Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category
November 25, 2006
As the weeks go by, I am putting more and more content on this site, content extending from 1975 to 2006. Now that I have a blog page, stay tuned for bold commentary to be posted in the near future on this page!!
….from my Aconcagua journal of 1993:
“One of the most basic and telling observations that can be made about the human race is their penchant for taking huge tracts of land and claiming it as their own, giving it a name and drawing imaginary lines around it over which they will pit their lives.”
October 3, 1991
I am sitting in a ramshackle bus at the Ming Tombs, which were not much to see. I was totally psyched up as of this morning until I hit my first obstacle. I figured Iâ€™d take the tour bus to the Great Wall, get there about 8 am, then get back on my own after the Great Wall and skip the rest of the tour. This was based on a sign, which read. 1. Great Wall 2. Dingling Tumb 3. Etc. (i.e., the Great Wall was listed first)
Of course, we visited the Great Wall last. In fact I think I was unprepared for just exactly how difficult the communication here is. It is not merely a matter of language. It is one of the different culture. I have been amongst Stone Age tribes whose courtesy was vastly greater than this. It is not that they are malicious â€“ but they simply seem to ignore you â€“ because of the language perhaps. However, so many times I have been places where we could not understand each other, but we exchanged knowing looks, hand signals â€“ there was an atmosphere of caring that essentially eliminated the absolute need for language communication.
The Great Wall was horribly crowded. It consumed my whole day. I should be elated. But Iâ€™m not. Fortunately, I finally come to the Qiao Yuan Hotel pronounced Cho Yor (even the pronunciations donâ€™t even come close to matching). I believe I should study Chinese extensively and come back. I notice over the signboard that the trip to Moscow is almost free. $252 for a deluxe Sleeper with shower. Accommodation is only $5 a night in Ulan Bator, Alma Ata, Taskkent, Baku, Tbbsu, and Moscow and $10 a night in Leningrad. Maybe next year Iâ€™ll just come here then book it from here.
This hotel is a real travelerâ€™s hangout. I love these kind of places. They are oases. In fact it is more desperately needed than ever here in China.
Sometimes I wonder if Iâ€™m too old for this kind of traveling. My mind always reverts to what my friends and family would think and I think they might think that. Maybe Iâ€™m getting soft. No. I think I could easily handle lugging my pack up a mountain. Itâ€™s not that. Itâ€™s the lugging it aimlessly on walks that should be fun â€“ around the city. Itâ€™s not knowing where Iâ€™m carrying it. And itâ€™s being too alone.
I just donâ€™t like not having a woman at night. Apparently Iâ€™ve staved off that torture a few nights, but then Iâ€™m back to it. It is fun to be free to flirt, but that would get me further in some other places for starters when they could understand me. Still best would be travel with Phyllis. It would be so cool to watch her be happy. That is my greatest joy. I guess thatâ€™s what makes this period so especially difficult â€“ even before she went to her Momâ€™s â€“ that I canâ€™t get a fix on what would make her happy â€“ if I knew what it was, I would do it. Instead it has been the one thing my body canâ€™t accept â€“ that she needs peace and quiet away from me. It wasnâ€™t just sleeping with Christi that did it. She was acting that way before. I wish I could understand the dynamics.
On top of my isolation from my home and friends, family, work, country and even language, I have to bear her telling me she doesnâ€™t want me to talk with her â€“ it makes me sad, angry, confused, heart broken. I just cannot figure anything out. I want to blame myself. I want to look up to her. But there are other evidences that are not all my fault.
The basic problem is one of commitment. Where does it begin, end, and what do you do if one member of the party breaks it? Was it too much to ask, for example, to be told you are needed and wanted and your mate (in this case, mine, Phyllis) will stick with you? If they say theyâ€™ll leave you, doesnâ€™t that drive a stake into the very heart of the commitment? If they change their mind, it still leaves a scar. You could say Iâ€™m angry with you, the only thing I can think to say is I want to leave you but I wonâ€™t. (Important clause). I cannot stress how crucial it is not to say that. Gradually, I wondered where the commitment lay. It felt tenuous. I didnâ€™t want her to leave. I didnâ€™t want to decide on the issues she wanted me to because (e.g. marriage) I didnâ€™t feel I knew enough to make a good decision. I felt my commitment was there, however. I felt there was other basic commitments she broke:
1) To keep our affairs between her and I and not to bring them to others especially our family and friends.
2) Not to hold grudges.
3) Not to go to sleep angry.
4) Not to swear at each other.
5) Not to hit.
6) To dedicate our energies for a good sex life.
7) Not to read each others mail and diaries.
Not to lie.
9) Not to yell.
10) To keep her promises willingly and live up to our various agreements.
Ultimately I guess thatâ€™s why I said we should take a break from each other. I felt sheâ€™d gotten to the point she had totally lost the recognition of her responsibility to live up to her side of the bargains.
On the other side, she saw me break my commitments (from her viewpoint)
1) To marry her
2) To not sleep with anyone else
3) To not think about other women
4) To welcome her friends and family as if they were my own
5) To â€œnot let money stand between us.â€
6) To not travel without her.
7) To â€œrespect her need to sleep.â€
To not deceive her, especially telling others of the truth.
9) To â€œnot fantasize while making love.â€
10) To advise her of events promptly, i.e. phone calls, mail, parties, etc.
