini and as all mutable sign people keep us fixed people on our toes my fixedness is just my own illusion. Try being fixed with a Gemini at your side – it just ain’t goin’ happen.

So my word for the summer is ‘letters’. Firstly, I found a box of letters from my brother Robert that he wrote to people in the 1960s and 1970s (he died in 1994). I found a box of letters from ex-girlfriends but we won’t tell Narda that I slipped that box in between other boxes I kept and then there are the most important discovery of the past ten years for me.

When my son, Leigh, was playing baseball in South Africa for the Australian National Team in 1999 he met Jackie. I would find her name in his belongings years later. I contacted her once in about 2005 and said I found her name and could she tell me anything about her meeting with my son. I also told her that Leigh committed suicide in 2003 a few weeks after turning 20. I set up a Facebook site for Leigh which has hundreds of people who knew him on it. A year ago Jackie contacted me via Leigh’s Facebook page to tell me she had moved from South Africa to Perth in Western Australia and that she had a pile of letters that Leigh had written her. I do not check Leigh’s Facebook page much as it is too difficult for me. I see all his friends, most of whom have children now, including Jackie. I usually check on his birthday in July and read the wonderful tributes his friends write him on that day. I told Jackie I would be in Australia last month and she sent me his letters. There were seven of them, some ten pages long. He had written them in late 1999 when he was in Adelaide and early 2000 when he moved to Florida to play in the LA Dodgers organization. They were love letters. I had never known that he had met someone in Africa. He had a girlfriend in Adelaide and as I was a single parent with him and his brother I thought I knew all that was going on. I never knew he was having problems in his mind until I read his last very long email to his girlfriend in Australia written August 10th (my birthday) 2003 in which he said he had known since the age of ten that he would kill himself. What am I supposed to do with that?

His letters to Jackie did say he was having problems but he never said what they were and I always thought that he was at the top of the world being chased by six or seven major league teams since he was 16 (1999). His brother and I lived what I thought at the time was a fairly happy life.

I wrote my hand-writing analysis friend two days ago; he is a world authority and works with the FBI and police in the States and has written several books on the subject and I asked if he would look at Leigh’s letters. He wrote straight back that he would. I scanned and sent off several pages. So this is why the real word in my mind to describe the summer holiday was ‘letters’. Today is my 66th birthday (August 10 – see? Leo all the way) but that is not the significant day of my life. August 13 2003, ten years ago, Leigh flew to Sydney without notifying the Dodgers; met up with his ‘girlfriend’ at the time, not Jackie (story at http://neuage.org/Idol-star.gif click on the image to enlarge) and the next morning he was at the bottom of his fifteen story balcony at the Novotel Hotel Olympic Park across from the baseball stadium where he had practiced for the Olympic team that was to play in Athens. I did not even know he was in Australia.

I was finishing my PhD at the University of South Australia and we were to head back to New York after the weekend to go back to teaching. Narda came in to my office put her arms around me and said ‘Leigh is dead’. Nothing can change those words. We flew to Sydney and I had to identify him. Narda kept me together then and has since and here a decade later we are preparing for classes again. Now is not like then. We flew back to New York after the funeral and with a couple of hours sleep, incredible depth of despair, jetlag, and all the rest I was standing in front of a room of girls at Russell Sage College welcoming them back to a new year of school. I did not say “I am falling apart because my son killed himself five days ago” but instead taught that first class which was on ‘communication’ and the rest of my classes that day and my classes at the other school I was teaching at, the University of NY at Albany. I managed to appear and teach but it was just a holography of me the real me had died too.Ten years does not diminish depths it only gives it more texture. There is nothing that can be done. I still wake from the same type of dreams; Leigh has done something that has gotten him out of baseball and I am trying to get him back as he keeps asking me – then I awake… Narda hears me my despair wakes her too. I find comfort in going to the gym and lifting weights. I keep lifting more as if I can lift the burden off of me. I suppose it is better to do that than any other escape, at least it is healthy. Leigh use to life weights and spent a lot of time at the gym, maybe which has added to my escape. Leigh was big and strong, he weighed 220 pounds, was six foot four and a solid athlete. He has been reduced to a box of ashes which I still have no idea what to do with. So ‘letters’ were my theme and one word mindset. After death everything pales into insignificance, almost everything. I have a son who is happy and successful and doing stuff that is good: recording hip-hop, working with boat people who have crashed into Australia, works with youth programs involving street kids getting them into street art and hip-hop, giving their life meaning, so he and Narda –  my islands and mountains and strengths and they who make me laugh and help me go forth into the day so I can believe that when I feel that all else is insignificant that nothing can hurt me ever again I can still love; my son and wife give me that, they are my two protectorates. I have become inoculated against suffering, nothing can be taken away. In a way it is a liberating feeling to know nothing more can be taken only layers and my core is not accessible by life’s activities or babbling voices that echo off the walls of my Self.  I also have freed myself of beliefs that I had which too is liberating because the beliefs that we have, usually passed on to us or brainwashed into us via media or spiritual hustlers are nonsense to begin with. To stop believing is to start living. Instead of following where planets are I now look at a moment and see how that can morph into something creative. How can I storyboard a mesh-up of many different colours happening at once?

We were talking today about standards yesterday, a big focus within our school, and I said I am not following one standard, like the technology one. I am using the Language Arts Standards to create the story, the music standards, the Arts Standards,  IT, maybe math and other standards – I want to use every subject in our school to produce a collaborative film. Then I want to take the story, whether written by the Language Arts, or some other department and send it to Frank and Kay who are now in Burma and have their students create a film interpretation of the story as well as my film class to do the same then we can make a composite film. We integrate technology, actually that is my job at our school, but I want to integrate creativity using every department into film making this a year of production of the parts of the whole. Something like that in simple statements. Instead of getting too hung up on grades I want to unfetter the yoke of learning and see if we can find the divine spark in each student to create not only their masterpiece but a collective community of strangers piece. To quote Jefferson Airplanes (1960s)

“you are the Crown of Creation
And you’ve got no place to go’

I would add yes they have a place to go – take it to the next realm. We quit too easy. I continued with 14 years of university under trying times; raising two children, poverty, ten homes in ten years, no family support (I was in a foreign country, Australia, which strangely enough is now my home and the USA is my foreign country. Though I am a duel citizen I no longer feel that I am a Yank I don’t care how much my wife tells me I most definitely sound like one) and when you’ve got no place to go the only way out is to be creative. Maybe it was because I was a street person most of my life and I could live in the moment which is quite a creative thing to do. Creativity to a street person is survival meaning to survive one needs to be creative. But in reality I was most not successful I failed to read my son and at the time I thought I was very tuned into my children, I thought I was psychic in regards to them I was at the top of the spiritual mountain but hey it is all an illusion. One son is now happy has a great girl friend and will soon be making a three month tour of Europe. I think he and his life is real kool. I thought my ball playing son was kool too. We threw a ball every morning and every evening, one-hundred times, I taught him to be a major league pitcher then he no longer wanted it all. He had star potential. We all have start potential.

