Monday, August 31, 2015

Malibu morning picture of the day - Monday, August 31, 2015

Dear Family, Friends, and Gentle Readers,

It's Monday on the Pacific Coast and here is today's morning view.

Cloud cover over land and water, but the breakup is starting. It was very hot for L.A. over the weekend, 90s-100s, as we go into September, which is typically one of our hottest months.

Here's your 2nd look, a few ticks to the left (east).

Hope you had a wonderful weekend, hot or otherwise. And let's hope you get everything done you plan this coming week.


Friday, August 28, 2015

Three Loves Seven, Chapter 28, Part 3 - "Justice is served, and sometimes it comes on a stick"

Dear Gentle Readers,

Our present narrative moves off the Island and out onto the high seas. We've gone off location before, but always in the flashback or in historical sequences.

Did Nu really "act out" as an act of psychological self-actualization and escape from the Island on Andou's boat as the Professor suspects? Is she even there on Andou's vessel? Mu's pretty sure. And mothers are usually right. Especially these mother and daughter pairs who all have slept and breathed next to each other in bed really since the daughters were born. I myself think Clete is right when he suggests that they all really need some separation. Dog Island is a place with no privacy, no personal space. Clete, bless his selfish, iconoclastic heart, is the epitome of a separated, discrete individual, sundered and apart from anyone and anything, to these women. It's why they are both appalled and enthralled by him.

If you're looking for long passages of descriptions of the marine scene, I'm going to disappoint you. The ocean is just a surface that our hero needs to cover to get to the next scene of enactment. I've been on boats the size that Clete is piloting; and they make me ill. So, it's not an experience I tend to want to dwell on very long.

So, take a dose of your literary Dramamine, batten down your hatches, and put on your flotation gear, cause we're heading out.

... as the story continues ...

Lee gave me an abbreviated refresher on the boat’s operation. She showed me where there was an ancient copy of the operating manual; it was in English. I even had a vague memory of reading a manual for the same model of vessel for some reason. I had certainly reviewed many ship manuals in my time. For some reason I remembered the technical illustration of the craft on the cover. Lee believed there was enough fuel for the mission and getting back. If the pursuit went farther, I was to proceed to the next Island and refuel, but under no circumstances was Nu’s foot allowed to set foot on foreign soil.  I was going to tell her they had watched too many fantasy flicks, but we were in a hurry.

I questioned the off-course route she had given me, but she said there were a series of seamounts that I was avoiding just under the surface. They were the cause of many of the shipwrecks that brought people to their shore (or who alternatively provided a varied source of nourishment to the native sharks). The route she gave me would have it’s own set of submarine hazards, but they were much fewer and she trusted me to spot them in addition to using the sounding map.

I broke out of the harbor and proceeded to the place where I would shift course.  Sure enough, I could see it was a maze to the east—more like a Minefield really. There were even a few places where rocks broke surface. More skilled sailors than I, like Andou, are probably able to read the current swirls that signaled danger beneath. However, all this time I noticed that there was a large albino orca swimming in front of me. It kept its distance but then it stopped. It was like it was waiting for me. Lee’s instructions were to veer north, but the orca took a turn to the east, exactly the direction I needed to be going. If it took a dive, I would be in trouble, but it had been staying at the surface within eyeshot. I silently apologized to Lee in my head in abandoning her safe-course route, and decided to do like I did in other foreign countries and try to “drive like the locals.” Finding the orca seemed like good luck such that I now questioned my own sanity as I seemed to be adopting the Islanders’ practice of following a portent. It was a good call though, as the orca stayed with me until we cleared “The Minefield.” I checked my watch and I had made up for all of the time lost in my arguing with Mu back at port.

An open sea pursuit is pretty boring, at least mine was. Set your course, read your instruments, and just keep heading toward empty horizon until something hopefully shows up. I carried out all instructions given to me. Sure enough, my quarry came within viewing distance and I now had a visible target. I made sure all Dog Island colors were flying as directed.  The ship cut its engine and waited for me as I pulled alongside and secured us together.  So far, everything went as Mu had explained. I had her statement in my pocket. I conjectured that it would be some phonetic workout of whatever language those guys would respect.

     “Put on that garment on before you board,” she said, “and keep it on when you read my statement.”

It was a robe of golden silk material and black and red trim. The figures of the four directions, the words and the animals were embroidered on each quadrant of the robe. The sleeves were much too long for my arms. There was an odd hat of black silk which looked awfully silly to me, but I put them on as instructed. By strange coincidence there was a large embroidered square on the front which featured the Chinese character for my last name, Wong. I stepped over onto the supply ship. Hari and his two cousins stood there waiting for me. Skipper and the other man were nowhere in view.  Hari gave me his hand and helped me on board. I got out the statement and read the first sentence. He took me to the mast. The three of them then dropped down on one knee. Hari looked up and yelled suddenly. I felt a shadow fall on me and then something hard and blunt on my head and then it went black.

