Friday, October 31, 2014

Griffith Park morning picture of the day - Halloween, Friday, October 31, 2014

Dear Family, Friends, and Gentle Readers,

I've been taking a couple of sick days, so I missed yesterday. But this morning I felt well enough to run up to the supermarket to provision myself for a juice fast. Thought I would just keep on going up Vermont Avenue to a high point and take a picture for you.

This is the skyline of Downtown L.A. as seen through the breaking fog and clouds. An appropriate mood for Halloween, don't you think?

And here is the second look.

A lot of drama this morning! You might not even think you're looking at 2 million people here.

This vantage point is at the Observatory deck. It's only four miles up the hill from the Albertson's grocery store that I go to. I'm feeling much better, just in case you were wondering. I've had a case of the flu that would just not let go.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Malibu morning picture of the day - Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Dear Family, Friends, and Gentle Readers,

Midweek has arrived and I arrived late to work once again, sorry to say. Here's what Malibu looked like about a half hour before it changed to midday...

Pretty monochromatic. Blue gradient to the horizon, with a sunlight sheen on the ocean.

A second look here. More blue.

Thursday and Friday pictures may or may not make it up--I may have to take time off. Don't worry, I'll be back.

Be nice to people, smile, and let that car pull in in front of you. You are bestowing the traveler's gift of safe passage and you're a better person because of it, whether guy in front of you appreciates your gift or not.

Signing off for now.


Simi Valley morning picture of the day - Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hello all,

This one is up a day late. We were all ordered up to the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley for an all-day retreat, and I did not have access to the Internet to post.

Waves on the pacific ocean do not give you contrasting shadows in morning light like this, do they? There are some things to like in Simi Valley, trust me.

Here's a second view.

Whatever your political persuasions may be, the Reagan Library is a very interesting place to visit. They have a full-scale re-creation of the Oval Office--furnished as President Reagan had it, of course. To get a physical sense of where the president goes to work is worth price of admission alone.

Next, they have the Air Force One jet that Reagan regularly flew in. You get to walk in the front door and out the back. They got it furnished as he had it when he was in office.

And lastly, if you lived through the 1980s, or if you want to get sense of the media space that was in people's head at that time, going through and and observing all the video exhibits really put you there.

Watching all the news reports of that period reminded me of feelings and thoughts that I had back in my early to mid-20s. It was eerie and gave me a feeling of walking through home territory where I had not trod in decades. I highly recommend a visit. If you are a Reagan-hater, as some of my friends are, you may take great delight in watching the video of the assassination attempt (and if you do, please don't tell me about it).

Now, on to Wednesday...


Monday, October 27, 2014

Malibu morning picture of the Day - Monday, October 27, 2014

Happy Monday you all!

Technically it's still morning, about 11 AM when snapped today's photo. The battery on the phone was dead when I arrived, hence the delay.

Clear and sunny. You'll have to trust me when I say that there were no clouds this morning either.

A look slightly to the right/west gives you nothing but blue. It's definitely a "paint chip" kind of day at the coast. Nothing wrong with that.

I would love to chat with you all, but gotta pay the rent. Enjoy the photos.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Three Loves Seven, Chapter 19, Part 2 - "So Are You Feeling Well Enough for Your Death Sentence Now?"

Dear Gentle Readers,

We continue on with Clete's journal entry. Just to recap, he is writing up his thoughts on a Tuesday evening looking back at what happened back on the previous Thursday. You will recall that he has become caught up in Dog Island's justice system for violating their airspace. As acting judicial officer, Qi had just dropped him off in the shark-infested waters off the Island to swim back to shore to test his fitness for trial. As he was treading water, he felt something large coming up beneath him. And so we pick it up there.

There are about 15 lines of conversation in today's passage that will sort of gesture in an obvious way toward the the stuff Asian American writers my age have tended to write--namely the difficulties of fitting in a mainstream culture that forever views you as a foreigner in your native land. I'm really not good at that type of "identity fiction," but to some extent the issues of being an outsider are something everyone faces. Certain ethnic groups bear the weight of being different more than others, to be sure. For you to understand him, Clete must have this conversation with someone, and it might not be Lee in the final draft, but right now, with what has happened so far, she's has the best ears to hear what's on his mind.


The story continues:

The fact that you are reading this journal entry means that I survived a trip back to the shore of Dog Island. How it happened I cannot tell you. The only thing I can say is that the next thing I remember was coming to consciousness on Soul’s Landing beach. I think I was turned on my side and I proceeded to wretch out all the water in my chest and the full contents of my stomach. I heaved in air and then I saw hazy black forms hovering above me. I remembered the procession of sea vultures that waited on that beach. I curled back up and covered my face.


