Episode Twelve

January -April 2011

An ancient wall mural

1/1/11 New Years

I waited until the day dawned to create.

The first light of the new decade has fallen here in China – golden and full of promise

I feel the warmth of the day upon my cheeks and stare at the brilliance of the universe with wonder as a soft holiness suffuses my soul

The boundless potential of the future lights my way through the shadows and into the light

On this day of beginnings I entreat the comforting immensity to send us all love, happiness and contentment

I offer a simple blessing from here within the shadows of a perplexing multitude of a culture undergoing great change

I feel the roll of the distant thunder through the shifting ground and know better days are ahead, while I prepare myself for the whirlwinds

The bright light ever-shining calls to our better nature and we who answer will find shelter in the embrace of that which we hold sacred

My heart swells from the hope of the upcoming year

My body is warmed by glittering sparks falling from the starry heavens

My mind calms as the waves of my once storm-tossed cerebral sea break upon the firmament of my indissoluble hopefulness

My reconstituted soul billows in the breeze of the celestial dance

To the future I sing out my ode to joy

To kindness

To understanding

I raise my glass of cheer.

Fill the cold sky with our warm voices

Softly sing in harmony against the discordant cacophony

Bless this day and each of the next we will be granted

Take not a breath in doubt

Take not a step in hesitation

Stride forward

Be well

Find peace


A camel statue and ancient saddle from the tea horse road

The Jade Dragon Mountain in the distance


Time and Tide wait for no man

We went to Xi’an the ancient capital of China for 6-10dynasties (I can’t remember how many). I’ll tell you more about the trip later, with some more artistic shots.

Here is a doozy (all true) – We decided to rent a car (an interesting experience) and drive to the Yellow River, as it has been said to have a phenomenal “waterfall” . I was suspicious at first, but away we went. I said the river will probably be frozen and no water will be running, but younger brother went there (in Spring) and so… For various reasons, the 300 km trip took about seven hours. Our average speed was about 50 kph. This includes driving on highway, with a gps to guide us, and paper maps. Let’s say the gps does not update fast enough, and does not include new roads. So we drive onwards, the promise of food long unfulfilled I drifted into a low blood sugar fugue state, but remained generally optimistic.

Photos from our Trip

Okay, it is winter, the river flow would be reduced – in my defense, I mentioned this a dozen or so times before we left. Now, we arrive, it is 3:30 in the afternoon, the gate is up and ticket booth locked – Hooray – no 15 dollar entrance fee – apiece. But up the road we find the parking lot gate down and the road blocked with a government car. So we pull over and walk down. There is the ice encrusted river just ahead – the golden goal. Out steps the local lawman, who explains rather threateningly that we “Cannot take one step further.” The government has decided to close the area because it is winter and stupid people might wander out on the ice and die. But, but, but,.. what if we look at the river from the parking lot?” “NOT ONE STEP FURTHER!” You can hold my hand if you like, and I will happily pay you five bucks to spend five minutes taking photos of… GO AWAY! NOW!!!!

So we took pictures from the side of the road, looked at the river from above, and were stopped 99.95% of the way there.

Such is the life here in this global investment paradise. But at least we found a brand new four lane highway just a couple hundred yards from the serpentine roads we had driven – You mean we could have driven the highway and saved about three hours drive time? What didn’t??? But, but, but,… not one word more.

Whooping it up in the Middle Kingdom

Photos from ancient caravansary Shu He , top me jamming with local Naxi musicians; Hong wielding antique trident; Cotton Club 2 :-); The best breakfast in a long time, with Yunnan coffee


Some local governments BURN DOWN OLD GROWTH –ON PURPOSE!!!! So they can replant monoculture pine trees which they then clear cut to use as pulp and chipboard. They refer to old growth as “Junk forest” because it is just standing there and they cannot show a profit from its natural wonder. Of course they have eaten and skinned most everything that skitters about those trees. Most see wild meat as more nutritious, no matter what it is.

Have we become fragile, and frail ghosts of our ancestors’ unrealized dreams?

Can we develop into the future with a new economic paradigm, or will we continue to cobble together half baked ideas, piled high in endless reportage?

Which is easier? Entropy. Are we doomed, probably not? But I fear that the brighter future, which takes mighty efforts of uplifting and change – that may be lost to us, and will fade like the dyeing of the great white buffalo – make it look like the others will ya, so we don’t have to comprehend that anomalous bit of data.

Photos: Old building beside a lake; FeiLai Temple in ancient Kham Province of Tibet


from the highest regions

I have just returned from a two week trip to Guangxi and Yunnan. We went to the furthest northwest area and spent some time with wonderful Tibetan people in a Tibetan family hotel and watched the sunrise over the sacred Meili Mountain. The town is at over 11,000 feet in altitude, which I did not know at the time, so that would explain my headache 

It was miraculous to watch the sun hit one of the eight sacred mountains of the Tibetans. We had typical Tibetan breakfast with yak butter tea, bread, ground corn and wheat, and some extra yak butter for my bread. Afterward we visited the local FeiLai Temple, burned yak butter candles, and spun the prayer wheels outside in a counterclockwise path with the local wonderful people. I said a little prayer for everyone.

My god the Tibetans are the kindest, sweetest people I have ever met. They love to smile, laugh and have a general good natured manner. The area is just down the road about 10-15 miles from the border, but this area has been their home long before there were such borders.

Naxi Warriors with condor, early 20th Century

We spent several days in an ancient city that was part of the tea-horse road. The road joined up with the Silk Road in the western desert. The ethnic minority people are incredible. We found a very mellow place to hang out and just chill. And the Yunnan coffee is delicious and full bodied.

On Valentines Day Hong and I hung prayer flags for happiness and prosperity on a stupa – there are dozens across the area. We then circled the stupa spinning the prayer wheels.

The Mekong River Headwaters

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Subject: all quiet on the eastern front

I just sent my taxes again even though I am never sure they arrive – I do send them. I always imagine that final scene from Indiana Jones when they put the Ark into storage in giant warehouse. The outbound mail is an iffy proposition, but I have faith there are people each step of the way who will do their job.

The Nuclear reactor meltdown

Holy F-ink-hellacious troubles with the Japanese reactors. DAMNIT!!! Stop telling part of the story. I see a variety of news often contradictory about how much leaked, how much is leaking, how much is dumped into ocean – like it is just koolaid they are dropping into our only oceans. CRAP. It makes us crazy over here, because no one knows who is talking. So the news today, they upgraded disaster to the highest level a 7 out of 7 (Chernobyl being a 7).

Bob Dylan performed in Shanghai to a sold out crowd, and he was a hit, more or less. He then went on to play in the Hanoi. The strangeness of life in the 21st Century deepens.

People deserve the chance to hear him without all the political monkeyshines.

Chinese people want, more or less, what all Americans also want, the first being something better for their families.

Meili Snow Mountain, the sacred Tibetan god-mountain Kawgebo – 22, 110 feet. You are blessed if you see the sunrise on the mountain.

The BnB where we spent the night. The gracious Tibetan host was a wonderful lady.

Tibetan Breakfast – brother-in-law

The front of our BnB

Delicious Yak Butter Tea

Sacred mountain just before sunrise

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