When I awoke I was down in some room below. The rocking of the ocean was making me nauseous because the up-and-down motion was very heavily pronounced, or at least seemed so to me. The room was packed with crates as I would expect any freighter to be. In the room were myself, Nu, and Skipper. Apparently we were locked in. Skipper was very deliberately facing away from Nu. They were obviously avoiding any eye contact. I had been laid out on a fold-down cot.

     “Nu? Are you all right?” She was facing a bulkhead.
     “I’m fine. How’s your head Professor? You had quite a bump, but no skin was broken.”
     “It hurts. Why did they do that? I was not armed. I made no threats.”
     “They are idiots,” said Skipper. “Watch too much movies. Did you call the navy?”
     “You’re here too? Mutiny then?”
     “Yes. Stupid child of mine.”
     “I radioed my coordinates and asked them to investigate if I did not re-establish contact in two hours. How long have I been unconscious?”
     “They have 40 minutes then. Will serve them right to sit in prison. My worthless son.  Locking me up like this. He will have hell to pay, I tell you.”
     “If you don’t mind my asking, why are you two talking to the walls? And not facing each other?”
     “Dr. Wong, on Dog Island at least, the man in this room, I am not allowed to speak with him or to interact directly in any way. We do not know the rules at sea, so I am maintaining as large a ceremonial distance as I can as is called for by protocol.”
     “Why?” Nu did not answer. “Is it a caste thing? Is it the royal status or something like that?”
     “Dr. Wong,” Nu said, “I’m not sure if I should be even talking to YOU right now because of what you have on. Why are you wearing that robe and that hat?”
     “Your mother told me to dress like this before I boarded this ship and to have it on when I read her message to the crew here.”
     “MY mother, the Dragon Guardian Princess … gave you that robe?”
     “Well, not to keep, I’m sure, but I assume it has the meaning of an office? It’s an emissary’s outfit then? I’m taking them off right now.”
     “That is NOT the robe of an emissary. You are right now something much greater. Keep everything on,” said Nu, “your life may depend on it.” She said something in Something spoken in Manchurian to Skipper. Back to English. “I am become a silent vessel, who sees and hears nothing. Speak freely to Captain Andou.”
     “Nu, what the hell is going on?”
     “Dr. Wong, you will now speak to me. She will be silent. It is as if she were not here.”
     “Skipper, what is this about?”
     “You call me just Andou.”
     “I am just Clete.”
     “While you wear that robe, I call you Wong. Hari!”

A rap came at the door, and a grunt in some vernacular tongue. It was one of his two nephews.

     “Call my son here. He does not realize who has boarded us. Tell him his very life is in peril. All of us!” He turned to me, “My son was not born nor raised on the island. He does not know all of the Island ways. My family moved after the flood.”
     “The one in the early 1980s.”
     “Yes. There was more Island when I was child. The Water God gives and takes back. Sometimes the Earth God pushes back and it grows. They struggle. The Sea Witch’s power, right now, I think is in gain.” The door unlocked and a young man of about 25 stepped in. “My son, the jailer.”
     “Father, I’m sorry, but this had to be done.”
     “This is Wong.”
     “I know his name Father, we met last night.”
     “Wong is not his name. Wong is his title”
     “Wong, I’m sorry you were hit over the head,” said Hari.
     “Young man, that was totally uncalled for. I mean you no harm or coercion myself.”
     “I am terribly sorry. I will beat my deckhand myself.”
     “Do what you need to do,” I said, “I was asked to read a statement to you by Princess Mu, and I promised I would.”
     “Go ahead.”
     I took out her paper. “OH, this is in English. I’m supposed to stand. ‘In the name Four Guardians of the Compass, the protectors of Dog Island, the Dragon, the Phoenix, the Unicorn, and the Tortoise, and by the will of the Five Elements that give and sustain life, and by my authority as the Great Prince of Southern China, the Exalted Lord of Dog Island and All Its Tributary Domains, you will return the princess to her appointed place or forfeit that your family and lineage continue. Let every knee turn to water and every forehead and every hand hit the floor and tremble.’ Hmm. Nothing diplomatic or flowery there.”

When I looked up, the men were bent with heads to the floor. I turned around and saw that Nu was likewise prostrated. I guessed that I had read some kind of protocol bomb.

