Thursday, January 27, 2011

Terence McKenna on Mushrooms

Thursday, December 31, 2009



Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Return to Peru 2008

My Forth and Final Trip to Cuzco and the Sacred Valley
Click on pictures to enlarge...

"Sometimes I go in pity of myself, and all the while, a great wind is bearing me across the sky."
Ojibwa Indian Proverb

"To my way of thinking, there is nothing more delightful then to be a stranger, and so I mingle with human beings because they are not of my kind, precisely to be a stranger amongst them."

Paul Bowles

But first, an introduction. The Quechua people of Cuzco love to put on public shows that demonstrate their skill in music, dancing, and ritual story telling. Here is a video of the splendid Dance of the Condors, performed on Cuzco's main square, the Plaza de Armas.

9/27/08 8:00AM
Seattle Airport
About to depart for Mexico City en route to Peru, Cuzco and the Sacred Valley. Accompanied by Ginsberg, Indian Journals, stellar, hallucinated travel masterpiece. Leaving USA at an extraordinary time in history... the economy days away from total collapse unless the fools in Washington can straighten things out in time. Today is Saturday, zero hour arrives on Monday or Tuesday. Credit evaporates, ATMs cease to function; total circulatory collapse. Like the fulfillment of prophecy, which it is, of course. Looks like 2012 is commencing right on schedule.

Put me down gently, my life is in your hands...

So what? The world is sick of us and we are sick of ourselves. So, what's an unemployed guy to do? Why, take a vacation, of course. I want to stroll through the capital of an ancient civilization destroyed by greed, corruption and arrogance, the same things that are destroying ours. Was the Spanish conquest with all its atrocities a five hundred year old foreshadowing of all that was to go wrong with America and the West?

America: an up and coming third rate country. May we not take the rest of the world down with us...

Mexico City Airport
Airline error in your favor. Collect one first class seat. They are definitely more comfy. Lots of leg room. Attendants pamper you with extravagant food and drink, all free. I'll be sticking to coach class in the future however. Airline error? Scheduling. I am leaving now for Lima instead of tomorrow. But that means changing my flight to Cusco with Star Peru. Also, I won't have time to visit the fabulous National Museum of Anthropology with its amazing Mayan and Aztec artifacts. So, fuck it. Hope Star Peru will do it for free. (They did.)

Lima Airport
Got even earlier flight to Cuzco, now here at 5AM and waiting. Arrived here from Mexico City like an arrow shot from a bow off the shores of Turtle Island. Approach to Mexico City: another to-the-horizons city in extent. Immense. Block after block of squat tenement buildings that look like they would topple over at the merest puff of wind. And a population of 18-20 million.

In Cuzco two days now, sick with cold and soroche. Slept for 48 hours! Bright, hot sunshiny morning to mid afternoon, then clouds and rain. Way past the tourist season, so the locals get to take their city back from the besieging mongrel hordes. Passed by the motorcycle rental place on Calle Saphi, lots of sleek new machines parked to the curb and beckoning.

Gonna pick one up for return trip down Sacred Valley. Cuzco heart breaking as usual, one of the worst scenes of Christian desecration in the New World, unless you consider all of North America for that dubious distinction. Should I consider such trivialities as the upcoming presidential election for inclusion here? It
will be historic. Barack Obama, first Afro-American to run on a major party ticket. Democratic of course. Versus the pathetic, despicable John McCain, who it appears, has pawned all he once cherished to the gutter. And his unspeakably awful running mate, Sarah Palin. The worst VP selection in history, a paragon of stupidity and arrogance. Obama ahead at the moment. Better trot on down to the local Internet cafe to catch up on the latest bad news... the sun splashed Plaza de Armas. So, the bailout measure has failed. Stocks plunge 778 points, biggest ever one day loss in history. So it goes. Back to the real world. It could not be a more beautiful day here in Cuzco. Still sick, the worst case of soroche ever. Have not eaten solid food in three days. If the touts here on the Plaza only knew how close to destitution I am myself. Ah! The cool spray from the fountain downwind of me! Nausea, heartburn, gas, fatigue. None of this is helped by the fact that my friendship with MAR appears to be over...She reminds me of the old Lightnin' Hopkins song "Ball of Twine." So, while I'm trying to get through this without too much self pity, it still hurts a lot. Inca sun, dry up my tears...!

Over the soroche thank god. Still a bit shaky though. I'm back on the Plaza, half hoping to meet up with Delphina. Where could she be? In Lima probably, peddling her sad wares. Hard to resist the old Quechua grandmothers wrapped in their blankets, toothless and imploring. Bought two dolls from one of them yesterday. Met with Frank, the renter of motorcycles, to kick start my tour of the Sacred Valley soon as I'm able.
For now, it is agreeable to hang out in Cuzco and observe the ebb and flow of humanity and watch from the outside as the USA slowly implodes.

