Thursday, April 30, 2015

iT'S STreeT arT THurSDay! in East Hollywood - Thursday, April 30, 2015

Dear Street Art Lovers, Friends, Family, and Gentle Readers,

It's been said that April is the cruelest month. I've never quite understood why, but as life goes on I've noticed that things seem to converge at this time of year, and when interactions increase, so do chances for misunderstanding, deceit, and conflict. You have to wonder if there was a wisdom of putting U.S. Tax Day in the middle of April. We'll have to dissect this at another point, but think about it.

Nuff jibba jabba! Here's Thursday's mural!

Artists: MSK, AWR, YSS, Sun and Moon Deities of the Lavanderia, paint on stucco.

These foreboding figures tower over you as you park your car in this lot and head into the corner lavanderia at Melrose and Edgemont to freshen your undies (oops, now there's a nuther set to  throw in ... heh, heh ...).

So we have a rather Egyptian-looking, male, sun deity on the left (with a sun mandala behind him, just in case you were too stoopid to fiture it out), and a blue-skinned, female moon deity right behind him.

If you've got a dirty mind (and what male doesn't now and then?), you look at her posture and the look on her face and you wonder where her left hand is.

Mr. Clueless Sun-God seems to working a keyboard, bedecked as he is with this yin-yang headlamp, totally ignoring the babe behind him (I guess he's had that flavor too long ...). Neverthless, three
sinuous green protrusions out of his back seem erect enough to at least bother with tickling her neck.

Also did you ever stop and think that we ALL have blue skin and look like this in dim moonlight? This is us at our sexiest. Think about it.

To the left of this "old-married" couple is some fine graffiti word art. These photos were taken in the bright winter midday sun so I had to bring up the saturation a bit to recapture some of the color.

This "production" mural has been up for years now, so it's a bit sun-baked and faded in person, but it's a lot of fun.My impression about it was that it was a sci-fi theme, but now that I've captured it here on the blog for the "Online Museum of East Hollywood Street Art" I see that I was wrong and it's pedigree is ancient, although Egyptian moon deities did not wear bikini tops. (I'll have you know that I know this from personal experience.)

And here is one of the artists' tag up to the right corner.

The little cartoon birds are all looking up admiringly from down below, again, just in case you couldn't figure out what was really important to look at in this mural.

Are any of you even bothering to read all of this text? "The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain." Nah, I didn't think so.

Hope you're all having a good week. I've had better. I had to sit in a jury box for six full work days listening to attorneys beat each other's team down, not allowed to move, and my back is now paying the price. I oughta sue... just kidding.

Here's the look of the whole thing.

Have a wonderful weekend.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Three Loves Seven, Chapter 23, Part 1 - "The Dreadful Narrative of the Boy Named Wool"

Dear Gentle Readers,

Today's portion tells you a little something about this island that the good professor finds himself on, but more particularly, what these Islanders think about themselves.

If you haven't noticed, this story is a collection stories written within it. It will not be explicitly stated, but you can figure it out for yourself that this little digression happens sometime in the late 18th century. If you start to overthink details that such a story does could not be from then, I would respond that family stories get redacted through retelling throughout the generations.

I won't say much more than that as it should speak for itself,

as the story continues ...

Personal Journal Entry

U.S. Time:             Monday, August 20, 2012
Island Time:        Dragon, Month 7, Day 4, Xingqi 1
Week 9, Day 2

After work was done this evening I spent some time with Eve and Eight doing some time trials on their swimming. I had set a buoy out in the harbor 400 meters away from my place on the landing. I had earlier taught them the competitive butterfly stroke and they were taking to it fast. Angel and Faye were also training with them as well, but Eve and Eight were the fastest in the water by far.
All four of them complained that I was forcing them to swim with clothes on thereby causing them to have extra drag. They all wanted to swim in true Olympic style—unclothed. I was told they would cover up when males were present, so obviously I did NOT count as a “real man” in their eyes. I don’t know if I was honored or insulted by that stance, but no matter. NCAA competition requires swimsuits, so I told them they needed to train clothed.

Just as I finished clocking a set with them I heard Na’s voice call out to me:

      “Yo mah niggah!”

It turns out that while I was in the slammer, after dinner Eve and Eight would take their mothers over to The Classroom, power up a laptop and they’d all watch hip hop videos on YouTube until the power went off. The Princesses Da Mei and Na had now apparently graduated from parroting the Irish working-class profanity from the videos they had memorized and now moved onto ghetto slang. Yay me for broadening their cultural horizons.

     “Wassup!” I threw back.

It was both Da Mei and Na who had come to collect the girls.

     “Dance practice?” I asked.
     Nailed it!” said Na. “Fist bumps!

I obliged, putting out my clenched hand, feeling silly all the time doing so.

     Head bump for me,” said Da Mei.

Again I obliged. I touched my forehead gently to hers. These girls when together always were about games.

     “’s’all fucked up. Gimme a goo’ one!

She grabbed my head and slammed it into hers. I’m telling you, I saw stars. My inner ear took a minute to recover, but recover I did as Mei gleefully held me up straight to keep me from falling. I resumed my “swim coach” role.

