We all know that Puns are the lowest form of humor. Right? But, aren’t they fun? The weightier the matter, the faster the flow of great puns! It’s simply our creativity trying to get our attention and to show us around-and-about the most solemn of subjects.
These are to be read simply as single headlines. I’m not trying to make a story here, though some subjects come in clusters (pun intended, I guess). And to get any sense out of this you do need to be somewhat informed about the Secret War of Laos, which is where I am traveling at the moment; and uncovering the SCOOP of the century! It’s a perpetual scoop, apparently, because “much” has already been written about it. Ish! Meaning that we, Americans, still haven’t heard of it. Check it out on Google and YouTube and then, do what you can to spread this shameful news. This egg on the American Face. Fifty years and counting!
I stumbled across the story in the COPE Center, here in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, while touristing through Southeast Asia. COPE is dedicated to clearing the UXO, unexploded ordinances, which kill and maim Laotians constantly as they work and walk the countryside. COPE makes prosthetics that allow them to survive. They need our support, primarily in the shape of money. They are not begging for it. I am!
When the oh so serious subject of America’s Secret War in Laos (see my previous blog) came to my attention; I found myself suddenly creating headlines and playing with words. I’ll share the pun-worthy results here, in order to give you full permission to slide gleefully down this slippery slope; even if you have a speech to the United Nations to prepare. Just try to imagine the subjects you could weave around each headline. And, there you will have it! Profundity! Keep paper and pen handy! These smarty-pants reproduce uncontrollably!
AMERICA’S TACTICAL TRAVESTY!
WOMBS OR BOMBS? TOMBS OR ROOMS? BOOMS CREATE GLOOMS!
LIVE or spelled backwards EVIL?
UNEXPLODED CLUSTER BOMBS – A BLAST FROM THE PAST!
BOMBIES – BLASTS THAT LAST!
LAOS OR LOSS? LOUSED OR LOST?
YOUR SONS, OUR SONS, MY SON!
SECRET WARS ARE NOT CIVIL! LET’S BE CIVIL TO EACH OTHER!
IF CIVILIANS ARE NOT SOLDIERS, THEN, WHY DID WE BOMB THEM? ‘SPLAIN THAT TO ME AGAIN?
WHERE WERE THE NO-FLY-ZONES OVER LAOS?
THEY ARE NOT ASKING FOR HAND-HOLDING! MANY LAOTIANS DON’T HAVE THOSE ANY MORE!
BUT, THEY DO NEED A HANDS-UP!
LET’S JOIN HANDS AND HEARTS AND HELP THEM HEAL!
A CLUSTER BOMB FELL, LIKE A NUT, ON THE HEAD OF HENNY-PENNY. SHE RAN TO TELL THE KING BUT NOBODY LISTENED!
WHO WAS HENNY-PENNY, ANYWAY? THE BUSY BODY WHO THOUGHT THE SKY WAS FALLING!
BUCK, BUCK, BUCK! IF THE SKY FELL, THOSE PLANES WOULDN’T BE OVERHEAD! EVERYTHING’S NORMAL, YOU SILLY HEN!
RELAX, HENNY! IT’S ONLY CLUSTER BOMBS; JUST LIKE EVERYDAY, FOR THE PAST NINE YEARS!
CHICKEN LITTLE SAYS THAT IT’S A BIGGER WAR THAN YOU THOUGHT POSSIBLE! LAOS IS THE MOST-BOMBED COUNTRY, EVER IN HISTORY! THANKS TO THE U.S! GUESS WHO GOOSEY-LOOSEY IS!
LOOSE LIPS SINK SHIPS! AND LOTS OF OTHER THINGS, AS WELL.
WHO’S MINDING THE ROOST, ANYWAY?
DON’T ASK FOR WHOM THE COCK CROWS! IT CROWS FOR ALL OF US…. EVENTUALLY!
WAKE UP AND SMELL THE DAWN! COFFEE AND ROTTING CARCASSES!
SPILL YOUR GUTS, AMERICA! CONFESSION IS GOOD FOR THE SOUL!
AMERICA! YOU BIG BULLY! LOOK WHAT YOU DID!
LOOK THE OTHER WAY! WHAT BALLS? THESE ARE OBVIOUSLY FOR TENNIS!
TENNIS ANYONE? LET’S GO BAT A FEW BALLS AROUND BEFORE BREAKFAST. THEN, WHEN THE EGGS FALL, WE’LL EAT!
OH GOODY! RATTLES FOR THE BABY!
TALK ABOUT BURIED TREASURE!
ROLL UP YOUR SLEEVES, GALS! WE HAVE A RIGHT TO BARE ARMS!
CIVIL WAR=EVIL WAR!