I also broke the items I listed for her, numbers, 1,2,3,8,9,10, but I think much less than she did. She broke my number 7. And also I had a problem with her honesty â€“ because she felt she was honest, she told people things about me â€“ and I donâ€™t consider that honest, because I had no chance to hear her story and I knew from the way she recited things to me, that she told things in a way that could not always be taken literally.
From writing this down, I can see we both were contributing a lot to problems and both breaking our commitments. To be fair, I believe we both made it tough for each other to keep some of those promises.
However, to focus everything on one break of the commitment is highly unfair. How can two people who love each other so much drift so far away from each other? I suppose a relationship is not handed to you on a silver platter. And that to expect it to be is a mistake. I suppose youâ€™ve got to devote time and work on it. And then, which is perhaps my biggest and only real dilemma is deciding how I really see the idea of a relationship â€“ is it natural to expect fidelity? Is it against the law of nature? Is mankind fighting an uphill battle?
I guess the simple answer is that it is up to two people. I know I loved (and love) Phyllis enough to be happy with only her, despite what nature may say â€“ maybe its nature to be happy with only one person. But, and this is a big but, there has to be a satisfaction of problems. It canâ€™t drift endlessly from our problem to the next with no resolution. This is the part that confounds me totally. I cannot see why a problem could not be resolved, but it would not be.
I am completely fed up! Fed up with the seemingly incomprehensible dynamics of relationships. There must be a better way, a better life. In the past, I have been able to completely turn my back on it, by drifting to a new love. But this time I canâ€™t walk away without understanding. This time it was just too important to me. I never really had my heart into a love before. The difference is that this time I sincerely wanted things to work out. But as I watched our relationship deteriorating before my very eyes, like a runaway locomotive, I knew it wasnâ€™t healthy to continue it in the vein; there must be a way to stop the negative trends.
One of the things I feel undoubtedly would have been helpful was to travel together. For several reasons:
(1) To give us time to focus on what each other was saying â€“ to write, to think, to talk, to work on it
(2) To do this completely shut off from other influences; other opinions of family, friends, even other threats from potential suitors/temptresses.
I needed time to focus. For example, take the problem of Phyllis calling me during working hours. It broke her heart that I would shut her off â€“ yet it made me feel abused if she wouldnâ€™t respect my sense of calm at work. And what drove the problem? A desperate need to be loved and respected by each other. What an irony! But if we could have had time to think about this, maybe it could have been worked out. We could have analyzed every (or almost) face of the problem. Surely two reasonably intelligent people could have made some sense of it. As it was, in the rush of our lives â€“ work, socializing, hobbies, study â€“ we only scratched the surface of the problem. It was simple enough for me to â€œmost people would understand.â€ But one of the reasons I love Phyllis so much is that she needed me and gave so desperately to me. (It was, anyway, just her â€“ so I had to deal with it.) It was simple enough for her to say. â€œWhy canâ€™t he take my call if he knows how much I needed him.â€ But she was ignoring the fact that she was my life and that I loved her just as desperately. Instead, she took to some form of protest, that is, an emotional reaction. Which in turn made me feel guilty about not taking her call. And in turn made me resent her for the uncomforting feelings.
And so on. Every problem we had had the same story. In a series of misunderstandings, the avalanche of problems grew until they were beyond our control.
The seed of love at least in my heart was never shaken. When you love, nothing matters. Itâ€™s like x-ray glasses, looking beyond reality to what could be.
The idea of traveling was crucial. Phyllis was absolutely right to protest my trip. Perhaps she sensed inside that it was our only chance. If so, can she be faulted for pulling out all stops to shake me into changing my mind? At least within the framework of her â€œtool bag.â€ What I was trying to do was teach her a new trick.
If she wouldâ€™ve said something supportive it would have done the trick without any doubt. (The following is what I needed to hear:
â€œI love you with all my heart. I want more than anything to work out our problems and I want to stay with you always whether weâ€™re married or not. Traveling is important to our relationship, for it will give us a chance to work out our problems. I was wrong to make you feel guilty about not paying my plane ticket to Africa and even for discussing it with my brother. I am asking you out of the kindness of your heart to treat me. Please consider the unimportance of the money in comparison to a lifetime of fulfillment. Perhaps you wanted to go alone, perhaps even to fulfill a fantasy, but I assure you if you take me, I will more than fill your fantasy. I will humbly accept your decision.â€
Maybe this sounds pandering, but I would not be too proud to express myself like this. For what itâ€™s worth, however impractical, the attitude expressed wouldâ€™ve gotten her request for her, so why didnâ€™t she go for it?
In any event, I am going to make it a rule â€“ whether I was lucky enough to have Phyllis â€“ or whether it is another someone â€“ to take a month of a year to travel together.
October 4, 1991
Today, as my acquaintance Peter put it, I have lived a week. It was an astute observation because Iâ€™d just been thinking the same. I met this fellow last night and we had a beer. Today he showed me around Beijing and he left with his two friends (all from Romania) for Guilin.
This travelerâ€™s hotel is a classic. Here I am writing listening to some heavy metal. These places are a time warp. I like them for several reasons:
1) They are a good source of info
2) A good place to make acquaintances
3) They are quite cheap
4) You can get a variety of foods at good hours
5) They can be sources for other things like tickets
6) You donâ€™t have to dress up.
