Friday, July 31, 2015

Malibu morning picture of the day - Friday, July 31, 2015

Dear Family, Friends, and Gentle Readers,

TGIF people. Here's your photo of the day!

























And here's the second look--pretty much the same as Tues-Wednesday eh? We can't seem to get rid of morning June Glume. Oh well, July ends today and let's see what the Dog Days of August bring us...











And as mentioned the day before yesterday, some additional detail of our Spanish Dancer from Wednesday.


 Here's the whole thing. This was taken near daybreak, so the bright dawn sun is washing out the to bottom right corner.

Here are details of the roses to the right. They've been freshly watered as you can see. This artist was showing off this skill.

Artist Goode is quite skilled at trompe l'oeil marble too. Normally you might have to sit inside an Italian restaurant and order a plate of spaghetti to enjoy this kind of wall art, but here you get to have her while you're pumping gas.








Now lets' get a look at the corner ornaments on the left and the lavender rose.

I think the security door going into the side of the building (it's a taco stand as I recall) almost looks to me like part of the fretted neck of a guitar.

























And here I leave you with a context shot.


Smile when you see her as you cruise down Beverly toward The Grove would you? Maybe she'll smile back.

Love,
Pops


Thursday, July 30, 2015

iT'S STreeT arT THurSDay! with Malibu morning picture - Thursday, July 30, 2015

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

We have got a purple lady on the wall for you all today...

Artists: Detin8, Evex, and #Reddot86, Smooth Operator, paint on brick.



















see yesterday
Once again, we are still at the "Kingsley Wing" off of Hollywood Blvd. near Sapp Coffee House in Thai Town. A woman surrounded by music--this is such a "cool" looking jam with the purple and black against the aqua background. The artist also knows proper musical notation too. More often than not, visual artists who make indications of musical notation marks will get a few of them wrong (like backwards). This woman looks like one tough broad to me. In fact, she could be the punky little sister of the woman I posted here yesterday...

Here we have a couple of the makers' marks that I captured. Also I mentioned in an earlier post that this is a paint-over on something I showed before. This covered up the "Grinch" that I posted some weeks earlier.

Just for the record, here's our now-departed Grinch guardian for a last look before we say goodbye forever...





AND NOW BACK TO OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED SEASCAPE!

Goodbye grey clouds and fog. Hello blue and cotton-ball clouds today.



And the second look over land with a shower of sunbeams on South Bay.



 Hope this gets you off to a good start this Thursday. Drop by tomorrow when I'll show you the rest of the Spanish Dancer.

Love,
Pops

Smooth Operator context shot




Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Spanish dancer picture of the day (w/Malibu seascape) - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Dear Family, Friends, and Gentle Readers,

It's a "June Glume" in Malibu with no horizon, so I'm staring you off with this detail of mural on Beverly Blvd. that you see from a gas station, just to give you some color.

Artist: Henry Goode, Spanish Dancer, detail (2013), paint on stucco 





























She falls into my "Out of Bounds Wing" criteria of street art outside of my East Hollywood focus, but you get to see her today. I'll throw up other details and the whole thing on Friday.

Here's today's seascape from Malibu:

























Didn't I tell you it was a June Glume revisited? It WAS nice and cool this morning.

Have a wonderful Wednesday.

Love,
Pops

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Malibu morning picture of the day - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Dear Family, Friends, and Gentle Readers,

Tuesday morning, for you.























Cloudy on the coast, hot, humid, but much cooler than Phoenix, Arizona.

Love,
Pops

Desert Center morning video of the day - Monday, July 28, 2015

Hello all,

I did not post a picture on Monday because I was riding along with a relative to help set up her new apartment in Phoenix, AZ.

If you are a Southern Californian, a great deal of scary press has been made of the slow-down of traffic out in the desert where recent rains washed out a bridge on I-10--potentially causing 2-hour delays as they temporarily route traffic down to 1 lane each way over the remaining part of the bridge to Arizona.

We went that way and it was a total non-event. We were slowed to 50 MPH about 2 miles out, channeled into one lane, and never got slower than that.

Here's my video as we make the crossover to the westbound detour. Only took 63 seconds.



So, if you're headed to or from Arizona, no worries.

Love,
Pops


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Three Loves Seven, Chapter 26, "They Suffer from Hives"

Dear Gentle Readers,

Summer Festival time is over and everybody is back to work on Dog Island. We pick up a couple of days later as Xiao Mei is trying to get to sleep. Her dream has been bothering her. I don't mention it in this passage, but if it doesn't keep coming back to her, she thinks about it, which is practically the same as having it over and over again.