At the Dwight School in upper Manhattan the graduating students could choose anyone to give their graduating speech. Dwight is a prestigious school with many famous people having children at it (Paris Hilton was there up until the year before I started and members of The Strokes a popular rock band started their band while students at The Dwight School). I was just a silly person who came up with silly ideas for projects. But I was the overwhelming choice to give their farewell speech. I was going to say no but the Leo in me jumped out and said yes.  I told them the story of my son – it was sad I suppose – high school students were teary eyed, maybe I am just mean but I had to tell the story. I was a bit graphic but I sure highlight the good times too. My message was simple that no matter how difficult life gets do not kill your self. My son ended his life because his relationship to his girlfriend ended. My belief is that because his mother was not an active part of his life he could not have another female reject him though I would never say that to anyone – maybe I said it to his mother at his funeral because she said mean things to me that day and told me it was all my fault.

  • Chinese police using geese as guard dogs. My favourite story in the ‘China Daily’ that I collected at the Beijing airport was about a police station that bought a lot of geese to help prevent thefts, because geese will honk and chase intruders. There is a copy of the story here, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2013-08/03/content_16867985.htm I especially like the story because of the stories Narda has told me about geese she had and how they carried on. (notice how the two geese in the left front row are in step) geese
  • Movies we watched – we flew Malaysian Airlines for a few reasons. It stops in Kuala Lumpur – currently one of our favourite cities, and from there flies directly to Adelaide instead of Melbourne which was always a difficult connection to make after an overnight nine hours of little sleep. In Melbourne there is customs to go through then to switch to domestic but flying to Adelaide was great and the added bonus that one of the family will be there waiting for us (thanks Helena). Flying back to China was even better as we went day time from Adelaide to KL. The food is not bad compared to China Southern or China Eastern (the worse). The Chinese just give rice and a chunk of overcooked cabbage all smothered in MSG sauce for their vegan meal whereas the Malaysians actually give a proper meal without rice and perhaps without MSG. I do not think I have ever recommended a movie in my life except for Jim Carrey flicks which my wife cannot believe that not only will I watch but that I think are really funny (who could not love ‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’, ‘The Mask’, ‘Dumb & Dumber’, ‘Batman Forever’, ‘Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls’, ‘The Cable Guy’, ‘Liar Liar’, ‘The Truman Show’, ‘Me, Myself & Irene’, ‘Bruce Almighty’, ‘Fun with Dick and Jane’, and’ Kick-Ass 2’? to mention what I think are the funniest and best of his. Narda did like ‘The Majestic’ and ‘The Truman Show’ and I did watch half of ‘The Incredible Burt Wonderstone’ on one of our flights whilst Narda read her Kindle.) Where was I? Oh yes, a recommendation; ‘Night Train to Lisbon’ we loved everything about this movie, a really unique and well done story. We also watched the Tom Cruise movie “Oblivion’ which is a typical stupid Tom Cruise movie – what a bad actor and predictable script but it is an entertaining time-waster in between vegetarian meals on a long flight. We watched some other movies but I have forgotten them already. Hey I just turned 66 I am lucky to remember where I put the car keys. Oh wait, we are in China and we do not have a car. Now I remember we left our car keys in the ignition when we got out at the airport in Adelaide. Luckily Narda’s son drove off with it.
  • Melbourne trip – I loved going to Melbourne but it is mainly because my super kool son lives there. He just wished me a happy birthday which always helps too. And he sent photos of children he cares for in his job working with illegal boat people. Australia in all its wisdom is now sending the boat people to PNG – I will not comment because this is such a hot topic now and I have my opinions but they are best kept in my own head. Sacha looks after the ones who are under 18, the rest get sent to intern camps then off to PNG. Melbourne is probably one of the better cities in the world though very expensive. We looked at some real estate in the hills outside of the city and we are ready to move there but probably won’t.
  • Back to school. Back to work. Back to as interesting as life can be. We all have different paths to get to where we are. Mine is probably not the most typical teacher’s path. I got into teaching because I like to create and youth are so creative.  For the most part adults have lost or covered or buried their creativity, the urge to be wild with imagination. I was not a very good student and passed only band in grade 10. I actually got a lower mark in French and in math doing both over for a second year. I still have my report card with the 40’s and 50’s for final grades just so I do not get on my high horse and say ‘look at me I have a PhD. I left before finishing tenth grade and that was it until 1991. I was 44 with two boys at school and a failed tofu business and illusions of being a writer and a creative free spirit. So I enrolled in a BA program at Deakin University, Melbourne and my ex-wife said that I would never make it past one year because I was too stupid. Maybe it was because that pissed me off so much that I persevered and four years later I had a BA in journalism, then I went and got an Honours in Children’s Literature, then a Masters in literature and whilst doing a degree in computing science at the top ranked tech school, Flinders University in Adelaide, I switched to a PhD which took me seven years to complete in 2005,14 years after starting uni. My midlife crisis was that I discovered I loved learning. I have gotten more degrees (and just three years ago I did another one to get my teaching degree) and computing certificates and whatnots since. Maybe when I retire I will just go back and get some more degrees. Of course I was very lucky living in Australia where I never paid anything; their system takes it out of one’s taxes and since I have not really made any money in Australia since getting all these degrees I sort of never paid for any. What I have loved about teaching is that I have been lucky to teach creative stuff. And even luckier to be teaching film and video and collaborating with students who have much better ideas for films than many adults.

How much more fun can one have in life than to say to some kids ‘hey let’s make some films, do some news shows, make rock videos, collaborate with students in other countries and create a film via Skype with them? The older I get the more interesting life is becoming. I goofed off and partied and did what I thought was creative stuff – like my thousands of on-line picture poems and before that I was a street artist in New Orleans, NYC, San Francisco, Honolulu, and Adelaide, South Australia where I did my last shows in 1997 when at age fifty I finally woke up and thought maybe I am too old for this and I should just go nuts on academic stuff. I found I loved doing research, I loved computers and when the World Wide Web was invented in 1990 I knew my life had just started. I probably have ten-thousand web pages; if I believed in astrology I would say it is such a Leo thing. No doubt this will be my last year of teaching but the next thing to do will be even more fun or creative or fulfilling; I have ideas but they are best kept set aside to be nurtured throughout this year.