I woke, showered, came to the adjacent restaurant, had 3 cups of coffee and two banana pancakes, wrote, checked out Monkey Travel (which it turned out only deals in Trans-Siberian tail tickets $350 for deluxe or less to Moscow), was in my room when Peter came by and he had the day to kill so we made plans to go into town, I changed my film, dropped off my laundry, made arrangements for a hard seat to Chengdu, Peter and friends left their bags in my room, we walked to the bus stop, take no. 10 or 54 to Tiananmen Square, took color photos of Mao and red and yellow flowers; spent hours in the Forbidden City, got an eyeful, a history lesson and took photos, while Peter shooed away curious and intruding Chinese, hiked up to the park on a hill and looked at vistas of vast Beijing, walked down the streets, looked at girls, had a dim sum, bused to the China World Hotel, taxied to Likang Roast Duck Restaurant, there met a girl named Karen Guo or Goo Y. Men who gave me her phone # and told me to call her tomorrow (with my prompts), toured the ticket counter at Beijing Main Station, returned by bus (54) to Qiao Yuan Hotel, saw Peter and his friends off, picked up my laundry and all the while I had a running conversation in limited English with Peter who was a very helpful and informative guide and photographic assistant.
[However on my next trip I should take an actual photo assistant, female of course, by which I could justify paying all or part of her expenses.] Our running conversation often centered on woman. Peter related countless anecdotes about Chinese spies, the Tiananmen massacre, and offered any comments on what photos to take, where to stand, etc. He was a little over helpful but on the whole quite a help anyway.
Beijing is vast. It is throbbing with life. How the guidebook could portray it as boring, drab or closing at 7 pm, I donâ€™t know. The atmosphere is very conducive to photography. The air is crisp, the sky pleasing, the light either strong or subdued, changing with the clouds, the contours of the streets and houses align in that untouchable portion of my mind, which says Yes â€“ this is ripe for a picture. It is right â€“ and I donâ€™t know how to define it.
I didnâ€™t realize what it was until tonight â€“ it is the burning of coal in the streets â€“ it reminds me of India â€“ it is something not quite pleasant but ultimately pleasing because it imparts a sense of warmth and local color.
It is amazingly cheap here. I could stay here forever I think. I like the atmosphere. I like being a floating pod in a sea of people and activity and life. The buses cost 10, 20, or 30 Jiao, which is .1, .2 or .3 Yuan. 1 Yuan is about 18 cents US so .2 Yuan is less than 4 cents. A meal which we could not finish at the Duck Restaurant was 32.30 Yuan or less than $6.00. In fact the Black Market rate on Yuan is 5.8/$. The Hotel is 60 Yuan for my own room. Thatâ€™s about $11. It is reasonably clean, has a fair amount of room. I could literally live in China for 1-2 years and do nothing but shoot 4×5 or 8×10. It would be a good project in a lot of ways.
Traveling is going to a University, which consumes all of your time. Its lessons are history, language, geography, cultural anthropology. This of course covers a great deal. We include botany, diet, geology, current events, politics. Why do I have to go on? It is exciting to discover things for yourself.
Personally, one of my hobbies is eating. In the last 24 hours I have eaten the best since I left home. Food is plentiful and cheap. Beer is 1.50 Yuan at this restaurant â€“ and it is large about 70cl.
Asia has been blocked out in my mind. Iâ€™ve seen it as a string off countries hugging the water, China and USSR. So, Iâ€™ve visualized it as a partitioned block. My mind is struggling now to undo that imaging and view it as the greatest wilderness of which I know almost nothing. Once again, on the road I quickly discover a cause and I see the Holy Grail of traversing this wilderness. Forget the boundary lines that exist only in the minds of men and their maps. (Maybe I should create a map, which helps to form a more meaningful image.)
Only yesterday I was under the full weight of despair. I was lonely, homesick, heartsick; I took no joy in the Great Wall. Writing and food and hot drink unleashes my energy. Who can account for such changes in outlook?
The Forbidden City, for me, is one of the Highlights of man-made structures of the old world. It was perhaps the surprise, the weather and my photographing bent that performed the alchemy to my appreciation. I am totally jazzed by my visit.
I can hardly wait for tomorrow, ramming my head against ticket agents saying no, or perhaps strolling streets in the quest for a piece of art photography. Eating, wandering, flowing, free, happy charged.
I consider revisiting the Great Wall at a better time of day. A second more thorough visit is merited.
I have already devised 2 new trips â€“ one to Eastern Europe, Romania, to my new friendâ€™s city (asi, what did they say? â€“ Hungary, Czechoslovakia, The other is S.F Peking â€“ Trans Siberian to Finland.)
Words to look up: ligature, enfranchisement, tendentious, torpid, atavism, sophistical, tinged, avowable, finical, acrimoniously, vaunted dignity, demurrer.
October 5, 1991
The Chengdu Office of Tibet Travel
Tibet Hotel in the northern part of the city is authorized by the Tibet Autonomous Region Government to manage Tibet entrance confirmation and tourism, information service for individual overseas travelers.
â€œMost of the tourists who request it will get permission into Tibet, said the spokesman. This is the only official Agency dealing with matters of the Tibet Government outside the plateau.â€
â€œTourists can buy plane tickets at the Tibet Hotel to the plateau.â€ P.S. â€“ It worked!
Nescafe time. They make a hell of a cup of Nescafe. Music time. Mostly Western Music I never heard before yet quite enjoyable. I donâ€™t think I recognize the power of music over my mood. I wish I wouldâ€™ve played music the last times I saw PF. It might have soothed her.
A Chinese jogger!?! Bicycles everywhere. My estimation is if they all had cars the city would stop.