     “Are you all kissing the floor for a reason? I don’t think Mecca is in that direction.”
     “We didn’t have a choice, Ah Wong,” said Andou. He then yelled at the other men. “SEE! I TOLD YOU HE WAS RAJA! The gods save us! He has the power of The Witch besides!” said Andou.
     “There something else here. It’s looks like a kind of curse, ‘By the power of God Over All Gods, the Great Ten, I command the spirits that indwell us all …”
     “RAJA!” said Andou, “Do not finish that sentence, or you will need to get both ships to port by yourself.”
     “It is a curse. It is a death call on your enemy. No need to pronounce it.”
     “I have no weapon. It’s just words.”
     “You don’t need a weapon against us. Your very word is deadly. Our own bodies will kill themselves if you speak that curse. Please. We are at your full service. Please conduct yourself and order us however you will,” said Andou.
     “OK, I will.” I stood in front of the Hari. “Heads up son, look me in the eye. Hari, is it? Explain yourself.”
     “Raja, I was trying redeem my sister’s life.”
     “Son, I appreciate that. We have the same goal, you and I. She’s your sister you say?”

He nodded. I walked over the Nu who still had her head on the floor.

     “Nu? Are you Hari’s sister?”

Her head made a nodding motion.

     “Did you plan this escape with these young men?”

She shook her head.

     “Are you here against your will?”

Again, the nodding motions. 

     “Hari, putting aside this belief in magical words, here’s a real threat. You now have about 30 minutes for me to get to my phone, or a group of ships will come with all force necessary to liberate this Princess of Dog Island and me, a citizen of the United States. You will most likely be boarded, killed, and your ship scuttled unless you cooperate with me. Are we clear on this?”
     “Yes, my Lord.”
     “I’m glad we’re all on the same page. Everyone rise.”
     “All men stand down! Bow!” Andou yelled out. “Follow me, Raja.” He led us out onto the deck. The kinsman with the meander tattoo had my phone in his hand. Andou retrieved it and handed it to me. “Please make your phone call, but I call for equanimity and restitution first before we can proceed.”

He handed me a bamboo rod and then all four men assumed a prostrate position.

     “Now what?” I asked Andou.
     “There were 10 parties levying accusation in your pronouncement. So apply 10 strokes to each mutineer and the debt is addressed. They must be firm and delivered with conviction. The 10th stroke, the one that is yours, must be stronger than the rest.”
     “What part of the body?”
     “Any part you want. I suggest the upper back. You don’t want cripple them or they will be no use to you in the future.”
     “Why don’t we wait. It’s probably not best to do this kind of thing in the heat of the moment.”
     “On the contrary, it is the best time. Your stroke will match the intensity of your outrage or your mercy. If you wait to give a cold-blooded stroke, it will probably be more damaging, and less fair.”
     “Can’t I just levy a fine?”
     “They have no money. We pay with our bodies.”
     “In that case, how about they work it off with labor whenever I need it?”
     “You already own that, Raja. You are not accustomed to giving a beating before have you?”
     “It shows?”
     “Pitifully, but I say that with respect. They will honor the punishment that is meted out by you. They will even prefer that you leave a mark.”
     “Fer Chrissakes! You know, I thought the women from your Island were REALLY fucked up in their thinking, but you guys are just as bad in your cultish devotion to the mortification of the flesh. Is there something in the water there?”
     “You are closer to the truth than you realize. If you prefer not to sully your hand, you may have the Princess Nu administer the beating in your stead, but you must deliver your stroke, the 10th.”
     “I don’t think she would be capable. Nu is a very shy and gentle girl.”

Hearing that Nu stepped up and took the bamboo from my hand. She pointed to her head, and then pointed to the tattooed boy for confirmation.

     “I now speak and am your servant. Is he the one that struck you?”

I nodded, whereupon she loosed her hair letting it fall to her calves. She swiveled, raised the rod and screamed shrilly. She later told me it translated to: “In return from my father and my king! Baba! Yi!” She delivered a firm blow to same point on his head as I was struck. He did not lose consciousness as I had, but he shuddered and faltered a bit under the blow. She turned to me and bowed three times. She held out nine fingers, her face shining bright in jubilant glee, apparently waiting signal from me to continue. I held up my hand in restraint and she then stood by for instruction.

     “A worthy blow,” said Skipper.

This was not the compliant, eager-to-learn, intense-but-cheerful Newton who sat in the classroom. An anthropologist colleague who was advising me on working in foreign lands talked about how we sometimes cross out of the real world into “Ceremonial Space” where we cease to be who we are, but instead become actors or proxies enacting truths much larger than what we are ourselves. I felt we all had entered Ceremonial Space. We were about something bigger than us now, something huge, essentially human. You don’t know what to do and yet you know exactly what to do.