  • Lenovo …. what a heart breaker you are.. all my grief to bear… so I researched what I wanted; sixteen gigabytes RAM, a terabyte HD, fast video card all in a solid 15 inch laptop. I bought it in Atlanta and had a wonderful time for a few weeks with it. Wrote blogs, did some video and photography stuff, started experimenting with the new Adobe Creative Cloud – give me more time universe I need time to create – and had a good run of it. There were a few days in the mountains of Georgia, Big Canoe, outside of Atlanta where I sat early mornings watching the sun come up and bonding with Lenovo. Then days in Jersey City and days in Malaysia editing stuff – love Malaysia and I will need chunks of time to edit more clips and photos from those days, then three weeks in Australia which started off well. After a few days Lenovo (Yoga 500 = bloody yoga what are we reliving the 1960s?) died, blue screen of death. I spent a day on phone calls. Australia Lenovo would not fix one bought in the States and the States said I needed a boot disc which they did not give me with the computer but they would send it to me. They would not send it to Australia and I spoke to several people including a supervisor. They would only send it to the States or Canada and Lenovo rabbits on how global they are. What? So I gave them Narda’s son’s address in Atlanta and I wrote him to send it special three day mail and I would pay the one-hundred dollars for the special service. He wanted to save us money and paid $15 for what he was told would take seven working days to get to us. Twelve working days later, a week ago Thursday we had to leave Adelaide and the DVD still was not there. The next day, Friday when I checked my email at the Beijing Airport after Narda rescued her Vegemite I received an email from Narda’s mum saying it had arrived so she went to the post office and sent it to me here in China. We have had mail get lost coming here so if it ever arrives that will be wonderful. Lenovo I hate you.
  • Baggage allowances – these sometimes are a grey area depending on the person at the counter. We always look at each person to see who will be most sympathetic to all our many needs: check the veggie meal for me, an aisle seat as I have a fear of being trapped in life: physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically,  seats toward the front, as we are always in a hurry to get off – though not bulkhead seats as we have long legs and need to stretch out, and of course our constantly year after year, trip after trip extra luggage and/or weight, and aside – can you  not put us in a row with or near babies which have a tendency to holler all the way? We sometimes make a bad assessment and having “no is not the correct answer” as our mantra, we then need a supervisor)

Malaysian Airlines (international) – check-in, they have allowed us 24 kilos (any number of bags), plus 7 kilos carry-on, strictly enforced (this was ‘enforced’ at the Adelaide end, we were a bit over, almost a kilo, but Aussies help when they are able) and a camera bag or computer bag. The carry-on rule was not checked in KL because we were in transit and as Malaysia is touting themselves as the shopping capital of the world (forget Singapore and Hong Kong) they would not mind if we bought heaps of crap at the airport and added it to our carry-on which of course we did – oh look more stuff to put into storage and drag through life with us).

China Southern (domestic) – check-in = 20 kilos (any number of bags), carry-on – there seems to be no restrictions; we were overweight for check-in and took three bags as carry-on, all quite heavy as they would not allow our extra bag to be checked-in. They then disputed Vegemite as a liquid. Good grief!

Virgin Airlines or any Australian airline (domestic), inflexible – check their info.

USA, good golly what a mess… As I wrote a couple of blogs ago Delta lost our stuff three times for one destination (simply put it was on a flight to Newark which was cancelled after we sat on the tarmac for a couple of hours so instead of staying in Atlanta overnight and going on a flight the next day we took a flight to Albany, New York that evening and we were told our luggage was on our flight but it was not. Three days we were upstate and our stuff never arrived. After three days we said not to send our things to Albany as we were going back to Jersey City and we would collect it at Newark. When we got to Newark Narda’s bag was there but not mine, it was sent to Albany hours before we arrived and it took another couple of days to get it. Though we do appreciate that Delta reimbursed the $400 we spent for ‘necessities’ we needed until I did finally get my luggage).

Basically even United International will not allow more than one bag per person unlike Malaysian Airlines.

As this is getting a tad bit long and I already have begun thinking about my next blog I need to wrap this up – I just wanted to catch up for the past couple of weeks – I write for myself so to remember stop, after all I am now 66 did I mention that already?

  • Best loo in Kaifaqu… As we know finding a sit-down toilet in China is definitely the shits – I mean a chore. I have never squatted because I do not have the legs for it, well maybe, I do ride my bike almost every day and I spend heaps of time at the gym. Just last month for July Narda got me a month membership at a great fitness place in Adelaide, ‘Goodlife’,  and some days I would spend close to two hours there escaping dark thoughts that sometimes enter my head when I am in Adelaide and I think of my time there with my children and how they are no longer there, one is no longer anywhere… back to toilets so in Kaifaqu where we do a majority of our shopping not even McDonalds has a sit down loo but a squat one. I discussed toilets in a previous blog and even showed an image of a squat toilet so we will give that a flush, OK so I have lost any sort of literary uniqueness. But we found not only a sit down toilet but a really great loo with unfinished cedar wood walls, fancy wash basins and a really trendy place to just hang out. Go upstairs in Manns Coffee for a relief. They also have wifi but I was unable to get my phone fired up but it was not important enough to pursue. We got a mug of American coffee for 30 RMB about five dollars which is the going price. It is not as good as coffee at McDonalds but throw in the loo and it is worth it. We also had their waffles with fruit which was my birthday breakfast. Manns Coffee is on the main street past Ansheng shopping centre – the spelling may be wrong – hey I was a high school drop out until I was 44 and now I am 66 with heaps of degrees and certificates so it is a wonder I can spell anything. And on the next block is what we call the Green Door shopping centre. I do not know the name of the place as it is written in funny looking characters but it has green doors. This is where we shop the most as nuts and vegetables are cheap and the big thing for me is that it sells fresh soy milk and tofu. They make their tofu there and after two years they always give me a big smile and know what I want. I have my milk bottles and they just ladle it in and about two liters of soy milk and a kilo of tofu cost about 10 RMB or a buck fifty. I use to sell a block of tofu from my tofu factory in Adelaide back in the 1980s for a dollar for half a kilo. I am still working on my tofu ebook – http://neuage.us/tofu/ with the sub chapters such as ‘tofu made me a bad astrologer’ and many other tales along with recipes.

suitcase wanderlust

Friday, July 5th, 2013

This has been a fantastic visit with friends, family, business people and just being in the States. However, this is because we have learned through decades of travel to get only just so crazy with the actual travel part of our travel. Getting to the destination and getting to the destination with our belongings has often put in the mindset of why did we ever walk out the door of our home to begin with. As I dribbled on about in the two previous blogs getting from Dalian to Beijing to Vancouver to Newark then to Atlanta was all as normal as travel in the electronic age can be. Getting from Atlanta to wherever it was we were headed for but finally ended up at and four days later still wondering where parts of our extended selves – e.g. our luggage are.