Todayâ€™s plan (chores disguised):
1) Find out if the guy got me a ticket
2) Have more clothes washed and pack
3) Call Karen
4) Change film
5) If no ticket, train station for ticket or
6) Intâ€™l Hotel Rail desk
7) Friendship store buy tennis shoes, map, sandals, paper
Peter told me Ulan Bator has a very bright sun; that pickpockets are prevalent; that thereâ€™s not nearly as much to do as in Peking; indicated itâ€™s not as cheap.
For US $20/day; I could live like a king here watching beautiful Chinese girls go by on their bikes.
At home I should continue study.
1) Writing classes
5) Other languages
6) IFR license.
I wish I could get my photo taking together. I want to take art, I know what I want, but I â€œseeâ€ it is too seldom. I see beautiful compositions but not as universal as Iâ€™d like. Nudes are best for me. They are individuals. They cannot be duplicated. As Jock said a photograph is a record of the relationship between the photographer and his subject.
Waiting for the sun to come out for a picture of a canal near the Great Wall. I think a trick of photography would be to sit in one spot for a month if need be and wait for the light to be just right. This would give a philosopher time to think and also yield the best photographs. What greater joy than to wait when one is comfortable and happy to wait â€“ what worse misery to wait when one is uncomfortable and anxious to move on?
I kind of pissed away the day so far. Nothing done really except a lot of yakking, a few pictures. Iâ€™ll have to see to it that later I make up for it.
Of course I keep pondering Phyllis. It would be interesting to understand everything at once. There are so many thoughts and events, it is hard to sum them all up into a cohesive understanding.
at the train station.
My mind is contemplative, rather calm. It is like there is an itch, which I can barely scratch. Like something is on the tip of my minds tongue.
It starts with basic questions: What has been going on between Phyllis and I? What has been in my mind? What were my thoughts? What did I think I was doing? Where did I think it would lead? Was I in control or was the situation out of my control? What could I have done differently in a realistic sense given my moods, aspirations, frustrations?
There are so many facets to the drama, I hardly know where to begin. I begin by asking a few questions: [1st point: unconditional love.]
1) Why did it matter to me what length of hair Phyllis had? Or what color? What was my love made of? Was she a beauty for me to parade? Did she need to feel loved unconditionally? Why could I not just give her a wide-open plain to play in? And just accept and observe her, and enjoy it? Could I have done so? If I had tried, would something cause me to revert to trying to change her. For example, if I felt she was trying to change me, would I find myself criticizing her despite my better wishes? And if I noticed this trend, what would I do about it, if anything? If that happened, wouldnâ€™t she, in turn, want to criticize me? What could be done to stop this downward spiral?
2) [2nd point: Honesty] What if Phyllis asked me whether I liked her hair or not, and the truth was, aesthetically, I did not, what should I do? What if I tried to be tactful, but she noticed it, and demanded the truth from me? What if the truth hurt her feelings? What if it made her feel loved conditionally? Would it have been better to lie outright, knowing in my heart it lessened our unity? Or could I have been simply thoughtful and tried to put things in an honest but nice way? What if I felt attraction for a woman and she asked me if I did? What if the truth hurt her, should I tell her anyway? What if I lied and she could tell I was lying? What would be the proper thing to do in this situation? Weâ€™re my feelings of attraction, although natural, brought to a more forward poison in my mind because of my lack of will? Through some deficiency? What if this situation arose after sheâ€™d already indicated she might leave me? And what if I felt that if I told her I was attracted to a girl; she would consider that provocation enough to leave? And what if, in my judgment, what we were really dealing with was a semantically argument rather than a substantive one, in that I had no intention of acting on a natural attraction, in that the message the admission of the attraction sent to her was that my love for her was deficient, when in fact my love for her was whole, and that I desired to on very the proper message? What is the proper thing to do? What if, in the occasional experiment to try and communicate the proper message, that I denied the attraction outright, only later to be questioned into admitting it? Would this not shake her faith? Is the best policy not to mince words, but to leave it up to a person to take responsibility for interpreting plain English? (For example to say, â€œI thought she was sexy but you must keep the perspective that you are immensely more attractive to me?) Did I not do this?
3) [Faith] Why was it necessary for her to question me so to begin with? Did I question her so? Did I teach Phyllis to be suspicious? Did I teach her inflexibility and intolerance? Did I needle her to the point that she adopted my code just to survive? And if so, why did I do it? Was I blind to my own doings?
on train to Xian.
I awoke from a dream. I was in the process of going to a hotel with her. I remember feeling her ample breasts. She was calling home and speaking in a thick Tennessee accent when she turned to me in half-apology â€œSounds kind of funny doesnâ€™t it.â€ Then she tore off in fluent Chinese to my amazement. The train jerked. It was a woman on the loud speaker I remember thinking that if I made love with this woman again that it would only drive me further away from Phyllis. I also recall in an earlier dream segment that for some reason. I was going to have my testicles cut off (no doubt I got the idea from the story of the eunuchs in the Forbidden City.), and, then I thought, no, I will keep myself whole, I remember Phyllis saying she liked them hitting against her.
They guy next to me wanted to open the window. We pass through a rural area with hills, cultivated fields; a haze softening the view, workers walking with hoes, sitting, or sprawled out asleep near the train tracks. Neat brick, one story houses in clusters. Marie the villages. They have traditional Chinese roofs and white Chinese characters painted on their sides. I close my eyes and feel the rush of the wind across my face. Traveling is alternating agony and ecstasy. A fleeting moment of ecstasy makes it all worth it. For a moment I have found combat. My legs are outstretched under the opposite seat, I have a window seat, the morning air is warm and dry.
