Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Encino morning picture of the day (Malibu too) - Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Dear Family, Friends, and Gentle Readers,

We'll get to Malibu in a second, but I had to stop by my Encino dentist to swap out a temporary tooth for a permanent one today, so I made a point to stop and get a picture of a place I hung out occasionally about 30 years ago when I used to work in the Valley.

In Encino (which means "oak" in Spanish), smack dab in the middle of a bunch of high-rise office buildings on Ventura Blvd. is this micro park, There's a pond, an adobe house, and a 2-storey limestone house as well. I worked in Sherman Oaks as a corporate trainer for a bank, and every now and then my then-wife would bring the babies by and we'd head over and eat lunch outside at this park. Seeing her and the boys sure made my day back then.

Tongva villagers
The Spanish explorer Portola came over into the Valley from the basin area, encountered a village here where there is a natural spring, and a pond with oaks growing about. He decided to name the Valley “El Valle de Santa Catalina de Bononia de Los Encinos” (The Valley of St. Catherine of Bononia of the Oaks). Of course, now we just call it "The Valley" and this little part of the valley, which was used as a headquarters by the Spanish (they had this habit of taking over nice places they found) until they set up the San Fernando Mission, and the name of the place got shortened to "Encino" today.
Mission San Fernando, they've painted since this photo..
Never mind that there were people here called the Tongva who lived here thousands of years and that called their village Siutcanga--I'm sure they all died of flu and measles later anyway, so it's all good. How we even know those names surprises me... but I digress (missionaries did have to file reports with superiors so that's probably it).

There is a stump of an live oak tree that fell over in a storm in 1998. What is notable about it was that it was over 1,000 years old. Some things do last in So Cal, but eventually everything has to come down. That's the takeaway lesson for me.

Image result for tongva park

Image result for tongva parkWe haven't forgotten the Tongva completely. There is a park in Santa Monica named after them. If you go to the S.M. Pier, you can't help but see the name and wonder "What the hell does that mean?" Now you know. Yay you!

And with that little bit of ocean horizon, it segues us right into your Malibu picture of the day!

Okay, wow then, not so blue today ... sorry ... but if this blog is about anything, it's about truth (as I see it). Have a wonderful Tuesday.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Malibu morning picture of the day - Monday, March 30, 2015

Dear Family, Friends, and Gentle Readers,

It's Monday in Malibu, and here is your picture:

Low cloud cover this morning, but I suspect it'll all burn off in a couple of hours--the predicted pattern for the week is sunny mid-70s. I'm expecting another 5-day set of blue-on-blues (sorry if you get bored...).

Here's today's second look. The cloud-shroud let the outline of the sun through this morning (the camera made the surrounding cloud look black by contrast, but don't believe it).

Hope you got a lot done this weekend. I did about eight tax returns (I love it when I can turn a balance due into a refund by finding a few extra deductions here and there, don't you? It makes life seem worthwhile.)

My Weekday Lord and Master has demanded a full load this week, so I cannot linger today. Always be wary when the boss springs for doughnuts. I'm sure you remember the old joke:

"So you're a galley slave and the rowing-boss comes in and announces; 'Good news! Double portions for breakfast this morning. Bad news, the captain wants to go water-skiing."

Have a great Monday. Keep the beat, row hard.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Three Loves Seven, Chapter 22, Part 10 - "Justice is served (dinner), but first she gets a bath"

Dear Gentle Readers,

We are almost done with this day that has had so much happen in it, but not quite. We will finish it off (in two maybe three parts) with a change in point of view. You could figure this out from context, but it's Fei/Faye's observation once she gets home from work with her mother. Clete has prepared a small surprise.

If your imagination seems to be telling you that Clete is taking a lot of liberty in fondling Princess Qi in inappropriate ways, I will neither deny nor confirm your imagination's suspicions. Do remember that although he's a longtime bachelor, he DID used to be married and a married men's hands remember how to do a lot of things without the prompting of the brain just because they are oft-repeated movements, and this sometimes gets them in trouble.

Fei/Faye, being quite virginal, may be misinterpreting things quite differently that what you would be seeing. Don't worry about Faye being a late blooming misfit. I predict that if and when she gets shipped off to college (it does not happen in this book), she will catch up to her peers pretty quickly.