     “Thank you my dear,” I said to Nu, “but Wong Wong, Raja, or whatever I am, is exercising executive authority and doing a changeup. Stand up men,” I said. They complied. “This raja is from the Western world so I will do this a bit differently. I will strike the face, as a subject with the back of my hand. You will turn the other cheek and offer me to then strike you on the other side, as a man. My hand is old and weak, so if you really want a mark, I suggest you get a tattoo.”
     “Would you like a glove, Raja?” asked Andou.
     “No. My dad always slapped me upside the head with an open hand when I deserved it. He told me once, ‘Son, when you discipline your own son with a physical blow, use an open hand as I do. Use an open hand because even if the sin against you hurt and you are justified in correcting and punishing an insult, you need to hurt yourself too in delivering a blow to someone one you care for.’ So that’s what I’m doing. We must all feel it.”

And so it went as I found myself modifying some godawful ritual I really didn’t want to participate in, but you do what have to do. I don’t need to describe it, but finally Andou then presented himself to be struck.

     “Why? You had nothing to do with it,” I said.
     “I raised him. Don’t hold back.”

So I obliged. It was the only thing to do. I clobbered dad too. I’m sorry to say it, but delivering all that physical justice to guys who wanted it and demanded it felt pretty damn good.

© Copyright 2012 by Vincent Way, all rights reserved.

Malibu morning picture of the day - Friday, August 28, 2015

Dear Family, Friends, and Gentle Readers,

It's Friday good people. And it was over 80 degrees Fahrenheit around 8AM today too. Very clear out.

It's classic blue on blue today, with a little haze on the water.

Hey, here's a feature that I've not been able to share for a while, but I felt sure that the good citizens of the City of Angels would not let me down. So, here near the end of August, last Wednesday, I found an subject for "The Christmas That Will Not Die" series.

I was exiting the Cahuenga Branch library Wednesday night, crossing Madison Avenue when, as daylight was dying, this display came on.

Yes, twinkling, cascade icicle Xmas lights in all their glory, shone in the hot summer evening.

Image result for virgin maryI'm probably cheating a little bit, because you will notice a bell shape in front? It's the outline of a little shrine in which a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary stands in a blue hooded robe. (If you saw such a person in real life today, you'd assume she was a Muslim girl.) So, maybe it's not Xmas lights, but Virgin Mary lights? Fair enough ... but who did all the hard labor on Christmas night? Joseph? The angels? The shepherds? Jesus? Nope. That's what I'm talkin' about...

We always forget that people's birthdays are really more significant (at least on a personal level) for mothers than the person celebrating the birthday. That must be why mothers remember their kids' birthdays better fathers. So Xmas is Mary's Day.

Chapel of Our Lady of the Angels
BUT ... maybe this household is celebrating something more significant to L.A. people? Do any of you Angelenos know what this is?

Yes! I see all of those hands! Thank you. It's a tiny church, the chapel of the Porziuncula (literally "the little portion" [of land]). It sits inside  basilica in Assisi, Umbria, in central Italy. If the Assisi name sounds familiar, yes it's where St. Francis (namesake of the current pope) got his calling, and the Franciscan order thinks this place is pretty damned (probably the wrong word, but we'll go with it as a multiplier) special.

Image result for francis of assisi
St. Francis 1181-1226
Long before Francis came along, it supposedly housed some relics of the Virgin and angel singing was heard there, and sometimes was called the Chapel of Our Lady of the Angels.

Fr. Juan Crepi
(someone tell him a joke pls...)

Fast forward to August (the month we're in now) 2, 1769, and there's a Franciscan priest Father Crespi whose along with the group exploring Southern California area. He notes the discovery of a beautiful (I guess the naturally-occuring, grey-and-white concrete channels of the L.A. River looked especially neat and tidy that day...) river on that date, which happens to be the feast day of Our Lady, the Queen of the Angels of Porziuncula or "Nuestra Senora de la Reina de Los Angeles de Rio Porciuncula" in Spanish, a really important day to his order.

Image result for la river
My hometown river. The most beautiful river in America
west of the Mississippi!

So they gave that name to the river. And later, when the built a town by the river, it was called "El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora de la Reina de Los Angeles de Rio Porciuncula."

So, the city is named after a river, which is named after a feast day, which is named after a chapel, which is named after the little piece of land that it's on, and after Mary, the mother of Jesus. Holy frijoles and Mary Christmas!

Image result for pope francis
Oh, and this Francis wishes
you a good weekend too.
And, of course, that name is much too long for anyone to say, so they just shortened it down to the last two letters of the last word "porciuncuLA": L.A. Don't let anyone ever tell you anything different.

OK, are you still with me? If not, I forgive you. It was the L.A. river's christening day anniversary earlier this month, August 2, so THAT'S probably why that shrine was up, and in true L.A. fashion, the guy didn't have the heart to take it down early because it's so pretty. Just like Xmas. That's what I think.