She doesn't need a seer, or a priest, or a witch to figure out what it means. It's pretty obvious--I mean, as an author I'm almost ashamed that I beat you over the head with it. But she wonders: is it wishful thinking? Is it Qin Qin's silly fairy tale optimism and opportunism that has just rubbed on her?  Is she amenable to the idea that Dr. Wong is someone special because she's afraid of venturing into the wide world on her Island's appointed quest?

She really wants to ask the closest person in her life, Lum, her mom, what she thinks. But Lum is potentially tied up in the consequences, so Xiao Mei knows she cannot ask directly and get a straight answer. What would you do?

If after you have read this installment, you think Xiao Mei must have gone to a sales leadership seminar for businesspeople, just remember that American motivational speakers have been mining the visualization techniques that Buddhist and tantric esthetes have been practicing for centuries. So, get off of it. (But it's not beyond comprehension that Clete may have gone to a Jack Canfield  talk or two...).

Anyway, the First Princesses, the Cousins, are extremely empathic with one another. But you will learn more

... as the story continues ...


[Reporter captures remembrance by the Questor for this entry]


U.S. Time:              Sunday, August 26, 2012
Island Time:       Dragon, Month 7, Day 10, Xingqi 7

Last night, when we retired to bed we lay there for a while. I was restless. It was one of those nights when everything all seems just a lot louder and more intense. You feel everything more.”

     “Mommy? Are you awake?”
     “Not really. You know I never sleep soundly.”
     “Would you like to try something we learned in Dr. Wong’s class?”
     “What’s that?”
     “It’s what he calls a thought experiment and a visualization.”
     “Nothing will explode will it?”
     “Mommy! It’s not chemistry. It will all be in our heads. Or YOUR head. I’ll be the one guiding the experiment. You just have to imagine something.”
     “I think I can manage that.”
     “Close your eyes. Pretend it is one hour from now. What are you feeling?”
      “Pretty much the same thing now.”
      “Go ahead and say everything you are experiencing. Like the weather, things against your skin, sounds around you …”
      “I feel the midnight breeze passing through. I feel the hardness of the planks under us. Occasionally the little feet of a bug that is crawling on my leg. I hear the call of the night birds, and frogs. And the chirping insects with the really long antennae. I feel your hand on mine.”

She went on for a bit. After that, I guided her through imagining a day a week from today. And then I had her climbing the tallest tree on The Island, standing at the top and looking down. She said just thinking about it gave her stomach an unsettling feeling, and she felt her hands sweat.

     “My. This is quite exciting even though I haven’t moved a bit from where I am,” said mother. “What is this for? Why do this?”
     “He said part of the fear in doing something new is that it is unknown. If I practice doing something new in my head, I will be able to do it more easily because I have done it in my mind many times. But we must start training our minds by imagining things we already know.”
     “That makes a kind of sense to me. He’s a very good teacher isn’t he?”
     “I really love his teaching. And I love that he is my teacher.”
     “I’m very pleased with him myself.”
     “Do you think … that … you might let me go to his university?”
     “To America? Mei. What are you thinking? Even if I could think of such a thing, American schools are very, very expensive. There is no way that would be a possibility.”
     “But he seemed to think there might be some options.”
     “That is not the plan for you.”
     “But there are ways that he could make it easier for me, to transition. To become social …”
     “Mei. Please. Not now.”
     “When?”
     “Why are you being like this?
     “May I take you through another visualization?”
     “You are setting up a trick aren’t you? If you are going to do what I think you’re going to do it won’t solve anything. You are going to make me try to see something like you would. Or like he would.”
     “If I did, would that be a bad thing?”
     “Yes, it would be a bad thing.”
     “How?”
     “It will just make everyone unhappy.”
     “Are you happy then Mommy?”
     “Of course I’m happy. This is not science. He calls himself a scientist. This is witchery. That is all I am doing tonight for this kind of thing.”
     “I’m not going to make you look through anyone else’s eyes.”
     “What is it then? What do you want to know?”
     “I just want to know how you feel about something.”
     “Why don’t you just ask me?”
     “This might give me a more honest answer.”
     “Are you saying that I lie to you?”
     “You are my mother. You say things to protect me.”
     “Carry on.”
     “Will you be honest with yourself?”
     “As much as is possible … for me.”

I begin.

It is September 11, 2012. A little more than three weeks from today, just 24 days in the future. A boat from the Protectorate has anchored just outside of the harbor. A lighter was sent into the harbor and is tied up at the landing. The weather is breezy. A storm passed over just an hour earlier, so it is extremely humid. We are all feeling very wet, the ground is wet and the deck of the landing is wet.

