Archive for February, 2013

Somewhere over ancient China

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Somewhere over ancient China

Skyline
Skylights
Sky
so much of it
Sunsets
Darkness
sun rises
Islands ~ continents
Pools of wetness
People dreaming
Below
Next to me too
Different dreams than me
I dream of the future
that is the past
long ago past
prehistoric me
when decades I have known
I had not known yet
but you were with me
even during that phase of me
that you were still
far into the future
(future dreams)
How is that?
This is why I like
Dreaming in flight
Skies Stretch Silently So Sensually
Symmetrically
Clouds are sections of life
->-> I blow out the window
dissolving clouds
POOF
GONE
to land – maybe I won’t again
Skyline
Skylights
keep your distance
I am staying in the sky
where I belong.

flight between Melbourne and Dalian

“Sunset over Aboriginal Dreaming Northern Territory before white man came and killed those dreams and those who dreamt them then renamed it Australia” 2/14/2013
“Sunset over Aboriginal Dreaming Northern Territory before white man came and killed those dreams and those who dreamt them then renamed it Australia” 2/14/2013

Encounter @ Encounter Bay ~ Victor @ Victor Harbor

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

There were always evolutionary steps, there always will be. Whether it is the biggies in evolution when sea-stuff such as fish clambered out of the sea, breathed some air, got a leg up, developed then lost enough intelligence to become reflective-questioning humans millions of years later or this current crop of folks tossing about within the evolution of love, parenting, making a stab at understanding the moment; there will be change. Every moment is the big-bang – with the unforeseeable consequences of not only enfoldment of that moment but the resultant climax of it, or the big crunch.

Encounter and Victor, what descriptive terms of not only life in general but of a particular patch of my own life; 1984 – 1995 I lived down south in the Fleurieu Peninsula in Victor Harbor also known as Victor which is part of the Encounter Coast. I even helped start a community radio station in 1991 call E-FM – Encounter FM. Look up why it is called the Encounter Coast – I am not getting Internet reception where I am writing this now because the motel I am staying at outside of Melbourne has large hills surrounding it and there is not a phone tower nearby to pick up through my phone. So what I remember about the Encounter Coast is that some white folks encountered some aboriginals in the area then I suppose killed them all as white people do with any native culture they first encounter. Maybe there is no point looking it up, it would just be depressing.

This is an unusual week; I could not have choreographed such synchronicity no matter how much I wanted to or past experiences I wanted to integrate. It is pointless to see how tomorrow can be anything more than a composite of today meshed with yesterday and spiced with times before.

I look for a perfect moment like a chef does with dessert or a programmer is able to smoothly watch a binary code dissolve imperfection in order to release a sensual video clip or smoothly disrupt someone’s cherished production. Evolution is hacking at its finest. We will hack the genetic code, we will hack the false concepts of God and her sticky dolls: Jesus, Mohammad. Zarathustra, Janis Joplin, Krishna, Buddha, Microsoft, Honda, Paris and all the other cream poofs that have tricked so many into believing, killing, and drooling in their name. Everything is sensual; everything except religion, spirituality and other mind-numbing fantasies. Breathing is the sexiest thing we can do; breathe in, exhale – unification, growth, immersion, the vital humour of a passionate organismic evolution.

It wasn’t always so. After waking one morning as a single parent with children aged less than one year old and two and a half living in Mt. Compass I was not sure if I would continue to inhale the prana of the south of South Australia. I was too far away from home, which I had lost track of where exactly it was though four years earlier I had been living in Hawaii and before that in New York, Maryland, New Orleans (here I am in the south coast of South Australia and it is February 12, 2013, Mardi Gras Day but I am 40 years too far away from there to reach and touch it even with my mind), and there was California, Kansas, Wyoming, Florida and many states that I was in many states in before waking one morning with two children here in the south of the south.

We are here now. Last week we were in northern China and the afternoon we left it was -15C. It is in the 30s here – 30+ Centigrade not Fahrenheit like I use to think in. Nothing is like the way I use to think. That is the thing with ageing, our thinking changes; perhaps evolution is really a change in our thinking and when people don’t change then we don’t evolve; lessons aren’t learnt, innovations stagnate and business is unable to put us all into debt buying new electronic devices all the time.