Or something like that. It turned out the black forms were Eve and Eight in their new sunglasses. They did tell me later that the Soul Birds were indeed there, encircling me at a distance of maybe 10 meters. They said the birds were squawking like crazy, the sound probably triggering my hallucination. The Second Princesses knew nothing of the Marooning Ordeal I had been made to undergo. Na, for her part, had sent the girls to set up a combustible offering shrine, meant to implore safe passage for travelers. That was their only hint. I continue to NOT tell any of them anything of my dealings with their mothers--it doesn't seem proper.

Eve and Eight said that while they were there building an altar, the noise of the Soul Birds caught their attention, and that a group of huge gray-white sea creatures were tussling about, as if in combat, on one part of the beach.  At first they thought the creatures were dolphins, but they were much too large. As the girls approached, the fish-like creatures pushed themselves back into the sea. They had left behind a quivering purplish lump. And that lump was me.

Eve said they kept their distance because at first they looked like sharks to her—like Great Whites even—they are frequently seen chasing the local seals, leaping out of the water at times, sometimes capturing one for lunch. But she thought she must have been imagining things. Sharks are never helpful. Always hurtful. And how could that even be possible for sharks to come up onto a beach? 

But it was possible. A few years ago I was shore fishing with a friend and he was reeling in the bluefish pretty easily—probably a school forced into a bait ball protective formation by a group of sharks. But then the sharks and sea birds diving at them from above, forced them into the breaking surf, causing a lot of the bluefish to beach themselves, but the sharks just came out with them, nabbing them in their teeth and wiggling back into the water.

Some of the sharks misjudged their abilities out of water and wound up helplessly beached themselves, drowning, as it were, in the air, right alongside their prey.  My buddy just put down his pole and reel and just started picking up the bluefish off the beach and putting them into his catch bucket. Me? I've been caught in frenzies myself and I felt sorry for the beached sharks, all of whom were about the size of an adolescent child, so I just started picking them up in my arms one-by-one, and carried them back into chest-deep water. My buddy yelled at me to start grabbing fish, but my answer was, “How many of those things can you eat anyway?” His response was, “You ever hear of an invention called ‘the freezer?’” He was a cryogenics engineer so he had a point. In any case, Eve said that the idea sharks that big could come onto the on land was way too scary a thought for her to entertain. Her description was so vivid that I had nightmares of being crowded and pushed about by a shiver of Great Whites thereafter.

I was in some sort of shock, and apparently my behavior was erratic and it made the girls quite afraid. I alternately ranted and raved and trembled and curled into a fetal position. Lee was fetched who slapped me repeatedly, jabbing various pressure points hard with a blunt stick, and eventually putting me into a stupor so that I could be transported back to my bed in the guest cottage to see if I would come back to my senses. Lee said I fit very easily into a wheelbarrow.

The good news was that I eventually did come to my senses. The bad news was that I was now declared fit to stand trial for high crimes against the state and that I should report the Hall of Justice as soon as I could walk on my own.

It’s hard to believe that all of that happened before noon that day. I rose from my sleeping cubby and staggered into all-purpose living area of my cottage. Lee was there. She gave me a stare and a grunt and motioned for me to sit on the dining porch. She brought out bowl of her jook porridge with a dollop of her motor oil in the middle with some chopped greens garnishing the top. It was the tastiest meal I had on that entire trip. She watched me in silence as I gulped it down. I thanked her.