So, Happy Friday to all of you and have a wonderful weekend.


PS As a schoolboy I remembered part of the name to be "pornicula," following the tendency to shorten things. Because of that I first Googled that term in my original research for this post. Do that and you will get some very interesting hits. You will have to take off your parental filters from your browser to see anything though, so watch out.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

iT'S STreeT arT THurSDay! and Malibu morning picture - Thursday, August 27, 2015

Dear Street Art Lovers and all the rest of you (whom I love and adore, mind you),

Today, we have some text art (as much of wall art is ... esp. grafitti art) but it's mostly wit ...

Artist, Panhandle Slim, Take Fountain!, paint on clapboard.

... and even, then it's Bette Davis' wit, but there is some meta-wit since this waggish piece of street art adorns the entrance to a bar on the corner of Fountain and Normandie Avenues. I hope you are appreciating the allusion to a movie theatre marquee surrounded by blue lightbulbs.

Artist unattributed, Downtown Audrey Hepburn, paint on stucco.
If that's not enough Hollywood-celebrity-inspired street art for you for today, let me throw this snapshot I grabbed while waddling around the Garment District this last Saturday.

This is also text art because there is a sentence in black block letters behind the SUV pulled up on the sidewalk there. There's a dearth of parking in downtown, so vehicles on sidewalks is not unusual. I'll have to make it back there and take a better picture and get the slogan.

Image of Maggie Q
Hapa #1, Maggie Q
Image result for olivia munn
Hapa #2, Olivia Munn
You can even see a little bit of yet another mural peeking over the top of the building, a woman in traditional Japanese dress and makeup. Frankly I think this pairing of images is pretty fortuitous to me on a symbolic level. I have had more than one female Asian American friend confide that when young, they sort of adopted Audrey Hepburn as a media identity model (small build, petite frame, black hair, dark eyes--you get the idea). There's a kind of poetry for the obscured Japanese woman in the back to be looking through a fence toward Audrey.

Image of Kristin Kreuk
Hapa #3, Kristin Kreuk
Bingbing Fan Picture
Bingbing Fan
Of course, these friends of mine eventually had to come to terms with fact that they were NOT Audrey. There are still very few actresses who fulfill this role, but casting directors seem to be getting better. So many of the ones you do see are part-caucasian too (Maggie Q, Olivia Munn, Kristin Kreuk, etc.).

Bingbing of recent X-Men fame has got some traction. My favorite, hoping she'll get more American work is Korean actress Doona Bae,  but I guess I like her mostly because I think of her as a comedienne. I only recently discovered her in Cloud Atlas, which led me to watching various insane Korean comedies.

Doona Bae

I'm not that much of a movie/TV watcher, so do not consider my inclusions here exhaustive. But I am sure all of these women would tell you they could sure use more work. Such is the arts.

Anyway, this is my flimsy excuse for stealing photos from other websites and posting pictures of pretty young women.


Got it? Here's another view.

Blue skies. Yes.

That's it for today. Gotta pay the rent kiddos.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Malibu morning picture of the day - Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Dear Family, Friends, and Gentle Readers,

Dawn is starting to creep back later again, thank goodness, but I'm here at the office early today, which always makes the sunrise more colorful if it's not obscured by low clouds.

We've got some low-horizon red-orangeness and sunbeams bursting out both above and below. Cool no?

And toward the south, here's some more. You can even see some rain trailing out the clouds in the lower right. It'll never hit the ocean though.

Hey, here's a pic I found from a Tumblr blog post of some street art along with some commentary about Banksy. This is evidently a piece from 1985 in the London Underground, in a place only accessible by water but you get to see it here (it's gone now). The blogger goes off on Banksy who evidently painted over this "ancient" (by street art standards) piece.

Artist Robbo, Robbo, Inc., paint on concrete, London underground water channel.

Gotta get to work folks. Have a great Wednesday.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Malibu morning picture of the day - Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Dear Family, Friends, and Gentle Readers,

They say breaking up is hard to do, but when it's cloud cover it can look nice.

There is much moisture in the air this morning. Low clouds over the ocean, but much clearing just up above.

Here's another look just a few clicks to the south.

It's an exciting day program-wise on my employer's calendar--it's the day that first-year students check-in. All the upperclassmen come back to school this coming Monday, but until then Tues-Sat, it's really the freshman playground and they own the place and everybody's attention.