We pass a row of doorways cut into the earth, and now more of the same only these are finely chiseled and form part of a picturesque village. In the distance I can see this is a normal architectural appendage to the communities in the region.
Now past a town, where lie brick hovels, in, cardboard, loose paraphernalia scattered everywhere. Is it any wonder the rural communities have a pleasanter air?
I reflect, last night when I took a shower. I had spent to much time thinking of Phyllis during the day and felt a little weighty. Suddenly, as I massaged shampoo into my hair, it was as if it were her fingers. My body straightened up as if bolstered by her presence. It was as if she were there in spirit, loving me. It was odd, because it just came over me unexpectedly.
Iâ€™m so comfortable, I donâ€™t want to have to get off this train. Iâ€™ve got a good view of the country, and it is quite a sightseeing expedition. I assume tomorrow at this hour, another train will go to Chengdu. Beijing-Xian is taking 16 hours by this â€œexpress.â€ From 11:15 pm to 3:35 pm next day. The Xian portion is from 3:35 pm to 6:15 am next day, which is another 14 hours 40 minutes, most of which is at night. It would be great if they had a train that left in the morning and arrived at night, so I could see the countryside. As usual, my problem is one of time. It is 10/7.
If I take tomorrow afternoonâ€™s train I wonâ€™t arrive Chingdu until 10/9. That only gives me a week to climb Mt. Emei, see Guilin and get to Hong Kong. Not even including the remote possibility of going to Lhasa. Travel time alone will take 3 days. Guilin Yangshuo, 2 days, Mt. Emei 2 days. In order of importance:
3. Mt. Emei
October 10, 1991
Waiting for a cab to take me to Xian Terracotta soldiers (though I gave a deposit, perhaps it will never come.)
More dreams of women and Phyllis. Went to a street where women sold their services? A naked woman appeared with the most exquisite body. In fact, I am surprised that my mind could envision such a work of art! Phyllis was at a house. All the rush of the warmth of the little things were in my dream. I remember a distinct sense of responsibility and wanting herâ€¦ reality.
I remember. 2 am thoroughly confused, or am I? I know I did not take any decisions lightly. On the contrary I considered everything carefully. It seems the latest final thrust of things came with problems came when I announced my intentions to go to China. (Were my intentions to go alone honorable?) Then, when we took the trip to Chicago, on the way back I told her Iâ€™d changed my mind about marriage â€“ I had doubts. When I put a deposit on a house without asking Phyllis she moved to her Grandmothers. I remember telling her once (or more) That if it ever came down to a choice of whether sheâ€™d leave me or Iâ€™d marry her that I would want her to tell me, because I could never stand her leaving. I meant it. I prized her enough to make the commitment. I did not think however that it was the best thing at the time.
When she left this last time I felt that she wasnâ€™t thinking clearly at all. I donâ€™t mean that lightly. I felt something was seriously wrong. I think it was that night (or the night before that) that we had an agreement to â€œspend some time togetherâ€ at 9 pm. She got angry with me and went to bed early. She had said she had to go to sleep by 9:30 pm. At 9:34 pm (and our clocks were fast) I asked her to make love to me. She said it was past her bedtime. I remember this terrible sinking feeling, like my heart was put in a vice and all the life went out of it for a moment. I realized that we had arrived at a point where she was totally out of touch with my feelings and needs (and me with hers?) and that it was serious. Where was the passion the love the joie de vivre?
October 11, 1991
Lhasa – on Phyllis
I think Phyllis thinks that, fundamentally, there is something deficient about the male species. Iâ€™ll have to ask her. Or ask her to think about it.
October 13, 1991
As I piece the history together in my mind, I can honestly conclude that had it not been for three of Phyllisâ€™s actions I could not have done what I did. The first as her insistence that it was OK for her to go out with Danny and even hold hands. Eventually, that made me feel I was equally entitled to behave similarly, only at the time I wasnâ€™t really interested in doing so. That came later. The second was her habit of threatening to leave. I eventually didnâ€™t know how much longer weâ€™d be together.
To Phyllis from China
I need you to cry with me for a
Over our inability to look at things
And laugh at our foolishness
I want all my love poems
To be about you
And our friendship
I need you to stop this pain
In my heart
With your understanding
I want to be bouncing along
In a truck on a dusty road
Talking all the while
With no guilt between us
When all the words have run out
There are just senseless poems
That do not carry the weigh of
Logic behind them
To say I love you
The Tombs of the Terracotta Soldiers at Xian are astounding. When you walk in the first impression is over whelming. It is literally an army of soldiers and horses unearthed. The photographs I have seen of it do not do it justice, for they do not convey the immensity of the display. In fact, as the placard points out, each face is different, each is done exquisitely, each life like, delicate, portraying an expression of one sort or another.
The above was only written because I was standing there biding time while the guard walked back and forth purposefully eyeing me. This went on for a good Â½ hour. I had the camera set for f90, (8 seconds). Of course eventually I had a narrow window of time to take the picture, lifted the dark cloth, press the shutter, counted to 8 and parked up! It will be interesting to see how it will turn out.
I was afraid to be found suddenly alone; I made a decision that maybe I could at least do what she did â€“ to make friends with a member of the opposite sex. The most deciding event was the whole thing about her study partner. It was a time when I needed her most.