     “Are you my security detail escort, taking me to court?”
     “No. You get there by yourself. You know the way. You go now. I have things to do first, but I will come by later to see what is decided.”
     “Aren’t you afraid I’ll escape?”
     “Fool! Where would you go?”
     “Score for you.” She was right.
     “I want you know that was very rude of you to do such a thing that you did. You have stolen time from everyone. Time that we need to be working.”
     “Let me say that if everything had gone right, no one would have been the wiser.”
     “Have you no sense of right and wrong?”
     “I do. They’re just hard to determine at times. I’m more of ‘ends-justifies-means’ guy than an ‘dot-the-i’s guy.’”
     “What is that supposed to mean? And how would you have explained Ba and Yi having sunglasses all of a sudden? And diving masks?”
     “I’d think of something. Did you get your sunglassess? The mirrored aviators were supposed to be for you. It’ll make your natural deadpan face even more so.”
     “Be serious! You almost just died.”
     “It’s really irrational, right? I committed a capital offense right? I saved myself for a death sentence. Judging from the level of this country’s evolution in jurisprudence, they’re probably going to tell you, the official killer, to chop off my head, right? That’s why you are coming later?”
     “I have nothing to say to that.”
     “It’s true then. You’ll enjoy that won’t you?”
     “Sigh. I only wish that you could have been a different person.”
     “You and me both. Being here makes me imagine what it’s like to be a true American.”
     “You ARE American. What you talking about?”
     “You think so. I think so. But people who look like me, like us? We’re always suspected of being foreigners there. I get complimented on speaking good English. My family’s been in the U.S. since the goddamned gold rush! I’m over 50 and fuckin’ tired of it.”
     “But America is like this Island, no? Everybody come from someplace else? Everybody feel that way?”
     “No. Asian and Latinos feel that way. Blacks kind of in a different way. It’s hard to explain. Be glad you feel you’re at home here.  Maybe you DO have a better life than me.”
     “Mn. We do not think of this island as our home.”
     “Really? How long have your people been here?”
     “Almos’ 500 year now?”
     “That’s not long enough to feel at home? You’re even in charge here.”
     “We are only visitors. We take care of this Island while we are here. But it is place for us to wait. I think the Sea Witch and the people of The Outside maybe think of this as their home. We do not. We are sojourners.”
     “Wow. I guess Chinese abroad never feel at home anyplace.”
     "Had a coworker--Indonesian Chinese? When he was in high school, his family got their home and business burned down in riots in Java. Been there for generations? They have Indonesian names? Didn't help. He said everybody keeps track there. So they moved to America. Not the only story I've run into."
     "So you think of yourself as Chinese?"
     "Mostly because that's how I'm defined in the U.S. And you tend to believe it. And then you meet someone who's more Chinese than you are and it screws up your self-image."
     "Someone like me you mean?"
     You're a diaspora Chinese too, but I give you a higher "score" since you're Chinese literate and you at least speak the language. More than one dialect actually. People from China today whom I do business with, are very different from you and me."
     “You have a very odd way of looking at yourself."
     "I admit it. What about you?"
     "We think of ourselves here more as Manchus, but Chinese is not an incorrect word for us.”
     “What’s the difference? Natsuki chewed me out about this.”
     “Manchuria is our ancestral homeland in the area in the north, even north of Korea. We have a different language and culture. I think the traditional clothes and hairstyles that people think of as essentially Chinese are actually Manchurian. We always were more stylish than the Han. I think of Chinese more like a very broad word. More than 50 kinds of nationalities and ethnicities make up that country.”
     “But when the Manchurians took over from the Ming, why didn’t they rename the country ‘Man Guo’ or something like that instead of just adopting a new dynastic name? The Qing?’
     “I don’t know! Why would I know?”
     “You’re a goddamned princess for starters.”
     “Idiot! Next time I see the emperor I will ask!”
     “Touche. I guess I chalk it up to corporate good will. The only older brand name for countries is probably Egypt. Lee?  Do you think if we had met 500 years ago in the old country that we would have liked each other?”
     “Depends on the circumstance. What makes you ask something like that?”
     “Meh. Probably not. You’d be a princess and I’d be a guy who was pulling your rickshaw.”
     “There were no rickshaws in the Qing. That is recent invention.”
     “Really? But it’s so low-tech.”
     “No need for better inventions when you have slaves. Important people were carried about in litters, or palanquins. But you look like your people are the Yue ethnicity, from the south. You say they speak Cantonese--the language of the southern people. But I don’t think you would have been a mere porter or laborer.”
     “Why do you say that?”
     “If you were, you would have starved. You are too weak! Maybe you would have been a thief?  But even so, we would have never met. Royals were never allowed to speak to anyone, especially the women.”
     “Well, setting aside my legal problems here, I’m glad we finally met and can talk here in the 21st century.”
     “Why would you think so? You have yet to have a day that you are not suffering from the weather.”
     “By the way, Lee? Thanks for voting for my deportation.”
     “Qi told you that?”
     “It was an act of mercy. Makes me wonder if you’re starting to like me?”
     “Unfortunately I have gotten used to you. You need to go.”

And so I went. There have been three, no make that four, times that I have walked away from a job, firing my boss by telling them to go to hell, with absolutely no next step lined up. The uncertainty that faces you is daunting, but the feeling of freedom of movement, at least for two hours, is utterly sublime. And then you get hungry and wonder what the hell you’ve gone and done.

Walking to Qi’s house, I was a true man. I had virtually quit my job of being a research geologist without fear of consequences! Which seems really stupid when you're self-employed. But, I did something good with my worthless life, and now I would lay it down as a martyr for virtue. How's that for self-piety? The grave humiliation I suffered, proudly, being forced to row myself to my own drowning to be eaten by hagfish and bottom crawlers, was now over. But I was wrong.

Faye was seated at the entrance to the yard surrounding the cottage where she and her mother Qi resided. She was peeling a basket filled with some species of long, cylindrical tuber. I don’t know too many vegetables, but it was related to the thing we call daikon back in the States, I would say. I was glad to see she was wearing her protective eyewear out in the midday sun. She gave me a cheerful smile of greeting.