In any case, the story continues ...

Personal Notes (collected by the Guardian of History from the Second Qilin Princess)
U.S. Time:           Friday, August 17, 2012
Island Time:        Dragon, Month 7, Day 1, Xingqi 5, New Moon

Mother and I returned home from North Island where we had spent much of the day stripping and sculpting the bark of our evergreens for resin harvest. Aunt Lian was tending to slow fires that we use to heat and slow cook the resin in the evaporators, from which we will extract turpentine. It is so tiring. I felt really bad for mother who seems to have much less stamina these days. She never likes to show weakness in front of her peers, so she just bore the pain that I knew she was feeling. As we made our way back home, she had to stop several times and push her spine against a tree trunk to give her some relief.

As we entered the south gate, Dr. Wong was waiting there for us. He had set up one of the large galvanized steel tubs that is used for making large amounts of mush for livestock feed as a bath. He put together some makeshift stands on which the tub was set. He had cleaned it out and filled it with water he had been keeping hot with slow-burning charcoal burners underneath.

     “Your Honor, you are late.”
     “What is this?”
     “It’s a bath. Just for you.”
     “I told you I don’t take baths …”
     “The water is pH 8.8. I’ve been testing it.”
     “I’m an engineer, petroleum. Which means I’m pretty good at chemistry. And you did give me a rough idea of your specs. Get in. You look tired. I’ll even wash you. You just need to lie there and take it. Faye you get second dip after we’re done.”
     “But this water … it’s from the drinking system isn’t it? … it’s going to …”
     “Qi? I know what I’m doing. Just shut up and test it with your goddamned forearm.”

Mother closed her eyes and cringed as she put her arm into the water. The stress on her face turned to delight as she found it felt good. All the while, Dr. Wong was removing her working clothes. When he saw her smile, without asking her he just picked her up like as if she weighed nothing, and gently set her in the water, placing a rolled cloth behind her neck so that she could lie back in comfort.

He started to massage her shoulders and neck, and mother just lay there quietly accepting it. No, I take that back. She was enjoying it. I felt like I was intruding. Like I was watching something I should not see. I don’t know why. It was so tender, and yet almost obscene.

     “How do you know to touch me like this?”
     “My Ex used to bathe and massage me after a hard day’s work at the school. I was reminded of that earlier.”
     “Ex-wife. First time she did it I was way uncomfortable with it. She was very old-fashioned that way. I think wives would wash their husbands in the culture she grew up in. Seemed too servile a thing to me for a person to do for another person, but she told me she was doing herself a favor--that she knew to her satisfaction exactly how clean I was and where.”
     “I’m not going say anything more about that. She said the main benefit was that it put me in a good mood.”
     “So you’re trying to put me in a good mood?”
     “Is it working?”
     “I’ll tell you when you’re done. So you think I’m dirty then?”
     “You reek of pine resin. I’m doing myself a favor.”
     “Speaking about doing yourself a real favor, you certainly have been spending disproportionate attention to handling my breasts.”
     “There’s a lot of dead skin on your nipples. Don’t you ever scrub? And I think you’re doing yourself a lot of flattery. Do you see me getting out the camera?”
     “Now your hands are moving much too confidently at my crotch.”
     “Lot of detritus accumulated there too. That oil you wash yourself with only accumulates grit and grime. You were way overdue for this.”
     “Oh! Back off there. That tickles! Gently, gently, gently.”
     “Back in America, we call this ‘working out at the Y.’”
     “Eh, I don’t think I will. But my Ex did say I was pretty good at pushing her ‘button.’”
     “You need to stop talking about this Ex person and concentrate on me. You know, Lum is good at massage too, but your fingers are so STRONG and your palms are so much larger. Next, you work on the backs of my knees, then the ankles, and lots of time on the soles of my feet.”
     “Yes Mistress.”

They looked like they were having so much fun. So I asked, “Is Professor Wong going to bathe me next?” They both responded, loudly, “NO.” How unfair. They just ignored me and went on.