     “Out of the water girls. Times are improved.” I turned to Na and Mei, “I’m telling you ladies, these two are shoo-in’s for athletic swimming scholarships. These times are going to save a quarter of a million bucks.”
     “That again?” said Mei. “Clete, I appreciate your good will, but that simply is not going to happen. No way we got enough dead presidents to make that happen.
     “Little brown Pacific Island girls out-swimming tall white girls at their own sport? They are going to take college athletics by storm. Trust me. What do you think Na?”
     “I say nothing.”
     “I’m going to interpret that as tacit approval. Hey before you all head off for your rehearsal, I want to tell you that you should not use the term ‘niggah.’
     “Why?” said Na. “The performers we watch on your computer use it all the time.”
     “It’s a highly offensive word to people from Africa, used to demean and dehumanize them when …”
     “Clete!” Mei scolded. “Don’t patronize us.”
     “I’m just saying that certain people feel proprietary about  ...”
     “And it’s beautiful, that in your country they have turned it into a term of endearment,” said Na.
     “Yeah, I agree, but the use is limited …”
     “You need to hear a story, got a few minutes?” said Da Mei.
     “You’re the ones who’ve got somewhere else to be.”
     “Our grandfather on our fathers’ side told us this story that his grandfather told him,” said Mei. “Girls? Y’all lissenup too. I don’t think I’ve told it in years.”

The Dreadful Narrative of the Boy Named Wool

The name I had when I was small was Cut. I think I was told by one of my older sisters it was so because mother had died and my father had thought to cut me from her womb hoping to save my life.

As most men were, I was told Father was pleased to have a son. I was the youngest of five children but the only boy. But as I later learned, my being a son saddened him as well.

I grew as boys did in my village, learning to fish, to hunt, to build fires, to build houses, to fight. I think because of my name I liked to make things with wood and stone and metal. I always have and I still do.

One day my father took me with him on a trip to the large town in our area. I had never been there before. We lived in a very small village and so it seemed like this place was full of people. We went to a yard where there were many old men. They were actually much younger than I am now, but they seemed like ancients to me then. Nobody lived to the age I am now in my village.

The old men asked my father on what day I was born. He told them. The old men talked among themselves eventually nodding in agreement. Then my father spoke to me.

     “You will now go with the man on the far right. His name is Yellow Earth.”
     “Why Father?”
     “You will never see me again.”
     “But why?”
     “Your grandfather, my father, unjustly killed a boy from Yellow Earth’s clan some time ago. The boy was aged 12 years, 3 months, 17 days. The age that you will be …”

He did not tell me anything more other than to follow Yellow Earth’s instructions as if he were my father. He simply turned his back on me and walked away. In the law of my ancestors, and they are your ancestors too, a family was allowed retribution against a life taken, but only an equivalent life was deemed proper. My father’s generation had not produced an equivalent life. In my generation, I had become equivalent. I had an older cousin who had been expected to become worthy of payment before me, but he died from a disease a couple of years earlier.

A man standing next to Yellow Earth came up to me. He had strapped onto his belt a very long knife, a short knife, and a very long leather strap affixed to a braided handle, a whip. He examined me as if I were a goat for sale.

He told me to sit down, then to stand up, then to jump, then to push against his hands. I did all of these, but I did it slowly and I did it warily.

     “Son-of-My-Younger-Sister, you have four sons. Your younger brother has three. Your household already has two slave boys, very diligent and complacent ones at that. This one is slow to obey. Though he is young, I do not think this will change. I do not recommend taking him into your household. At your word I will dispatch him and the debt will be truly repaid.”

     “We have a day,” said Yellow Earth.
     “You have as many days as you please, Son-of-My-Younger-Sister. It is your choice.”
     “I suppose we must take him with us while we decide, Mother’s Brother. We could make him the animal boy. He need not even be with … ”
     “I do not recommend even that. To bring him into your household will create bias and contention.” He looked at my face very closely. “He has the promise of being very fair. I say no.”
     “Elder, does this town have a common house?” asked Yellow Earth.
     “He can be in the Stone House, sir,” answered the Elder.

I was put into a building the like I had never seen before. It was a house built two levels high made out of blocks of cut stone. I was put into a room where there were only the tiniest of windows and the door locked. There were several others in that room, mostly boys my age and a few years older. The only thing I thought to do was study how that marvelous building was made. The other boys made sounds as if they were sneering at me, but that was all. Nobody had been fed for some time so I think we were all rather weak and tired.

The next morning we were roused to awaken. The keeper put his key into the door, but it broke off in the lock.

     “If you give me a sturdy twig,” I said, “I will push out the broken part.”

I heard some mumbling, but instead of a twig I was passed some tweezers. I extracted the broken part of the key through to my end. Studying its shape I knew what it was to push within, so I angled the tweezers into the keyhole, pushed, and felt the lock release. I pushed the door ajar and pushed the tweezers back under the door. After a while, we were asked to assemble outside in the yard.

There were about six men there. Two I recognized from the day previous. The rest were men of very light skin, whom I later would learn were Englishmen. I had never seen their like before.