     “Hi Dr. Wong!”
     “You’re looking stylin’ in your new eyewear. It’s a good look for you.”
     “Thank you. And thank you for bringing them. Welcome to our home! Mama said you’d be coming by. That you'd be staying with us? You need to wait here while I get her.”
     “Faye. Do you know why I’m here?”
     “Not really. They just told us Seconds that it was some legal business related to your contact. You’re not in trouble or anything are you?”
     “No. Just a formality. This shouldn’t take long. ‘Chop chop,’ I’m sure.”
     “I’ll be right back! I want to show you all of my special pets while you’re here.”

The Qi-Fei House was also designated as the “Hall of Justice,” I was told. Their surrounding property was the only yard of all the houses that was fenced. But I could not see the point. There were four openings in the perimeter fence, and mechanisms for latching a gate, but there no gates. There were no indications that gates had ever been present to close the openings—no broken hinges or even nail or screw holes where hinges had once been.

The yard was landscaped and ordered symmetrically, almost like a Persian carpet executed in greenery. But then I guess such carpets were inspired by gardens, so which came first here? There were all kinds of docile animals and birds about, either just sitting in the shade, or moving slowly about. In the back I could see a big flock of those sea vultures that I’ve written about, the Soul Birds. Did Qi raise them? Their presence confirmed my suspicions as to what fate lay before me. Qi came out of the house and walked up to me.

     “You survived.”
     “Yes. Very.”
     “Sorry to disappoint you.”
     “I am neither disappointed nor pleased. I told you earlier that you have …”
     “Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re not buying anything I’m selling. Well, vice versa. So skip it Lady. Let’s just get on with it.”
     “You have a very contemptuous attitude. I do not like that.”
     “Do you blame me?”
     “If I were you, I would be very gratuitous and contrite.”
     “HAH! My big, hairy, hemorrhoid-riddled ass! You’re a goddamned sociopathic sadist. I’m calling you out! Betcha nobody here is willing to call it as they see it.”
     “Are you saying that everyone has integrity, courtesy, and respect except you? Because if you are, I agree.”
     “Are you including yourself as having integrity! HAH. Are you getting my shirt patched like you said? That was a lie wasn’t it?”
     “Prisoner Wong, you are SO petty. You need some adjustment before we proceed. Gravity. That’s it! You must become friends with gravity.”
     “Do your worst.”
     “Oh, I only do my best. The Guardian of Justice must always strive for the righteous and best course. For everyone involved.”
     “Can we get started? Or finished as the case may be? I’ve got a harp lesson lined up in an hour.”
     “Everything in this world has a proper pace. On your knees, right where you are. Now, forehead touching the ground. Hands on the ground by your ears. Let me fix your position just a bit. Excellent pose. You always want to imagine yourself forming a perfect pyramid. Now hold still while I secure you in place.”

She had brought along a lot of rope with which she proceeded to tie my hands and ankles and neck, holding me into a kow-tow position. This was how it was going to end, I thought. Hog-tied and humiliated. What can you do in such a situation but wait for the finishing stroke with grace and humor? What would Oscar Wilde say in this situation, I wondered. Nothing. Yes, nothing but nothing happened.

© Copyright 2012 by Vincent Way, all rights reserved.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Malibu morning picture of the day - Friday, October 24, 2014

A happy Friday to you all. Here is your picture:

There has been a pattern these last three days, blue sky with the accumulated band of orange smog inversion waiting off the coast waiting to be pumped back into the basin as the temperature rises.

As I take these pictures day after day, I keep thinking that a typical morning seashore sky (blue stripe, white stripe, orange stripe) should be some nation's flag, but it isn't. The only ones that come close are Haiti and Liechtenstein (pictured below respectively).

Flag of Liechtenstein.svg

If you think of blue sky above and blue sea below with reddish band, North Korea weighs in pretty close too.

Flag of North Korea.svg

I guess the hangup is orange. Several countries have orange in their flag so it's not like nobody likes it--but it is the complementary color to blue and together to two will always vibrate against one another, so maybe that's it?

And of course, my employer displays its colors of blue and orange on its flag. They make the sky orange and the waves blue and white. So, another dud here.

So folks, this territory is wide open ...

Imagine your own private nation here!

Me? I kinda tend toward libertarianism and anarchy, so I'm not likely to start a country anytime soon (although my fictional Dog Island comes close to what I would have in mind if I did start a country--that is, The Outside/The Center portion, and not The Empire portion--I could never abide all those Monarchist princesses running around... ).

Well, if you're going to get into the business of nation-building, you better get started. Maybe you'll do better than Uncle Sam? As for me, I'm getting ready to start the weekend. Have a good one.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Malibu morning picture of the day - Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dear family, friends, and gentle readers,

Thursday's picture is here. It looks pretty much like yesterday, except a few clouds seem to have been added in, don't you think?