A magnificent bonsai from Saturday, the person
there gives you the scale.
Working on a college campus is really an odd sort of place. Not being on the teaching staff or interacting with students too much in my work, to me students are an amorphous presence who never seem to get older, and as a clientele, they don't. I did have an occasion to run into a woman at an alumni event who had worked as student worker in the research office where I started 22 years ago. She is now a 40-something married person with teenage children. She was a good reminder how not to confuse the group with the individual or vice versa.

If you are beginning something today, I wish you well. If you are not, well then, why not? A good habit must begin someplace and today's always a good day to start. A lovely Tuesday to you.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Malibu morning picture of the day - Monday, August 24, 2015

Dear Family, Friends, and Gentle Readers,

Hey, where's the seascape?

Artist unattributed, Woman Focusing, paint on brick.

If you're straining to see like this woman, just scroll down and you'll find the Malibu picture. It's grey today, so I wanted to lead with this striking image that was on the side of wall facing a parking lot on Spring Street near the Garment District. I was wandering around that area looking for some furniture upholstery material this last Saturday. Found a lot of cool stuff I will share in days to come.

The edge of her face IS the edge of the building. There's a bit of distortion because I'm pointing the camera up. That hand is probably as big as I am. Loving the detail, the rings, the wrinkles, the distinctive shape, and all.

Grey and cool this morning. I even had the heater on my feet as I drove into work today. This cloud cover is only over the water. Soon as you get half a mile away from the shore it's clear skies. So, it'll be warm today.

I was also in Little Tokyo getting my eyes checked on Saturday. Turns out it was the 2nd weekend of Nisei Week so there were some public events happening after I got out. I decided to wander into a bonsai exhibit. So to counter the parking lot art which will probably only last a few years, here's a different sort of art that will potentially last centuries.

You certainly don't have to be an expert in this stuff to appreciate how cool these things are and how much care has obviously been given over years to these things.

Well, gotta go and pay the rent. Have a wonderful week.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Three Loves Seven, Chapter 28, Part 2 - "If You're Waiting for Me to Cave, Don't Hold Your Breath"

Dear Gentle Readers,

After I posted last week's portion, I got to thinking that not enough had passed between Clete and Mu to make me believe he had enough data to decide to rescue Nu. The stakes needed to get just a little higher on both their sides to warrant a change of position. So, I have backed up conversation a few seconds to make sure you get the additional words that they exchange.

Also, have you ever bought a car or a large appliance after going through a hard-sell session and you thought the selling was over, but it really wasn't? The sales bastards then start trotting out extended warranties, accessories, EZ credit deals, rustproofing, blah blah blah. Think of that feeling when you enter this next section.

But Clete, bless his arrogant heart, he really thinks he knows best. Does he? We'll get it confirmed some time soon

... as the story continues ...

She grabbed the phone out of my hand and stared at the number for a long time.

     “You are a scoundrel. Did you know that? No, I will use your words, you are a real FUCKING BASTARD. Saying such things to me at a time like this. How DARE you!”

I think I saw Lee timidly peeking out at us from the boathouse. Mu saw my eyes wandering away. She whirled about.

     “LEE! Bring the duffle! NOW!”

Lee disappeared and came out quietly and hurriedly with a green duffle bag. Mu practically threw my phone back at me. She knelt down, unzipped the duffle and pulled out a couple of things. Her apparent rage subsided a bit, but I could tell it was lurking just below her now steeled exterior.

     “What’s that?” I asked.
     “Things that you will need should you go in pursuit. Special clothing, a flag, various artifacts.”

She took out what seemed to be a long, sheathed short sword. She drew it out and tested the sharpness of the blade with the flat of her thumb.

     “Dull and a but rusty. Needs to be sharpened. The sharping stone is in the duffle.”
     “Not much good against someone with a gun.”
     “A skilled knife master can defeat a pistol-wielder. But some weapons can be convincing if you only show them.”
     “I have not agreed to assist you.”
     “I know. I’m realistically weighing my options. This is an ancient heirloom of ours. The swordsmith  was quite gifted. It feels quite balanced even in my hand. And yet it has sufficient weight to carry itself into a target with the right push.”
     “Mu. You need to put that away right now. You are in an agitated state and probably not thinking clearly.”
     “Quite the contrary Dr. Wong. This situation has given me absolute clarity. And as sorry as I am to say it, your conjectures about Nu are not without merit. They’re unlikely, but … you’ve given me something to think about that I haven’t before. And she has met you, a man from the outside. And I invited that situation myself. And though it is small, now I have doubt. Is that your mission in life Doctor? To undermine certainty and belief?”
     “I like to think I’m in the business of uncovering and rejecting false assumptions.”
     “And what is the best way for you to conduct an investigation of what you think is true?”

I really did not want that job. But if Nu was really there against her will, which I doubted, it was a worthy effort. And so I caved.


The “Dragon Lady” closed her eyes and then put down her head for a bit. She looked up at me.