MOM, UPSIDE DOWN, SPELLS WOW! AND DAD, WITH AN E, (enemy) IN THE MIDDLE, SPELLS DEAD!
WARFARE OR CARFARE?
LET’S LOVE LAOS, AMERICA!
AMERICA’S MURDEROUS EGGS – CLUSTER BOMBS
AMERICA HAS LAID AN EGG THAT WON’T GO AWAY, UNTIL WE EAT CROW AND MAN UP TO OUR RESPONSIBILITIES! DOES THAT NEED MANSPLAINING, ANYONE?
ORGASM NOT WARGASM! MAKE LOVE NOT WAR! PEACE, NOT PIECES! (Not mine, originally.)
AMERICA’S SECRET WAR, OUR NEST OF BOMBIES!
WHAT DOES ONE DO ON THE WAY HOME FROM A BOMBING RUN? YOU DUMP YOUR LEFTOVER BOMBIES ON BABIES IN LAOS!
WE’VE JUST FOUND THE CAUSE OF PTSD! THE ONLY CURE IS TO LOSE YOUR MIND….ER, MEMORY! OTHERWISE, THE BRAIN-BOMBING IS NIGHTLY. EVERY EIGHT MINUTES!
BOMBIES FOR BREAKFAST? THEY LOOK JUST LIKE GIGANTIC RICE KRISPIES!
U.S. PILOTS BOMBED LAOS EVERY EIGHT MINUTES FOR NINE YEARS ON THEIR WAY BACK FROM VIETNAM…. IN ORDER TO LAND WITH NO DEADLY CARGO. MIGHT BLOW THEMSELVES UP, YA KNOW! OR THE CARRIER. CAN’T HAVE THAT, NOW CAN WE? THEY’D COURT-MARSHALL YOU!
NORTH VIETNAM INCONVENIENT? BOMB LAOS INSTEAD!
THERE’S NO DECLARED WAR WITH LAOS, BUT WE STILL KILL AND MAIM THE INNOCENT EVERYDAY! FIFTY-FOUR YEARS AND COUNTING. WHAT PERCENTAGE OF YOUR LIFETIME IS THAT?
AMERICA IS GUILTY OF THIS! WAKE UP, AMERICANS, AND SEE WHAT YOUR MILITARY HAS DONE!
MAMA HENS UNITE! LAOS HAS STUMPS TO FIX! THEY NEED PROSTHETICS!
THINGS FALL AND HIT US! SOMETIMES, BOMBS! SOMETIMES, TREES! SOMETIMES, TRUCKS!
HOW DOES ONE CELEBRATE WINNING A SECRET WAR? HOW DOES ONE WIN AN UNDECLARED WAR? HOW DOES ONE SILENCE THE NOSY, NOISY NEIGHBORS, WHO PRY INTO YOUR CLOSEST SECRETS? YOUR SHAMEFUL, CLOSET SECRETS? BUT WHAT IF YOUR NOISY FAMILY GETS NOSY? STARTS ASKING PRYING QUESTIONS? GETS OUT OF CONTROL? CAN YOU SILENCE THEM? DOES YOUR GUN HAVE A SILENCER? WHAT IF IT’S NOT IN YOUR CONSTITUTION? WHAT IF EVERYTHING YOU WERE FIGHTING FOR IN VIETNAM IS NOW HELD HOSTAGE IN YOUR SECRET LOCKER? HAVE THE COWS COME HOME? IS THERE FREEDOM IN YOUR HEART? AND IN YOUR SPEECH? DO YOU DO UNTO OTHERS? WHAT DID YOU DO, THAT THEY ARE SO AFRAID TO SPEAK UP….. OR MORE LIKELY, ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL?
OUT WITH IT NOW, CONFESSION IS GOOD FOR THE SOUL, UNCLE SAM!
Happy Punning, Punsters of the world! www.copelaos.org.
Last night, for the second time on this solo, around-the-world jaunt, I taught some fellow-hostelers how to Jitterbug! That’s the fast, Rock & Roll Dance that I used to do in The Fifties, when I was in high school. Unfortunately, our favorite teen dance has practically disappeared from the planet these days and nobody has even heard about it. I discovered this fact at the Hostel Euphoria in Tallinn, Estonia, when I heard their band playing all of my old favorites. The only way I could conjure up some dance partners was to teach them the steps. We all loved the results and I vowed to find other teaching opportunities.
That was last August and I didn’t pursue it until the chance happened, almost accidentally, here at the lovely Abraham Hostel in Tel Aviv, just before I fly to Barcelona, Spain, tomorrow morning. I must get my videotaping act going, though. I came completely prepared to film this class; but got so wound up in selecting the music and setting up my computer, I didn’t even get the cameras out. When will I start recording this trip?