This secondary picture makes the sky look like a pool of water with ripples emanating out from the right; so instead of the water reflecting the sky, today the sky mimics the water.

And I had to put in #3 today. I like this one because I thought the orange highlights dappled in the landscape and in the leaves above just made the whole thing pop and placed you in a specific location.

Another piece of the Barnsdall collection from Tuesday. The signature architectural piece on that park hilltop is Hollyhock House by Frank Lloyd Wright.

An FLW interior,
very Apollonian, eh?
When I think of FLW works, I think "Art Deco" but with  more class and less kitsch. I think these leaded-glass windows are the bomb. If you like organic shapes, you will not like FLW stuff. It's all about clean lines, balance and order. However, I think inspired landscaping around such structures are required. The arch and natural latticing that this tree branch presents in this elevation is just fab!

Hollyhocks, ick...
An Art Deco motif
Hollyhock House, strangely, does not have any hollyhocks planted around it. There were some in the backyard of the house that I grew up in and I find those plants to be quite creepy. They are taller than people, they have big ol' leaves that small animals hide behind. They're one of those plants that have "hairy arms," and when you approach them in very dim light, they look like alien Sci-Fi creatures with many eyes watching you. A perfect planting for a Halloween house.

An aside: Wright's stepson, Rupert Pole, was my 8th grade science teacher at King Jr. High, he also managed the projection crew guys. The man was tall, ruddy, chiseled, and  looked like a handsome movie-star cowboy and all the girls admired him. He was also "married" (that's the word the other teachers used, but they were live-ins) to the famous erotica writer Anais Nin and I remember girls in class giving him copies of Nin's books so that his wife would sign them. I did not realize my connection to such a famous family of "freethinkers" until many years later. And what were my 8th grade classmates doing with Anais Nin in their backpacks anyway? Mr. Pole was a very inspiring teacher, not just a pretty face. I'm pretty sure he gave me a B though--probably deserved a C.

That's all for today.


PS: It just occurred to me that if you are the lover of a writer of erotica, you REALLY have to live up to the name "Mr. Pole" don'tcha? Yuk yuk yuk!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Malibu morning picture of the day - Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dear family, friends, and gentle readers,

It is midweek and here is the picture of the day:

The sunlight was coming up redder than usual this morning. Clear skies at the coast.

I'm going to throw my Barnsdall Park pictures for the rest of the week, just because I like them and they're a little bit different. Hope you don't mind.

These are obviously self-portraits of young artists from a class in 2004--all young adults now if they made it this far. I hope they're still making art.

A legible day
This mural depicts the famous HOLLYWOOD sign. I grew up looking at it every day that I went outside. I think it's hilarious that it used to be an advertisement for a real estate developer selling subdivision lots up on Bronson. It's very much in the Pop Art sensibility that way. I've known a few people who live up in that part of town and they absolutely hate all the tourists who clog up the narrow streets trying to get to the sign.

A hurts-to-breathe day
When I was a kid, the relative legibility of the sign was a pretty good measure of how bad the smog was that day, depending on how hazy it looked from the schoolyard. We also had the "Take a Deep Breath" Test where at lunchtime outside, if you took a really deep breath and it hurt the back of your throat, we knew it was a smoggy day. If it hurt so bad that it made you cough, it was REALLY bad--and of course we were stupid kids who thought that was cool. How pathetic! LA's versions of kids making snow angels--test with your bodies to see how poisoned you were that day... Thank you "Greatest Generation" for taking such good care of us! But let me say that the air in LA is a LOT better today than it was in the 1960s and 1970s.

Keep breathing people, even if it hurts.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hollywood morning picture of the day - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Dear family, friends, and gentle readers,

Didn't make it into Malibu today. Had to take the car in for maintenance so I am working from home. On my walk home from the mechanic I cut up into East Hollywood's green space, Barnsdall Park. This is a look to the north, to the Griffith Park Observatory.

View to the west, toward central Hollywood and Beverly Hills
It's a tiny hilltop park where there is a gallery and small theatre for modest city events, but it is also the home of a Frank Lloyd Wright building, Hollyhock House. I've lived here nearly all my 56 years and it has NEVER been open to the public for viewings.

A security guard says that it is now completely refurbished inside, so I am guessing they are waiting to find money to pay staff to open it up. It's not much. There's barely enough room on the grass for 10 families to have picnics.

Part of a student art mural at Barnsdall
There is a classroom complex in which art classes are run for schoolchildren after school and on weekends. I remember going to at least a couple of classes there when I was small.

We can almost pretend this is Pasadena.

There is so much cement and asphalt in this part of town that this tiny "parklette" is some kind of respite. They have to have a lot trees to obscure vista views, otherwise I think you'd be ever looking at the ugly tops of roofs of all the pod malls and apartment buildings.