     “Tell me why the boat has come.” I ask.
     “The boat has come for Clete.”
     “Who is present there?”
     “A man in the Protectorate navy uniform. He is putting Clete’s bags into the lighter. Clete is there of course.”
     “Is anyone seeing him off?”
     “We all are. You girls are all wearing the clothes he had shipped here for you. You girls all want to cry, but you are restraining yourselves.”
     “Why?”
     “You have been ordered to show royal repose in the presence of the Protectorate.”
     “Are the Sea Witches there?”
     “Hmm. No. No, they’re not.”
     “What is the Professor doing now?”
     “He is facing each pair of us, mother and daughter, expressing thanks with a deep bow of salute. As he stands in front of me, both you and me, he looks solemn. This is a ceremonial farewell. He turns from me and moves on to the next. I don’t like it. I want him to take my hands. I want him to hold me. But he moves on. Two more. Then the Security Council.  He hands something to Mu as main Island Representative. Then he steps into the lighter craft. The operator starts the motor and they begin to move off. He keeps his eyes on us, and then waves to us, and then sets his eyes out in the direction of the sea. I stand there until I cannot see him anymore. I am so overwhelmed by emotion that I have to fall on my knees.
     “Why? Why did you leave me again?  I waited so long for you. Don’t go! Please come back. Come back. Take me with you. I tried to be good. I really did! Please. Ahhhhhh. Aiiiiiiiieeee.  Euhhhhhh.”


In all of my life, I have never heard such sounds of grief come out of my mother. Her cries were coming deep from within her chest. It was scary. It was as if a demon was inside of her. But what was scarier, I could not bring her back out of the visualization. I tried holding her. I tried restraining her. I tried siting her up. But she just kept crying and wailing. I even tried slapping her, but that didn’t do anything.  This never happened when Dr. Wong took us through visualization. I didn’t know what to do. Should I go get him? But it’s so dark out. And then someone spoke to me.

     “Xiao Mei!” It was Qin Qin. “I hear your mother crying. My mother is crying too. She just started all of a sudden in her sleep.”
     “It’s terrible! I don’t know what to do.”
     “I think they’re in what I call their ‘hive’ state.”
     “Hive state?”
     “Haven’t you ever noticed that about the Firsts? They act like bees or ants. Once in a while they move and think like one. Mostly they do it during the Seven-Seven Dance. Sometime during morning stretches. A few other times. This is the first time I’ve seen it while Mom was sleeping.”
     “Why does it happen? What brings it on?”
     “It’s because they are avatars of the Empress I think.”
     “But aren’t we as well? As are all of her female descendants?”
     “I guess. It only seems to be the Firsts that can do it. My mother never talks about it. But she knows exactly what your mom is thinking and feeling sometimes. Don’t you ever see that with your mother?”
     “I think they’re just all very empathetic. Do you think we should get the Sea Witch? Do you think she can calm them?”
     “I think we should just wait. My mother always likes to say ‘High winds do not last all morning.’ They sound awful though. Do you have any idea what might have brought it on? Was your mother asleep?”

I did not want to share with Qin Qin what I was trying to find out from my mother yet.

     “I don’t know.”
     “I’m going try lighting some of Mom’s favorite incense. Maybe that will bring her out? If it works, I’ll do it for you too.”

I returned to mother who was still moaning and wailing. I just cradled her in my lap, sang to her, and stroked her hair. It seemed like the longest time, but she eventually did become quiet, whimpering silently in the dark. She eventually came back to her senses.

     “Oh, ah. Ai. What happened?”
     “I’m sorry. I made you rehearse how you would feel when Dr. Wong will leave the Island.”
     “How? Why? I was so … Where is he?”
     “I’m sure he’s sleeping in his cottage.”
     “I barely know him.”
     “You know him better than you think you do Mommy.”
     “What do you mean?”
     “When I went to him on Seven-Seven for advice, I did not just ask him about college. I also asked him how he would conduct my quest for the Prince.”
     “Why would you do that? That is something you cannot tell an outsider.”
     “Because it seems impossible; like I would have to search the whole earth. And I trust him. But he said it would be as easy as just finding a man that you would take as a husband, and just start there. He suggested that when I had a list of four or five candidates, just pick the best one and work on selling him. A few days later, he took me through the same kind of thought experiment searching all of the major cities of the Pacific Rim using data that his assistant collected.”
     “It can’t be that simple.”
     “Mother. Stop and just think for a minute. If I had suggested to you, ‘Do you think Dr. Wong is the Great Prince?’, what would you have said?”
     “CLETE? The Great Prince? The One? That is the strangest idea when you think about what kind of person he is—how rude …”
     “So your answer would have been ‘no’ then?”
     “Of course. I would have said no.”
     “But, how did your body just answer that question right now?”
     “That … that does not make any sense.”
     “Forget what your head is telling you Mommy! What does your heart tell you?”
     “My heart is telling me that I am very tired. That whole episode exhausted me. It’s too much tonight. I need to sleep darling.”