 McCain victory would spell disaster for the cosmos. Could Americans possibly be that stupid? Alas, yes. I feel good in a cosmopolitan, world citizen sort of way but cut off from family and friends, what few I have left. The sun, when it comes out, leans down and positively licks you with a sultry intensity. Eventually, you are compelled to seek shelter. Love the scent of wood smoke in the air and the sound of zampona pan pipe music amidst the colorful swirls of ponchos and mantas and long plaits of black braided hair.

The Plaza street people are earnest and hard working and I'm a sitting duck here. Been hit up a dozen times in thirty minutes...
In general, the Peruvian people seem a happy lot. They don't have huge investments to worry about or prodigious numbers of material possessions to store and protect. Expressions range from tranquil to bemused; quick smiles and kind demeanors. Police and security people friendly and relaxed. Now sitting next to elderly Quechua woman worlds apart culturally and linguistically but one in our common human origins. You feel that a lot here.

I hardly have the strength to get up and take photos, an activity I'm feeling less inclined to do. You don't make friends in third world countries with a $2000 camera hanging around your neck. That's where the eyes go first, the expensive bauble you're carrying and then your face. Happy Peruvians! Their country is not a crumbling empire, hated around the world and the butt of nasty jokes from Lima to Peking. They are not an embarrassment to the common human values of decency and kindness, the only currency that has value anymore...

I can now state unequivocally that the cell phone has become the universal human accoutrement. They hang on the belts of everyone here, from every walk of life. I remember how surprised I was when I first saw them in large numbers in Lisbon ten years ago.

Time to get up and walk a bit...

Went back to the
Central Market yesterday. I was worried that it, too, had been demolished. So
extraordinary. The cool, darkened interior bustling with activity. Young Indian mothers with their children playing nearby with all the goods of Peru on display. Looking for coca leaf, old
proprietress must have read my mind as I passed by. She promptly produced a small bag of leaves with the requisite hunk of hardened ash, perfect. Wandered about taking pictures and met beautiful, long haired blonde aging hippy from California, originally from Germany. We talked a bit, she's been traveling since she was eighteen. Heading up to Machu Picchu tomorrow. She's looking for a comb. We drink a glass of papaya and orange juice together. Had my first chew this morning, which buoyed me up for a while then left me feeling nauseous. Another intensely bright day in the Plaza.

Bad news from America. "Bailout" package headed for approval but stocks keep dropping. VP debates tonight, Biden vs. Palin. Big deal. Obama still leading in the polls.

Old Quechua man approaches, shows me his tattered clothing and shoes. Give him 50 soles, about sixteen dollars, a small fortune.

Hostel Sumaq Tikaq, Calle Tanda 114, high up in the San Blas district. Beautiful little corridor of greenery leads up to the entrance. Might just move camp up here. Now looking for Plaza Nazarenas and the ethnographic museum...

Yesterday finally stumbled upon the object of my quest, the exquisite Museo de Atre Precolombino. Cool and dark inside, it's more like a chapel, a holy place, than a museum, and so it is. Laid out in five or six medium sized rooms are the beautifully crafted artifacts in wood, metal, ceramics, bone and shell from six successive civilizations in Peru. (Nasca, Mochia, Hurari, Chancay, Chimu, and Inca.) Some of the works are beyond beautiful, defying definition in subtlety of execution, especially Hurari. This museum is worth all the cathedrals in Cuzco put together. People walking through the various galleries speak in hushed tones, as though to confirm its sacred status. Could not help contrasting these lost civilizations with our own, now stumbling and crashing its way towards oblivion.

The final flower of Peruvian civilization crushed by arrogance, greed and cruelty. Now these forces have turned on us, they've come to pay us a visit and it may be our turn to fall by the wayside. Let it come down!

Biden wins VP debate.

Peru, the new center of world spirituality. Been thinking of taking the ayahusca ceremony with Kush. Went to his shop in San Blas yesterday just in time to catch sight of the latest New Age fad: ayahusca tourism! Kush is becoming known as the Cuzco shaman. Big, over weight kid comes lumbering in to inquire about the ceremony. He speaks with Kush's beautiful wife. Cost is $85, meet at shop for 4k drive into mountains, all night affair. We talk a bit outside. He seems as unlikely a candidate for ayahusca as could be imagined, but perhaps I'm being elitist. He's just the latest of a new generation hitting the Hippy Highway for kicks and enlightenment. Wasn't I on that road at one time? Ah me, I wish him luck.

Satori in Cuzco! It's a good place for it.