Hope you're enjoying your Tuesday.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Malibu morning picture of the day - Monday, October 20, 2014

Dear family, friends, and gentle readers,

Monday has come too soon for me, but here's what it looks like here on the coast:

It's overcast, cool, and grey out here today. You see a break in the clouds at top. I'm sure it'll be powder blue later on.

Nothing worth a second look today.

There's evidently pretty good gym equipment in Hell;
everybody is very buff, if not cut.
Artist: Gustave Dore
Hope you had a productive weekend. My community band played a concert and the second half comprised the four movements of a symphony for band based on the Divine Comedy. I was dining with someone afterward and we were talking about how successful the composer was in indicating various of Dante Alghieri's concepts in sonic form. It occurred to me that in every ensemble I've ever been part of, it has always been a surprise to me to hear the program notes, explanation, and/or analysis that conductors or emcees tell the audience to understand the music they're about to hear and I think it sure would have been nice to have heard that in rehearsal.

 Chamber music al fresco, somewhere in Northern Italy
When the zither player asked to breast feed,
everybody took 15. "Josie. Do you really need to undress
that much?"   Source

When instrumentalists get together in a group, the issues being settled in rehearsal are very technical: slow here, speed up gradually, loud here,everybody breath here ... that kind of thing. There's usually only enough rehearsal time to get all those things clear (or not) and then perform it. We really don't have discussion (or even lecture) on what the music is about and why the composer made the choices he or she did.

And interestingly, I think most instrumentalists would start checking their phones if a director DID start going on about that stuff at rehearsal. It's an occupational hazard when the piece of paper that's put in front of you is only your part and that's what you have to concentrate on. We are fragmented from the whole from the get go.

Guqin player, zither soul sister...
The ironic turn of playing music is that I think executing the craft turns you off from the enjoyment that inspired you pick up an instrument or to start singing to begin with. I see this distance increase tremendously the more schooled or the more professional a performer becomes. Those who are reading my story will recognize that I touch on this idea when Clete and Feng have a conversation about playing their respective instruments, she the guqin and he the guitar.

The type of music-making I find  most recaptures the joy of listening in addition to playing, is solo improvisation at a keyboard instrument, or playing something you know from memory; not rote memory, but emotional memory. This is where vocalists might have something over the instrumentalists. But I think it comes down to whether you are the one exercising artistic vision or are you just a tool of someone else? I suppose if there's anything an ensemble musician understands well, it's hierarchy (or you don't work).

As you take on the week, I hope you get to be your own solo act, but if you cannot, fully participate in every way, in what you do with your group to make a beautiful thing. Stop being a pro for a bit, and go back to being an ama-teur (a love-doer).


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Three Loves Seven, Chapter 19, Part 1 - "Due Process Dog Island Style"

Dear Gentle Readers,

As you expect in stories like this, no good deed goes unpunished, especially when you're dealing with a bunch of people who have serious boundary and trust issues. And so, it's time for Clete to pay up, at least partially, for being an asshole, no matter how well-intentioned.

I was at a writer's conference yesterday and one expert presenter was speaking on editing and talked about the problem of implausibility in one's story and how that makes it a barrier to being read and accepted for publication. She gave an example of an opening scene of a mystery where a boat explodes on a large lake and a couple with a two-year-old daughter, vacationing in a foreign country, is left hanging onto a piece of flotsam, and the husband tells the wife swim for help since she's the better swimmer. She does bring the cops but they can't find her husband and child and let her leave the country without questioning. Yup. There sure were a lot of holes there...

I sat there sort of tallying the implausibilities in this story and lost count and felt subsequently depressed, but then I remembered I'm writing anachronistic fantasy-historical-romantic satire where everything is absurd and immediately felt much better, even though it's a genre that has no readership. I like to think my characters' actions are authentic, if a bit ramped up, even though their circumstances are ridiculous.

I'm so glad you're reading this even if nobody else in the world ever does. Thank you.


Personal journal entry:
Entry date Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Dragon, Month 7, Day 4, Xingqi 2
Project date:  Week 9, Day 2

Sally, I know you’re reading this, so relax. I’ve been out of touch a few days because there’s been no research to report. I had to take a forced break from the work schedule. My phone has been out of reach as well. Sorry if I worried you. Thanks for all your help in getting me Qin Qin’s glasses. There is one happy little lady here.

By the way, I’m giving you a 0.5% share in Cardiff as your bonus. Tell Irv he needs to structure the transaction so it’s as close to being worth nothing on paper since I don’t want to make you take a bath on taxes. He has my initiating e-mail. I also suggested a no-interest loan to finance a larger share if you’re interested in taking on some risk. He’ll give you options, but enough of that biz right now.

I’ve learned a few things and I need to get my thoughts into context, so I’m catching up my journal.