Besides the point…

It is Chinese New Year week – something to do with a full lunar moon. Whatever it is we got here through a Chinese-Miracle – see the previous blog http://neuage.us/BLOGS/35-A-Chinese-miracle.html.

We: Narda + 3 sons (one here from Hanoi, another from Atlanta, Georgia , one from Adelaide), a granddaughter, couple of wives and me or seeing it as another format: seven adults and a bit are spending four days, three nights at a large house we rented in Pt. Elliot. 4 Stock Street and what a good place it is; four bedroom, three bathe with a large yard and view to the sea.

4 Stock Street, Pt. Elliot, South Australia
4 Stock Street, Pt. Elliot, South Australia

When we lived in the area: Pt. Elliot for six months, Middleton for a year, both houses along the coast and after that we; the boys and me, lived in Victor Harbor a block from the sea for several years and then in another area in Victor, our lot in life was not that good; nine homes in ten years and too many schools; 1985 – 1995. A couple of years at Mt. Compass Area School, a couple at Pt. Elliot Primary, a couple at Victor Harbor Primary and even awhile at Meadows because my tofu factory (http://tofu.neuage.us) was there, all before middles school. I may have been the stereotypical single parent, male-single-parent at that. I even moved my tofu factory four times in seven years. Maybe it is me that is so unsettled. Since I left my home in upstate New York in 1965 I have had more than fifty homes in multiple countries and states and provinces.

I look at where we are staying now and it is so far from when I lived here twenty years ago.

1988-middleton

There were a couple of years we did not have a car, which is difficult when living an hour from Adelaide. I walked a lot and would send my children on a bus to Adelaide the weekends that their mother would take them. I lost my tofu business in 1988 which was devastating after seven years of hard work but tofu was not a real goer in the 1980s. Now, in China, I buy a large block of firm tofu for about four-RMB which is like 70 cents. I use to sell the same size block of tofu for a buck back in the early 1980s. So I lost my tofu business and car and we lived pretty much in poverty along a beautiful coast.

Below, 1989 – the arrow points to our house on the seashore; Sacha and Leigh ages eight and six and Puppy walking to the main road to catch a bus to school at Pt. Elliot Primary.

1990Middleton_schoolbus

In 1990, realizing my life was shit; I started university through distance education at Deakin University in Melbourne. It is the only thing in my life that I became constant at; 15 years non-stop: BA in journalism, honours in children literature, Masters in literature then seven years doing my PhD at the University of South Australia, proving that even a drop-kick can re-invent their life at 44 and get their act together, together, according to Western evolutionary standards. Now I even have fifteen years of teaching accomplished including teaching at four universities in two countries and teaching in every grade K-12 in six schools in three countries. But when I lived in Pt. Elliot my life looked quite hopeless.

Leigh (http://neuage.org/leigh.htm) started baseball in Pt. Elliot in 1988, he was five and we had a baseball, a bat and a glove. My oldest, Sacha, was not quite so interested in baseball, he was seven and a half. We had moved to Victor Harbor by the time Leigh played his first organized baseball – tee-ball. Sacha played too. Leigh was seven or maybe eight. He started little league when he was about ten – we were still in Victor. By the time he got into serious baseball we moved closer to the city; Hackham then Christies Beach. He kept getting better. We had spent hours a day on his baseball since he was five. He started representing South Australia then Australia. He played in World Series, firstly at age 14 in the Under 14 World Series in the States, and under 16s in South Africa and under 18s in Canada and in the World Cup in Taiwan. He was in so many teams and was even South Australia junior sports person of the year when the, at the time, world’s number one tennis player, Lleyton Hewitt, was the senior sports person of the year. We did fund raisers and even went to the welfare group, The Smith Family, for funds to pay for trips. I studied and kept getting degrees, Sacha worked on his hip hop, and graffiti – with lots of court appearances at the Victor Harbor court to verify his emerging skills and life seemed it was going well. I had met Narda in 2001 and we got married and moved to New York where I started to teach at the State University of New York and Narda at the Albany Academy for Girls and I was completing my PhD. Sacha was in Melbourne actually making money doing spray art murals for the council and working in a youth centre running drop-in hip hop workshops for street kids. He is still doing that now in 2013; along with working with asylum seekers.