She closed her eyes and exhaled as if she had dropped a heavy burden. She gave a whimpering sob. I whispered to her.

     “Sleep easy mother. Because Dr. Wong is still with us.”

She then passed into the deepest slumber I’d ever seen her have. I got out of bed and went over to Lian and Qin Qin’s cottage. Qin Qin was sitting on her porch, writing in the dark.

     “The incense seemed to work. I don’t hear your mom, so I figured she was OK.”
     “Qin, listen. I wanted to tell you. I BELIEVE you.”
     “Well, she is very sensitive to all of her different kinds of smoke that she likes.”
     “No, no. I mean I believe you about the Professor being the Prince.”
     “WHAT? REALLY? The Questor believes me? What happened?”
     “I have been having … dreams.”
     “Me too! We need to call a general meeting tomorrow then. Oh thank you! California, Here I COME!”
     “NO. It’s not that easy. We cannot just make a pronouncement. We need a case. Does he match up with a lot of oracles and prophecies?”
     “Not really.”
     “We REALLY need to resolve the number one criterion. He HAS to be a four-times dog. Without that, he’s just a ‘nice guy’ to the Firsts.”
     “I know, I know. They weren’t buying my workaround with the American clock time.”
     “You probably need to liberally interpret some of those prophecies then and make a LOT of them match up to compensate.”
     “Unfortunately, my mother, the Guardian of Truth and Light, has created a strong aversion in me to keep from truth-stretching. My backside hurts just thinking about it. I’ll do what I can. You know something that’s bothering me though? If he IS the Prince, why hasn’t he made a move on one the Firsts yet? They’d be reincarnated lovers right? So you think they’d be itching to make up for lost time.”
     “He sort of did with Feng, but I thought it was really forced and half-hearted. There was no passion there that I could see.”
     “And as fiery and emotional as my mom is, there are no sparks there, I’m sorry to say. He is definitely not helping his own case.”
     “I have a theory. He’s married, or at least he was, to that Rico woman. Being the super-loyal man that he is, he will not make a move on ANY other woman while she is alive.”
     “OH! I’ve got it. We need change your Questor mission a bit. When you get out of here, you need to hunt her down and assassinate her. I’ll come along and help.”
      Ben dahn!! Idiot! Get real! How ridiculous! If he couldn’t find her, how could we? We just need to get him to give up the hold he thinks she has on him.”
     “That doesn’t sound easy. How about we get him to ‘cheat’ on his absent wife with one of our mothers, he will figure that he broke that fidelity rule anyway, so why now move on?”
     “Sounds good, but that would make him an adulterer, at least to himself, and it would undermine the essence of what the Great Prince is supposed to be.”
     “But that wife is NOT his REAL WIFE, so it shouldn’t really count, should it? We have to think of something. We’re running out of time.”
     “You certainly didn’t help matters with the botched kidnapping plan of yours. I can’t believe you got the others to go along with you.”
     “Dr. Wong said I’m young, so I’m allowed to make mistakes.”
     “I’m surprised he hasn’t airlifted himself out of here already. Fei’s mother seems intent on driving him away with her viciousness. But he hasn’t bolted. So that’s a good sign that something is holding him.”
     “Maybe we don’t have to be in a rush. If he truly is the Great Prince and he does escape to Los Angeles, we do know where he lives and we can go get him when we’re ready.”
     “We need to keep up the pressure. I think it’s better to complete the quest while he’s here. I think it will be harder to get him back here once he’s left. He hates the climate here. We need to find out what all the other Seconds think too.”


© Copyright 2012 by Vincent Way, all rights reserved.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Malibu morning picture of the day - Friday, July 24, 2015

Dear Family, Friends, and Gentle Readers,

Happy Friday to you all, and here is your picture.
























Usually July is just a string of blue skies in a row, but we seem to have reverted to a June pattern this year. Well, we've got five more workdays of morning pics to gather this month, so let's see what the next week has in store. No second look today as it's pretty much the same.

However, I was having to run an errand in East L.A. last night so I was walking to make a bus connection from the Expo line in Downtown L.A., making my way up a hill on Wilshire Blvd. when I run across this.




















Mind you, while L.A. is pretty mixed culturally, not every office building has Siddhartha sitting outside reminding you that you're suffering (it's a steep walk) and that there is another way. He's pretty big, taller than my 5 feet sitting down.