This dance was the last fast-dancing, Ballroom Touch Dance where the man leads the woman. In 1960, Chubbie Checkers introduced The Twist, where the partners faced each other and wiggled to the music, with no spins or even steps. Kaboom! That was that!
Dance Liberation! No more touching or Leading!
Much less fun, though the same amount of exercise! Boogie-Woogie is coming back in style, but it’s a strange conglomeration of the Lindy and some athletic show pieces, with women being thrown overhead and underfoot for the international competitions. You’ll find it all on YouTube. At least, I’ll do my part to bring a little authenticity to this modern-day interpretation of dancing. No problem that mycontemporaries who also danced this in high school, are pushing eighty. Let’s get out there all you 1950s graduates and set the record right! It’s great exercise!
MY FIRST TRAVEL VIDEO – A PREVIEW OF THINGS TO COME!
Here’s my traveling video….. a sizzle reel produced by Rock Richardson of Warrior Films, LCC, to entice a Reality TV Series into following my travels around the world when I set out this Fall for my
“Around The World In 80 Years” epic adventure
to travel for two years straight, solo backpacking, until I turn 80 in 2017, and then to keep going for at least two years after that.
My time in Santa Fe has been great, but is coming to a conclusion in mid-September. After a nice long visit with my family, I’ll take off to travel solo throughout the Caribbean Island chain, Central and South America. Throughout that long journey I’ll be filming myself with my new miniature camera and its gadgets.
So, stay tuned.
DOES HOW OLD YOU ARE AND HOW MUCH MONEY YOU HAVE REALLY COUNT? NOT SO MUCH!
Almost a year ago, I published this blog post and it bears repeating…… especially since I have, only recently, become a huge fan of an Entity called Abraham-Hicks, through a DVD that I borrowed from The Celebration, a non-denominational worship service that I’m attending here in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Abraham channels through Esther Hicks and is certainly worth looking up on YouTube and checking out. This collective Entity on The Other Side reminds us of who we really are and what we have come to Earth to accomplish. I urge you to check out this Wisdom, as it is spot on!
Basically, Abraham’s Teachings remind us to always concentrate on The Positive aspects in our life and not to see anything in the negative. Just always being Positive, brings us into a Creational Vortex that’s always longing to reward us with what we need and ask for; but cannot do so if we complain about our current situation. Woops, after listening to this DVD, I realized that I was, in the previous blog, complaining about the beautiful sunlight and the fact that I was finally getting the long-needed eye surgery that will help me to see better. That’s sort of outside of the vortex that I need to be within. So, I’ll leave the evidence in the last post right here for all to see, and then, reprint this attitude about my life, which I think might be on the more positive side of things.
If what is really bugging me is that I am now becoming restless, and am eager to begin traveling again; well why not simply say so, and not fuss about what is currently my excuse for not sticking to business and writing more frequent blogs. Hey, it is what it is! Now, here’s the reprinted blog post. As true today as it was a year ago:
“Age Schmage,….Money Schmoney” was a book title I thought of a long time ago and never used. It doesn’t exactly explain itself, does it? And that’s the beauty of a title. Make it so intriguing that you lure the reader in and make him pick up your slim volume or keep reading on into your article. Or, increasingly in this day and age, your advertisement.
But, the reason I wanted to use that particular attitude in an autobiographical way, was that it does “Say it like it is” in justifying my particular lifestyle. And no, I’m not Jewish, but I love that succinct way of getting the point across with a dismissive flair of the hand or a telling facial expression. And the older I get….. and also, the poorer I get, if that were the case….is even more reason to carry such a happy-go-lucky attitude.
Here I am, less than a month before my 78th birthday, and I feel this truth more than ever. What does age have to do with it? Well, everything and nothing! You see, I’m weird. I’m a constant world-wanderer: always either on a long trip or planning one. I’m also weird because I talk constantly, internally, to The Holy Spirit (actually, I interview Him) and then I write books and blogs about it. See: www.insecretdiffusion.com.
Old Age has always been a universal basket to explain away odd behavior in an elderly person. Wandering away from home is another common appellation, dug up from that accusatory mindset. The thing is, I do wander away from home and then, write about my international adventures in books and blogs. There’s, obviously, no irresponsibility or Little Old Lady Leanings in any of them.
So, AGE is not causing this “Craziness!” Hence, the Age Schmage dismissal! In fact, the very act of constantly getting older, and yet, remaining the same, becomes a more and more rarified quality. I love to watch the eyebrows go up, when I mention that ever-changing factoid about myself.
And what about MONEY? Many people automatically assume that I must be rich, to be able to afford airfare and all my international expenses; to just be able to pack up and go, where and when I wish on the globe. But, that’s not so! I live on my Social Security alone and I live cheap, compared to most people. I’m a hosteller. I own only what fits inside of my two suitcases…..plus, some writing materials stored in the States.