At age 17, in the year 2000, Leigh signed with the LA Dodgers, and went off to Dodgertown, in Vero Beach, Florida. In 2003 Narda and I were in Adelaide for a summer (winter in Australia). The last I knew about Leigh was that he was doing well; I had his rookie card, something amazing considering our difficult life in Pt. Elliot and in South Australia in general, he had played a year for the Georgia Waves in the minor leagues and there was talk from the Dodgers that he was going to get moved up.

Leigh-Advertiser_memorialI saw in the Adelaide Advertiser today that only six Australians had ever made it to the major leagues in baseball in the States. Ten years ago Leigh was on track to be another Australian in the majors.

August 16, 2003, I was in my office at the University of South Australia, well a temporary office that I used for July and August to put the finishing touches on my PhD thesis. We were due to leave for the States the next day in order to get ourselves back to work. Narda came in and put her arms around me and said “Leigh is dead”. Ten years later I still hear those words. He was having difficulty with his girlfriend who was in Sydney in the finals of one of those Australian pop idols things and Leigh left the Dodgers, flew to Sydney and went off his 15 story hotel balcony. I wrote this all extensively long ago in a book I wrote for my children; “Leaving Australia” and have no intentions of ever writing it all up again.

I am not sure why the mother’s name got into the newspaper as she had almost nothing to do with Leigh’s life and surely nothing to do with Leigh’s baseball except fight me in court every time he wanted to go overseas to play. I had to get a court order every single time he left Australia or even South Australia when he was 14 and 15.

00~news

I do not feel bad that where I am staying now I could never do with my children, I was just unable to provide luxury or extras for them. We had a really rough time in South Australia, but there were times of real happiness here in Pt. Elliot and in Victor. We even got to get out of Australia a couple of times though I had to get court orders to take them both times. My parents paid for us to come to New York in 1985; traveling with a two year old and a five year old is a challenge but we made it there and back and I have wonderful memories though my children would have been too young. In 1992 we did the trip again, they were 11 and nine and we had a hoot; stayed with a friend from my 1960s hippie days in Hawaii, visited my father in New York, met my blood sister who I had just found a few years earlier, visited friends in Los Angeles and Baltimore and stayed with my brother in New York City and hung out with him which was good as he died from AIDS a few months after our visit.

Sacha and Leigh at Jim Morrison’s grave Pere-Lachaise Cemetery Paris 1992
Driving around Queensland and Australia in our happy home on wheels

We went to London and Paris and travelled through Germany, went back to New York and on to Australia. Poverty is fine when someone else is footing the bills for traveling experiences. My father came to visit us at the age of 87; my adopted father who went on to live until 102, my mother died long before. Actually two mothers; the first died when she was 40 in the early 1970s but I never knew her and my adopted mother in 1990 or so – I forget the exact date. So many people around me die I forget when they do it. When my father came to visit we collected him at the Sydney Airport, rented a large camper van and my father two sons and me drove up to the Gold Coast, Brisbane, on over to Broken Hill and down to Victor Harbor – took us a couple of weeks. Overall it is still a great memory though at times the three of them pissed me off. They would all complain over something or the other; an 87 year old and a nine and eleven year old. I of course did all the driving, cooking and trying to keep everyone happy. My father paid the cash for the experience and that was good.

Sacha and Leigh at Jim Morrison’s grave Pere-Lachaise Cemetery Paris 1992
Sacha and Leigh at Jim Morrison’s grave Pere-Lachaise Cemetery Paris 1992

Today I saw two of my friends, and considering I have about five friends worldwide, to see two in one day is quite the odds. Sandy and his wife visited this morning. Sandy was a single parent in Victor too. We started a radio station; Encounter FM, in 1991 and that went well for a while until the local Christians took over and booted us out. And Don Cannon my photography friend took me to a photography meeting in Goowla which is down the road a bit from here.