So put aside your monkey mind and get into now. You probably have a busy weekend ahead of you. Take care.

Love,
Pops





Thursday, July 23, 2015

iT'S STreeT arT THurSDay! with Malibu morning picture - Thursday, July 23, 2015

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

We continue to work down our "Gallery" of Kingsley off the Boulevard near Sapp Coffee Shop.

Artist: Kansi, Everyday in Cali, paint on brick.






















Right on the corner we have this bit of "Name" art with the cryptic message "Everyday in Cali yore". Off to the left, the artist has created a bit of margin art, rather reminscent of a neon green, man's aloha shirt. Up top we have the artist's tag "Kansi." Kansi has an almost airbrush control in gradating the blue of "yore," and certainly shows their skill in creating highlights (as seen in one of the earlier murals on this row).

Artists: Kansi, Evex, and Rivesz, V with WCA Pendant, paint on brick.


























Moving up-block to the north we have another set of names. Again you see "Kansi" up top center, "Evex" directly to the right, and another, possibly Rivesz?, down below complete with a self portrait in sort of profile-3/4-eye-front view.

This one immediately above is practically brand new. It covered up this piece that I displayed earlier. This just goes to show you that you cannot get too attached to these things. Sometimes they're around for years, but the next time you drive by, you may have something complete different, or a simple whitewash.



AND NOW, BACK TO OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED SEASCAPE OF THE DAY:




























Another overcast, cloudy day on the coast. While I was standing there, the bus pulled up (I was on the earlier one) in the time it took me to get from that stop up to my usual picture-taking vantage point. It takes my old legs about 10-14 minutes to get up here from there.

Here's the silver-grey sea with horizon today.

Hey, have you ever seen a mandarin duck? They are indigenous to China and Japan. Here's a picture of pair from Wikipedia.


The flashy one is the male on the left. They have crested heads which make them rather unique.

They had some at the Tampa zoo when I was there earlier this year. Keep them in mind. For those of you who are reading my story, I'm about to resurrect a duck story project I've had on the back burner for a long time. It's a riff on the basic tale that explains the order of the animals in the Chinese calendar, but the focus will be on pair of little guys like these who did NOT make in the succession, but they're perfectly OK with it. I have only found only one children's book about such birds in English, so they're pretty untapped as protagonists. I'm going to fix that. Stay tuned.

Hope all is going well for you this Thursday. Stay well, be strong, look great, and use birth control (unless you're trying ...).

Love,
Pops






Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Malibu morning picture of the day - Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Dear Family, Friends, and Gentle Readers,

A good Wednesday to you. Today's look gives us a repeat of yesterday, but we have a bit more morning drizzle today. I experienced it fully as I chose to drive to work in the small car with the top down.





















This one is probably most typical--silvery grey. Off to the east is some variation, but not much.







Catching some of the bluffs that go off to the east, the first layer there delineates the point where the canyon empties into Malibu lagoon.

The second layer of bluff is probably the point where a small canyon ends and the street is called Rambla Pacifica.

You can almost think of the canyons facing the ocean as depressions of the webbed feet of the land.

For those of you who are family who may be reading this, I got some news from one of my perennial "boarders" that she is going to take a job teaching art to small children at a charter school in Arizona in the Greater Phoenix area. This represents a major life change for her, hopefully for the better, but I am sure it will be a learning experience. I'm pretty sure this is not her main life trajectory, but young people need to fill up the resume. So the nest is starting to empty out, 'cause once my kids fly and create their own life spaces, they stay flown. She lived away at school for a time, so this is a smaller step than it would be for others. (The military guy is only docked to the mother ship for a temporary time, so I don't count him as a boomerang.)

Hope you all are getting things done that need done this week.

Love,
Pops

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Malibu morning picture of the day - Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Dear Family, Friends, and Gentle Readers,

It's drizzly and misty today out on the coast, and a very warm mist at that.



























Not to worry, here's the mist ... just wanted this mosaic I found to show up on my Facebook share.




























Not a lot of definition today. A good day to be a politician I say.

Here's the second look viewing Surfrider Beach. The heavy surf of yesterday is gone and so are all the surfers.













Haven't seen the Malibu mule deer in a while, but two mother-child pairs seemed to be about this morning while I had the camera out. I even caught a crane in the frame too.

Here another part of that mosaic without the graffiti, but it's got an electircal wire tap in it. It's a repeated pattern of back-to-back Middle Eastern lovers that adorn the exterior walls of an old spa on Pico near La Brea.