Those companies that are upsetting our peaceful blissful zen-like traveling selves:

  • Delta – a big middle finger to you
  • Almos Car Rental – we left your stupid bloody car at a different car rental at the airport because we could never find, if in fact it exists, the drop-off place. We were going to leave it along side the freeway but feeling kind we actually left it in the car park at the airport.

Delta – who is running your show? Are you really a business that gets people and things to places they pay for? Delta you make China Southern almost look like a real airline and they just lost our luggage for good last year though it was only my Piggly Wiggly umbrella and a specialized curtain rod Narda had found in one of those southern states few tourists ever go to – she said it would be good for our window in China. We had them so well marked and you lost them somewhere between Melbourne Australia and Guangzhou China and spent weeks stringing together enough words in English before we realised they were gone forever and the compensation we received did not match the emotional attachment that I had formed with my Piggly Wiggly umbrella – but not to worry, we know China Southern struggles to act like a proper airline; we know this how? Because we have traveled for the past few years with them and are constantly amazed how we ever get anywhere, not to mention our precious luggage. And we have learned to bring our own food because no one in their right-mind could eat that crap China Southern serves.

Delta! You are the queen of shit.

So we have our flight from Atlanta. What a restful time we had in Atlanta; three days in the mountains at a large lovely house deep in a mountain forest a few days with Narda’s son and his wife and all was good until we got to the airport. We checked in our luggage and got on the plane and even to the end of the runway. After a few moments the pilot went on about some traffic delays in Newark and we would be delayed a few minutes. The next announcement was that we would be leaving in 45 minutes. An hour later we were told the plane was headed back to the terminal but not to worry it would be just a slight delay but we did need to get off of the plane and take our stuff with us. “Just stay in the waiting area and we will have you on your way soon…” another hour – “the flight has been canceled”. OK these things happen so we are told we would not get a flight out Sunday night – we were suppose to leave at 2 PM Sunday. Turns out there is no way to get to Newark but we are able to get to Albany on a ten pm flight. Albany is where we are headed anyway. We were going to Newark to collect a rental car and drive upstate stopping overnight at Marta’s house in the Catskill then going on up the next morning to do our many errands.

We were very clear that our luggage was to get sent to Albany and we were told that all along the way; at the counter where we got our tickets and at the check-in counter at the gate we were told our luggage was definitely on the flight. When we arrived at Albany our luggage was not there and after much checking we were told it would be on the next flight which would have been seven AM Monday morning if that had not been canceled but not-to-worry there was a flight arriving at 2 in the afternoon and they would deliver out stuff to our hotel. In the meantime we could purchase what we needed for the night and for clothing for the next day but keep it under $50 or they will look at it more closely.

Who knows this?

It is not what airlines will tell you but it is true. Once our luggage went for a walk-about when we got to Scotland. We told them we were off for a week and could not wait until the next day for our stuff and we were told to purchase what we needed which to keep this short and not to reveal my dim-memory we needed to purchase a suitcase to carry all our new stuff in. When we got back to Edinburgh a week later we collected our luggage and nicely added our new suitcase of clothes and ‘necessities’ and went on our way and they paid for all we purchased.

At midnight we went to the only place open, Walmart, in Clifton Park; which by the way is close to where I grew up and lived more than 50-years earlier, and bought a few things. The next morning, Monday, still without our luggage we bought some more. And we did keep our purchases below $500.

Tuesday we needed to drive on to New York City and still our stuff was in Newark. We rang three times telling them not to send our belongings to Albany as we were driving to Newark Airport to collect our things. They assured us everything would be held for us.

This is just the baggage and car-rental part of my story. The family, friends, good news, houses and what a trip really is about I will say next so I will not forget which is the only reason to write anything down because I forget stuff the next day and to remember all the good stuff is easy but to put it into context or even in some sort of chronological sequence of it-was-three-years-ago, no, actually it was last month is useful for various reasons though I can not recall why at the moment.

So rentals have been a pain this trip. This was our third rental. The first was with Advantage Car Rental and we dealt with the biggest wanker in New Jersey with our first rental of a couple of days. The final bill was more than three times what was offered on Expedia which is more than usual. We always allow for twice the quote but by the time so many various taxes and stupid stuff was added the bill was more than three times the original quote. We rented from Advantage again in Atlanta for a few days and that was OK. This time we rented from Alamos Car Rental from Albany Airport for two days to deliver to Newark Airport. Our quote from Expedia was about a hundred bucks with taking it to a different location but our final bill was $275 and that is with us bringing back a full tank of petrol. So we have a lovely time visiting upstate – which I will get to – and midway to NYC – which I will get to and we get to Newark and there is no such location to return it to that is on our paperwork. We are a bit nervous by now as our phone has almost no charge left because the charger is in our suitcase at Newark Airport. We ring Alamos to find out where to take the car as the address does not exist they gave us. A rude cranky person gives us another address and we go there but there is no Alamos Car Rental there. With but a few seconds left we pull over and get Alamos Car Rental on the phone and say it is an emergency, come get us then our phone dies. We do not like sitting alongside the runway with no Alamos Car Rental or any place of business near where we are sitting which is where we were told Alamos Car Rental was. We decide to be more pro-active and to leave it at the first car-rental place at the airport we see. As we are driving toward the airport on this side-road we see a tow truck rushing past us – no doubt to our emergency. The first car-rental we come to at the airport is National and we drive in, get out, and say to the woman checking in cars that we are leaving this car and that it is an Alamos Car Rental and she says fine and gives us a receipt and off we toddled to Delta Baggage to liberate our suitcases. So aside of the huge price change Alamos Car Rental was OK they just have terrible service and have no idea where their cars belong. Obviously this happens heaps as it was easier to abandon our rental than we thought it would be.