     “Who is the one who opened the door?” asked one of the Elders. I stepped forward and the other boys pointed at me.
     “Tha’s the one?” asked one of the Englishmen.
     “Yes. You spoke to the owner last night.”
     “Debt payment, you say. Not a war orphan? Nor a spoil of war?”
     “’e’s good with his hands.”
     “He will need watching then.”
     “I shall not be troubled. Escape will only mean being food for sharks. Brother? You take all the rest to Georgia. I think I could use this one on my way to the Indies. I think I’ll buy this one for myself.”

And on that day Cut died and Wool was born. He called me “Wool” because he said my hair made me like the animal whose hair is called wool. I worked on that captain’s ship for a year and I was never allowed to leave the boat. The captain died after about a year, I don’t even remember his name because no one used it. I just call him “Captain English.” I was sold with the boat to another captain, Captain Rush.

I learned to do every hard, dirty, and dangerous task on that sailing boat. And after learning all that, I did all the other chores that must be done. But my special gift was to make repairs of any kind. Even so, Captain Rush never trusted me. When we were in port, he always would have me chained in the hold. I started to have a great fear of fire because if the ship were to burn, I could not get away—and we had several fires. After one of the fires scared me so, so when we were out at sea for weeks, and I had full run of the ship, I began to fashion my own metal tools and hide them where I was usually chained, just so I could unlock myself when I needed to.

Captain Rush was cruel man. You would think they would beat me if I did a job poorly. It did not matter to Rush. He would beat me every at chance to show me that he was the boss. But then he also required me to sleep in his quarters with him in his bed, pressing himself up against me all night, as if I were his woman there to give him comfort. I think his body was cold at night when we were at sea especially. He especially preferred having me lie face down and he would lay on top of me. He was SO heavy. And he would rub his face in the hair on the back of my head. I thought I would suffocate some nights. I grew to find the smell of rum on his breath quite nauseating after a while. I found him disgusting even though I had to endure his closeness every night.

One time after a port stop he brought back on board two terrier puppies for me. He asked me to train them to find and kill rats. I came to love those little dogs. I thought it was the only kindness he ever showed me, but it was not so. They were as much locks on me as where the iron shackles. We harbored in a port city that I only remember having the name Watkins or something like that. The crew went into the city to drink and I was left on board as usual, but they forgot to chain me up in the hold. I left the ship and wandered into the port city to find a place to hide until they would eventually set sail. I knew that I could not rely on anyone local to hide me because I was darker than anyone there and would stand out among any group of people in that city.

My escape failed. When it was discovered I had jumped ship, the captain simply took the dogs to a part of the city where he assumed I would be hiding and let them loose. The damn dogs came right to me. I was taken back to the ship and punished near to death, but he did not kill me because he still wanted me working for him and keeping him warm at night. I hated dogs from that day on. I would not make that mistake ever again should the opportunity to flee come to me.

Years passed, but they were all the same as one another. I’d lost track of how old I was, perhaps 22 or 23? But a year came Captain Rush decided he could make more money raiding other ships whose captains had been just paid for delivering cargo than delivering and picking up cargo himself. He was especially adept at reading how ships sat in the water and had kept detailed journals on which ships tended to go to which ports. He used the experience he had gained from years of sailing to great advantage as a pirate. And he was ruthless. Because he was well-known among sailors, when he raided a ship, he slew all on board to avoid detection. So intent was he on collecting gold and silver that he even cut down two of his own friends who captained sailing vessels.

He told me one night that after he had completed that seasons’ raids, he would soon have enough to give up the sailing life and that he intended to settle down and become a plantation owner.

     “What will become of the ship?”
     “My darling, I will sell it just as I bought it myself.”
     “So then I am to go to a new master when you sell the ship?”
     “You need not fret about that. You will of course remain with me always. I will keep you in a nice big house all to myself. There is an island in the West Indies that would be the perfect place. I shall get you all kinds of nice clothing and things. How about a uniform? Isn’t that lovely?”
     “Will I continue to be chained then?”
     “Only when you’re not with me, of course. You are so valuable because of your skill and craft, and you are so fair. You have nothing to worry about because you are my nigger. I will take care of you.”

I became very weary in my heart after hearing that. I was to be with this man forever? I watched as that year went on how he executed one successful raid after another. He amassed a king’s ransom in his quarters. I knew it because I saw it and watch him play with his money constantly at night.

I tried to imagine what life would be like as his bitch on some island plantation. The one or two times when I saw such places when we were in port for repair, the workers there all had the same vacant look as me. I knew they were angry inside. And he kept me on a leash like a dog whenever we were on land. That had been his pattern, since I had run once. As he approached his goal of settling down I only became more and more cast down.

I remember a repair master offering to buy me once. He offered a LOT. He liked the things I did to keep the boat afloat with meager supplies. But Rush would have none of it. I had become more to him than just equipment.

One evening toward sunset, I went up to where the old pilot stood tending the wheel and watched with him a bit. He was an old salt and seen many people do many things.