     “The Soul Birds, the civets, the pangolin …”
     “All fed. Jook is on simmer for all of us as soon as we’re done here.”
     “How did you make the water nice for me?”
     “I packed a lot of mineral additives here. I haven’t had to use them since your drinking water is so good here. I just measured in a lot into today’s rainbarrel catch until I got a nice strong alkaline reading. I’ve never met anyone with such pronounced sensitivity. You ARE a fuckin’ goddamned princess. Don’t you ever lose a pea under your mattress. You’ll be sorry. Of course, I don’t know why I’m saying that to a girl who keeps lice on her head as pets.”
     “I hope you don’t think this will persuade me into shortening your sentence …”
     “According to my watch, I’ve paid my debt to society.”
     “What watch? You are mine until I’ve officially released you. Which now may be never. You can be useful it seems. It just took me a while to find out how.”
     “As soon as I’ve served the after-dinner mints, I’m outta here. I know my rights. You know, you got a LOT of bumps on your skin, especially in the pubic areas. Probably an immune deficiency. We gotta get you to a dermatologist. But I bet the culprit will be personal hygiene.”
     “Please. Don’t start.”
     “It STARTS with you putting on clothes young lady. Your healthiest, un-sunburned parts are where you’ve been covered with this dried-out opaque goop I’ve been washing off. What is it? Some kind of island-voodoo-witch-doctor sunscreen?”
     “It’s good right? Fei made this last batch up. We make it from tree bark. It protects the skin from the sun and cool off hot or burned skin. So, if you are not trying put me in a good mood, what is your motivation?”
     “I figure if I’ve got you isolated here and talking, you can’t come up with any more annoying ways to make my life miserable.”
     “Is that ALL that I am to you? An annoyance?”
     “It’s a beginning. We’ve only just started to get to know one another. These things take time. I know married couples who have developed to pure hatred and that took them decades.”
     “You have such warped viewpoints. You have learned nothing in your time with me. By the way, do not quit your teaching job. Your personal service manner is awful. You’ll never make it as a professional bath attendant, no matter how strong your hands are.”

They just kept going on like that, saying very obvious things to each other in the silliest of ways. I really did not understand that at all. Dr. Wong was always so straightforward, unfiltered, and rude. I think Mother finally learned not to take him seriously.

When it was time to sup, I had to drag Wen (at Dr. Wong’s insistence) to our dinner table to join us. She was acting very odd, almost embarrassed, not wanting to say word, avoiding eye contact with all of us, especially Dr. Wong. Mother noticed this behavior and called her out on it.