At Delta, to our surprise, though I am not sure why, there was Narda’s bag but not mine. Holy-cow, they sent mine to Albany a couple of hours earlier. They said it could not come back until the next day, Wednesday, and to get on the first flight it would have to go with United then if we waited for 6 – 8 hours after its arrival we probably would have it delivered to our address. As we are not staying at a hotel but renting an Air B & B place for this week and we had an appointment with our finance adviser in The City Wednesday afternoon we rang and told them we were coming to collect it. This little communication with a company that would be unable to organize a screw in a brothel took more than an hour. The first person I believe was speaking English as some of the words sounded like English but most did not seemed to convey that perhaps the plane with my luggage did leave Albany and had arrived in Newark at 5.40 this morning but as it was a United flight and my bag had a Delta number on it she could not fine it in the system. At eleven AM without our first cup of coffee we got our sorry asses to the PATH train and to Newark. Now at Newark one can take a bus to the airport which we usually do for a couple of bucks but it takes awhile and stops heaps and we were agitated, without coffee, and in a hurry so we took Amtrak, at $16.50 for the two of us, the one stop to Newark Airport. Of course it takes people to the AirTrain at Newark only before going on its merry way. Unknown to us there is another fee of $5.50 on the AirTrain to go the couple of minutes to the terminal. We had already paid too much so following Narda which one tends to do especially when she is acting taller than her five-foot eleven tallness and she is agitated, without coffee, and in a hurry I quickly went through the gate which was open due to the person in front of Narda opening it to get her bags through and walking fast so as to not hear if someone was calling back to pay some unfair fee we discovered that the AirTrain was not running and we all got herded onto a bus to the terminal.

We had tea (dinner) last night with Narda’s art teacher friend (from five years working together at St. Luke’s School in the West Village) and Nancy use to say back in those years that she was going to have a bracelet made that would say, “what would Narda do” because Narda had a reputation for doing what Narda does and she is a great role model (though at times, frightening) for getting done what needs to be done. Nancy reminded us of that last night. Of course Narda said Nancy was true blue which is a great compliment to another human. According to the Australian Urban Dictionary “true blue = The real thing, no bullshit”.

Today having lunch with a few of Narda’s ex-work mates they were saying how “Narda” is a verb at work. “I will Narda it” or “I Narda-ized it” which is doing what is needed then telling someone. Or doing something then asking permission. I know we do this, not just us but most people at our current workplace because to ask first means getting a no but doing what needs to be done or should be done or want to have done then telling about it gets far better results.

Of course my suitcase was not at Delta’s baggage when we got there at 11:30 and Narda in her scary way walked straight into the back area where baggage is stored as three people were yelling at her not to go into the back area. Eventually a woman was on the phone calling United telling them it was an emergency that my bag had to be at the Delta area within the next ten minutes. I was left at the counter as Narda headed upstairs to get a taxi voucher to get us to our appointment on Lexington Avenue – a couple of blocks from Grand Central.

Did you know this? The airlines will give you a taxi voucher to where you are staying if you go to collect luggage that was not on your flight. We got a voucher to where we are staying this week in Jersey City the night before including paying extra to have the person stop at a super market so we could get some groceries. Airlines will never tell you these things about getting supplies if your luggage does not arrive or getting taxi vouchers you have to confront and get this done.

My suitcase did arrive at the Delta Baggage Area and now it was 12:30 – almost seven hours after the plane landed and three days after it never made it on the same flight to Albany this past Sunday evening.

The Delta paid-for taxi, the driver driving like he was in China; no seat belt and going very quickly and weaving in and out of traffic got us to Lex Ave. within an hour which was really good considering the traffic. We got to our appointment on time – our Australian money advice person – and all was good.

We are quite happy that the Aussie dollar is dropping like a stone the past couple of weeks going from $1.05 to 91 cents making our Yankee dollars worth more than ten% more than a few weeks ago. Part of the reason is because of the slow down in China – go China.

Narda says I use to many words to say what I have to say. She use to tell me by mid-day that I had used up my word-count for the day. What? I suppose part of taking on a wife is dealing with their ideas, concepts, stuff-in-general. She does not say that anymore either because I use less words in a day or because she is being kind or she has given up and accepts my dribbling on. However, saying that, I doubt I could have said this all about Delta in any fewer words.

Being in upstate New York was so good. I grew up or made a bloody good attempt at it until I had a gut full of the place and at age 16 headed out on my own to become a writer and artist and 50 years later realising this did not come about but being more accepting of life’s muddy and murky path or at least the ones I have usually gotten on to I am not stressed about the fact I never became the artist-writer celebrity that as one with so many planets and points in Leo should have realised I move forward in a semi-blissful way.

We firstly checked on our houses in Round Lake, http://neuage.org/house/. Beautiful Victorians with good tenants. In our large house the couple have had four children since moving in six years ago and in our smaller house the couple had a child their first year there. These are very fertile houses. We have a great painting couple who paint a side of the house every year; this is the downside of Victorians – absolute money-pits. And we had lots of stories to swap between upstate New York where the new Global Foundry is only a ten minute drive or half an hour bike ride away. (“Fab 8 in Saratoga County, New York is currently the largest commercial capital expansion project in the USA”) and our adventures in China. They are building a college there as well as some other chip company and lots of tech companies are moving in all close to our little retirement investment places.

our Round Lake houses with the first one being 15 Second Street and the one after it 13 Second Street Round Lake.  see http://neuage.org/house
our Round Lake houses with the first one being 15 Second Street and the one after it 13 Second Street Round Lake.
see http://neuage.org/house
13 second street - our first house in Round Lake
13 second street – our first house in Round Lake
15 Second Street Round Lake  from the side side
15 Second Street Round Lake from the side

We had lunch with my first girl-friend, Kathy, from more than fifty years ago. Kathy is now our real-estate chick and is looking after our houses if anyone wants to purchase a couple of beautiful Victorians so we can retire she is the one to speak with. My father use to be upset that I was dating her because she was a Catholic and in Clifton Park, a 99.9% WASP area then – not anymore, that was really outside the box. My father use to give me those Bible tracks that had a heading “what happens if I marry a Catholic?” well years later I did find out as my first wife (the witch) was a Catholic and true enough my life turned to shit.

Two days ago, Tuesday, we visited my sister and her family. It was the third time in my life that I had seen my sister. A long story that I will not tell now but I was adopted and spent decades trying to find my family and I did and I have a blood brother in Hilo who I have seen once and my sister Sue that I have seen twice before. In other words I have little sense of family. I was a single parent raising my two children and for the most part before meeting Narda and being adopted by her wonderful family twelve years ago I have been on my own.

_DSC0099This was by far my best visit with Sue and her sons and a daughter and her grandchildren. I feel like at age 65, a few weeks from 66, I may end up being a part of my original family yet. Susan’s son, Justin, is so similar to my son Sacha that one would have thought they had grown up together to have such similar traits. Maybe there is something to bloodline.