I have lived in a lot of places since the Encounter Coast days twenty years ago. Driving between Pt. Elliot and Victor today I felt at home. I do not feel at home anywhere; New Orleans was a great re-visit last summer after having had such a good life there 40 years ago but it did not feel like home, neither has Adelaide, upstate New York where I grew up or even our living in New York City for five years before moving to China even though I lived there quite often in the 1960s and 1970s. I have two passports so I am not even a one country person but I did feel at home driving along the Encounter Coast. I could not live there again, too many memories, but for a few days I just chose the best of those memories and enjoyed my encounter and feeling like a victor over my Victor Harbor past.

Now, February 15, two days after being on the Encounter Coast living in the past I am with Sacha in Melbourne; holy cow he is 32; how did that happen? I drove around in his BMW sports car, what a yuppie. Where did I fail? But he is happy with his hip hop stuff, piecing (legally) and getting paid for it, working with asylum seekers, telling me about his next set of tattoos he is getting. I really do not like tattoos but I am not saying anything.

Evolution! Take me back when I was living along the Encounter Coast dreaming of a great future with my children. Tomorrow I am back to freezing northern China. I love the warm days here in Australia but in reality I cannot keep up with Sacha’s fast paced life style. I keep thinking about taking a nap and then we are off again. He said last night he and his girlfriend were going to bed early so we could leave early to go out to the country. At 12:30 – thirty minutes past midnight, three hours past my normal bed time they went off to bed saying we had to get up early which turned out to be ten am. Evolution? Not for me – I am going to regress and get caught up on sleep. Oh wait I can’t. Tomorrow we return to China and the next morning we are at work. Damn.

Below, Horseshow Bay at Pt. Elliot and below that The Bluff at Victor Harbor.

Horseshoe Bay, Middleton
Horseshoe Bay, Middleton

Victor Harbor.

Below, Leigh age 9 and Sacha age 11 at our E-FM (Encounter FM) radio station in a small caravan in

Leigh and Sacha on Encounter FM - a community radio station I helped start in Victor Harbor in 1971
Leigh and Sacha on Encounter FM – a community radio station I helped start in Victor Harbor in 1971

Victor Harbor, 1992.

the Bluff, Victor Harbor
the Bluff, Victor Harbor

The railroad station at Victor Harbor
The railroad station at Victor Harbor

Australia's first railroad station was in Pt. Elliot
Australia’s first railroad station was in Pt. Elliot

A Chinese miracle

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

A Chinese miracle

airport

Just to prove that miracles are not the sole (soul) domain of the Western religious-philosophers-‘we-are-the-chosen’ we discovered that even in China miracles do occur. I am defining miracle as that which is outside the ‘normal’ realm of our flitterings through life; those events that happen with some possible intervention beyond some dim bats occasional form of self-interpreted helpfulness. I grew up (really I did) with the notion that according to the Methodists anyway that China’s communist darkness would never allow in a sliver of light that would guide a couple of lost Westerns who were not lost until the Chinese directed them toward a path that could have led directly to disaster – disaster in the sense of experience deprivation of wanted experience, not a disaster of impending doom.

OK! The story.

We left Campus Village all excited about getting our sorry asses to Adelaide in time for Narda’s sons and one of their 30th birthday parties; one son flying in from Atlanta, Georgia, one from Hanoi and birthday boy at home in the Adelaide Hills with granddaughter in tow; and us popping in from China just for a party. We booked our flight six months in advance knowing that everything would be booked for Chinese New Years. We got to Dalian Airport three hours in advanced knowing how they have a tendency to stuff things up. We had gotten an email the night before saying our flight was on-time and wishing us a great journey or ever what they say, in Chinese. At the China Southern counter, ‘flight canceled’! After recovering from the shock of that news we were informed that another flight to Guangzhou was leaving in a few hours, which of course would be too late to hop onto our flight to Melbourne.

These are the same people, I am sure, at least it is the same airline, who lost our Piggly Wiggly umbrella – see the previous post http://neuage.me/2013/02/01/a-piggly-wiggly-story/ after it made the journey from Atlanta, Georgia to NYC to Melbourne > Adelaide > back to Melbourne to Guangzhou – then somewhere between Guangzhou and Dalian China Southern managed to lose it – the umbrella.