     “Wen! Why are you holding your tongue so?”
     “I’m sorry Auntie. I have nothing to say.”
     “It’s OK Gwen,” said Dr. Wong. “Just so you two know, she dropped by earlier today and we got into something of an argument, but it’s all the past now. Gwen, shall we just move on?”
     “R…REALLY Dr. Wong? Are you serious? I mean …”
     “It’s fine. I’m OK. Just don’t do it again.”
     “Thank you thank you thank you thank you …” She got up for the table, bowed and kept bouncing her forehead on the ground.
     “Wen!” Mother said. “Why are you carrying on like this? It’s very unseemly for a Princess to act like that to anyone but her betters. Your mother would be ashamed. I am ashamed for her.”
     “Wen, that must have been SOME argument! I’m glad that’s settled,” I said, wanting to move it on myself. “Dr. Wong, since this is your last day here, I have been dying to ask you this question.”
     “Do you think a dog has the Buddha nature?”
     “FEI!” scolded Mother. “This is neither time nor place.”
     “Why do you ask?” asked Dr. Wong.
     “I’m a student right? And a student asks questions.”
     “You know that I am a Christian right? Not a Buddhist?”
     “I think I might remember you saying something like that.”
     “Take some intellectual responsibility young lady! I don’t put up with pussy-footing bullshit from my students.”
     “I’m sorry. I do remember.”
     “That's more like it. Then you’ll probably be surprised to know that I know the story you are quoting. And you know my take on it?”
     “I guess you’ll tell me?”
     “Damn right. That writer was a teacher. And I know about being a teacher. The student who asked that question was a smart-asshole who thought he was going to hijack the logic when the teacher would answer “Yes,” because, while I am not a Buddhist, I do know that Lesson #1 for all Buddhists is that the Buddha nature is in everything,  the teacher knows the student knows the answer and is about go on and on about stuff like: ‘Does the Buddha sniff asses? Does the Buddha bite strangers? How about Buddha’s taking a piss and a shit whenever and wherever he happens to be? Or is the Buddha an ingratiating pushover to anyone who offers a bowl of food?’ But that teacher did not take that bait. He just shut him down and told him to define the concept of ‘negation,’ which is like your drill sergeant telling to drop down and give me 200 push-ups. How does any belief system encompass the concept of its own non-existence? That’s a pretty valid and provocative question. Let me ask you if that story provided an answer?”
     “I don’t think it did. The teacher just said ‘not.’”
     “What do you think that means?”
     “I don’t know. None of us could come up with anything.”
     “I think that teacher would not take that student’s argument bait. He just shut him down and told him to define the concept of ‘negation,’ which is like your drill sergeant telling to drop down and give me 200 push-ups. But at the same time, the teacher really asked, ‘How does any belief system encompass the concept of its own non-existence?’ That’s a pretty valid and provocative question. So the real answer is ‘Keep working on it.’ That’s the answer to all koans isn’t it? Run 200 mental laps until exhausted? Then do it again. It's not about solutions? The real point is inquiry?”
     “You sound disappointed.”
     “Nobody here has come up with a good answer. Yours actually makes some sense.”
     “It’s just my thought. I’ve often thought that some Buddhist mindsets are very compatible with scientific inquiry. That there is a one-ness that we are trying to define. But let’s save that for class.”
     “Don’t save it,” said Mother. “I would like to hear.” But the professor shook his head and only smiled at her.
     “You were you hoping I would insult your mother in her own house and you’d get to watch the fireworks between us, weren’t you.”
     “Ling says it’s the funniest thing when you infuriate and insult Auntie Lee and make her yell at you. I was kind of hoping … Mother does take her religion very seriously after all.”
     “That is terrible!” said Mother.
     “But he’s been offending you almost constantly since he’s been here hasn’t he?” I said.
     “That’s because I was a prisoner. Tonight I am a guest. So, sorry, no fireworks.”
     “But while we are on that topic and since I am here, Qi, I would like to discuss your daughter’s schoolwork and her progress and what she needs to work on.”

This was an unexpected and unwanted development in the conversation. I had done poorly and backslid on the last two preliminary tests and I did NOT want Mother to dwell on that. I had to think fast.

     “Oh, but Dr. Wong,” I said. “Since you’re not a prisoner anymore, why are you still dressed as a prisoner in that underwear?”
     “Your mother prefers it. And I don’t know where she hid my clothes.”
     “That reminds me. Since your are now a freeman, let me go get you something!”

I hurried away from the table to fetch his phone.

     “Your phone keeps vibrating and flashing. I’ve been keeping it plugged in and it’s been recharging, but I wonder if someone is trying to get ahold of you?”
     “One hundred and fifty messages! Holy shit! Ladies, do you mind if I call this … person?”

As the Professor would say, ‘Mission accomplished.’ His attention was diverted and I avoided a stern lecture from my Mother. All of those messages were from one woman, but it was not his secretary. I could tell it was a California phone number with a name readout—one PROF LAURA KIMURA. She seems a very insistent person. I decided to try to see if we could hear something even more interesting.

     “And would you put the call on speaker phone too please?” I asked.
     “Speaker? Why?”
     “I think it would be educational for Gwen and me to hear another native English speaker, don’t you?”
     “I suppose. It’s one of my colleagues at the university. It’s probably just campus politics she’s concerned about. She sits on a lot of committees. Some chair probably resigned and she probably has a tactical question. For faculty all that crap is about securing and protecting funding and turf. It’s all-out war in the ivory tower. I’m safe to talk to since I’m non-tenure track. I’m sure it will bore you to death.”
     “I really doubt that Dr. Wong.”

I saw Mother’s eyes open up at the word “she.” I knew that is how she would respond, AND that she would be listening as carefully as I was. This woman, Professor Kimura, who was leaving all these messages, was his equal—not that subordinate of his named Sally--she only left 20 messages.