I base so much of what I have and enjoy, of my ego, on privilege. How can I understand what is like to be oppressed both by the necessities of the workload of life and by a harsh social and political rule? What do I know of a forced life on the fields that we pass on the train row by row with a hoe and two hands, from sun up to sun down? Day in and day out. The Chinese people seem negative at times, but who am I to judge them? I think they are negative partly because they are afraid to be friends with a Westerner. When I read of their history, it seems one feudal monarchy after another, even now. Why do I have so many privileges and gifts? I have probably wasted enough money in the last year for some of these people to live a lifetime. I am not wise with my money. It is just that I am making so much of it now, that it doesnâ€™t make much of a dent when I overpay $10, or I fail to buy a Japan Rail pass and lose $300 in fares.
As the train rolls by, I watch people who are bitterly poor labor. From the moment they are born, their paths are chiseled into the ground for them. It would be tolerable enough if some sense of pride and ownership accompanied their work, but they are so heavily governed. They have quotas to meet.
I am not so clever or strong. I am only privileged. In truth, I am weak for I am so dependent on those gifts that have been bestowed on me. My health, my fairness, my education, my financial strength, my job, the freedom with which my country and city allow me, my travel experience.
I wish somehow I could do something of worth in return for the gifts that have been given to me. I used to think heavily governed. They that music could change the world. Maybe it is a signal of the changes that are taking place.
October 9, 1991
Those overnight train trips will kill you. And I got to sleep in the buffet car! I am slightly dazed, but recovering. Some of these Chingdu girls attract me. Like the bus maiden to my left. Eyes and hair black as a ravens. Large gold earrings dangling. And that practical working-girl spirit. Chinese gold rings on every finger. A fun braid holding her hair.
I was in a bad way when I stumbled off the train. I didnâ€™t relish the day. I prefer to know where I am going and have my plans set. Instead I had no idea. I could â€“
(1) Take a train to Chongging and then a boat to Wuhan, but I am afraid I might run out of time
(2) If I can, I could go to Lhasa â€“ I must go to the Tibet Hotel here in Chengu.
(3) I could hike up Emei Shan, but frankly, if the weather is this wet in town, it must be terrible on the mountain
(4) I could change my flight to Guiyang for the 11th and hang out till then.
I went to the rail ticket office and got shoved around in line. When I got to the front of the line, the clerk promptly shut the door and closed the curtain! After being told in another line to â€œwait a momentâ€ they shut the window for 15 minutes whereupon I pounded on the glass to everyoneâ€™sâ€™ interest. They told me it didnâ€™t open till 8:30. At 8:45 I pounded again.
October 10, 1991
At 10 am yesterday morning I was dreadfully in need of sleep. Since then, Iâ€™ve had none, and now I am buzzing, floating on adrenalin. I met a girl today named Connie Lee, to whom I am attracted, and ended up kissing for hours. I had a ticket to Lhasa, but I cancelled it for tomorrow to spend the last evening with her tomorrow before she returns to her home in Xian.
Being able to afford to be â€œgenerousâ€ is one of the joys of traveling in 3rd world places. Another way to say that is that the people appreciate little things. A little money, a little gift – and that I can afford to make them happy, which is nice.
Having dinner. For all the suffering Iâ€™ve done on the first part of this trip, I deserve to feel as exalted as I do right now. A change has come over me, perhaps of fortune. Perhaps writing out about Phyllis was therapeutic because I donâ€™t feel so badly anymore. Iâ€™ve been beating my head against a wall. She lays a big part in things, and if she wanted things to work out, she could change her behavior a little.
The best times in life can be times when we can savor with anticipation that which we think we can soon look forward to.
October 11, 1991
On plane to Lhasa.
This is one of the things I was looking forward to. The other was last night. Connie and I had a plan where sheâ€™d check in to my hotel, then call my room and Iâ€™d come to hers. The best laid plans. The hotel, when she came shortly after 6 pm, had run out of rooms. Not only that, but Wan, the girl from the travel agent insisted I meet her at 6 pm as she rushed out â€“ the same time as when Connie was coming! So when Connie came, I was waiting in the lobby talking to Wan. Connie left and walked across the street. I escaped and approached her where she waited and told her to wait for me. We walked to a restaurant and ate and made a plan how Iâ€™d divert the floor attendant and sheâ€™d sneak past into my room. The plan worked. Same like the night before, she began by rebuffing the slightest affection.
For example I started to unzip her jacket saying â€˜Take your jacket off and relax.â€™ Not un-goodnaturedly, she zipped it up to the collar saying â€˜noâ€™ perfunctorily. She started negotiating when sheâ€™d leave. â€œWhen can I leave? 10:30? 10:00? How about 9:30, 9:00, 8:30.â€ I said why donâ€™t you just leave at 7:30? â€œYou mean now?â€ I said yes.