Even if you are the kind of person who finds this kind of romanticized orientalism quaintly offensive, it nonetheless speaks of a different age when fairy tales were all that a person in L.A. could know about the Levant and its people, beyond their denominations' explanations of the Bible.

It's pretty charming. Starry sky, pagoda like thingies, crossed, curved swords, darkly complected man in a turban, lightly complected woman with a bare midriff (either pre-Islamic or she was freely displaying herself to her lover in private).

Have a great Tuesday.

Love,
Pops




Monday, July 20, 2015

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

Dear Family, Friends, and Gentle Readers,

And a happy Monday to you all! We've got couple layers of clouds today folks.

























I think this little patch of moisture hovering between us and Catalina Island in the distance almost looks like milk curdling after you've poured it into an acidic broth.

Evidently it's a great surfing day since tons of surfers were at all the usual good points along PCH.

There was a tropical storm parked off of Baja California all weekend making semi-arid L.A. feel like most of the rest of the U.S. Itwas quite warm and humid this morning, even at 6 AM.





The high-level clouds this morning are giving us a ribbed pattern, at least over land--as if this is what the sky looks like with a "six-pack."

I hope that the coming week has only good things in store for you. Blessings.

Love,
Pops



Friday, July 17, 2015

Three Loves Seven, Chapter 25, Part 6 - "The Mysterious Raftsman"

Dear Gentle Readers,

Last time (two weeks ago), we left Dr. Wong out at the opening from Dog Island's Bay into the open sea. He had agreed to take the Islanders' ritual offerings of food for the Festival of Souls Lost at Sea out onto the open ocean. Accompanying him were the Princesses Faye (Unicorn/Chilin/West) and Angel (aka Jie, Tortoise) to assist.

He was given orders not to leave sight of land, but of course, he disobeyed when he received a manual distress signal from a figure he perceived in the fog out over the open sea. What would YOU have done?

Today's portion will conclude Chapter 25 and the strange occurrences of that day. There's more than can be said, but I think I'll just let you see what unfolds

... as the story continues ...



     “Do you girls see that?”  They looked up. They squinted to narrow their focus and then reacted in terror.
     “It’s a ghost! Dr. Wong, you need to take us back right now,” insisted Faye.
     “Nonsense. He looks like he needs some help. We’re going over to check it out.
     “Don’t! Nobody but a ghost would be out here,” Faye advised in great concern.
     “Normally, no, nobody would be out here—I would agree with you. But what if he’s from a shipwreck? Come on. What if we were the ones who were stranded? We have to at least see what the situation is. I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

My assurances did not soothe the girls and they cowered together as I started up the engine and moved toward him.  He was on a raft cobbled together from what looked like old wood crates and barrels. He held an oar. I pulled alongside. He called out a greeting. I recognized it as being in Cantonese.”

     “My language is not good,” I said using my very rudimentary Cantonese.

I’ve had some use for my meager Cantonese in business settings in Hangzhou and Hong Kong, but it wasn’t much better than my elementary-level Chinese-school lessons. I could hear my dad and uncle laughing at me from their graves saying, “Told you it would be useful!”

     “English language?” I said hopefully.

To my surprise he answered in English, or at least I think he did, because I found I could understand him.  He had that dark red-brown appearance of a body that has spent too many days in the bright sun. His body and face were gaunt. His black hair, streaked with white, was long and matted. He wore a grayish robe that was so ragged and tattered that I could see the outline of his chest tattoo peering through the threads. His eyes were vacant and unfocused.

     “Get in, we’ll take you to shore.”
     “Dr. Wong! No! You must not allow that. HE’S A HUNGRY GHOST! He will haunt the island and trouble us!” said Angel.
     “Hush now. How inhospitable! That is very rude. I’m surprised at you. There are no such things as ghosts.” She bowed her head in apology.
     “I’m very sorry, Teacher.”
     “Are these your daughters?” the man asked. His voice was weak, raspy, and muted. I could barely hear him.

I don’t know why, but I felt I owed him a full explanation of why I was there on the open sea with these two young ladies, but it seemed like too much information to share, so I replied simply.

     “Yes, they belong to me. But sir, I would like to help you if I can.”
     “I see. I too have a daughter. And a wife. But where are they? Do you know?”
     “Were you separated at sea? Did you have a shipwreck?”
     “I don’t remember. It’s been a long time,” he paused. The sound of the water slapping our boat punctuated the silence, hitting to the beat. “Such a long time.”
     “I am Wong. What is your name?”
     “I don’t remember. It has been too long since I’ve said it. Or since anyone has said it.”
     “We’ll figure it out later. Take my hand and get in.” I reached out but try as I could, I could not grasp his hand.
     “It’s so COLD!” the girls complained. “He is making it freezing.”