     “Thank you.”

For a moment she almost looked vulnerable to me, but I’m sure that was just either wishful thinking or a passing illusion. She immediately got down to business.

     “You will send radio transmissions of your coordinates to the channel that is preset, Channel 3, and advise them at 30-minute intervals that you are coming at my request. They will not answer but they will hear. You will advise them each time that you are unarmed. A course plan and map Lee will have for you.  When you get a visual fix on them, you will raise this flag. If they act as I expect them to, they will cut their engine and wait for you to approach and let you board. You will put on the garment that is in this duffle before boarding. You will read a statement to them that I will give you. They will then release Nu, whom you will collect and bring her back.”
     “What if . . .”
     “I’m giving you the contingencies now. You may call in the authorities if they do not cut their engine when you come into view flying those colors. You may also call in the navy, mine or yours, if they fire any shot, warning or otherwise. If you return with her on board, continue flying those colors. If you are returning without her, fly the black flag that is onboard.”
     “What the hell? You trying to impress me with your knowledge of Ovid? This ain’t some Greek myth. I’ll just radio you or leave your Island phone on and I’ll make an oral report.”
     “I’m not concerned. You will come back with her.”
     “What if I don’t have her? What if she has chosen to move on?”
     “If that is the case, then communicating by flag will keep me focused on your return. I will be on The Point watching for you. Seeing a black flag will give me enough time to kill myself before you make shore. Tell her that if she refuses to come.”
     “WHAT!? You want me threaten your daughter with your suicide if she refuses to come back? This is some adolescent brinksmanship bullshit. I will help you, but I’m not going perpetrate your childish mind games on her. Ask me to do that kind of crap and I’m off the job. No deal.”
     “If she is not here, there is no point to my life continuing.”
     “You’re bluffing.”
     “I am deadly serious. I can end my life right now if it will make you move on my terms.”
     “I don’t believe you.”
     “I will prove my resolve. I was hoping not to lose time on such things, but you are you. The water is not deep here. I will go under, only two meters, and hold onto the piling until I lose consciousness and start to drown. The only thing that will stop me from drowning myself is you. If you sincerely believe I am a liar, then I will drown. And in that case, goodbye Clete.”

She slipped out of her clothes as lithely as any of her Third Branch cousins and disappeared into the water with hardly a splash. There was a rope secured to the piling which she then grasped and she stayed there suspended facing up. She kept her eyes open for a time, but then closed them. I was sure this was an elevated bluff. I knew from my own experience in free dive and scuba training that we all have about two minutes, but then the body will spasm, and that’s the end of that. But Mu stayed down there holding on peacefully to the rope for three and then four minutes. Lee had come to stand by me as I watched.

     “She has been down there five minutes. What will you do, Clete?”
     "Why do I have to do anything? It's hardly ethical to use this kind of coercion to make a point. It's a desperate move. To me it's a signal that she's lost the argument; at least at the rhetorical level."
     "So now that you have won, you feel better? And now you will help as she asks?"
     “I really want to help. But what she is asking me to do is wrong. Nu has made her choice.”
     “Only if Nu wants to leave, that is. Tell me. Has Mu ever asked you to do something childish or stupid while you have known her here?”
     “Have any of us asked you to do something childish or stupid while you have been here?”
     “YES. Several of you actually.”
     “Then that should tell you something.”
     “Has she had hypoxia training?”
     “What is that?”
     “Holding your breath for a long time.”
     “She used to free drive for fish and shells when she was young. Yes. And she meditates for hours instead of sleeping much of the night; that increases the ability. And I think it slows down her heartbeat. Is that what you mean?”
     “So she knows how to suppress her diaphragm spasms?”
     “She will never gasp for air if that is what you are thinking.”
     “I think you should go down and get her Lee. She’s pissed at me.”
     “I heard her. She will not do anything for me. She is waiting for something from you. YOU are her target. So YOU need to do something.”
     “And if I don’t do anything?”
     “She is very tenacious and loyal to what she believes. You forced her into this. She will let herself faint and then sink and drown. She is rightfully the Dragon Princess. Why is it you are SO hard to get to do the right thing and the things you DO do are so troublesome? Ai yah! Just do what she is asking.”
     “But she didn’t say to do anything specific to get her back up here.”
     “Then she expects you to think of something. Just pull her off and bring her back up.”
     “Shit, shit, SHIT. GODDAMN IT! Another fanatical Island bitch. Why aren’t any of you bitches normal?”