     “You been in a bad sort lately, Cabin Bitch.” The others called me that because of where I bunked. It was that or Niggabitch, or just Bitch. I was smaller and slight of build from all of the crew. I still look like a large boy don’t I?
     “I am who I am,” I said.
     “That island to the south.”
     “What of it?”
     “It is a refuge island.”
     “From who?”
     “Anything. Anyone.”
     “How do you get there?”
     “That’s the story and that’s the thing. If you can get there you will do fine. But you have to get there.” There are many hidden seamounts waiting to sink even the finest sailors. And then there’s the great whites what guard it. The Island only lets on those who it wants.”
     “Sounds like a fairy tale.”
     “Being in a fairy tale might be better than being where we are.”
     “You ever been there? Does it truly exist?”
     “Yes. Many, many years ago.”
     “But you left?”
     “I was not able to be loyal enough at the time.”
     “And you need to speak Chinese though.”
     “Chinese? I speak some.”
     “Would you ever want to go back?”
     “Wouldn’t mind trying. What gods do you know to worship?”
     “I forgot all of them that my father taught me.”
     “Pray to the Island’s god the Great Ten then.”
     “Great Ten?”
     “He may hear you. If your will coincides with the Mage Witch of Power what serves the Great Ten it may go well for you. We been sailing a treacherous path all year. I keep thinking the next ship we encounter will have more skillful men than us. I don’t want to be here anymore, but what choice do I have now?”
     “We are the menace on the seas that we always feared.”
     “I always wondered what it like to be the crew that was so feared.”
     “It be many times over the fear and anxiety, don’t you think? For every encounter is now a deadly one. If yer game, come back in an hour or so and relieve me at the wheel. After it’s dark and it’s hard to see we’re off course. I’d like to rest a bit and prepare myself. The trick ’ud be get as close as possible, jump, and pray the sea wolves don’t find you between there and landfall.”

It was true that I had forgotten all of the gods of my ancestors. So I prayed with all my might to that local god, the Great Ten for my deliverance. Not that any such god would have any reason to favor me, but whether you know their names or not, the gods do give openings to amuse themselves.

But the Old Salt said that the Great Ten was a god of justice and that my plight was more unjust than his own, so an opening I might get could possibly include him as well. And so I prayed for that old pilot. And for the souls who would next be so unfortunate to meet Captain Rush in his campaign to riches. It seemed almost immediately that a storm churned up from nowhere. We were blown onto the rocks of a tremendous seamount and began to sink quickly. It all happened so fast.

I heard Captain Rush calling for me in the dark. “My little black boy! My little black nigger! Let us die together on these rocks! Let it be a glorious end together!” I saw him. He did not see me. He had his pistol in his hand and the terriers were at his heels. The deck tilted and then righted itself. The terriers smelled me and came running my way, breaking away from Rush. Before they could get out a signal, my knife came out and silenced them. One did get out a slight yelp. Because of that I think the Captain saw me, but it was too late. I would take my chances in the water and went over the side.

I swam as hard and as fast as I could. Hoping that I was going to the Island and not away from it. I felt sharks bumping me from below. When bumped me on the left, I worked furiously to escape to the right. When they bumped right, I went left. It was almost as if they were guiding me. I knew I would be fine when I heard a surf breaking in front of me. I pulled myself onto the beach and then collapsed.

I awoke with the dawn. My head was in the lap of a beautiful brown angel. It was the girl who would become my wife, your grandmother.

     “Am I dead?”
     “Oh good! You speak a language I know. You are not dead.”
     “Is this the refuge island?”
     “This is Dog Island.”
     “NO dogs! I hate dogs!”

She stroked my hair to calm me down.

     “There are no dogs here. They cannot live here.”
     “Why is it called Dog Island then?”
     “Nobody knows.”
     “My ship. It sank. Did anyone else survive?”
     “Ships always sink off this beach. No one ever survives.”

I thought of the old pilot. My heart sank in my chest for him. The Island didnuh want him from that life.

     “No one has survived, except you. So you are an answer to my prayer.”
     “Your prayer?”
     “I asked for my true mate to be brought to me. The one that I can be loyal to forever.”
     “You think that’s me?”
     “I cannot force you to be that man. But it is a start that you are so beautiful. It makes fidelity that much easier.”
     “I was about to say the same thing about you. You are so beautiful.”

I could see some of the ship’s sails had washed up on shore. I even saw the mending I had done on them.

     “I belonged to that boat. For many years.”
     “Was it exciting to always be at sea?”
     “It was a very hard life.”
     “It is hard here as well. Are you sad that your ship is no longer?”
     “I was a slave for that bastard. That ship was my prison.”
     “There are no slaves on this Island. And if he somehow survives, you are no longer his. You own your own life. That is our way here.”

A breeze came up.

     “I smell melon flowers!”
     “You have a good nose. They are very quiet plants that way. We have a patch.”
     “My sisters kept a patch.”

I started to bawl like a newborn baby.  She pulled me up and held me close to her.

     “Out there. It smells like nothing.”
     “But you are here now.”
     “Now I smell the animals! No dogs you say? May I stay here then?”
     “As long as you wish. Tell me your name handsome stranger.”
     “I do not like my name.”
     “May I give you one?”
     “What say you?”
     “I say ‘Bao.’ Because you are a treasure. A treasure given to me by the Great God.”

© Copyright 2015 by Vincent Way, all rights reserved.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Green Swans picture of the day - Friday, April 24, 2015

Dear Family, Friends, and Gentle Readers,

Still on jury duty today, but here's a picture from the "Not from East Hollywood" Wing of the Hell's Edge Street Art Museum.