After finding someone with some English to understand that we could not miss our flight to Melbourne they said they could fly us to Shanghai then put us on another airline, China Eastern – which we hate, but we had to get to Melbourne by the next afternoon to continue our flight on to Adelaide to get to Narda’s son’s birthday party in the Adelaide Hills. We had even taken two days off from work without pay to do this. Plus Narda surely wanted to be at her granddaughter’s christening – which a fellow worker wondered how we got two days leave to attend a pagan festival – which is Sunday. We had to get to Australia.

We got ourselves OK to Shanghai and ran through the airport dragging too much crap as we do, getting into line – body blocking aggressive Chinese passengers trying to pass us in the queue and collapsed in front of the ticket counter as we tossed out suitcases of too much crap onto the weighing machine. ‘Flight full – no seats, take your bags off’. Holy guacamole – did they really say that? We told them about China Southern saying we could switch airlines – we had our vouchers but they said to go and wait at the standby counter. Narda was fighting back tears, I was trying to keep us from annihilation, and the crowding people around us all looked like enemy foo fighters – whatever that is.

At the standby counter they said the flight was overbooked and already full. Narda said we had to get on the flight to get to Adelaide for her son’s wedding. Me, never being good as a spy or secretive person said whose wedding, which of course upset Narda all the more because I am a bit of an idiot in these situations.

They said we would be moved to the top two if any seats were opened which would only happen if there were two no-shows, the chances we none to slim. We looked at the options which would be to try and get to Guangzhou the next day and hope we could get onto the next night’s flight which too was booked full and we would miss Narda’s party which was the whole idea of this trip we had planned for months.

At 7:30 the flight was closed and at 7:32 we got the call to the desk with a simple ‘passports’ and that was it. We quickly got our suitcase onto the conveyor belt and got our boarding pass plus a sticker to put on our clothes that indicated that we were to rush through lines like customs and passport control and all those other things the Chinese like to check us out with. These things always tax me – running through airports with camera bag, computer bag, things falling out of my pocket – it is easier for Narda – she is organized with stuff in one bag, and she is seven and a half years younger than me and I get out of breath trying to keep up with her but of course what man could keep up with such a vibrant chick on a very focused mission of seeing her sons within 24 hours? Puffing and panting, waving off potential heart-attacks, leg cramps, a very real stomach ache, and head ache I followed her through the VIP lines and somehow we got to the gate panting and puffing to find the flight was delayed by an hour.

We use to fly through Shanghai on China Eastern as part of round-the-world fares with Star Alliance and every time, this would be at least four if not five times, the flight from Shanghai to Melbourne was hours late. Now our concern was the flight Melbourne to Adelaide which Narda said left Melbourne at 11:30 AM and we were due to arrive at 11 AM the next day. Thirty minutes to get through baggage, customs and get our boarding pass at Qantas domestic which is a long hike from the international terminal

Bottom line was that we were on a plane finally though 20 rows apart but at least on the same plane. I told the first hostess that I saw about our changed flights and that I had to have vegetarian. Two reasons for that is that one I am a vegetarian two even Narda orders vegetarian because the meat meals on Asian airlines are shockingly horrible and taste worse – so I am informed. I was told there were no vegetarian meals but she would check first class and lucky there was. I asked to trade my economy seat for a first class meal to a first class seat but her English was not good enough to understand my request, or else she thought I was not funny, or possibly just stupid, nevertheless, I did get a good meal for din din and again for brekky.

We got to Melbourne at 11ish and the impossible task of getting the next flight loomed. We discovered the best thing about being the last onto the plane meant our luggage was the first down the chute at the end of the trip. ‘The last shall be first’ of my Methodist upbringing was actually realistic. Now I wish I had listened to more of their fairy stories. Whilst waiting for the baggage we changed over some 26,000 RMB that we had stored away and got about $3700 Australian for it, a bad deal by hundreds but we were not fretting now. It was good to have some real currency again. The passport line was long as several flights arrived in Melbourne at the same time. For the first time ever we tried using the kiosk for checking in with our passports because we had the new ones with electronic chips in them and it worked saving us another long line. At baggage inspection the line was incredibly long and Narda pleaded with some official type and we got sent through a very short line and no one checked our bags which is very unusual coming into Australia we had saved about 45 minutes so far but we only had 15 minutes to get to the gate so again we ran through the airport panting and puffing and collapsing at the counter pleading to get onto the plane leaving at 11:30, it was now 11:15. The counter person said there was no 11:30 flight that in fact our flight left at 12:10 so for the first time since leaving Campus Village 24 non-sleeping hours earlier we actually had enough time to walk to the gate and sit and wait.