I begin where most people hope they never wind up: HOMELESS! But, this is the true face of freedom!
You can’t have it all and these are choices I have made: No house. No car. No stuff No pets. My accumulation lies within my journal’s memories, filled with reports of adventures and friends collected along the way. I’m happy…..and my regular social security income helps me to stay that way….but is not the cause of it. I watch it carefully and don’t require too much of it…simply regular dole-outs from foreign ATMs. Plus, payments on a credit card used to charge online air purchases. Debit cards don’t work in that case.
And now, with shaky things predicted to be around the corner concerning our national economic future, I’m trying to get ahead of the curve. And, guess what? Lo and behold, I’m already practicing many recommended tactics: Such as:
“Get out of Dodge, while yet you can! Find a nice, inexpensive but beautiful, retirement land where the healthcare is good and the costs are not so high! Apply for a second passport to increase your options!”
Well, I’ve spent this past enjoying life in Uruguay, Peru and Ecuador, all of which fill that bill nicely and are on everyone’s advisory lists. Soon, I’ll check out Central American countries; also excellent candidates for living the good life without some of the homeland downsides; even concerning weather. Right now, I’m housesitting in New Mexico, which is a very win-win situation.
“Move your money into inflationary-free investments! Build a second income stream!”
I’m studying on that right now. And overseas is where the fingers point. All of a sudden, my journalistic, writerly qualities can turn investigative, because I’m on the cutting edge without even trying to be. I’m planning to attend another International Living Conference in Denver in September so that I can experience a global changing scene in a very “waterbugish” way, with Travel Writing and photography. I keep wanting to post my excellent photographs on money-making, perpetual-stream, photostock sites to generate a safety net, just in case social security gets downsized, someday. That’s been a long-term goal of mine. Maybe it will finally go beyond the talking stages.
Because nothing holds me down, it doesn’t harm me or dictate my life. I can shift on a whim and respond to the moment; just like a waterbug can, because it never breaks the surface tension. But, I’m also free to settle down with the right person, or in the right place, if I should choose to. How’s that for having choices? Shady or sunny? Mountains or Beachfront? Perpetual springtime, if I like!
Now do you see how the terms: “Age Schmage! Money Schmoney!” might just say it succinctly? And, a lot more positively than grousing about “too much light in my life!” Both terms have nothing and everything to do with me. That title was probably invented by some ancient Sage……unless, it was me, since I’ve never heard it before.
It’s not referring to your years or to your cash flow. It’s speaking of Freedom!
This photo was taken August 7, 2014, when I was one of the speakers at the monthly Writer’s In Transition public meeting. I read from my movie script for an animated children’s film called The Candlewick Question, about an alternate waxen universe, where the candle population believes that their wick is simply for making hairdos. The movie deals with the existential question: What is the purpose of the soul?
For the next thirty days, I’ll be living a very spiritual, upscale life at the Healing & Meditation Center, Paz y Luz (Peace & light), in the small town of Pisac, Peru. Yesterday, I taxied from Cusco over hairpin-turn, single-lane highways through the breathtaking Andes Mountains, descending in elevation to a green, river valley cloistering a lovely, red-roofed, adobe settlement.
This town is most unusual because it’s almost like a compact barracks with street/sidewalks or sidewalk/streets intersecting….. four blocks by four blocks. If every shop and entry yard were closed, there would be nothing but flat walls and wooden doors and Pisac would merely amount to a stone labyrinth. But, when the town is open for business, colorful displays and gentle hawkers lure you into their tiny, colorful shops, bursting with art and artifacts; as well as the normal hardware and haberdashery of life. Organic restaurants and health food stores specialize in Peru’s ancient use of plant medicine. The main grocery store serves as the town banking and money exchange center and the clerk was knowledgeable, efficient and honest in changing my dollars to Peruvian Soles. It’s astounding to me, the role that vibrant color and high quality alpaca and llama products play in the everyday lives of the people. They wear oranges reds, yellows, greens and blues in happy profusion; just as they weave then into wall-hangings and carpet bags. Color and music give the heart quality of the Peruvian people away. Shy modesty, at first, could fool an observer; but there’s a sweet and innocent sparkle ready to break into a beaming smile with the least encouragement. My retreat is a $1.00 Tuk-tuk taxi ride from town, or a dusty hike. My modern, single, ensuite room costs $25 per night under my long-term arrangement. I can buy breakfast for $3 or dinner for $10, at the on-site restaurant; plus. there are many restaurants within walking distance; as well as a complete, fireplace-equipped kitchen/lounge where I can cook my own meals. I have come way up in the world from my usual $11 – $17 hostel bunk rooms, and I am ready for it. Paz y Luz conducts Yoga Retreats and week-long sessions on spiritual and healing subjects. Also available are massage and crystal work, cleansing and detoxification, plus San Pedro and Ayahuasca Ceremonies. In business since 2000, this Center attracts small groups from all over the world throughout the year. I get to plan my own routine, or simply bask in the beauty of the place; while privately recuperating from high altitude, chilly weather and hard traveling, writing and working in The Sacred Valley, so close to Machu Picchu.