Artist, unattributed, Green Swans in Flight, paint on cement, detail.

Here's a detail of a mural you've seen if you've every parked just east of the Staples Center. This sits on the building next to the Dourone mural I shared last week.

Here's the entire wall:

This such a lovely work. It's looks great nearly any time of day, even at night. Iam sure there must be signature someplace, but I didn't have time to look for it when I snapped this. I was hurrying on into L.A. Live for an event.  I want to let you know that the trees are NOT part of the painted surface.

This is all you're getting from me for Friday. Have a great weekend.


PS Here's the whole wall in context.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

iT'S STreeT arT THurSDay! - No morning picture ... Sorry! Thursday, April 23, 2015

Dear Street Art Lovers,

I keep wanting to get back to the wide variety of typographical graffiti art that's around East Holly, but other weird sh!t just keeps showing up that I gotta share.

Artist: GFS, SUBZ, AVA Artymart, Vlad vs. Barack, paint on brick.

When I think of street art in other countries, my mind goes to a lot of political commentary, especially Euro street art. Today's offering is in my mind in that tradition of political comment without having to buy a ticket to London or Berlin.

Here we have the presidents of the most powerful countries on Earth engaged in a fencing match, with a Dove of Peace intervening. I think it's an interesting statement that Barack is shown in the aggressor-offensive position, and Putin is set in defense.

If you tuned in Tuesday and Wednesday and found nothing here, I'm sorry. I was on jury duty (still am) so i was unable to snap any morning picture and without digital access for nearly those entire two days.

Also note that this appears on a wall in a neighborhood that is VERY ARMENIAN, people who are quite familiar with Russians and their leaders.

This painter is quite skillful and has captured the essence of the two men's faces pretty well. There was no doubt in my mind as to who these men were.

Here we have the detail of the dove which has been rendered quite nicely, showing detailing of each individual feather. I don't quite understand that the detail is at the point of contact of the two swords. There is a triangular detail, but I don't think it's the dove's feet.

The treatment of the white fencing uniforms is lovely. The shadows are rendered in many colors, rather like a Zurburan painting with a full-spectrum articulation of white, a start chiaroscuro black background, AND you get the impression of the actual texture of the uniform material too.

As to location, you can find this mural at the corner of Hollywood and Normandie.

You will not get pictures for Thursday, Friday, and possibly not M-W next week, so I think instead I will post out-of-area street art that I collected instead. Check in and look. There's a lot of focused concentration on jury duty once they start a case, so I got home really tired. This is the first time I've ever sat on a panel. They're fighting over a big chunk of money, so when it's all over I'll let you know if we gave or blocked some exorbitant sum that we California jurors are famous for awarding.

Gotta go but do check in. Have a wonderful rest of the week.


PS Here's the full wall in context.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Malibu morning picture of the day - Monday, April 20, 2015

Dear Family, Friends, and Gentle Readers,

Hope you had a nice weekend. This week welcomes us in on Monday with grey on grey.

For those of you familiar with Southern California weather patterns in the mornings, get set for about 65 days of this to come--let's see how long the streak lasts.

Here's the second look for more of the same. Nice frothy surf at Surfrider Beach there  as you can see. I saw several surfers out there this morning on the bus up to Malibu, so it must be pretty good swells out there.

It's time to pay the rent kids, so on to work, but let's see what this week has in store, hmmm?


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Three Loves Seven, Chapter 22, Part 13 - "He Finally Got to Finish That Sentence"

Dear Gentle Readers,

Chapter 22 winds up today with Faye's recollection of what Dr. Wong and her mother were saying to each other at the end of a very long day.

We circle back to references of avian biologist Laura Ehrenbock whom we heard from earlier in this chapter. Don't pay her too much mind. She may surface one more time in reference, but that's it. For those of you who wonder why parts get into stories (she may get written out), she's there to give a little window into how Clete used to be and that you see he does not treat his age peers on The Island (the First Princesses) any differently than he treats his professional peers.

To get a little into Qi's head here, in her middle age she has come to question her raison d'etre, not just for remaining on that island but for her very existence. She was raised in a culture of prophecy and expectation, a culture that told her she was something special and worthy to be sought out--and yet nobody has sought her out, her good looks are fading and she's about to become an old woman. So, she has retreated deeply into an extreme version of her culture's religion. She's been trying really hard to get into the belief where she can deny her self-existence.

And then Clete shows up. And he gets to be her private experiment on how one puts one's esoteric and ethical principles into practice against a real, live case. So, whether she knows it or not, she's pretty happy right now. Plus, it's nice to have a male slave dressed in a loincloth doing things for you, (it would be nice if he were younger) even though he seems so stupid that he can't follow directions.

ANYWAY, she's used up her time with him and we need to get him out of jail and on to the next scene.

So picture Clete and Qi bedecked in formal court garb (he looking like a master of the Tea Ceremony, and she in black gown and cloak with gold combs and ornaments in her braids, piled high and elegantly on her head), returning to Qi and Faye's home, the Hall of Justice as night has finally fallen ... as the story continues ...

At last, Mother took his hand and pulled him along on the short walk back to our house. I tried very hard to eavesdrop on their conversation.