Activity Report:

U.S. Time:       Thursday, August 16, 2012
Island Time:   Dragon, Month 6, Day 29, Xingqi 4
Project Time: Week 8, Day 5

American parents like mine, who have fluency in another language like Cantonese, and who, despite their best efforts and intentions to impart that same language to their children, have failed to motivate or inspire those children to converse in anything other than English (like me and my brothers), nevertheless have a distinct advantage over monolingual parents. They can talk about you, criticize you, and even decide your fate right in front of you, and you have no idea that you are the subject of the conversation.

I distinctly remember one conversation where I was sitting on the floor of the living room watching television while my father and his sister were chatting it up in their lively Guangdong-wah. After the show was done, my dad announced to me that I would be spending the summer at my aunt and uncle’s place in Modesto in the blazing hot Central Valley, painting their mom-and-pop grocery store and being generally available for whatever labor for long-term projects they needed.

It was definitely not what I wanted to be doing with my summer and I would have vociferously protested had I known, but the time for discussion was done. They knew it and I knew it, and that was that. Conversations where I had put a fuss in the past went like this:

     “I never agreed to do that!”
     “We were discussing it right in front of you. You should have spoken up.”
     “But you were talking in Chinese!”
     “Maybe you should have paid more attention in Chinese school, or tried harder to talk to your grandmother.”
     “Yeah, but…”
     “How do you think I feel paying all that money for that schooling and you come out with nothing?”
     “But, that school is nothing but …”
     “I don’t want to hear excuses for your failures. Do you think your mother enjoys that horrible clerk job she has where people verbally abuse her all the time. She does it to provide you boys extras. Extras that we think will make you better men?”
     “No sir…”

And it would go on. The shame was unbearable. But not enough to make me learn how to correctly intone a formal conversation with the hillbillies of Guangdong Province from which our people had sprung. We sounded like we were all yelling at each other compared to the all those posh, Putonghua-speaking Beijingers who sounded like northern aristocratic snobs with all those muffled “j” consonants and implied “r” sounds clotted in the middle of their mouths. I figure it’s like the Alabama farm boy who finds himself among Bostonian city slickers.

Anyway, servitude and obedience was the ongoing price I paid to my parents for my disinterest in the Chinese language. Judging from the arguments that my second-generation buddies had with their parents, I’m not sure things would have better had I actually LEARNED our “Hicksville” sub-dialect of Cantonese. In retrospect, it was a shame I did not learn Cantonese as it would have been useful in my later professional life. But then, my summer job pay would be $100 and uncle would teach me how to drive his stick-shift truck. Driving truck turned out to be a useful skill in later life. I also learned to rebuild a carburetor that summer.

That feeling of stupid helplessness is exactly what overcame me as I had been called into the Island Assembly Room to sit while deliberations were carried on in what I assumed was Court High Manchurian to determine what was to be done with me. At the worst I figured, I would get fined and maybe have my work suspended for a time. I had actually given them a benefit after all. Only eight of the Cousins were present, Feng being absent. They eventually went around and took a voice vote. It was impossible for me to even tell who was voting which way as it all sounded the same to me.

The Cousins all rose and left by way of the door so that none of them had to look me in the face. Lee did not even give me a backward glance with her “I hope you drop dead” glare. It made me feel a bit cheated and even abandoned. The one who remained in the room with was the Princess Qi, the Chilin Guardian of the West. I realized I had not ever spoken to her alone before. She had a smug almost gleeful look on her face. She is the most beautiful of all the Cousins, but she has some very strange quirks which I will get into later. She was nearly as symmetrically perfect as her teenage daughter Fei, but I would come to hate that gorgeous face. She also had a cutesy, baby-doll like voice which made her various moves against me seem all the move incongruous and off-putting.

     “Professor Wong. I will be acting as your chief justice officer and Dog Island contact right now. Please come with me.”
     “Where are we going? What happened there?”
     “I will let you know when the time is right. It’s best if we not talk just yet. But we are going to take a short boat ride. We are going to launch from the south beach. I will need your expert assistance in getting our long boat past the breaking waves, and of course your hands at the oars.”
     “Am I required to do some fishing then?”
     “Shhh. All in good time.”

Thankfully the winds were calm and it was a vigorous but not treacherous row out onto the deep waters. Just being there out on the sea was making my stomach turn flip-flops of anxiety. But what made me more anxious was there was no fishing gear of any sort in the boat. The Chilin Princess broke the silence.