On the way to Newark – to collect our luggage – I believe I mentioned that above – we stopped in to have lunch with Marta – http://martawaterman.com . Marta is one of my role-models in life. She is a few years older than me – living life to the fullest and on her terms. She is a musician, professor, actor, author and heaps of other stuff. She was a girl-friend of my adopted brother back in the mid-1960s. Marta and Marc Seifer http://www.marcseifer.com/ a professor who was a friend of my brother and writer of many books are writing a book on my brother who was an artist, writer and musician in NYC up until dying in 1992.

and that is the past couple of days

Here is a picture of my wander-lust of a suitcase – how could they miss it?

suitcase

Lunch Alert at the Butler's
Lunch Alert at the Butler’s

What a great day in NYC and having lunch with the Butlers was great with Narda catching up with her old – well not old as in we are old but former – workmates in their wonderful home built in the 1700’s – the only wooden house still standing in the West Village from the 1700’s.

_DSC0001 and Narda found a sign for her classroom door…

_DSC0006and we spent a couple of hours sitting in Washington Square – my old hangout place from the 1960’s

_DSC0010and what is the Village without its shops?

_DSC0002Or without their beer?

IMG_1903and 4th of July Fireworks – viewed from the Jersey side.

_DSC0069

our Pommie GPS

Friday, July 5th, 2013

POME = Prisoner of Mother England; our British speaking GPS

Monday, June 24 2013

Following on from yesterday’s blog; http://neuage.me/2013/06/26/lama-temple-and-beyond/ – flying Beijing to Vancouver and on to New York City, arriving at one AM and sleeping a few hours we collected our car rental and plugged in the GPS that Randy Dandurand gave us some five years ago. Great how these things keep working. It had slept in its little padded cell for a year. We used it a year earlier to get lost around in several Southern States.

Isn’t it something how humans can attach human traits to items? When we plugged it in, our British speaking male voice started right off with the directions we needed to get to where we wanted to go. Of course we should know without a GPS, having lived in Jersey City for three years, how to get to our home to see the condition our renters have kept it in but Jersey City is a very confusing place to drive about in, especially in the airport area.

We expected our GPS to be a bit more personal, like ‘how ya doin? Good to see you again. My you have lost weight’ (that was Narda’s thinking wondering why it was not more personal). I want a GPS that talks, not just give instructions in a dry humourless British voice. How about some jokes? Even some sarcasm like ‘I cannot believe you two will not follow what I say and even with my step-by-step instructions you stuff up’.  Maybe some jokes or a little bit of a tour guide of wherever we are. A GPS that sings and hums and whistles, one in which we can put in your name; ‘my my Terrell aren’t we a bit precious today, not enough sleep? You are sounding so cranky if only you would have turned right instead of left – this is not Australia surely you know which side of the ride you should be on….’

I have often wondered why humans personalize stuff. When I lived with Lynn back in the late 1970’s in Lutherville-Timonium, Maryland she had a Volvo named ‘Harvey’. “i am going to take Harvey out for a wash”, “I need to fill up Harvey”, “it looks as if will snow tonight so I will put Harvey inside”.  She named lots of things but I only remember the car. I would ask her about her life with inanimate objects but she committed suicide in 1982.

Narda has exchanges with objects too. I have heard her talk to her computer and tell it she is sorry but it will be replaced, maybe it was a practice line for me. “Sorry you are a bit fragile and slow I will have to put you down…” I bought a new computer yesterday; a Lenovo, 16 gig RAM, 1 terabyte HD – lots of great features – top of the gaming computers reviews say. Great red back-light under the keys and I have a year’s Adobe Creative Cloud membership – every product they have now on my desktop so I can edit more of my boring YouTube clips and my thousands of webpages and soon too many apps that no-one will want. I am hoping I can continue with my subscription in China using my VPN but I am concerned I will not be able to as Adobe just gives the finger to China. But to get back to speaking to objects. When I get back to China I am just going to flat-out tell my three-year-old laptop that it has been replaced by something younger, faster and better looking and that I am in love with my new computer and it is going off to an orphanage where some kid will change the English keyboard to Chinese then probably drop it. Why beat around the bush? Of course some people would apologize to the  bush before beating around it.

To change the objects topic for a moment – our first stop was the outlet malls and no amount of jet lag can stop such meaningful events. When my son Sacha and his girlfriend, Georgia, visited us a few years ago I collected them from JFK – they had flown Melbourne – Bangkok – NYC with no sleep and lots of free alcohol but before we went to our home in Jersey City we went to this outlet mall just like Narda and I did last night. We have the rest of our life to sleep but a sale only lasts for so long.

Jersey Gardens, Outlet Mall
Jersey Gardens, Outlet Mall

Our rental car was great and fancier than our previous old Honda we had three-years ago when we lived in the States. No we did not talk to it; well I didn’t – Narda a bit of a conversation with it. The car did not start with a key but with a button which was fine and even though we were jet lagged we decided to go out past the Newark Airport to the docks so I could get some photos and video as the sun set. I drove the first long ways where we stopped to take photos:

_DSC0012

_DSC0013Narda had the second shot at driving and the car would not start. She kept pushing the button and nothing happened. Of course we got into some kind of laughing fit that two old people naturally would when they discovered the car they were driving would not start and there was no one anywhere near as it was Sunday evening on the Jersey City docks. Narda pleaded with the car to start – I am not so polite when it comes to objects not working and I would just well have dropped a match into the petrol tank and proclaimed that the bloody car was a piece of junk and no longer worked. After many long moments of discussion with the car – Narda in her best elementary-teacher voice trying to get the stupid thing to function – she realized that when she put her foot on the brake then pushed the button it started. I am only telling this story so that we can look it up on my blog the next time we get a car without a key that will not work. Then Narda got us hopelessly lost in some dangerous-looking hood in Newark which recently was labeled the murder capital of the States. For some reason the GPS got left back at our hotel – probably for acting so prissy in telling us how to get to places; and no it was not me that took it out of the car and put it back in a suitcase – but as I am not one to lay blame I will not.

What I love about Jersey City is its competitive manner she takes to out-pollute the world more than Beijing. Here is one of their picturesque evening sketches:

_DSC0040There are so many smells in this area from sicking sulphate odors to various food smells – a lot of imitation foods and flavours are created in Jersey City – really, we looked it up on the Internet. If you want your pork to taste like apples or your perfume to smell like muskrats this is the place to find it.