     “Judge Qi,” said the Professor, “that was quite a well-balanced, reasoned, humane judgment you rendered back there.”
     “Thank you Dr. Wong.”
     “Quite frankly, I’m confused.”
     “I’m very harsh on foreigners if you’re comparing your own treatment to theirs. I still don’t know your motives. They are royals, they are family, and they are still children in my eyes while YOU are a stranger.”
     “By the way your testimony really said nothing. It was totally useless.”
     “As you said, they’re just a bunch of children yet. I count it all as the indiscretions of youth. Nothing more needs to be said about them. I am sure there are things you did at their age that you prefer your mother not hearing about.”
     “You spent a lot of time today with my cousin Ting Ting.”
     “We finally had an extended conversation.”
     “She is a very athletic person. I take that back. Extremely athletic. And cool under pressure.”
     “Is that all you have to say?”
     “For the time being, yes. You can ask Ting Ting about our time together. You two talk don’t you?”
     “My relationships are none of your affair. And you encountered the Sea Witch?”
     “We did.”
     “And she just gave you her late father’s vestments of high office that she happened to be carrying around?”
     “She was embarrassed for me that I was undressed. Which I appreciated. She said she would retrieve them later.”
     “So you’re saying she is more cultured and refined than I am.”
     “Jump to all the conclusions you want. You’re only revealing your own insecurities.”
     “Speaking of the Witch, I just realized you smell like herbs from The Grove. I think I am not the only one who had a bath today.”
     “Ting Ting’s route of escape took us through deep water in The Grove. You should ask her about it. Too much has happened to me today to remember all details. My mind is a blur.”
     “You’re lying.”
     “You’re a judge. So you’re probably right. Tell you what, after I’ve had some time to journal this, I’ll let you read it. But may I suggest that you need to buy a stronger set of prison doors. Your Gateless Gates are worth less than what you paid for them.”
     “And I would say being able to install Gateless Gates about one’s home is one of the costliest things one can attain this life, or in any number of past or future lives.”

Our bowls of mush were exactly where we left them. Wen did not come back with us. I suspect her mother was lecturing her on end at this very moment.

     “Untouched. Not even a fly drowning in the center,” said the Professor.
     “So, how do you like karma-free living?” asked Mother.
     “It definitely has its perks.”
     “Dr. Ehrenbock … whom you were talking to ... ?”
     “Which one? Biology or chemical engineering?”
     “The woman, Laura. You knew her from before you were teachers.”
     “That’s right. How did you know?”
     “It’s obvious.”
      “How so?”
      “It just is. You think of me as cruel don’t you?”
      “If you define cruelty as meting out disproportionate corporal punishment for minor offenses, and your seeming to take delight in my suffering, then yes.”
     “I have my reasons for what I do. I think you were very cruel to Dr. Ehrenbock. But I find myself wondering what your reasons are for your offenses against her.”
     “Are you talking about my sarcasm and verbal sparring? I’m like that with all of my friends. They know me and how I joke around.”
     “Do you have a picture of her?”
     “As a matter of fact I have something on this phone. This is Ron and her and me at a retirement reception for a colleague.”
     “Don’t tell me. That must be her, next to you? Hand on your shoulder?”
     “Yes. The photographer told us all to get close.”
     “Ron is on the other side of her?”
     “No. He’s on the other side of the group. Bowling shirt on.”
     “What kind of shirt?”
     “Green with wide tan stripes.”
     “My, he’s very tall. Why is he over there?”
     “I don’t know. The picture was impromptu. He was at the other table. It just sorted out that way.”
     “Different tables? So you were talking business?”
     “No. It was a social affair. What are you getting at?”
      “I am just asking questions. It is very interesting the way that couples distribute themselves at parties, don’t you think?”
     “I suppose. I know ‘power couples’ who strategically divide up a room and compare notes later.”
     “Ron does not look that type of man.”
     “Maybe so. How are you so socially savvy? So when was the last political event you had on Dog Island? There are no spouses for anyone to observe anything here.”
     “Even with these women, we have our intrigues. AND if a person is conscious of her past lives, as I am, some wisdom is never forgotten.”
     “The only past lives I think are understandable are those that authors write down in books.”
     “And that’s what I would expect of you Professor. Laura is younger than you. By how much?”
     “Eight years.”
     “Horse. How NOT surprising. Was she a student of yours?”
     “When we first met, I was a graduate assistant supervising her work and leading her undergrad study section. I wasn’t responsible for her grades. So no I can’t say I was her prof. But later on, during the breakup of the Cold War with Russia, we got better acquainted. They opened up a forest in a Central Asian soviet to a yearlong science delegation to study an area no Western scientist had ever set foot in. We were both in that delegation. She was working on her doctorate, but she could spare a year.”
     “You were there as a geologist?”
     “Yeah, but they wanted me as a two-fer. They also wanted some consultation on possible oil and gas deposits they thought were there. I had a pretty good history of calling wet holes. They were right to call me in. They’ve got tons of oil. If they could only get a reasonable government in power, they could be quite prosperous.”
     “So you spent a year together in this foreign land then?”
     “There were others. It wasn’t just us.”
     “Was it cold there?”
     “One of the harshest winters of my life. What is all of this?”
     “Humor me. This is very much fun for me. I am probing the depth of your cruelty. That’s all.”
     “I, am NOT a cruel person.”
     “She was very fond of you. Wasn’t she?”
     “I don’t know … maybe. If so, it was only one-way.”
     “So she met this other doctor Ron then?”
     “I actually introduced them.”
     “So you are the one who arranged their marriage?”
     “To put in your cultural terms, I suppose I made the initial match. They decided themselves whether to progress or not.”
     “You went out of your way to find a man with very similar temperament to you, that Ron. From what little I heard him speak he is quite like you.”
     “Qi. You’re reading a lot more into this than I think you should. Laura did not need to be wasting her time on me. I am fully aware that women have a limited time horizon if they want to raise a family. OK? Jeez.”
     “Do they have children?”
     “They had a son. He did not survive into adulthood.”
     “He died? An accident?”
     “He made it just past 13. I was his godfather. He had an autoimmune disorder. Jared was a smart kid. Ron and him and I would go fishing.”
     “That is tragic that he died so young?"
     "By some yardsticks yes. But Jared mastered and understood more higher mathematics most college-educated adults that I know. He could play the Bach cello etudes. And while he was with us he gave his parents great joy and stimulation."
     "Is it not sad to you that he did not reach adulthood?"
     "People leave this life at all ages. My brothers were not that much older than him."
     "May I see the picture you sent her? With the Soul Birds?”
     “Sure. There are two, frontal view and rear.”