     “Dr. Wong, please hold up your right hand toward the Island at arms length, palm facing you.”
     “Got it.”
     “Align the crease of your first digit with the shoreline of the Island.”
     “Got it.”
     “Is the height of the first digit of your right pinky about the same height as the mountain peak in The Outside?”
     “Just about, maybe even a little smaller.”
     “That will do then. You will want to empty your pockets and leave anything you do not want submerged in seawater here in the boat with me.”
     “Because I need you to step out of the boat.”
     “Into what? It’s just water around here.”
     “You will be going into the water.”
     “Like hell I will! I don’t like deep water!”
     “You will get used to it I’m sure.”
     “Is this my punishment? You’re going to leave me out here to drown?”
     “You’re only half right. Whether you drown or not is up to you.”
     “So was that my fuckin’ trial back there? I wasn’t even given a goddamned fuckin’ chance to talk.”
     “Clete, you need to calm down. You are going to need to conserve your strength. And you don’t want your nervous energy and the smell of your fear to attract the wrong kind of attention out here.”

I looked over the edge. I thought I saw some very large shadows moving about down there. I was starting to feel very ill. I almost didn’t hear her as she continued.

     “That was not your trial. By our law and custom, this is the ordeal you must go through first to determine if you are fit to stand trial. All you have to do is get back to shore.”
     “Swim back to shore? HOW FAR OUT ARE WE?”
     “I’m not good a measuring distance.”
     “What kind of fucked up law is this?”
     “Let me remind you that when you signed your research contract, there was a clause that said you made yourself subject to laws of our Island.”
     “Earth Dragon said nothing about this kind of thing!”
     “You need to read what you sign. They probably didn’t expect you to land hostile aircraft and breach our sovereignty. We take our boundaries extremely seriously Dr. Wong. I would have thought you’d figured that out about us. This is an ordeal that was instituted by our pirate forebears. They found it was quite effective in determining who was worthy of a hearing.”
     “Look can’t we come to some kind of agreement? Work out a deal?”
     “There is nothing you have that I want. The only thing I am interested in is the outcome of whether the Island will take you back or not. Get back to shore and you shall have your trial. I cannot interfere with what the sea may bring forth. My only advice is try to keep pace with my rowing. Your proximity to me may work in your favor.”
     “Aren’t you worried that if I die out here, the U.S. Government may retaliate?”
     “Not in the least. We’ve chased them off before. They will lose planes and boats and many men besides you if they act against us. But they know about us already.”
     “That vote you took. What was that about?”
     “The question before us was should we immediately deport you or should we subject you to trial process?”
     “Who voted which way?”
     “For deportation, Ting Ting, Lian, Mei, and Lee. For trial, me, Mu, Lum, and Na. An even split. A tie goes to my discretion and I voted for trial.”
     “Na voted to do this to me? What the fuck? Damn. It’s probably because I landed the drone on her sacred beach. Isn’t it? Uhhn. What happened to Feng?”
     “Normally she would be your judge. She recused herself. She said she cannot be objective in any issue where you are involved.”
     “Recusal? So she’s biased against me?”
     “YOU IDIOT! NO. She actually likes you.”
     “So she’s an ally? STOP then. I want to hire her as my advocate.”
     “There are no attorneys for this part of the process. Or any process. It’s too late for that. Now stop stalling for time.”
     “Do I at least get a flotation vest?”
     “No assistive devices.”
     “You and Lee need to harmonize your Island regulations, this is major inconsistency. She always insists on a life vest.”
     “I … DO … NOT … CARE. Now get out!”

Her hand flashed and swiped in front of me. I looked down and my shirt was sliced open. She was gripping a razor sharp karambit in her right hand. It looked like a tiger’s claw. It’s a knife that street thugs in Indochina use on each other. Qi was a serious bad-ass.

     “Goddamn you! This is one of my best bush cargo shirts. They’re expensive!”
     “It is a further crime to resist process. Get back to shore and I’ll have Lum repair it. I intentionally did not cut your undershirt just to prove that I’m good with this. You should worry more about your body than your shirt. You don’t want to go into these waters with an open wound. There are a lot of sharks here. Do not thrash. It attracts them.”
     “Yeah, yeah. I watch the National Geographic channel too.  And I’ll have you know some of my best friends are oceanographers and marine biologists. When I want your advice I’ll ask for it.”

I dumped everything out of my pockets and took off my glasses, tying them all up in my overshirt. Off came my pants, socks, and boots. Every ounce was going to count.

     “I’d take everything off if I were you. Less drag.”
     “I’m modest. And you can go to fucking hell, lady. You’ve convinced me that I’d rather take my chances with the sharks than stay another minute in this boat with a psychotic bitch like you.”

And with that, I tumbled over the side into the water. It seemed quite cold to me and it was a bit of a shock. I treaded water for a minute just to get used to the feeling of being in this particular amount of wave turbulence. If I could only relax enough to float, maybe, just maybe I could do it, taking it just one stroke at a time. But I was having a hard time not panicking. I felt a large presence coming up under me because I could feel water mass being quickly displaced. I thought I felt teeth around my right leg, and then I was dragged under and passed out.

© Copyright 2012 by Vincent Way, all rights reserved.