More Mountains!

View from the Buddhist Temple in Dharamsala

Another view from the Buddhist Temple in Dharamsala

Dharamsala, Day 2

The view from self’s room in the Snow Crest Inn, Nadi Village, Dharamsala

A knock came on the door, about 10 minutes ago.  It was self’s all-faithful guide, Max, who is 25 years old, who just got married to Gita, who earns $75/ month working for the Snow Crest Inn, whose father taught English in a private school …  Wait, where is self going with this?

Self chose the Snow Crest Inn precisely because her internet research led her to believe they had great wi-fi.  But all day yesterday, and most of today, there was nothing.  This morning, Max led her to an internet café (next to a “Sacred Lake”, called Dal), and she was able to blog.  She couldn’t do anything else, because Max was peering over her shoulder at everything self typed, and even though self trusts him, she didn’t want him see her passwords.  So she stuck to just her blog.

Then Max and self walked all around the town, and visited the Buddhist temple, and looked at a very old cemetery under the pine trees, and bought old stuff from the vendors in the market, and had ample time to observe how trash spilled helter skelter down the mountainsides, and how very well-fed the monks looked (much more well-fed than Max, or any of his fellow hotel employees —  if self lived in Dharamsala, she would definitely have to consider joining a temple a smart career move.  If one wanted to eat well, that is).

An old English cemetery in Dharamsala

As soon as they arrived back at the Snow Crest Inn, Max called a “mechanic,” and a short while ago, he knocked on her door.  “Madame,” (reserved for old ladies, ha ha ha haaa!) quoth Max, “the internet is working now.  You try.”

She tried and — gadzooks! —  it is super-fast!  Heaven!

Max also, by the way, helped self to get a cell phone.  In Bir, a store tried to sell self a “cheap” phone for 2,800 rupees.  In Dharamsala, the “best” phone in the store was 1,300 rupees.  Perhaps the store owner was a bit taken aback by the alacrity with which self fetched the rupees out of her wallet.

So here is a picture of the wonderful Max:

Max, outside the old Anglican Church (St. John’s, built 1852) in Dharamsala

For some reason, it seems really important to him that self is “happy.”  This morning, the first thing he asked self, after knocking on her door was:  “Madame, everything all right?  You are happy?”  And today again, after we had circled the market, and self had bought something called a “vajra” (Symbol of power, the young man selling it to self assured her.  “You hold a vajra in your hand, you become powerful,  like a god!”), Max asked, “Are you happy?”

Of course self is happy!  She is in Dharamsala, she just bought a cell phone that cost half what she would have paid in Bir, and she has for a companion an honest young man who keeps asking her, “Are you happy?”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Reading ONE STORY in Dharamsala

Self ditched her group in Bir.  All she could tell Mrinalini was:  I just realized, I want to be alone!

Mrinalini said, “You only found out TODAY?”


Self got a driver to take her to Dharamsala.  She kept making the driver stop at cell phone stores they passed along the way, so she could buy a phone.  But no one would take dollars.  So, she arrived in Dharamsala, all by her lonesome, with nothing but crap Verizon phone (on which she has already placed two expensive phone calls to the husband, who is completely unconcerned, who figures she will just show up back in Redwood City one of these days)

Last night was cold.  As in, FREEZING HER BUTT OFF cold!  The hotel people were nice, but could do nothing about self’s extreme sensitivity.  So self slept in three pairs of pants, five sweaters, and two pairs of socks.  Never mind showering.

This morning, she awoke at 4 a.m.  The sun did not come over the lip of the mountains until almost three hours later.  But when self looked out the window, oh what a sight!  Her hotel, Snow Crest Inn, is just down the road from a school.  And, after the school, the road ends. And after that, mountains.  Snowy peaks.  Great, mighty mountains!

Unfortunately, the hotel has no internet.  Self is at an internet cafe next to a sacred lake.  A family of  French tourists passed her as she was meandering (She asked for a taxi, but there were apparently none forthcoming, perhaps all taken by richer — Japanese or American — tourists).  She doesn’t have a way to transfer the pictures from her camera.  Those will have to wait until she gets back to a more wired place.

Here there are monks (Surprisingly tall monks, even an American woman who was dressed in monk’s clothes and had a shaved head).  Also, dogs.  Also, Japanese and Korean tourists.  Also, Chinese restaurants.  And mountains of trash.  And snow drifts.  And self’s mind is going in all directions at once.  This morning, she began writing a story and got to five pages (She’ll call it “Searching” for now — BWAH HA HA!).