By and by we were lying on the bed naked above the waist. She looked pretty with a bare chest. It was constant negotiation. Sheâ€™d admit she wanted me, then say she had to go. Every advance I made, sheâ€™d say no, make a gesture to stop me, then, Iâ€™d undo her bra, then sheâ€™d let it be. During this entire time, the phone occasionally would ring. It was Wan. I had explained this to Connie and the more the phone rang, it wasnâ€™t unlikely this was somewhat of a turnoff for her. Wan mustâ€™ve called five times. Finally, she really seemed like she was going to go, so I suggested I get a room at her hotel and sheâ€™d stay with me. She agreed. Then, as she was getting up she suggested I just stay at my hotel and not come to hers. Tired of the seesaw game we were playing I suddenly had an uncommon inspiration â€“ â€œIâ€™m going to fuck her right here, right now.â€
I perfunctorily reached own and unzipped her jeans and invited my hand inside, trying to get around her underwear. She tried to pull my hand away and commanded me not to, but I was determined and got my hand against her pussy. She gave up. Then I undid her belt and finally, started to take her pants off. She said, â€œGet a towelâ€ (She is on her period.) I consider there could be no better sign than that.
She grabbed my penis and stroked it and put it inside her and said, â€˜I like you Jeff.â€ It was feeling good. I was imagining her an empress that I just passed in the courtyard and was overpowering her. I held her face in both hands.
I took a break and she went to the bathroom and when she returned, she said she had to leave to make that phone call to Xian (my hotel didnâ€™t have long distance.) I had not yet come inside her, and I felt like we really hadnâ€™t â€˜done it.â€™ She was so fidgety I wasnâ€™t feeling sexy. Finally I explained it and she lay still and let me come inside her.
I insisted on getting a room at her hotel. We snuck her out, met on the street, went to the Chengdu Grand. I got room 1910 and called her room. She came up.
We were laying naked in the dark talking about her trip to Shanghai when I got excited (laying on top of her). It went in with a little push. I was imagining like â€˜Well, weâ€™re only having a conversation, sort of like, it was just a part of life and it would be natural to make love with someone and not even think about it. I found that thrilling; I was giving it to her and could catch a glimpse of this innocent delight on her face; it made me feel wonderful. Toward the end I reached inside her crotch and grabbed her butt, her legs up, and penetrated deeply into her. I had a wonderful orgasm and made some noise, which I was only aware of after. At the moment of climax I could feel this little, like tickly thing at the end of her vagina.
Though it appeared she enjoyed herself just after she got up to cleanup I asked her where she was going and she said that she didnâ€™t want to get pregnant. I tried to assure her that she couldnâ€™t.
We lay back down. I was falling asleep. It was about one. She mustâ€™ve wanted to do it again because she grabbed my penis and stroked it and I put it in again but soon dropped off to sleep again. It was about 1 am and I had to get up at 3:30 am.
At 3:30 am we got a wake up call. I lay on top of her. I wanted to make love to her again (one last time) but I was just too exhausted. We got up and dressed, kissed goodbye. â€œYou wonâ€™t forget me?â€ â€œHow could I forget you.â€ She left.
I felt a little wistful. I wish I could spend more time with her. When I listen to her lifestyle it seems so hopeless to try to effect what would be a normal relationship with a Western girl, where they are free to travel and to choose their life.
We effectively only had minutes together to consummate our feelings for each other â€“ hardly adequate. Iâ€™d like to spend time, be feeling rested, etc.
I waited several minutes, left the hotel and returned to the Tibet Hotel. Wan called me. She wanted to know where I was last night!
I quickly parked my bags and came downstairs. She was helping the American consul and so I didnâ€™t say much to her.
I slept part of the way to the airport, checked through, had noodles and soup for breakfast and slept on and off, between views of magnificent white-capped peaks jutting through a sea of clouds.
Tibet seemed one row of craggy, brown peaks and ridge after another.
We landed. The weather was fair, hardly even cool, and the air not too noticeably cool.
I reflect how Connie and I met. She got on the minibus and sat in the seat adjacent to mine. I thought to myself: â€œNow why, canâ€™t I meet someone like that.â€ She said â€˜Hello.â€™ â€œYou speak English?â€ She gave me her card â€“ she is purchasing manager at the Hyatt Regency in Xian. â€œConnie Lee.â€ She was on her way to visit friends and was going to return to her room at the Chengdu Grand Hotel at about 9:30pm that evening. I asked her if she would like a beer or coffee at that time. We agreed to meet in the lobby. She gave me her room number: 923. When I dis-boarded the minibus I turned to wave and see if she was waving. I could see her inside waving, it seemed, with a smile. I reflected on how Megu also had waved goodbye after our first meeting, also racing away on transportation. I felt it was good sign.
In the evening I kept a date with Wan. We had dinner, then found me some shoes, then had coffee. She made arrangements for a taxi to the airport to meet me Sunday when I returned. I was ready to kiss her at one point but my secrecy was blown and I didnâ€™t. I mentioned to her later what I had planned and she said she couldnâ€™t besides there was no place.
I reflected what Guyon said about men preferring women of easy virtue, and I compared that with my own immediate loss of interest. Besides that, I had met Connie, which preempted my desires.
Recap Japan. Day 10.
In Toba I went to Mikimoto Pearl Island, which was scrubbed clean of any spiritual qualities. The ticket ripper, a young girl named Chika stole my heart. I saw a Mikimouse demonstration of the Woman divers (Ama) â€“ at least I eked out one photograph. On the way out I took three photos of her. Then I asked her for coffee. Ultimately I think I embarrassed her into oblivion by asking her how about tomorrow in front of five of her co-workers. Her translator tactfully avoided the word No. But settled for busy. Of course I was ready to juggle my schedule (once more) for the delights of her company. Instead, I settled for a 32 minute run to the water. I found an interesting Bay with Islands for which I could not distinguish its Boundaries. Random fishing boats and perhaps pearl oyster beds dotted the bayscape. I wanted to call it the Inland Sea but I donâ€™t think it was.