Sunday, January 22, 2012 was the nine-month anniversary of my son, Randy´s death. On Tuesday, January 17, I had a strange, marvelous, surprising and, at long last, a deep and profound feeling of grief for him. I suddenly missed him so much and through tears and a choked throat, I called up to him that I loved him so much. This came completely out of the blue and served as a reminder that this was his gestational anniversary, as it were. I´ll describe this precious moment and then copy the blog I posted here soon after his death to introduce you to my boy.
That Tuesday, I practiced getting rather hopelessly lost in my new city of Santiago, Chile…a custom that I follow religiously but not intentionally in almost every foreign city I enter. Lo and behold, I passed a GOVINDA restaurant, the first I had seen since Lima, Peru, three years ago. These are the fantastic and healthy Hari-Krishna restaurants found worldwide, which can always be counted upon to provide delicious vegetarian food….always kind to the human body and to the animal and vegetable residents of the planet.
There were a few people sitting at the small, round, ice-cream parlor type tables and chairs and I consulted with my waiter about what to order. This young man, maybe twenty years old, had the kindest, most serene brown eyes and we hit it off right away as personal friends. My order came and I happily enjoyed my meal. A woman came in and my waiter went to her table for her order. For the first time, I noticed the back of his head.
Ohmigosh! It looked exactly like Randy´s! Exactly! His fair skin and deep-brown hair color was just the same as my son´s and his unusual hair cut was a mirror of my own boy´s! How many times had I shaved that scalp close but left the long hank of hair growing towards his shoulders in the Buddhist way? Even the shape of his head was a mirror of the one I had lived with and cared for over the past eight years.
Sobbing quietly over my lunch, I sent up an earnest call to him. ¨Oh, Randy! I love you and miss you, but I wouldn´t wish you back in this life again! Thanks for this little visit!¨
Later, I confided in my waiter, DhanurDhar Das whose birth name is Diego, and thanked him for the back of his head. His sweet understanding gave us a moment or two to absorb the privilege we had both been a part of. I hope to come back soon and admire his tonsure at least once more. Now, I´m going to repeat the tribute I wrote about Randy sixty days after he passed away.
June 26, 2011-
This entry is a departure from the norm but it sets the scene for future entries here. Since I am not a psychic and don’t want to interfere with Randy’s progress in the next world by focusing his attention again on this one, I have made no attempt to communicate with or about him. Still, I have received the occasional “news bulletin” that he is doing just fine.
The whole experience has given me great confirmation about the teachings concerning Death told to me by the Holy Spirit and contained in my book. I was calm and happy throughout and still feel buoyant about both his life and his death. Here’s the story:
Some time after 6:00 a.m., on April 22, 2011, (a combined Good Friday and Earth Day), my son, Randy, slipped away from his life on Earth just two weeks shy of his 48th birthday. It was an easy passing if you ignore the difficult weeks leading up to it. None of us knew he was dying and we thought his symptoms of back pain, weakness, loss of appetite, constipation…. were just temporary – a pulled muscle, maybe sciatica – and all would clear up as it had before and life would go on in the usual way.
Randy was profoundly disabled with congenital Dejerine-Sottas Syndrome, a wasting disease somewhere in the MS/MD family. His boundaries had been closing steadily in on him all his life, but particularly in the past two years. As a child, he had walked with a rolling gait but paid as little attention to his disability as he could. He was smart and inventive and a natural leader among his playmates. The crutches he needed in high school were not cool and he began to sense that girls didn’t go for guys like him. Still, he had good school friends with whom he was still in touch on the day he died.
His two years at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky were really happy but the snow was hard to maneuver about in, so he transferred to Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, where he graduated with a degree in Art History. Randy was a true artist all of his life and was working on some intriguing pieces using fluorescent paint and black light at the time of his death. His modern art is full of motion and color. It moves even though he was able to do less and less of that in his final years.
He didn’t believe the prognosis given at Mayo Clinic that he would only live “into his forties” but was always convinced that he’d outlive me, not finding it reasonable that a child should die first. However, Randy had a lot of “what ifs?” that gave him a hard time. Both his grandfather and his father had died very, very slowly and he dreaded that prospect. Or, what if he got trapped in a body that could no longer move, leaving perhaps only one finger to type out his thoughts? But his worst fear was not being able to remain at home within familiar surroundings if his care should become too hard for me to handle…which it almost had.