© Copyright 2012 by Vincent Way, all rights reserved.

Malibu morning picture of the day - Friday, March 27, 2015

Dear Family, Friends, and Gentle Readers,

Friday is here. Today's picture looks pretty much like the last four days, Blue on Blue.

Supposed to be in the high 80s and low 90s today. Again, unseasonably warm. No second look at the horizon today--it's all the same.

In the parking lot of the Starbucks near my employer in Malibu, there is this tree that keeps getting lopped back year after year. It's only allowed to get just so tall and so spread-out. As a result it limbs are all rather chunky and thick. As a result of that it's a very sturdy platform and cranes like to perch in it. Here it is.

Today I counted about seven cranes in it. You can see a few.

Yesterday I said that if you are repeatedly cut back by the vision of others, you lose the integrity of who you are and how you might express yourself if left unchecked. This tree will now never look as its DNA intended, even if they just let it grow on its own from here on out.

On the other hand, other things (like cranes) will be attracted to its strength which has developed because of limitations imposed on it.

And if you park under the tree and a crane craps on your windshield, you have no choice but to clean it up. The splash circumference is pretty large.

Just played a concert with my employer's wind ensemble group last night. The director has favored pieces by a composer named Rossano Galante. They're very heroic and he always scores for no less than five trumpets, so they get pretty loud and brassy (3rd, 4th, and 5th trumpet parts are not given a break--we ALL have to go up above the staff at some point). His style is very cinematic, so you'll feel like you're at the end of movie when you give it a listen. Here's the publisher's version of it if you're curious.

The concert went well, but like many events at my employer, attendance is low because it's such a hassle for anyone to get to Malibu, especially at night. In the numbers game, the band won by a margin of 2 to 1 (so if WE liked how we played, it was a win--I think we did).

Hope you have a wonderful weekend in store.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

iT'S STreeT arT THurSDay! with Malibu morning picture of the day - March 26, 2015

Hello again Street Art fans.

At my band concert this last Sunday we played music from Jurassic Park so I'm thinking I have dinosaurs on the brain. This last Monday I gave a you all a fanciful dino pic you will recall (or check the link). Carrying on that theme, I decided to reach into the collection and share this:

Artist: unattributed, Primeval Collage, paint on stucco, left detail.

Central detail.
Located across the street from the Bruce Lee mural I shared with you on Chinese New Year, we have a very naturalistic (at least of certain tangible elements) treatment of both prehistoric reptiles and mammals. I have chosen to call it Primeval Collage for the purposes of this blog based on its subject matter.

It is impossible to get far away enough to capture the whole thing without a lot of obstruction (it faces into an alley) so I have to present this piecemeal.

Right detail.

There is a central figurehead of a sabre-toothed cat, of which many roamed ancient Los Angeles. Concentric circles of contrasting color emanate outward like a crystalline kaleidoscope. In the first outward circle of magenta and pink, skeletal humans stand poised with spear and torch, facing off against triceratops, T-Rex, and a crystallized woolly mammoth.

There are lots of little detailed "snapshots" of prehistoric life and landscape: a volcano, ancient ferns, and monocot plant life, giant insects, and even view of a natural bridge formation.

This work is just great fun to look at, and if you're heading up La Brea toward Santa Monica like I do much of the time to go to the Target or Best Buy there, it always catches your eye.

I have to say though that this is a pretty good contrast against practically everything I have shown you up until now.

Now THIS is a single vision.

I can very easily see this being something that would be on a wall inside a natural history museum--a work commissioned and vetted by a place with managers, a board of directors, a science review board, very involved donors, and where children and parents spend weekends. It looks like art that made it through a committee, if not several. Compare it to what I showed you on Monday.

Highly foreshortened, but pretty close to the whole thing.
Part of the aesthetic of street art is that they are for the most part products of a single artistic vision with a particular point of view. If a committee reviewed our mounted figure in sketch roughs, I can just hear the feedback: "Why does he have a cell phone? Why is he upset? That dinosaur looks more like a dragon to me. I think the dinosaur should be brown. I think the cowboy should be a female person of color. yada yada yada.

If this work was not reviewed by eyes other than the artist I would be surprised, OR that this is an artist who has worked with so MANY committees, he or she has been conditioned to operate within safe parameters of taste.