Mother took a long look at both and sighed.

     “The gods of fate can be quite evil. She would have had such a different life if she had never met you. Do not call me cruel, Clete. You are more cruel than I am by far.”
     “How do you figure?”
     “What do 150 phone call messages to you say about her?”
     “She really, REALLY wants to study a Soul Bird?”
     “You sent her a picture of something she really loves but cannot have.”
     “Yeah, advancement in her profession—misguided by the prospect of Dodo bird look-alikes. I’m just trying to protect the privacy of you Islanders.”
     “I appreciate that Clete. Thank you. But it’s not the birds.”
     “That’s all she was talking about. What then?”
     “The man. You. Dressed in the undergarments of her ancestral tradition that she reveres. Seeing what you would look like if she were your spouse. I am not stupid. Just because I prefer not to wear clothes does not mean that I do NOT understand what it means to be unclothed to others. In fact, I am acutely aware of it. That picture of you meant a lot to her. And then she tells you she wants to be where you are, to rescue you if need be. She offers her body to you, I heard it, spoken from the bed she shares with her husband, who is present and listening, and you rebuff her and insult her. You said ‘You have nothing I want.’”
     “Hold on, that’s EXACTLY what you told me a couple of days ago. It’s a really good line! I’m gonna use that one.”
     “You will not. I FORBID IT. A man must NEVER say that to a woman.”
     “What kind of double standard is that?”
     “Are you so stupid that you don’t know men are different than women? Are you so unfiltered? That was so cruel. I don’t know her and my heart hurts for her. She even married the man you chose for her. That’s how much she regards you. At least that’s what I think. By the way, I don’t think she likes Ron all that much, but she has settled and made peace, … until you sent her those pictures.”
     “Do you think I should apologize?”
     “No. You cannot help how she feels. You are who you are and she should be reminded of that now. Let her view of you diminish. The more attention to pay to her the harder it will be on her.”
     “Why did you want to talk to her in Old Japanese?”
     “I was just curious about her. I didn’t want to make it easy though. The Sea Witch uses that language for spells and imprecations. It is highly mannered speech and it is good to speak it to the Sea Witch because it draws the lines between our ranks quite keenly. Your friend surprised me though.”
     “Fuck yeah! Me too! But why Old Japanese?”
     “The way she says certain words in English reminded me of the Sea Witch. I thought she might be a Japanese history scholar. Just a hunch. So why were you not interested in her? As a woman. She’s very pretty. AND very respectful and polite, I might add. Obviously highly educated. She’s a lot like Feng. I enjoyed our short conversation. I would enjoy talking to her some more. I think she would enjoy hearing the words we have come up with for modern things in that ancient language.”
     “You didn’t say much to each other.”
     “Much of what I am telling you I merely heard in the sound of her voice. Tell me, what was objectionable about her to you back when you spent that year together in the Soviet Union?”
     “Nothing at all. I could have … started to court her, except that someone else was in line before her.”
     “‘Someone in line’ … I don’t understand.”

I could not help except to butt in.