We were excited about eating at ihop where breakfast is a lot more than rice and more rice covered with MSG and other stuff, maybe even from Jersey City, that is served for breakfast in restaurants in China.

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We visited our tenant who has been renting for the past year our three story row house in Jersey City, who happily is taking another year, saving us the realtor fee of finding someone new. Nothing ironic about it but our tenant is from China; he and his wife and two year old have made quite the messy house for us. Their kid has taken over the house and the place was an absolute pig stye. It wasn’t just the wall-to-wall toys but just the general mess. And that was just the lounge, he was not keen on showing us upstairs or downstairs though as the landlords we should have asked to see. There is no escaping China for us. We even had a couple from China looking at purchasing our house in Australia but we have taken it off the market so there was no further dealings. Maybe it is my tofu diet of the past 40 years that links me with Asia; see http://tofu.neuage.us but whatever it is there is no escape. I am sure our large Victorian in upstate New York will be just as messy; the couple there have three children, all three born since they have been renting. Our little Victorian next to it is rented by a couple who just had a child so whatever it is about us renters like to pump out the children in our homes. http://neuage.org/house

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When we left NYC two years ago the new World-Centre building was about half of what it is now. In China they would have built the whole thing in six months. We will stomp around NYC for a few days next week before continuing with jet-lag games in Australia. I love NYC having done my hippie internship there between 1964 – 1969 before going west: California, Oregon, Hawaii then Australia for 22 years and back to New York 2002 – 2011 and now China 2011 – 2014. We have not been in the States for Fourth-of-July as we went to Australia every summer for our ten years in New York and with the 4th a week away we will try to be like other east-coast folks and train it to a beach on the Jersey Shore.

Next stop, Atlanta, Georgia

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DragonBoat Festivals, DiscoveryLand, B’days

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

China surely is the champion of what is and what is not and perceptions mashed together to morph into possibly acceptable perceptions, but not really. Reality is a mistaken illusion – it always has been; look at religion, personal-relationships and politics and education…. Maybe it is best not to look to see but to look to enjoy – surely not to look to ponder or philosophize, that would be akin to giving accreditation to what is really all just for fun. Do not take what you perceive to be real as truth, just enjoy. This is China – I tell myself that often – just as I would tell myself that in those psychedelic moments of the 1960s, or in my Tarot Card readings and mystical belief system of the 1970s and astrological interpretations of events/thoughts/life for some 40 years before waking up one day and saying ‘this is bullshit’. Perception is just how we colour reality in front of us. To me China and the 1960s have similarity in their un-realness. The moment is just about fun, to enjoy, to build memories for future moments when life returns to boring, which from my experience it always does.

A week from today school is over and we are preparing to travel to New York, Atlanta, Malaysia, Australia but today is a holiday; Dragon Boat Festival. Duān wǔ jié happens on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar and believe it or not I did not get a pop up message on my phone, ipad, computer; not from Google Calendar – which boldly proclaimed ‘you have no new events’ – surely it could have said ‘go back to bed it is a holiday’ but no – no reminders or messages to tell me of this glorious event. And to contribute to all those bloody fives I was wide awake at five AM demanding of my unwilling mind to go back to sleep because this is a holiday.

According to Chinese custom folks race boats, eat Zongzi, and drink wine – pretty much like an Aussie Barbie celebration for anything.

Then last night we were watching that most stupid of series (that everyone else is ranting and raving about how it is the best series of all time; what??!!!) ‘Game of Thrones’ and that idiotic Southern California blonde chick started season two or is it three – it is so mindless that I am always updating my web-pages during it and forget where in the story we are – she goes and gives birth to dragons. Good golly how could anyone like this? Narda says we should just watch it for a while because everyone is ranting and raving that it is the best series of all time and maybe at some point we may like it or at least understand what is going on. She said that about Dexter too. All that blood. We watched the whole bloody thing – to give realism to that Australian/Pommie saying – but of course I was updating my web-pages during all of that but at least it was easy to follow – just find a baddie and kill him.

From an email to staff at our school about today from our Mandarin teacher:

This Festival is to commemorate an upright minister called Qu Yuan. He was an excellent poet and literati as well in 300BC, the end of the Spring and Autumn Dynasty. To protect the country, Qu Yuan advised many suggestions to his emperor. While the emperor was irritated and Qu Yuan was put into a river and drowned. People were sad and took boats to save Qu Yuan, and meanwhile they wrapped zong zi and throwed into river, avoidding fishes eating Qu Yuan’s body.

Until today Chinese people retain the traditions. First zong zi was made by sticky rice only, and gradually zong zi has different types like meat inside, peanut inside. I like the very first type– with rice only–and dip some sugar on it.’

When we were asked to sign up for a celebration of all of this last Sunday we were informed that only 20 could go and a bus would take us to the Tong li Gong Palace in Kaifaqu.  Of course I was excited being the academic tourist that I am. I quickly sent an email to reserve seats for Narda and I. I could barely restrain myself from running down to her room to share this wonderful news that not only had I registered for us to go but we were accepted on the bus that would only take 20 of us most chosen to this glorious event. Well she was a bit less than thrilled and wanted to know why I would want to go and hear some children singing songs. Now perhaps I had a misconception as normally I do of the reality of the event. Dragon Boat Festival? Well it sounded really great to me. I had no idea it could be anything else. Narda said that the Tong li Gong Palace was not a palace but was the women and children’s centre of Jinzhouixinqu. Damn! She had taken a first grade class there to sing earlier in the year and it is where the owner of Dalian American International School has a language school which many of our teachers work at in their spare time – though being a teacher at this school I am not sure when there is spare time.

At another time in my life I would have been disappointed but at my age everything tends to be so unlike I thought it would be at the start that I have become immune to concepts of disappointment. I suppose I would be surprised if anything in my life turned out to be how I imagined it to be at the start of the process of adventure that I had hurdled myself at before crashing into a wall of reality.

The big day arrived – last Sunday, and dragging a complaining Narda to the lobby to mingle with the assumed 20 teachers who were quick enough to sign up before the bus was full we were greeted by the other three teachers who signed up to go. We ended up going in two cars instead of a bus load of chirping, happy, Dragon Festival celebrating mates. I like the entrance to Tong li Gong Palace which of course by now I had realized was not a palace but as all things in China are – just a misconstrued notion of what a palace would be if it was a four floor office building. And yes that is a huge construct of a mother and child on top of the building – giving away any illusion that it could be anything else. Not sure when angels arrived on the Chinese mindset but there they are, western looking cherubs up there with a not very Chinese looking mother. Welcome to China where we are not quite sure of our icons or what we should believe in.

