CALI, NO … We had grand plans. I was going to rendezvous with all four of my young ’uns in San Fran. My oldest daughter Iris lives there. Gorio and Sara had taken the train out. My oldest son Rio and I got everything ready for a cross-country road trip, hoping to take Vincenzo’s showy ’81 Toyota Celica Supra, which had been in retirement for some time. I ran it to Montrose for an oil change and checkup and everything seemed a go. But Rio and I only made it to Paradox before it blew a hose and John Elder had to tow us back to Norwood. Further investigation suggests a blown head gasket … So, alas, no California dreaming for me this summer.
SPUDS … Course, for green thumbs like myself, early summer is the hardest time to be handing the the gardens off to caretakers. I’d just constructed new raised beds. Potato plants were peeking through the mulch. So, in a way, it’s nice to be home, watering, weeding and mounding … The big city has a lot less pull on me than it did when I was young exoplanet … By the way, seed potatoes, I have a bunch free in a box in my driveway in Norwood. Come and get ‘em, if you need ‘em.
PASSINGS … It was sad to hear of Sasha Shulgin leaving us. It was just a couple years ago that I saw Sasha and Ann on Telluride’s Colorado Ave. – they were here for Mountainfilm. We shared hugs. Sasha and Ann had made it to Shroomfest twice. And I’d seen him at Burning Man … A lovely teacher. I treasured his books, Tihkal and Pihkal. He was one of my entheogenic heroes, a psychonaut of the first class … We’ve also lost Maya Angelou, Inaugural poet and a national treasure. I loved that she started out working as the first female cable car conductor in Herb Caen’s Baghdad-by-the-Bay.
LOST & FOUND … Thanks to Cara at KOTO, and the folks at the Steaming Bean, Montrose Dispatch and the Telluride Marshal’s Office for getting me my wayward wallet before I even had a chance to leave town last week.
LAO BALI & FREEDOM … It’s funny. I’ve been in the newspaper business for almost 30 years on the Western Slope – beat reporter, ass. ed., editor and now columnist. For numerous publications. As a Green local elected official (LEO), you couldn’t find a stronger advocate for the fourth estate and freedom of the press, freedom of speech. All the essential freedoms granted to us by our state and national constitutions. And, even more importantly, granted to us as members in good standing of the Family of Humans, Order of Primates, Kindom Animalia (sic), Clump of the Mystery… Dolores would always warn us against explaining certain things, which seemed simple. Such explanations were worthless without first understanding the matrix of history, politics, geography the explanation was embedded in … So, it was a shock for me to visit my oldest daughter Iris and her partner Bert in Laos a few years back … Lao is a Buddhist Socialist People’s Democratic Republic – a central planning, one-party, Communist-inspired system where, quite democratically, everyone is a capitalist. In Vientiane, the capital, the paved highways were lined with two and three story homes where a family lived upstairs (the Mekong regularly floods) and sells something out of their garage. From the Che Guevara Auto Body shop, to a drugstore offering antibiotics over the counter, to a corner grocery. The Lao I toured was a far more laissez faire market economy than any country I’ve visited. Socialist, but every home and most stores had at least a miniature temple shrine on a pole somewhere on the grounds. Where one could offer pūjā on the appropriate feasts … And the shock wasn’t just the crazy-quilt mélange of East and West, material and spiritual, modern and ancient. Virginia Adderly, an associate of my daughter’s at the Australian English-language school where Iris taught, took me to visit Lao’s English-language newspaper, the Vientiane Times. Virginia introduced me to a reporter – not the editor (my standing in the country was of interest, but not importance) … But I got a chance to visit at what journalism in Lao meant from the ground up. Clearly, the genial fellow pressed into service answering my questions wasn’t the sharpest tack in the office bulletin board. Unlike some of the fresh-out-of-college go-go journalists that I’ve watched in Telluride over the years, honing their craft, working their way up available jobs. But my junior reporter roved around on his computer easily to show me the various sections of the Times and the issues covered – business, politics, international trade, weather, world news, city events, opinion. Standard stuff. But it was the official news organ of the Revolutionary Politboro, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism … It was the official good news of the country. Trade deals with China, Japan. New NGO (non-governmental organizations) projects. Court cases. Student medals. A film series … And frankly, it was great to read. It gave me a good feeling for the country and a real sense of the direction, limitations, development, and even some of the problems for the nation. Of course, the real news you learned as gossip, like we do in small towns … After two weeks in Laos, attending goodbye parties for Iris and Bert, we three went for a vacation in Bali. One of my bucket list of dream destinations I’d never expected to see. There, the English language newspaper, the Bali Times was fully western – front pages screaming murder, rape, thefts, rabies outbreaks. As a visiting tourist, walking around Ubud’s markets, monkey parks and rice fields or taking a ferry to Lembongan Island, it was a little scary knowing all the latest local “news.” I actually found myself not wanting to read the paper the week I was there … My trip to Asia made me question many of my Western assumptions. I’ve still an American, advocate for free speech, willing to take the racy, scandalous and alarming along with the informative, educational and entertaining in my journalism diet. But I also had to note how much, in truth, it was nice having good news to read, and leaving the alarums for TV, Facebook and our National Security Agency Listening Devices (aka, smartphones)
THE TALKING GOURD
from “The Perfect Breeze”
packing to leave
- Steve Sanfield