So I stripped down to my shorts and dived in after her. I got next to her and tried to get her attention but she had gone into some kind of deep trance state. I tried to force her hands free, but she had a grip that I could not get to release. I was starting to panic because I needed air. I went to the surface, took in a deep breath and tried to pack my lungs as much as I could.  I went back down, forced her mouth open, and as she let loose a bubble, I latched on and emptied my breath into her. She took it in but did not release nor come out of trance. I went back to the surface.

     “Lee! I need to cut that rope. Get me some kind of tool. That short sword she had might do the job.”
     “That will take too long. Rope is too tough and too thick.”
     “What do you suggest?”
     “She’s going to faint sometime right? Probably sometime soon? She’ll let go then. Grab her and bring her up before she sinks, or it will be hard to find her on the bottom.”
     “Throw me a flotation device then. A ring would be good.”
     “In the meantime, see if you can get her to hold onto you instead. That could work.”

I took a big gulp of air and went back down to her. I did not want to miss the point at which she would release. I tried prying her fingers off the rope again to no avail. She was not looking good. I decided if I acted like I was hugging her she might instinctively hug back. I wrapped my arms around her and put mouth to hers again.  C’mon Mu. Take my breath. She did. And we just kept passing that stale, hot air. I vibrated my vocal chords as if I were talking and saying “Fuckin’ let go! You win goddamn it! I’ll be your bitch, Bitch!”

The whole situation seemed like it needed some other kind of punctuation, so I rammed two of my fingers up her asshole. I’m pretty sure that made her evacuate her bowels because something relaxed suddenly—like pushing the flush button on a pressurized water-saving toilet. Yeah, it was a pretty fucked-up move—I could go to prison for rape back in L.A. for that—I guess I was on my way to being a career felon having already started a rap sheet as a smuggler. But her hands then clasped around my neck. It worked.

I forced us back up to the surface where I got the ring around her. She had not become conscious yet. We pulled her out and laid her on the deck and let her drain of the water she had taken in. Life finally came back in to her eyes as she looked up at me sitting beside her. I was just about to scream my displeasure at her, but because I wanted her to hear whatever insults I would hurl, I rolled her head to one side and then the other, tugging at her earlobes to clear the water.

She looked like she had just woken up from a peaceful nap. Me? I felt my heart thumping and my chest heaving up and down because of my elevated rate of breathing. But I was coming down and I just accepted all of the serenity that was emanating from her. What was odd was the vibe we had resting there together—it had been years in my case, but my mild exhaustion just felt very post-coital. Surprising myself, I did not yell when I uttered the first words.

     “Ah. You’re back. You made your point. I don’t agree with your tactics, but I will do as you ask,” I said.
     “You won’t have to do anything difficult. She will come back.”
     “You’re pretty goddamned good at holding your breath.”
     “I used to be better. I passed out sooner than I expected. I haven’t done that in a while. I feel exhausted.”
     “Exhausted? You nearly killed yourself you fuckin’ lunatic. I thought you were the sane one on this island.”
     “When you have died as many times as I have you lose your fear.”
     “The reincarnation thing again, eh? Meh! You sound like my grandmother.”
     “She sounds like a smart woman. She would be ashamed of your apostasy. Don’t be so skeptical. Your soul is very old too. I can feel it. It’s why you’re so callous about everything. You’ve seen too much.”
     “I’ve had enough scrapes and bumps in one life to make me cynical. I don’t need more than one life.”
     “I wasn’t worried about dying. I knew you would pull me out. You don’t want to be blamed for anything. You are such a selfish coward.”
     “My status is rising. I’m up from ‘reprobate.’ You are one tough old bird.”
     “True. I am no young chicken. That means you must simmer me gently and for a long time if you want me to be tender for you.”
     “Why are you like this?”
     “I am just like you. Tough times made me tough. And I also prize certainty.”
     “I was just thinking. I owe you a favor. Why didn’t you call it in on me?”
     “Don’t think I did not consider it. Unfortunately I am a reasonable woman. It would not be an equal trade.”
     “In retrospect, no. But at the time, my agreement was unconditional because I had no idea what you people were capable of. Damn if you aren’t one to play for all the marbles.”
     “I only want you doing this job because YOU want to do it.  Shouldn’t you be on your way?”
     “You never totally briefed me about these guys. I just have their names.”
     “Too late. We’ll talk when you return. Just do it. Believe me when I tell you it’s perfectly safe and they are all fine gentlemen polite to a fault. They only transport all of those machine guns and rocket launchers for the benefit of others and only mount them on the sides of their ship for testing purposes. Got all that? My little ‘bitch?’”

I would like to point out that it’s always a better stance in life for a man to believe that everything comes out of a woman’s mouth is a lie, or at least shaded with ambiguity. It puts you on your toes. You will never underestimate them and you will give them and their cunning the respect that they deserve.

© Copyright 2012 by Vincent Way, all rights reserved.