Death was both frightening and fascinating to him but was not something he applied easily to himself. It was very good that no doctor gave him that certainty in his last days because he would have stewed over the moment-by-moment indications that he was approaching the edge of that yawning chasm and might have felt some fear and worry. He never had the casual coziness that I have with the subject due to my constant companionship with Somebody On The Other Side. The Buddhist Teachings aren’t exactly clear about the existence of God and get very complicated when talking about that rapid-traffic tunnel mentioned in the Tibetan Book of The Dead. Consequently, Randy kept the idea of death at a very great distance from himself and ruminated about the difficulties of life.
After a week of pain and very little appetite, he woke me at 5:00 a.m., asking for a glass-bottle Coke and a Cuban sandwich, which he enjoyed thoroughly. We talked for an hour and we both were sleepy again, so I suggested that we try for more sleep and we said goodnight at 6 a.m. He seemed to still be sleeping when I got up and had my coffee and then the visiting nurse found him without a pulse, soon after. He had slipped away at dawn.
“Good on ‘ya, Randy!” I said. “You did it exactly right!” His funeral and memorial service was a happy farewell and a tribute to a life lived fully and creatively though the walls pressed in for more than forty years. He always adapted to the new situation, the new normal, and found things to cherish about his earthly experience throughout the whole long ordeal.
His best buddy, Kumpa, also a Buddhist, reported on the way back from the funeral service, that he’d had an inner glimpse of Randy, now in the Pre-Birth Realm, testing a new body by running it up and down the stairwells of a tall building, refusing to take the elevator and enjoying the sampling of an athletic reincarnation. I’m told now that he didn’t select that body, after all, but was reborn two days ago in a good body, in Altoona, Pennsylvania.
How would you like to be born in a city called: “POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold?” That’s what Altoona is officially calling itself for a two-month period (April 27 (coincidentally, the day of his funeral) to June 27) to promote a movie by the same name. What are they putting on the birth certificates, I wonder?
Randy would have enjoyed the joke, having found life pretty darned wonderful this time around, in spite of everything.
As a parent of a child with a disability, I can’t really tell you how it feels to have a disability but I can honestly say how it feels to stand by and watch someone you love suffer. Imagine that your beloved child gets his finger caught in a slammed car door. You’d do everything in your power to extract that finger, or that whole hand, and make it all better. But the medical experts all agree that:
“There’s absolutely nothing to be done. The hand will stay smashed in that car door for the whole life and the best that one can do is make the best of it. Granted, gangrene will surely set in as time goes by but there are little things that can be done to make such eventualities a bit more bearable… Granted, that gangrene will bring an early death…but, such is life!”
After nearly fifty years of watching that prediction gradually come true, wouldn’t you as a parent also, as I was, be tremendously relieved when the car door was finally opened and the hand could escape the vise? Yes, you would!
That’s why you won’t detect the usual Mother’s grief in me, which many people feel when their child dies before them. What? Would I have honestly wanted him to hang around for even more pain and suffering just because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye? Not a chance!
I just call up to him: “See ya’ later, Alligator!” and wish him well in his new life in a great little town with a huge sense of humor.
(Iguazu Falls, Brazil) Am I bribing an official without even realizing it? Ohmigosh! If that´s actually what happened, this story is costing me $110! Yikes! Here´s the backstory:
After days of hard study around the Klein Hostel´s pool, digesting a Lonely Planet guidebook on South America, I finally decided to continue my overland journey by heading west through Paraguay. I could have chosen to remain in Brazil and travel to Puerto Alegre on the southern coastline; or I might have bussed through Argentina towards Chile where I plan to spend my last six weeks on this continent. Another possibility was to fly from here straight to Santiago and save a whole lot of money, to say nothing of inevitable wear and tear on the old bod.
But no….I have become intrigued by this impoverished, dictator-damaged Paraguay (second only to Bolivia in the poverty sweepstakes in S.A.) and way off the normal backpacker´s route. It´s not a well-developed tourist spot, to say the least, although I´m looking forward to three nights of pampering in the slightly-faded splendor of the Gran Hotel in the capital city of Asuncion for only a hundred smackers per night. I´ve noticed that poor countries (Albania, Nicaragua, India, Russia, Paraguay… come to mind) seem to have only very expensive hotels for foreigners in their capital cities. I suppose, because only government officials, United Nations ambassadors and big business representatives, ever come there.
Well anyway, the Gran was originially the mansion of the Irish mistress of one of the awful dictators and she imagined herself a serious rival to Marie Antoinette on the world stage of the day. Apparently, she was much disliked by both the Paraguayans and the French.She sounded so intriguing that the only way that it could be more exciting would be if she also haunts the place these days. So, how could I resist this plan? I´ve been spending only about $25 a day on housing for months and just now, am sleeping in an eight-bed, mixed dorm hostel room, for goodness sakes. I owe myself!