Entrance to the 'Tong li Gong Palace' in Kaifaqu, Dalian Development Area, China
Entrance to the ‘Tong li Gong Palace’ in Kaifaqu, Dalian Development Area, China

And as luck would have it – there is a YouTube clip of this wonderful event at http://youtu.be/KO8GHLMuKFQ  – another one of those ‘gone- viral’ extremely-sought-after video clips; wait that is my illusion – now three days later – there has been one hit to it. I think that was me looking at it on another computer.  But to save my two or three readers who no doubt have had a gut-full and have stopped reading by now, the thrill or agony of watching yet another one of my five-hundred plus video clips I will simply say yes some children sang, a grop danced; but that is not all. We made zong zi – a sticky rice, bean paste, red date in banana wrap thingy. However, I was a total failure and after being tutored by a patient local gal with great wrapping skills who patiently showed me over and over how to fold the stupid things quit – or I quit – here is a photo of me trying this – of course the YouTube video at http://youtu.be/KO8GHLMuKFQ shows this even better.

making zong zi
making zong zi

The other highlight – other being second to me making zong zi, was this traditional paint dude who we were told is famous. OK I have thousands of web pages and more than five-hundred  videos on line – I bet he has not done that – anyway, all those pesky planets I have in Leo constantly get in my story-line; this painter dude made a great ink drawing. I think we are taking a course with him in the fall so that will be groovy. He did this calligraphy & Chinese zither in about ten minutes.  You can see this in the video at http://youtu.be/KO8GHLMuKFQ.

To quote some stuff from the program list of what we saw:

  • Children poetry chanting: “the new san zi jing” – always a thrill to watch
  • Children game: ”ding ji dan” (hitting eggs with others – in this game children bash each other’s boiled duck egg and the first egg to crack is the loser – good grief)
  • Children folk dance: “Xiao a’ ge” (little brother)
  • Children folk game: Shooting “five poisonous animals” (actually throwing darts at a dart board)
  • Prize-awarding ceremonies – this is where the Zongzi making ladies were awarded for their making of Zongzi and unfortunately my instructor was in the third place category which could give credence to my belief that it was not really my fault for being such a dismal failure at making Zongzi but that I lacked proper instruction.

It is two days ago, Monday that I started off talking about but having woken at five AM – it is now after 8 and Narda is still happily sleeping the holiday away and I am fading I drifted off about what today’s holiday actually was for – a dragon boat festival but as we are on the sea and not on a proper lake or river there are no races.

calligraphy & Chinese zither
calligraphy & Chinese zither

Monday, we, well Narda did not go as elementary stayed at school and sang or rolled about or whatever elementary children do, took the middle school and high school children to Discoveryland (连发现王). Discoveryland is our province’s concept of what Disneyland would be if created by Chinese. Yes I have a YouTube video at http://youtu.be/lOoeM46fwl0, and yes I do a lot of work not only at school but at home for school – I just fit in my own personal crap early in the morning or while watching riveting TV shit-shows like Game of Thrones. This is my early morning holiday last posting probably before flying off to New York next week.

entrance to Discoveryland
entrance to Discoveryland

We were doing one of those amazing race races. I do not agree with children doing a learning project for hours before having time to play on their own. They pay their own fee in to the amusement park, 100 RMB (about $15 US) – which is cheap compared to the States and to have to do work for hours is nuts. This year we teachers each had a station with an exercise for the students to do – my event was to take a photo of a one-perspective and a two-perspective line up of the children. We all have an advise group and I have 10 middle school children in mine. So my advise group started off at my station which was an OK place as it was beneath a building providing some shade. After my event they draw a card to see where the next exercise is and go off to that. The important part is that they work together and stay together and do the exercise. Well after ten minutes two of my girls come back and want to rent a scooter to go around from event to event. Of course I said no as one of the rules is not to run to the next event or lost ten-points. We did not make a rule that children could not rent a scooter to go from event to event because who would allow such a thing? So the girls run off to the principal and ask and he says yes they can so they do. That was the end of my advise group’s cohesion and after a couple of hours the other children in my group came back and said they could not do the events because they could not find the girls roaring around on their scooter so I dismissed them and said go have fun.

Frank had it more difficult as his station was on a bridge with no shade and there he stood for hours in the hot sun.Discoveryland

Discoveryland

As it is Dragon Boat festival week holiday the place was crowded – not sure why we would go on a holiday and not a week earlier but such is life. Lines to rides were four hours long instead of the usual two. Only a few children went on a ride – for the most part they wandered around in the afternoon and the ones I saw did not seem that happy. I took lots of photos of our students as I do to put on the TV screen in the window of my computer lab and to have footage for my twice weekly in-house TV show that I do with my film class so I was entertained. My favourite part is their Discoveryland Parade. As tacky as any such thing would be this is especially strange as they have mostly non-Chinese in the parade. Most of the participants are youthful Russians. The Egyptian group consisted of very camp males in their twenties dressed in gold skirts and gold plastic to look like metal tops dancing as if they were the Village People doing WMCA. On top of the floats were youthful females with few clothes on wiggling about.

I got a lot of short clips that I can use as backgrounds as my film class has gone blue-screen crazy.

Last Saturday was Narda’s birthday – see the wonderful clip of this most timely of events at http://youtu.be/ik8Ms09Q-NY

Narda said she just wanted to gig for her birthday so here at Campus village cafe at Dalian American International School that is what she did

The best of living in Campus Village, assisted living, as we call it is that our little community tags along together. Last night we went out to the Discoveryland Hotel for beer and food – the people are great – the ones we work with – the beer was what it is in China but the food was crap. I struggled to find a vegetarian dish and that ended up being tofu with fish – so that concept got lost in the translation. For Narda’s birthday a dozen or so old people came to our flat for din din – we made up a good vegetarian lasagna and some other stuff. Everyone seemed happy – a few murmurs about ‘oh no no meat’ but that is the way it is in my kitchen. We went the three-floors down to Campus Café and Narda with the others were happy, sounding great and entertained us and the other twenty – thirty folks. It was by far her best birthday in the past 13 years since we left Australia. Being early June – the problem with Gemini – we have not been around her family in so long. But with our community and with a microphone and good musicianship her birthday came to life.

the Black Pebbles live at Campus Cafe at Dalian American International School
the Black Pebbles live at Campus Cafe at Dalian American International School
The Black Pebbles live at Campus Cafa Dalian American International School
The Black Pebbles live at Campus Cafa Dalian American International School