     “American idiom Mother, he told Auntie Feng all about it. He was probably still searching for his wife Rico then.”
     “Thank you for that Faye," said the Professor, "Couldn’t have said it better myself. Maybe I am cruel. However, you’ve known me long enough now that it should not surprise you that I am not good with the opposite sex, or even my own sex. Let’s wash dishes.”
     “In my house, we really don’t need to clean. I have just been making you work. All of my little helpers clean away any food left on a plate or bowl or pot.”
     “I’m impressed and disgusted at the same time.”
     “It's hard being a complex person like me. And tiring. I’m sure you’re tired too. Let’s just retire for the night and get into the hammock, shall we? You can tell me all about what really happened after we settle in.”
     “Aren’t you going to discharge me?”
     “I pronounced you free back in The Classroom. You’ve been free to go any time since. I just assumed when you came back home with me you were planning to stay another night. That IS why you bathed me, isn’t it? To make me acceptable to you?”
     “I thought you would enjoy a hot bath after a day of hard labor. Wouldn’t it be against your principles to consort with a criminal?”
     “On Dog Island, there is no shame in having been a criminal. There have been so many. I’m absolutely done with these clothes. Undress me. That is something men like to do correct?”
     “They like to undress women whom they have not seen undressed previously. Love of novelty. By the way, you wear this outfit quite well. It’s very impressive and good looking on you.”
     “I know how to use a dress to make a point. Let me start with you by removing your coat.
     “Leave it on. I’m not going to be spending the night.”
     “Clete! Stop giving a girl mixed messages. Why? You make such a good mattress, truthfully! I’ve never rested better than when you are beside me.”
     “You mean on top of me. Didn’t all that closeness make you hot? And claustrophobic? I thought we were like a box of puppies, all on top of each other. Your face was next to mine all night.”
     “You don’t know the meaning of hot. You are just a big baby. Besides it rained. Didn’t that keep you cool? Please stay. I haven’t slept through a night like that in over 10 years.”
     “I don’t think the Security Council will approve.”
     “I don’t care. I’m a dissenter. And we’re not under a roof. So no laws have been broken.”
     “How do I put this? If I stay another night, you will not be sleeping through it. OK? I prefer not to break my vows. If I’m with you, it’ll be … it will be … hard.”
     “A vow to whom? Your EX wife? Certainly NOT that Laura …”
     “I don’t have to explain myself to you.”
     “How is tonight different than the last three? And it’s a long walk back to the guest cottage.”
     “Tonight I have a choice. And tonight, to use your words, you are acceptable to me.”
     “Because I am clean?”
     “That and, dammit, you look and smell great.”
     “So a clothed woman is more attractive to you than a naked one?”
     “You’re a fuckin’ raincloud of pheromones or Viagra. I’m as deeply in rut as a 50-year-old man can get! All right? You want me to spell it out any more for you? Jesus!”
     “That’s not a very artful seduction, Clete, in fact it’s terrible. But I take your point. Fei dear?"
     "Mother? Did you say something?" I asked. "I haven't been listening."
     “Go get me my sewing kit please.”

I was of course lying about not listening. I hurried not wanting to miss a word, but they had gone on to some other topic by the time I came back.  I asked what they said to each other while I was gone, but Mother would not say. “Just grown-up things.” She had me cut off 10 centimeters of string. They were still deep in conversation.

     “… broke perimeter today.”
     “You can’t hold me responsible for that. It was not my doing.”
     “Your intent does not matter. It is an absolute liability.”
     “You are not cutting off my finger! I will NOT comply.”
     “You are lucky I am a merciful woman. The well-balanced, reasonable, and … what was that third word you used to describe me earlier?”
     “I like it. Magistrate Qi the Humane will only take a proxy. Hold up your right hand and extend the pinky. Fei dear, the string?”

I saw Dr. Wong cringe as he held out his hand and mother removed her knife. But she pierced her own pinky to let some blood with which she stained the string red. She tied it onto his pinky.

     “I realize you regard me as your adversary and tormentor. I don’t think that’s unfair. But I am starting understand you. You are interesting and can be useful. But hear this, as long as you remain on Dog Island, you will wear this string on your pinky to remind you of your crimes. Even though that finger is yet on your hand, it belongs to me. And when I want it, for whatever reason, you will bring it to me. Understood?”
     “If you don’t like jungle-girl-as-cannibal stereotypes about yourself, this kind of stunt does not help. Man, you are one sick, twisted sister. If you want me on call for you, why don’t you just ask me to be a friend? Like Na or Lum or Feng? If they ask me to do something, I’d do it because I like them. Why must you back up everything you do with threat of force?”
     “I like to feel … secure and in charge.”
     “I’ll get you a fuckin' walkie-talkie. Faye, whatever you do, do NOT grow up to be pretty like your mother. It will ONLY make you hopelessly neurotic--like ALL pretty women I know.”

Later that night when I told Wen about that conversation, she said:
     “I’m surprised he did not borrow her knife and cut off his own finger to end the obligation right there.”
     “Wen! That is so mean. You apologize for that right now.”
     “I’m sorry. But your mother can be … demanding?”
     “More than yours?”
     “Let’s call them even. Do you think the Professor understands what tying a red string to his pinky means?”
     “I don’t think so. And I’m surprised Mother went that far herself. She said to me, ‘He is so dense in things of common sense, so to get mad at him is like getting mad at a child. He is a curious mix of sacred and profane. Of stupidity and wisdom. If the chance happens to come about, direct him to The Rookery at any of the times that I do my regular visits.’”
     “The Rookery?" said Wen, "Nobody is allowed there, it’s so dangerous. Why doesn’t she just invite him there herself?”
     “She said she wanted him to have no preparatory thoughts. That that was the only way she could honestly assess him.”
     “So he walked all the way to his cottage?”
     “He didn’t have to. Auntie Lee showed up with the jeep just as he was leaving.”

© Copyright 2012 by Vincent Way, all rights reserved.