She also began reading a story by Benjamin Solomon in ONE STORY, Issue Number 154:  “Who Cycles Into Our Valley.”  A grown son is visiting his father, who he is apparently not close to.  Here’s an excerpt from p. 3:

“The son, who is visiting his father for a week before flying to the States, is an English teacher in India.  He chose India because it was the furthest place from home that he could imagine, although having been there now for two years and settled into a life with a woman, he understands that actually he is closer to home in India than he ever was in the States, and that in fact home becomes inevitable when you arrive in a place lonely and decide to stay there.  He tries now to construct his girlfriend’s face in his memory but it refuses to assemble, and he can only think that she was unhealthily skinny when he left, and that she was angry at his leaving, and her anger made her look wasted and ill …

Then, father and son think of a trip they took “long ago”:

“…  of the hostel they stayed at in Madrid where the son got nosebleeds on the pillowcases both nights, and how worried and attentive the proprietress was, bringing cold washcloths and suggesting herbal remedies that the father didn’t trust.  The hotel doubled as a hospice for the very old, and at dinner the father and son would listen to the sound of an ancient woman at the table next to them breathing as if repeatedly answering in the affirmative — mm-hmm! — “

And now self must stop, for her tour guide/companion is sitting right behind her, and she fears he has something better to do than hang around with her in an internet cafe all afternoon!

Another thing self has learned from this trip?  That it is absolutely essential for a woman in her position — traveling alone, not knowing the language — to have a really, really top-notch driver.

Self, why do you always end up doing the craziest, most foolhardy things?

Because she is a writer.  A writer.

Stay tuned for more adventures, dear blog readers.


Monkeys on the roof of the resort!  Their antics sound like large bangs, as if a crane had dropped a heavy chunk of cement on the roof.  She had no idea what was causing those noises until she went to breakfast.  Then she saw two other guests pointing at the roof with their cameras.  And she saw a small group of monkeys sunning on the resort’s galvanized tin roof, and a herd of others scampering quickly down a steep hill just behind the resort.

Monkeys, she decided, are a little scary looking.  These have nothing of the passivity of the monkeys she’s used to seeing in zoos.  These squeal and chatter, and groan.  The squeals, in particular, are ear-splitting.

Here’s a picture:

Three Monkeys on a Hot Tin Roof: Baikunth Resort, Kasauli, India

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

A Few Things Self Has Learned Since Arriving in India

Self is amazed to discover that India reminds her so much of the Philippines:

Rest Stop on the way to Kasauli

People are the same everywhere:

Hindu deity Ganesh on driver's dashboard (Reminds self of the dashboards of Filipino jeepneys, draped with Santo Niño replicas)

At the Red Mosque in Old New Delhi, right after the Call to Prayer ended (People hadn't yet folded up their prayer mats. It was such an indescribable thrill to hear the call of the muezzin over a loudspeaker)

Here are my traveling companions: Sarah K is on the left, and Mrinilani is on the right.

Self must make sure to wear a scarf, wherever she goes.  No telling when the yen will strike to enter a Hindu or Muslim temple.

India has "tuk-tuks" -- just like in Bangkok

New Delhi was blessedly cool:  the tour guide Mrinalini engaged told self that October to February were the best times to visit because of the cool weather.  Self thanks her lucky stars that she decided to try out India in January.  (Earlier, a couple of people told her, it was much colder.  Yes, she is lucky)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“A Short, Dark Young Man”

New Delhi, here comes self!

After numerous bumblings, ditherings, late-night confabulations (with self, in her head), and much badgering of Newark Continental Baggage Office (“I need my bag!  I forgot my medication inside!  I won’t survive the long flight to New Delhi!), she is finally, finally “ready”.  She has spritzed Chanel perfume (from a tester in the Duty Free store), and applied Estee Lauder lipstick, again from a tester.

Mrinalini’s last e-mail:

“A short, dark young man named Anand should be waiting just outside the green gate outside the Nothing to Declare exit …”

Stay tuned.

“Justified” Season 3, Episode 2

Someone ought to tell Denzel that story.

— Chief Deputy Art Mullen

This episode seems to be focused mainly on Chief Deputy Art Mullen.  Yay!  Nick Searcy is wonderful.  Self is thrilled, simply thrilled, when Chief Deputy Art Mullen tells a perpetrator :  “Get out, you son of a bitch!”  His accent is spot-on (Self has never been to the south, but she still declares Deputy Chief Mullen’s accent “authentic.”  Self, when will this ever end ???)

Adding further to the fabulous-ness of this episode is the presence of Carla Giugino (in a black suit with a red blouse).  And — oh my — she is tough!  Watch her take down a low-life in a pencil skirt and heels!

Self thinks this season of “Justified” is beginning so strong.  Episode 2 is on a whole other level of fine.