The five-hour bus trip across the whole of Paraguay is a deal at $27 but when I tried to buy a ticket, I learned that Americans need a visa. Most countries, except (famously) Brazil, let travelers acquire a visa at the border, if it´s even needed at all. Woops! Little old Paraguay plays hardball with Americans, just like its big brother!
So, I left the hostel this morning armed with directions for finding the consulate in town; even planning to take in the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls during the hours I´d have to wait for the visa to be issued. Morning rush hour had the city busses so packed that I decided to walk from the downtown terminal referring to a rather sketchy map to find the right address. This involved hiking many hot uphill blocks over sometimes upheaveled sidewalks, but I found the consulate almost-easily, with only one direction inquiry.
My experience there was most pleasant, with a smiling, efficient woman processing me at her desk with minimal, but workable English. I had not been able to locate in my luggage the extra mugshot that I knew I had brought with me. So, that was a problem as she genuinely couldn´t seem to think of any place in town that took passport photos. She went out to consult with an official while I continued to root through my wallet; at last finding a decade old head-to-waist shot, though I knew they preferred head and shoulders. Maybe it would do?
A man came in and wrote on a paper that the Paraquayan visa would cost R$198, about $110 American dollars. That was a bit of sticker shock, right there, but I have a lot of Brazilian cash to use up, so I pulled out the see-through plastic money pouch from my waist pouch, ready to pay. He said that I´d have to go to the HSBC Bank to pay the visa fee and I might have groaned, or suddered slightly, thinking of more street maneuvering in the now-higher heat outside. That man left and the nice lady had me fill out papers, asking me if I had a credit card. Yes, a debit card, but can´t I pay in cash here? I pulled out 200 Reals. She slipped those into my passport and called a man on the phone. He came in and okayed my photo, though at first, I´d been told I would need two pictures.
Two other men came in, one at a time, approving everything. The last man said to return in two hours to pick up my visa. He held up two fingers. Luckily, I thought to coordinate my watch with his. Ìt´s eleven o`clock now. Should I return at one o`clock?´ `No, come back at two o`clock.` ´But, that´s three hours from now, not two.` Okay, he allowed as how it was three hours from then, but repeated that I should `Come at two hours!` It felt like an old Abbott and Costello routine about Who´s on first?`
They did emphasize that I should bring my credit card. No, you don`t need to go the the bank now. We`ll do it all from here. All will be ready for you at two hours.
Hmmmmm? Why would they need my card if I had just paid the fee in cash? Hmmmmm? Uh-oh! Is that how bribes are conducted? You slip four big fifties inside your paperwork? I guess I´ve seen it done on television. I sure couldn´t have done it so smoothly if I had been trying to, for goodness sakes! Maybe they thought I was a rich lady because of my hotel reservation. Maybe they thought I was the Irish Marie Antoinette wannabe, reincarnated…
All I could do was find a restaurant and eat a long lunch until time to go back…forget struggling through the Falls and getting back on time. If they charge my card with another $110, I guess I cannot squawk. I mean, you better not welch on bribes in these high-powered situations. I will just have to enjoy my few days in their country that much more.
(That evening) I still am not sure how much that visa cost me, but I have the passport-page-sized visa (why do small countries take up so much space in my passport, I wonder.) good for the next six years. Goody, now i can keep returning to these hot-spots into my eighties! That 200 Reals might NOT have been a bribe, because when I returned, I was given 2 Reals change and a receipt for 198 Reals. But, she still took my debit card into a back room for a few minutes. I did not ask, just complied as requested. We really did not have enough language operative to get into such complexities. Getting back to the bus station involved parasol, city maps and near sunstroke, but I made it, even to the point of buying my bus ticket to Paraguay for Monday. Nah, I´m sure I didn´t bribe anybody. Come to think of it, that´s probably the first time I´ve been inside of a Consulate in all my years of traveling. Must have been a little bit nervous. But, they were so nice, I´m looking forward to meeting their countrymen.
I just received the regular newsletter of Bootsnall.com, the foremost around-the-world backpackers website and noticed an article recommending new and lesser-known Must-See Places in the world. Imagine my surprise to learn that I am, as we speak, at Number 1 – Iguazu Falls. Somehow, I´m finding it impossible to link this page tonight and my brain tells me to stop trying. In the morning, I shall attempt it again. You´ll just have to take my word for it for the moment.
