Fine or Rich

So, Tuesday morning I learned to bow. I thought I knew before, but I was wrong.

I found myself kneeling in front of a vaguely lit pyre, hastily constructed in a warehouse on the south side of the river. The smell of leaky petrol tanks, muddy cement, and illegally imported products permeated the air.

“Sorry man, I know he was like a father to you,” said a Joe next to me.

People say they have people who were like a father to them. My question is, isn’t your own real father better than someone who is like a father? What does that mean, like a father? I would never call the guy laying on the sawhorse pyre someone who was like a father to me.

If I did, he’d’ve boxed me in the ears.

Bow three times. That’s what you are taught. Three times, deep and slow.

The first bow. When my forehead touched the cement, I let go of all the sense-memories I had with him in it. I let go of his smile. I let go of the smell of his awful aftershave that was mingled with whiskey. I let go of the feel of the cracked leather in the passenger seat of his dark saloon car. I let go of the taste of his omelets.

As I rose up I noticed that the sun had started to glint through a cracked window high above the pyre. The Slims and Joes were starting to leave.

The second bow. When my forehead touched the cement, I let go of all of his teachings. I let go of his lesson on how to dodge bullets. (It starts with making sure no one is pointing at gun at you.) I let go of his explicit instructions on making an omelet. (Sorry, this is too important to share with just anyone, especially You.) I let go of his endless droning on about how to fight hand to hand. (It starts with a strong mind and a fast waist.)

As I righted myself of the second time, I realized that all of his teachings were now mine to reteach.

The third bow. The third bow was slower. It was harder to reach the cement. And when my forehead just kissed the cold cement, my whole body when limp and I lay, chest heaving. On the third bow, I let go of my teacher.

I listened to my last sob bounce drunkenly around the warehouse and land dead, cold, in a dank corner.

I righted myself. Stood. Pressed the button on the remote in my left hand. The back of the warehouse exploded pulling air out of my lungs. I turned and headed out to a waiting rickshaw.

So Tuesday I learned to bow. Wednesday I may learn grovel.

Inner-city Shooting Stars

2:59 am Sunday, November 18, 2001

Look up. Look southeast. Look up.

Wake up!

I’ve been on the road for almost a month. I have come to learn that I
have about three weeks of boxers. I have come to learn that flying on
Airbuses is scary. I have learned that this is all unimportant.

Look up!

When I was younger, much younger, I went sea-kayaking. I paddled out to
an island between Isle au Haut and Mount Desert called Hell’s Half Acre.
This gives you a good idea of the area. At any rate, the island gets its
name because it is a half acre big and there really isn’t a reason to be
there. But I was.

I ended up sleeping on a boulder the size of a small house. The rock
happened to get separated from that main part of the island as the tide
came in. That night was the darkest night I have ever experienced. It
was so dark and clear that we could easily make out the various
satellites as they passed.

I am connoisseur of this astronomical. I have seen, in no particular
order, the moons of Jupiter, a lunar eclipse, a solar eclipse, the Milky
Way, a variety of planets, more shooting stars than you can shake a
stick at, and a bunch of general strange things in space.

I remember a few years ago the Perseid meteor shower was in coming on
strong. A few friends and I sat in the midst of a soccer field, chowing
down on Ben and Jerry’s, watching what was one of the most incredible
meteor showers of our lifetime.

And tonight, just an hour away, the Leonid threatens to be an even
bigger show. Look up! I have seen two shooting starts already and it
is a) early and b) way too light out.

I get excited when things like a big meteor shower or a good thunder
storm show up. It proves that there are far more important and bigger
things in this universe than us. Look up!

Well, Thanksgiving Day is fast approaching. I guess it is time to be
thankful for some very basic things: life, loved ones, and the freedom
to enjoy the previous items.