They pulled their clothes tight around themselves and huddled even more closely together. I had an idea.

     “Hold on, let me throw you a line. Tie it to your raft and I’ll tow you in.”

I threw one of my attached lines to the man, but the rope seemed to fall through the palms of his hands and then through the gaps between the planks of his vessel.  I reached out and touched his raft. It was deathly frigid to the touch, almost like a block of dry ice, but it was solid.

     “I’ll get on your raft and secure it.”
     “Dr. Wong. I think it would be a bad idea to get on his raft. You might not be able to come back,” said Faye.
     “Now THAT is a fairy tale if ever I heard one,” I told her bluntly.

I stood to step on his raft and tried to put a foot on what I perceived to be solid just a moment ago, but I could not gain hold. The man saw my struggle and motioned to me to stay where I was.

     “Your daughters are right to be fearful. Something is wrong about me, but I can’t remember. It’s been so long. It is so frustrating. I am beyond your ability to help.”

He sat down upon his raft and set into a moan so sad that I began to feel like the girls looked—helpless and terrified. Surely there is something we can do for him. Eliminate inadequate explanations and what do you have left?

     “Girls,” I said, “I told your aunt earlier that I do NOT believe in ghosts. And I DON’T. Let’s be clear about that. However, I am at a loss to explain this phenomenon without further investigation. I really want to get his raft over to my lab.”
     “So can we go home now?” asked Faye.
     “We can’t just leave this guy here. He’s a goddamned wreck.”
     “But we can’t do anything for him,” said Angel.

That much was true. But it seemed inhumane just to leave him on his horrible raft.

     “Well, it is Hungry Ghost Day, and let’s just act as if that were true. If this guy is putting on some kind of elaborate performance to enact this festival, sure, fine, I’m OK with that, and I’m willing to pretend that he is a ghost. And if this is Hungry Ghost Day, what can we do, but give him the food? Right? That’s why we’re here. So instead of lighting the remaining lanterns and setting these little boats out, we’ll give him the food, all of it. Open up some of them for him to have now.”

They unwrapped all of the remaining rice morsels and meatballs and handed them over to him. Surprisingly, he was able to receive them and so, one by one, piece by piece, he slowly ate.

     “Put the rest on his deck. Faye, first, hand me the joss pail there.”

I had brought along a thick gauge metal bucket weighted with some sand on the bottom. This was to be used transmit burning joss. I set it on his raft; it stayed put and did not fall into the sea as I was worrying it might. My pockets were stuffed with all the joss paper that Johnson Lai had recommended I bring with me. It seemed that this festival might be the appropriate place to have that material on hand.  I remembered his words, “Nobody knows anything about the Islanders except that they are of Chinese origin,” he said, “but they’re probably about as Chinese as us, which is not much. But it doesn’t hurt to look respectful and pious.”

Johnson, you have NO idea how off the mark you were. I realized I had come so far from that ignorance of these Islanders. Silly as this care-of-the-dead exercise seemed, there was only one thing to do that I could hear every ancestor of my yelling at me to do.

So I reached into my pockets and pulled out the several bundles of tissue papers that I had brought, each of which were imprinted with a currency designation in the millions, and I placed them in the bucket.  If this stuff actually worked, he would be richer than the Sultan of Brunei. I also brought along a small tripod urn which was filled with incense cones which I then lit. I emptied my lighter’s fluid onto the joss paper and then struck a match to set the pail aflame.

     “This is for you,” I said, “I do this in the name and place of your wife and daughter. The peace of God whom I serve be upon you and yours, my brother.” A good generic Protestant blessing was only thing I could come up with myself.

He sat transfixed as the fire began to build. There was some sort of optical illusion as the flame grew against the reddening sky of the sunset, and a glow grew everywhere, and it seemed to envelop and warm us all. Color came to his face. Hollows under his eyes and in his cheeks seemed to fill out. The light of the joss flame cast the color of his garments toward red and gold, transforming them from the cold, lifeless grays.

     “I . . . I am starting to remember,” he said.
     “Who are you?”
     “I still cannot recall.”
     “If you are a ghost, why do you wander in these waters?”
     “I am drawn here. Something compels me.”
     “To this island? There’s nothing there.”
     “Do not be mistaken. There is powerful magic there.  A great witch has dwelt there for a long time. It’s surrounded with a great boundary spell to hide something. I cannot get any closer than this. That is why I cannot get into your boat nor can you tow me there. But I thank you for the food. I am stronger than I have been for a long time. My eyes can see a bit more clearly now, but it is starting to get dark.” He looked closely at the two girls. “My daughter was not even a year old when I, when I, ah, … that was it, when I left for the war. And yet, you two remind me so much of her. I lost her face from my mind. But here you are. Thank you. You brought her back. I so wanted to hold her again. At least once more. What a pitiful soul I am.”