I do not say that as judgment against the artist, but a note to you creative people who have had your chops busted and cut back over and over and over. At some point your internal compass is set by others--I think it's inevitable. I call it conditioning your "creative muscle memory"so that now you think the way a committee thinks. It makes you probably quite trustworthy and sale-able, but it's a good thing to keep in mind, and guard against.

Advice to all: Do what you need to do to pay the rent, but guard your identity and your integrity and express it fully when you can give it free rein. Your soul will rejoice and your stomach can be happy too.


Have a wonderful Thursday,


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Malibu morning picture of the day - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Dear Family, Friends, and Gentle Readers,

The wind is up and strong not here at the bottom of the canyon, but over in the basin area. Funny how it works that way.

Today we have another clear, blue-on-blue day out in the 'Bu.

Lacking any words of wisdom (or folly or ineptitude) myself today, I would share with you a poem from William Blake--easily one of the weirdest guys to write poems in English.

Since William Blake was a guy, this short poem is written from the male point of view, but I think it can be easily transposed for all to enjoy or commiserate. It's a short statement of lament, putting you in the 1st person POV of noticing that someone ALWAYS seems to have it better than you do and gets what YOU want and are unable to  attain, with little or no effort.

"The Angel" by William Blake

I asked a thief to steal me a peach;
He turn'd up his eyes.
I ask'd a lithe lady to lie her down:
Holy and meek she cries.

As soon as I went an Angel came:
He wink'd at the thief
And smiled at the dame,
And without one word spoke
Had a peach from the tree,
And 'twixt earnest and joke
Enjoy'd the Lady.

Those damn angels...

A writing exercise: Go to the library and check out a novel by a writer you hate in a genre you hate (you don't own one, or DO you?). Critique and rewrite their opening chapter for them. This is a lot of fun actually. Caution; you might actually discover they're better than you thought of them.

Gotta work, see you tomorrow.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Malibu morning picture of the day - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dear Family, Friends, and Gentle Readers,

It's Tuesday, and here is your picture of the day:

Blue on blue, practically clear, there's a light haze over the water that you can see far out.

For the second look I'll zoom in on a section in the lower right and raise the horizon. It makes a difference in how you perceive the ocean.

Ah, the comfort of Melba toast when coming to the realization that where I am is where it is not, will never be and perhaps, never was.

Just in case you need the odd conversation starter today, 114 years ago (1901), opera singer Dame Nellie Melba revealed how she made toast: cutting the bread paper thin and then baking it in the oven until it was crisp and dry, hence the name for Melba Toast.

And just 95 years before that, Lewis and Clark said goodbye to the Pacific Ocean you see above and headed back home on this day. I wonder if it took longer going east than west, like it does today?

Got a busy day ahead with all work cut out. Hope you're the same.


source for toast: http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/08/30/my-week-where-i-am-is-where-it-is-not/

Monday, March 23, 2015

No Malibu morning picture of the day - Monday, March 23, 2015

Dear Family, Friends, and Gentle Readers,

Oops. I do not have my usual snapshot for you because I left my phone in my tux jacket last night (played a concert). Oh well, this is bound to happen. But here's a piece of street art for you to see instead.

Artist: Sebastien Walker, Dinosaur Cowboy, paint on stucco.

This one would probably not make it onto my Thursday showcase--it's not quite complete enough a work in itself; it has the feel of a component or a workout. But it's nevertheless well executed, fanciful, and definitely depicts a point of view. I definitely like the cast shadow on the wall--it gives the mounted figure and steed a sense of placement that pops them off the wall.

I liked this picture for today because he gets my emotion of being angry at myself for forgetting something important.

I have not seen this artist's work anywhere else around East Holly. He's evidently a person who put his real name (at least it sounds real) on his work.

Hope your Monday is starting off better than mine.


PS  If you're wondering where this mural is, it's in Hel-Mel; turn south on Edgemont off Melrose and there will be an alley on the west side. You will find this with some an accompany bit of graffiti-style decorated word art.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Three Loves Seven, Chapter 22, Part 9 - "The Witches' Path Leads to Answers that Are Not Answers"

Dear Gentle Readers,

Today Clete wraps up his first "conscious" visit with the Sea Witch (you will remember that she tended to his injuries when he tumbled off a cliff), and he finally has a chance to talk with her. However, if you think you are going to get a lot of exposition here, I must apologize in advance.