So that is our miracle.

Arriving in Adelaide Narda’s three sons, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter were all waiting… of course Maggie burst in to tears – probably not of joy – of seeing us. Ooops

_DSC0539

But she made good a few moments later for a good family photo

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And we got to Stu’s birthday party, worse for wear, and even stayed until about 11 PM last night. Now, the next day, Saturday, we are booking my flight to Melbourne next Thursday for me to see my son, Sacha and his partner, Georgia, for a couple of days before going back next Saturday to arrive Sunday night in time to be at work Monday morning. And tomorrow Narda and sons are all excited about baby Maggie’s christening.

A fun week we will have next week. We have rented a sea side place for Narda’s three sons and a couple of wives, granddaughter and us for four days; Pt. Elliot, which is where I use to live with my two sons back in the 1980s when I was a single parent wondering what would become of my life. And now I know thirty years later, married, living in China with one son left to share it with and my new great family.

In general I must say life is good.

A Piggly Wiggly story

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

A Piggly Wiggly story

I do not recall having heard of the Piggly Wiggly chain of stores before last summer. Not sure why that is as I lived in the States for about 42 of my 65 years on this planet and I surely have wandered through the south where they have 600 stores in 17 states. And it is not because they just started popping up around the place. In fact their website says they have been “bringing home the bacon for millions of American families since 1916”. Perhaps it is because my vegetarian life has created a subliminal blind spot for sellers who are such whole-hearted braggers, sporting the bringing home the bacon rhetoric – though it could just as easily have been my birth in the year of the pig that placed them over with other things I have avoided as much as possible in life: restrictive humans, haircuts, Pisces and most water-signed-people (having only Jupiter in Scorpio I did have some strange fixed fascinations in my youth with aspects of that sign – I use to find women with Venus and Mars in Scorpio a bit of a fascinating matrix to get involved in, as long as there was an escape clause – having five planets in Leo I am not afraid of the Scorpion sting but of the threat of water to put out my fire, I still avoid water sign people because of that; how they put the damper on us fire people is appalling… I am drifting here), and the clinging to material possessions such as umbrellas which this blog is actually about.

I horde stuff; a shed full in South Australia, a house full of stuff here in Northern China, stuff in an attic in our upstate New York house, and the shed next door to it, and our furniture in our house in Jersey City but that is not really an indicator of clinging to material possessions. It is really art artifacts that someday I hope to assemble in various arrays of sculpture and do gallery shows. That was a dream of mine during the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s and then I got married (again) and the idea of gallery shows was replaced by stored artifacts around the world that no doubt will end in the rubbish tip before I get to collect them all into one non-disposable spot.

On with the umbrella story…

Last summer we were driving around the south. We left Atlanta with Narda’s son’s car headed to my old stomping grounds of New Orleans. I had wanted to take Narda there for the whole decade we were living in New York but we ended up making little trips to Europe, Asia and the yearly hops over to Australia, leaving no time or money to explore the States. Somewhere in the south: Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas or maybe we were in Alabama or Louisiana but somewhere down there we were in a small town lost on a country road and there was this big Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Narda saw it as quite funny, the born-in-the-year-of-the-pig part of my over active reptilian brain was offended but with no other shops in site and the last temperature reading we saw being 102 Fahrenheit ( Celsius = 38.88) the thought of something from a fridge was becoming overpowering. But getting a cold drink was not enough. At the checkout were umbrellas with the Piggly Wiggly emblem on them so of course I had to have one.

The umbrella got buried for a couple of weeks in the boot of the car as we drove around and we wondered how we would get it back to China. And not just back to China, but to Australia too as we were going there for a few weeks first. Narda wanted to bring back a curtain rod too because she could not find one in Dalian that was long enough to span two large windows in our lounge so she could hang some over-priced hand-sewed laced curtains we had bought in Belgium – yes Belgium lace, a few years ago. She found the curtain rod she wanted in one of those southern states and she taped it together with the umbrella that somehow magically would find its way back to Campus Village here in Northern China via Australia – and of course flying out of Atlanta, NYC, and all the stops between like Melbourne and Adelaide and Guangzhou in China.