I stripped naked and waded to my waists. I spoke aloud to Phyllis:
â€œDear Phyllis, before I left I told you how before when I traveled, I sent messages from mountain tops to my friends, but I felt they were never heard and never appreciated, and I feared that you would not hear them either. But you asked me to do itâ€¦â€
And so on I told her of my story of how I prayed for the water to purify our bond.
I dipped in the water and swam around a bit.
I ran back. Train to Ikoma uneventful. I walked to Silk Road Hotel. Called Megu. Said Iâ€™d call when I got room #. Called from Room # after 10 pm (check-in time). She said sheâ€™d come down in one or 2 hours. She came when I had been sleeping and I was groggy. She climbed in bed. We made love I think twice. She left early in the morning. Maybe like 3 am.
Day 11 to: on Night Train to Tokyo.
Megu picked me up. We went to lunch. (She paid.) We went to coffee. Then we went to a Japanese style love Hotel. It was totally cool. They had an entrance and tatami mats, a bedroom, a bathing room, a sink and a sauna. We made pretty hot love. After I took naked pictures of her. (I wish Iâ€™d had more light.) She was a good model. She seemed to hold perfectly still for my 1/4, Â½, and 1 second exposures. She was watching Japanese porno on the TV. It was hilarious. She found me coming out of the bathing room and got on her knees and started doing to me what the woman was doing to the man on the TV. Taking my cue I went in the bedroom, where we made love our last time. It was very good. I liked feeing like I had total mastery over her. I could turn her over to do what I liked.
I finished using the rest of my exposures while she posed for me. Then we had to go.
She dropped me off at Hozanji Temple while she got her bags. I was really excited by this temple. I had been accustomed to the tourist sites, but this seemed an area â€œin use.â€ It is on a mountainside, and on each terrace were several shrines. They were rich, delicate, beautiful, serene. On the way down (after having climbed to the top), I spied a photograph.
Megu was waiting. I quickly changed film (color) and rushed back up to where I saw the picture. I took two color photos (1/8 & Â¼ sec? or Â½ and 1 sec?) Megu said her daughter had just passed me on the steps.
The weather was grey, misty, almost a slight drizzle. She said, â€œMy heart and the weather are the same today.â€ I was touched, for she meant because she would be saying goodbye.
We walked down the hill to the cable car. On the way she pointed to a white and blue set of buildings, saying her friend owned them and that it was a Geisha Hotel. At least I found out there was such a thing. Later we talked about it. She claimed most of the women were older (40) and not pretty although they ranged from 20-50. Also she said they were expensive, one night costing in the vicinity of 30,000 Yen ($240). Although this ranged lower or higher depending on how old (or pretty?) they were.
It was an interesting cable car, permanently at an angle. We got to Ikoma station and rode on to Osaka. At Shin Osaka (New = Shin) we had dinner. We had one dish after another and I fully enjoyed it. She insisted on paying.) She explained each dish to me, which added to the fun.
Afterwards we sat and talked. Several times over the last day or two she reminded me not to forget her. How could I, when she had lifted my trip to Japan out of mediocrity to an event that was memorable and even perhaps a classic?
She seemed genuinely broken hearted to leave me and was hopeful I could come to Japan next year.
I watched the Bullet Train till itâ€™s red tail lights disappeared.
The sleeper was a nightmare. Had I known I wouldâ€™ve avoided it. It was older and too well lit, etc. I eked out a nights rest.
Day 12 Nikko.
I missed the train by getting on the wrong one! And it resulted in a huge hassle on the next train out! I had paid a premium of 930 Yen for the Special Express, but since the next train out was the â€œLimited Expressâ€ it had an express premium of 1140 Yen. Rather than pay the difference, I had to pay the whole thing and then get a refund in Nikko.
I was at a low in Nikko. It was pouring rain from the moment I got there until the moment I left. The tourist Hordes were abysmal, totally ruining any chance (for me) of contemplative appreciation for what was obviously once a special place. On top of the multitudes, there was a noticeable lack of charm in the inner alters of the shrines. (Hozanji was incomparable.) To finish off the sacrilege, and this was almost ludicrous â€“ they placed little white placards on posts right in front of everything that was photogenic. Even the brochure of the place showed these in every photo. I had been given a brochure on the train and I noted that they were, quite surprisingly, in every photo. How could they be so oblivious to the need for charm and presentation!?
I trudged down to town sopping wet. I had some hot food and used the restaurant or a depot for my bags while I set up my camera in the rain (with an umbrella) and too a picture of the Sacred Bridge. I quite liked it.
A rainy train rid to Tokyo. A rainy search for film. I found and bought 50 Sheets TMAX100 at a slight premium.
I trudged in the drizzle and rain through ASAKUSA being turned away at every Ryokan. I was getting desperate. I ended up at a love Hotel, Hotel Le Monde. Dropped off my bags and went out and had a sushi dinner until 10 pm check in time.
I had a restless night in a cramped room, which I didnâ€™t like. All my clothing was wet or damp.
Day 13 to Peking.
I missed my flight. Thatâ€™s the first time in my life. Fortunately, I managed to get on a flight 4 Â½ hours later (2:30 pm) which gave me time to â€“
(1) Mail off film
(2) Call Sterling
(3) Eat lunch
(4) Send postcards
(5) Get a new map at the JNTO, off to Peking.