Crete's recollection collected here will end, but we will not leave this day yet. In this work, one chapter equals the events of one day. We're up to nine parts because a lot has happened in this day starting from when Clete got either rescued or kidnapped depending on your point of view.

We will have a change in the point of view when we take a look at how the day actually wraps up. Whose point of view? You'll just have to click in next week to find out.


And so, the story continues ...

We just sat for a time. I had a hard time making any sense of the ritual I’d just been put through. I hope I had not made any implicit promises I could not keep. The Sea Witch finally broke the silence.

     “What are you thinking?
     “I feel like I’ve been initiated into a street gang. So now are you going to tell me to go out and boost a Beamer as my first job?”
     “When you are ready to be serious, we can talk. You have questions?”
     “Actually, I have many.”
     “Since I must return you to The Empire, I only have time to answer three.”
     “What is binding you all to this Island?”

Her answer was automatic.

     There’s no more than that.”
     That’s it?”
     “Am I allowed a followup question?”
     “I will not count that as Question 2.”

Now she was acting like a witch in some Grimm’s fairy tale. I continued.

     “OK, tell me this Island’s biggest secret.”
     “It is the same answer as to your Question 1. Loyalty.”
     “Lady, this is not very helpful.”
     “What do you really want to know? Answer that to yourself and then you will know what to ask of me and the others.”
     “I AM asking what I want to know. Your friggin’ one-word answers are not doing it.”
     “Something that may help you. Learn everyone’s date of birth.”
     “Birthdays! Is this some sort of horoscope bullshit? What’s that going to tell me? When to get everyone a card or present? Anyway, these girls don’t tell me anything. I’m sick of being of a status that I’m not allowed to known anything. An Outsider.”
     “Be happy that you are not an Insider. Much would attach to you if you were. I am an Outsider too.”
     “So why is there Sea Witch? What is it that you do for this Island? Is it beyond your first responder duties?”
     “Is that your third question? Is that what you really want to know?”

Man, she nailed me. I had not thought this through. I tell my students all the time that for their theses that they need to come up with a specific question that needs to be answered. I could ask something like “Who is Qin Qin’s father?” But I suspect I’d only get a name which would be meaningless to me. In my defense, had I known I would have an audience with the Sea Witch who would be willing to talk, I would have come up with something.

     “No, it’s not. That can wait until I get here to The Outside, excuse me, The Center, when I will conduct my survey in your domain.”
     “Ah that. Do let me share something. When next we speak, I will not be the Sea Witch.”
     “You’re retiring then? Natsuki said she was your understudy.”
     “Just no.”
      “I suspect this is what it was like to go to the Delphic Oracle. You've given me nothing but open-ended vagueness. You are NOT any more informative than the princesses. At least they don’t pretend to give an answer.”
     I have not lied to you have I?”
     “Who knows if you've lied or not? Lying has nothing to do with it. Natsuki at least told me a couple of things. By the way, where is your daughter?”
     “She is at the Cleansing Hut.”
     “The Cleansing Hut?”
     “All the young women go there once a month for two to three days. It is common ground.
     “Oh. I heard some of the Seconds mention it. What do they do there?”
     “They are free to do anything they want. They are exempted from work on those days.”
     "I believe the original reason was to accommodate pain and discomfort, but now it is our practice."
     “Where is it?”
     “North Island. But you are not allowed there. Ever. Women only. Did you need to speak to Natsuki?”
     “No, I just thought I’d say hello if she was around. She was very polite and very thorough. I recommend her for a raise.”
      “You need to be getting back to the Hall of Justice.”
      “Can I save my third question for another time?”
     “Three questions were only a limitation of time. You may speak to me at any time. Ring the large the gong at the shrine and I will come to you.”
     “So you and the Cousins enemies or something like that?”
     “There is an ancient barrier between our people, but we also have an ancient alliance.”
     “But there are so few of you. Does this adversarial separation make sense?”
     “The boundary is important. My people were once segregated as the outcasts and criminals, but we became the spiritual leaders. The day is coming when I can fully share the story with you. Now I must return you. You may borrow that robe if you wish. I will retrieve it later.”