So far though, I haven´t gotten to the Falls. I spent yesterday and today taking it easy recovering from the overnight bus trip from central Brazil. The Klein Hostel is comfortable and a great place to catch up on neglected forward planning, so I´ve been trying to decide which route toward Chile to select. The one which is apparently winning is the one I never thought I´d want to do…..busing directly across Paraguay in a five-hour shot, and staying in a fancy hotel in Asuncion, the capital. Do I usually stay in expensive digs? Never! But this one is sort-of appealing. More about that later, as things jell.
One of these days, when Montezuma leaves, I´ll spend probably three days thoroughly exploring these famous Falls, especially now that my respect-o-meter has just ratcheted up some extra notches. There is also the world´s largest dam(???) which I can extensively tour, as well, and I shall.
Oddly, the last two months spent in Abadiania, Brazil, could have just as well been spent in an alien space ship, according to the reactions of all these local Brazilians and the world backpackers here. No one…..absolutely no one….has ever heard of it or of John of God and the Healing Casa. Admittedly, this is far away in another State of Brazil, sort of like people in Florida having never heard of a small, spiritual, world-wide-attended Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Okay, that´s not a good analogy, but people in this hostel are talking all around me so I can´t think too well.
My point is, that now I realize that Abadiania doesn´t even exist as far as maps, guide books, and computer hostel or hotel guides go. It´s just not on anyone´s radar, unless you already know about it. Even driving by on the major highway, you wouldn´t know that it was just down the street a few blocks. Will that ever show up on somebody´s eleven places to visit before you die? Who knows? But, I doubt it.
However, crowds of thousands flock to it from all over Brazil, South America, and the world and it´s only advertising is word of mouth. And it all relies on one single man to keep on living forever. That´s the thought in my mind the whole time I was there. What happens to all of this on the day that John of God dies? But for now, it´s doing great and spiritual things for people whom doctors have given up on. That sort of news always spreads to the people who need to hear about it. And, somehow, they will find a way to get there.
Earlier, I began to quote from my new book, Hey Boomers, Dust Off Your Backpacks, the story of my border crossing into Albania, a country which Lonely Planet warns us not to enter. Here’s more from page 118:
“Okay, now back to the story of how I got here and of my fifteen hours in Albania. After saying goodbye to the last official, I returned to the car with my three thugs, who had rearranged themselves so that I could sit in front. Two men now held down the shifting rear seat. I was “not allowed” to fasten my seatbelt, as was also the case in Goran’s taxi, earlier. It’s obviously a terrible insult to their driving ability, and possibly, to their very manhood, and every time I pulled on the strap or even looked as if I were thinking about it, a finger would be shaken: “Ah, ah!”
What the heck? I’m in Albania now. Do as they do. I sure didn’t intend to antagonize these guys. But, ohmigosh, what dangerous driving, on what awful roads. At one spot, two old car tires had been propped up in a pothole to warn drivers away and prevent them from falling in and getting hung up… We did breakneck things as I admired the many shrines of flower-bedecked crosses and memorials to all those loved ones who had lost their lives doing just what we were doing now, though perhaps they had had a drop or two to tip the scales. One of their cars was still upside down and rusted out in someone’s yard…
We filled up with gas and a little farther along, we pulled into a fenced yard surrounding an auto repair business. “Uh oh! Do we already have car trouble or is this where I get done in? Why are we stopping?” Then, two harmless-looking teenage youth began to haul on a white fabric bag, half-filled with something sand-like. It might have been dirt, but I don’t think so. Then, a larger, similar bag was yanked, with some difficulty, from the other side. Both had been wedged on either side of the engine block. “Oh, okay. They aren’t banditos any more. Only smugglers. I feel better.”
La tee da. I didn’t say a word. Nosireee. We all just ignored that transaction and the hood was slammed shut and we were on our way again… Hey, it could have been beach sand for all I knew. But, if not, this would explain the tight features, the nervousness at the border and the refusal to exchange names. I’m not one to upset the delicate fabric of a country’s economic structure. Well am I familiar with the desperate subsistence smuggling done for mere survival in a Communist, or a post-Communist country.”
As it happened, the driver was true to his promise to take me to the bus in Shkoder and we pulled up to the side-street stop just as the Tirana bus was loading. I was the last passenger left in the Mercedes as the two cronies had hopped out along the way. So much for my Albanian bandit story.”
The moral of this story for me, now, is that we often leap to conclusions about the danger that we are in. Because things may appear strange to us, we can, and do, imagine all sorts of dire and unhappy endings – which, in real time, never existed at all. Those men were simply doing as they had been asked for a fair price. Not once did they give any indication that they would fulfill the Lonely Planet’s general warnings about banditos at the northern border of their country.
I’m also not blaming myself for having those thoughts, but I am mighty glad that I did not have a hissy-fit at the border trying to save myself from an outcome which existed only in my head.