Faye and Angel nodded at one another. Something he said brought back a memory of what they had heard in a story. They got to their feet and moved to step onto his raft.

     “Wait, you’re boarding?” I said, “What about your own warning to me?”
     “He is no longer cold. He is not a ghost anymore, almost. It will be fine,” said Angel.
     “And even if we cannot return, if you will say exactly what happened to our mothers, they will be pleased,” Faye assured me.

OKAY! Now it was now my turn to be alarmed. They were my responsibility. What if they couldn’t return? What the hell was I thinking there? Before I could restrain them, the two girls stepped adeptly aboard his raft, except it now looked like an imperial barge of red gold richly festooned, gleaming along its peripheries with sentry lanterns. The girls stood side-by-side, gave him three deep bows, and then wrapped their arms around him as if greeting an old friend of the family. He held their heads in his hands so he could study their smiling faces, intent not to lose the memory.

There was a great table set up in the middle of the barge; it was sumptuously dressed and adorned. The girls began to move the meager food offerings thereon, but each in turn became a generous platter comprising a great banquet as each item was placed. It seemed like we had stumbled into the third act of a Disney movie.

The fog blew in and I seemed to lose my focus on the situation, but the haze passed and I imagined that I was now standing on his deck. But it was time to say goodbye. The ghost kissed the girls’ foreheads and motioned them back into my boat. Faye and Angel bade him farewell and they used the title “Mother’s Father”.

     “Ah Wong,” he said to me, “hold out your hand.” I did as he instructed. He reached into his tunic and grabbed ahold of something which he pulled over his head. He dropped something metal into my hand. “It is time that I must let this go, so I give it to you.”
     “I’ll hold it in trust for you,” I said respectfully, and then reflexively stuffed it into the pouch I kept on my belt. I would examine it later.
     “It’s an artifact of this world. I have no need of it anymore. I leave it to you lest I be bound here further.”
     “You are not coming with us?” I asked.
     “Behold, as the sun dies there, the track of the moon is finally emerging to me on the water.”

I must have been hallucinating because I saw a full moon begin to rise.  This was only the 8th day, the day of the 1st quarter moon.

     He announced, “I can see it. That is my path now. When the moon looks like this, it is a doorway opening into a silvery realm. Maybe at its end I will find my dear ones. Follow me if you wish, but I don’t think it is your time.”

The golden raftsman picked up his oar and pounded it on the deck as a potentate would call an assembly to order with his floor baton. He called out an order and I heard the chuff of a great wind. The fog lifted a bit and I saw two massive towing cables on either side of the barge. They went taut and as much as I could tell, the barge was about to be towed by two large sailing ships, which, in the mist, appeared to have been fashioned into the form of sea dragons, rather like Viking ships. They moved with deliberation toward the rising moon. He started to grow small in the distance. He turned after a bit and yelled to me.

     “A warning, Ah Wong. A great surge is coming.”
     “How do you know?”
     “It can be read in the wind and tides years ahead of its arrival if you know how to look.”
     “So you’re a molecular determinist then? That school of thought has a boatload of critics.”
     “It is not simply chance that you are here. You must protect them all. It is now your duty.”

He disappeared from view as the fog thickened once more and we had lost bearings. And then I heard the beating of a distant gong. The sharpness of its alarm brought my mind back to full attention of my surroundings. The three of us agreed upon its direction, started up the motor, and headed back into the gong’s direction, into the harbor, and the beach torches came into view.

     “We lost sight of you in the blaze of the setting sun,” said Mu as we stepped out of the boat. “I was worried for a while. Did anything happen?”
     “Girls?” I said looking at them both.
     “No. We set all the offerings to sea. It was quite nice,” said Faye.
     “I got a little cold out on the sea,” said Angel. “It was quite a change.”

Their demeanor was reverent and understated. I started to question my sanity, but I left it at that and offered nothing about incident with the odd raftsman. It was only logical that we three could not all share the same hallucination. Mu asked me later that evening if I still did not believe in ghosts. I think she suspected that something had happened to me. I must have been quieter than usual. I told her my feelings had shifted a bit, but that I had come to realize that the power of remembrance may be the only thing that grants true immortality. She patted me on the head patronizingly but playfully as if I were a dog who had just learned a trick, but it surprised me how much I enjoyed it.


© Copyright 2012 by Vincent Way, all rights reserved.