I’m glad she mentioned that. While I had become somewhat accustomed to walking around the last three days in what is basically a thong bikini bottom, it felt so good to have the modest cover-up. The Witch had discarded the nest and had bundled up the eggs in a quilted sort of cloth. There was just as much insulation against breakage and it took up less space as I tied them back into my groin area.  The Witch studied my uneasiness as I handled the eggs.

     “You fear Qi.”
     “She has a mean streak.  AND she’s cruel at times. AND she’s flighty, flaky, and unpredictable.”
     “You do not have to return to her.”
     “I am under her judgment, subject to the law.”
     “Not in The Grove nor in any part of The Center. We have no agreement on mutual right of extradition. You are welcome to stay here. There is more than enough for you to study here with the balance of your time.”
     “You’re offering sanctuary?”
     “That has always been the work of The Center, whether refuge from the outside world or from The Qing.”

The Sea Witch seemed quite hospitable to me. Her spaces were clean, logical, spare, and orderly. The “Outside” offered a range of terrain that would easily occupy my remaining time. The Witch was just as mysterious as the Princesses, but with just one mother-daughter pair to deal with, it would greatly simplify dealing with local politics. Plus, ambient temperature seemed at least 5-8 degrees cooler in The Grove than everywhere else I’d been.

And yet I had the nagging feeling that I needed to address unfinished business. But what business? Qin Qin had her glasses. Hadn’t that become my goal? My purpose for being here? My job was done. Wasn’t it?

On the other hand, I had no idea who or what the Sea Witch was either. There had to be a reason that even clever Feng and wise Mu gave her great deference. It’s possible she was even more cruel and irrational than Qi. Do the knives come out here after sundown? But if level-headed Natsuki was any indication, she could NOT have been raised that way by a sociopath. STILL … even with Qi’s stench, and filth, and sadism, and bugs, and all of it, her wildness seemed to call me back. It made no sense.

     “Sea Witch-sama, your offer of sanctuary is very generous. There is a lot of merit in spending the balance of my time in your domain. But I feel I have to go and finish paying this debt.”
     “Even an unjust debt?”
     “For some reason, I don’t want to disappoint Qi. She’s aggressive, but she seems almost fragile. Like if I make the wrong move she’s going to do something crazy. And she almost seems to be counting on me to do something.”
     “You are an astute judge. She is unstable. I don’t understand how you can feel charitable to anyone like that. Really I don’t, but very well. When you return to me, I promise that I will reveal an important truth. We must leave now if you wish to keep your absence a secret from her.”

She escorted me through The Grove and we crossed the border into The Empire as she had called it. She followed a highly circuitous path that led by every active residence, as well as to supply areas for food and water. Though highly indirect, it avoided sightlines in areas regularly frequented by the Cousins and their daughters. We encountered two of the Second Princesses along the way, Newton and Eight, but they acted as if they did not see us while we were on that path.

     “They act like they don’t see us.”
     “They don’t.”
     “How is that possible?”
     “This is the Witches’ Path. Only Sea Witches see it and know how to take it. It is the only path on which we are allowed unlimited access into the Empire. They know not to see us. They can sense us though. Nu looked particularly apprehensive did she not?”

I had read of similar cultural practices where populations choose not to see something that should be plainly visible. Cognitive scientists do say that we have much more visual input than we perceive, and that it is only our cultural training that channels and limits our brains to see what we need to see. We eventually wound up at the rear side of Qi’s home.

     “I return you to the care of Qi. I want you to know I disapprove of her wantonness, but you have been honorable. Likewise with Ting Ting. She has always been a shameless exhibitionist. Be wary of her too. Know that they are hungry for someone like you. I leave you now.”

She made her way back toward The Outside. I watched her until she turned a curve into some trees. And yes, I did make it back before Qi, but not before I fetched something I needed from the lab. My time spent in the Witch’s cultic practices had not gone without their effect on me.

© Copyright by Vincent Way, all rights reserved.