First hiccup…. We were driving on a four-lane freeway heading north. Narda was driving and I was playing with my new Nikon camera when there was a big bump and Narda said ‘he hit me’ and at about 70 miles an hour we were going across a couple of lanes of freeway sideways and fortunately for this story to be told there were concrete blocks dividing us from traffic going the other way and we smashed into them sideways. Another few feet and we would have rolled. Of course Narda being Narda managed to restart the car to chase this huge truck that had hit us thinking he would get away. The back end of the car was dragging and we had flat tires. I was as much in shock from Narda restarting the engine and us going forward as I was from spinning across a few lanes of freeway. The truck did stop which was good because so did our car. Narda said afterwards she was waiting for the pain to hit her when we started spinning and I was waiting to hear the crashing of glass. I had been in three major car crashes before and that memory stays. There was no crashing of glass, the air bags did not open, and we did not get hurt but the car was totaled. We stood alongside the road in 104 degree heat – that is the absolute truth – the truck driver rang for the police – he took full responsibility, saying he did not see us when he switched lanes. Narda often says people don’t see her because people don’t see women past 50, but this was a whole bloody car he didn’t see. As we stood alongside the concrete barriers traffic passed by with almost no space between cars at high speeds. It was quite amazing no one hit us as we crossed lanes; there was just this few seconds let up in traffic when we decided to go for a bit of a spin.

Here is a photo of Narda under our Piggly Wiggly umbrella with a state trooper.

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I wish I had had presence of mind to tell Narda to turn the umbrella so as to show the Piggly Wiggly figures but who thinks of these things at a moment like this?

We told Narda’s son we put a bit of a ding in his car – impossible to repair – was the verdict, rented a bright red car so we could be seen and I drove about ten hours straight back to Atlanta. Narda was still in shock, I did not want to stop for a day and besides we had about two days left before our flight to Australia. The truck company was really good and bought the car at a really good price and took care of our rental and on we went.

There was not any problem with the airlines; they just put the umbrella/curtain rod in with checked luggage. In Melbourne we took a domestic flight to Adelaide and again no problem.

Here I am in Adelaide with my Piggly Wiggly umbrella in Rundle Mall with my favourite sculptures – pigs of course.

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DSC_0601

So we tape up the umbrella with the curtain rod to hold our Belgium laced curtains and checked them into the flight to Melbourne. In Melbourne I visit my son, Sacha, for a couple of days, and Narda and I check our umbrella with the curtain rod into baggage. There was our name in large letters as well as our Chinese address and phone number. No problems everyone is happy. We fly out at 10 pm as is normal and arrive in Guanzhou about 8 am the next morning, switch to the domestic to Dalian. Our baggage has been check through from Melbourne to Dalian so life is good.

We get to Dalian Airport late in the evening and wait for baggage. The suitcases come along just fine. Jack, our driver, is waiting for us as usual which is so great after a long flight. We wait and wait but no umbrella and curtain rod. Narda finds someone with a handful and a half of English. We show our baggage claim for our parcel. They ring Melbourne and sure enough it left there and it was even traced to Guanzhou but then it stopped. They said to ring the next day. We did. Day after day for a couple of weeks until finally they said they would give us money. I think we got about $50 US maybe less but it did not come close to paying for the umbrella. It only costs seven dollars or so in real terms at the Piggly Wiggly store but what we had gone through no money could have paid for it.

So that is my Piggly Wiggly story. If I ever get back to one of their stores I may get another one but it won’t be the same. It looks as if we will be in Atlanta in six months, so perhaps I will get another one and this time take it as carry-on luggage.

I am not sure if I fully understand the differences between hording, cherished possessions with attachments, and material things that are filling spaces of ours around the world. What looks like junk to others, i.e. my wife, has special meaning to me. And I am sure if the Piggly Wiggly umbrella had survived the trip and not been lost once it hit China we would use it on rainy days and remember standing in the very hot sun alongside a freeway after an accident that surely we should have come to grief in but didn’t.