A character gets whacked pretty early on.  The incident occurs in broad daylight, in a very public place.  The sound of the report is loud (even though assassin muffles the sound of the gun by shooting through a pillow)

OK, where are all the other people in that Public Place?  If a man sprawls on the ground after being shot (but not killed), you’d think someone might notice.

Missing in Action in this episode:  Ava and Tim Gutterson

Though Ava does put in an appearance, close to the end.

Erica Taziel is present, playing tough for the first time.  That’s twice now that self has used “tough” to describe the women in this episode.  Which just goes to show:  all the women in the “Justified” universe are “tough.”  For instance, last season’s 14-year-old-with-the-heart-shaped face, who successfully deflected a pervert all by herself.  And last season’s Evil Incarnate, Mags Bennett.  And Ava.  Heck, even Winona is tough!  Most of the tough women are thin, and they can all get away with wearing the Mother of All Pencil Skirts.  (In fact, now that self reflects, has there ever been a woman on this show who is NOT tough?  Methinks not!)

There is a new Villain, who does a masterful job of cutting a beef carcass with a very very very and self means VERY sharp knife!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Amazing Drew

We met at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.  Since then, he’s become self’s partner in crime, the one who hopes to set one of self’s stories to music, someday.  Can’cha just see it?

MARIFE:  An Opera

Libretto by Marianne V________

Music composed by Drew Hemenger

On now, at the Metropolitan Opera House

Reservations HIGHLY recommended

What impresses self about Drew is his incredible output. This despite holding down a full-time (administrative) job.  One of his pieces was performed at Symphony Space for the 9/11 Tenth Anniversary Commemmoration.

So, here’s what’s up with Drew for the month of February. The first event is in New York, the second is in University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee:

  • Saturday, Feb. 4, 8 p.m.

Tenri Cultural Institute of New York
“Four Places in New York,” a piece for four-hand piano (part of Mark Peloquin’s Keyed Up Music Project)
Tickets: $20, reservations recommended

  • Saturday, Feb. 24, 7:30 p.m.

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Soprano Adrienne Danrich will enchant audiences with “An Evening in the Harlem Renaissance,” which includes Drew’s jazz-influenced songs inspired by the iconic Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes

The Calendar: February and March 2012

Self lives always in the future.  Always, always.  It’s her bugaboo:  she is always anticipating (or dreading).  The only relief is through writing.

Her 2012 “Zen Mind” calendar for the month of February has the illustration of a hanging scroll.  It’s one of those virtuoso performances of pen and ink:  a long, heavy black smear, calligraphy on either side.  The title of the painting:  “Nanten’s Staff,”  by Nakahara Nantenbo (1839 – 1925)  After she learns the title, self can’t help but marvel at how evocative a single stroke of heavy black ink can be.

Events listed in the calendar for February and March:

  • February 1:  Imbolc (Pagan/Wiccan)
  • February 7:  Full Moon
  • February 12:  Start of “Random Acts of Kindness” week
  • Feb. 21:  Start of Mardi Gras
  • Feb. 22:  Ash Wednesday
  • Mar. 8:  International Women’s Day.  Also, Full Moon
  • March 11:  Daylight saving time begins.
  • March 20:  Ostara (Pagan/ Wiccan), Spring Equinox
  • Mar. 21:  Naw-Ruz (Bahai’i and Persian New Year)

The husband found self another episode of “Revenge” on cable.  This one was Episode 4.  It begins with Tyler aiming a gun at the head of Emily Thorne (aka Amanda Clark), from point-blank range.  Then, cut to:  “Two Days Earlier.” (HA HA HAAA!)  A very thin and pasty-looking Gabriel Mann began the episode in a beach chair.  He ended it tied to a chair in his own house.  Fabulous, simply fabulous.

Bags are packed for India.  Self’s visa is already stamped in her passport, awaiting the scrutiny of an Indian Immigration Official.  Self has probably gained 5 lbs. just in the past week, from nervous snacking.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Sun Tzu Now: Robert Greene’s THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

Reputation is a treasure to be carefully collected and hoarded.  Especially when you are first establishing it, you must protect it strictly, anticipating all attacks on it.  Once it is solid, do not let yourself get angry or defensive at the slanderous comments of your enemies —  that reveals insecurity, not confidence in your reputation.  Take the high road instead, and never appear desperate in your self-defense.  On the other hand, an attack on another man’s reputation is a potent weapon, particularly when you have less power than he does.  He has much more to lose in such a battle, and your own thus-far small reputation gives him a small target when he tries to return your fire.

—  Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power, p. 42

Now self understands the attraction of the NEGATIVE ATTACK AD in political campaigns.

Robert Greene is the author of such books as The 33 Strategies of War and The Art of Seduction.  The “complete amoral series” —  Be Ruthless, Reign Supreme —  is available in paperback from Penguin.

Stay tuned.

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