I see its potential as a major center of spiritual practice and learning once purged of its tourist trappings after The Fall, heh heh...I can imagine countless hostels, restaurants and shops converted into classrooms, yoga and meditation halls, and centers for learning the Old Ways. All the essential elements are here - stupendous natural beauty, agreeable year around weather, a powerful legacy of indigenous, earth based spirituality, a bountiful, organic agriculture capable of supporting a large community, and access to native entheogens. Something would have to be done about the drinking water however, presently toxic to outsiders.

Well, too nice a day to waste, maybe head on up to Sacsayhuaman. (Bought ticket back to Lima for return trip on the 19th, $215.) While all America is doom and gloom, here in Cusco I'm sitting in the delightful Plaza Regocigo. Bright sunshine, gushing fountain, zampona music, children playing and oh yes, beautiful young women everywhere. Feeling much better today, might be up for ayahusca ceremony next week. Pigeon touts dance for bread crumbs, no shit!

Man in orange shirt approaches and begins to speak to no one in particular. He appears to be reciting something, or giving a speech or sermon of some kind. He departs as abruptly as he came, only to approach another bench, where he begins his speech again.

Yesterday, late afternoon, sound truck drove down Calle Saphi announcing in a shockingly sinister and robot-like voice some gathering or demonstration down on the Plaza. Didn't bother going but for hours I could hear loud, exclamatory speeches that droned on and on. I know little of the political or social fault lines that underlie Peruvian social and political life. You have Spanish, Quechua, Ayamara, Mestizo, and Amazon Rain Forest Basin tribes, interests and enclaves, plus a revival of the Maoist Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) terrorist lunacy "movement." They can only be encouraged by the success of the Maoist rebels in Nepal, who now run the country. Pachandra is now the fucking prime minister! Who would have believed that possible just two years ago? Given the extreme poverty here, especially amongst the indigenous people and a bitter history of conquest and colonization, you have all the ingredients for a Maoist styled uprising. Talk of revolution in America was a load of bullshit I thought. I doubt whether all the demonstrations, marches, be-ins, college take overs or other confrontations with "the establishment" resulted in even one less bomb being dropped on Vietnam or one less nuclear device being assembled. The military-industrial complex ruled unerringly then as it does now. No rag tag, slogan chanting rabble of students or ghetto dwellers was ever going to change that. Today we have the "political spectacle," that finely crafted show piece made for popular consumption by the evil doctors of propaganda, where everyone learns to pull the right levers like trained squirrels. And so the demonstration here yesterday? An old fashioned, outdoor propaganda show. Beware of the theoreticians!

Back to the Internet. What are the inhabitants of the monkey house up to now?

Up to Sacsyhuamen. The shattered remains of a Puma sculpture that encompassed all of Cuzco in Inca times. Sacsy was the jaws of the beast. It was the vision of brilliant urban planning and mythology that joined heaven and earth in a consummate embrace.

Headed for Pisac by motorcycle. Soroche gone but I've got a cold and the air temperature is chilly - especially on a motorcycle. Didn't bring much in the way of a wind breaker. Big market day today though. Sun's out and brilliant at 7:30 AM.

10:30 AM In Cararo
Things have changed. New, separate area for the artesemo. The old man with the exquisite Incan artifacts is gone. Now they just offer the usual fare - mass produced knick knacks and so-so textiles. Moving on to Pisac on Honda 250cc dirt bike. Every time I stop I'm like a grounded albatross. Bike is heavy and unwieldy so I flounder to stay upright. The day is sunny with big puffy white clouds. I may not be able to do this much longer. Failing strength in legs and arms, to say nothing of my deplorable back condition hobbles me like a lame beast of burden. Splendid backdrop of mountains here. Nice, authentic Andean folk music being played over primitive PA system, similar to Bolivian music heard in
La Paz a few years ago. The people in Cararo appear to be Mestizo, if not pure indigenous. The Apus are powerful here. Who could not help but pray to them? It is amazing how far up the mountain sides the farmers cultivate their fields. Time to move on. Apus protect me!

9:30 PM
Back from Pisac. Fell of the goddamned motorcycle at least five times. Pisac now is huge, at least four times bigger than it was in 2003. It has become a victim of its own success. Every building is packed with all manner of tourista gewgaws. Fancy restaurants and bars compete everywhere for the tourista buck. It’s even starting to look like a posh fashion venue in some large city. The central square is still the focal point of selling, gossiping, and socializing, but radiating off from the square are streets full to overflowing with every conceivable tourist trinket known in Peru. Everything has a newly minted look to it. The streets are now paved with very serviceable stone work. New carpentry and glass-work gives it the
Aquas Caliente“ look. Well, that’s alright I guess. Many of the once penurious locals have grown prosperous from Pisac’s popularity with tour operators. Today the place looked like an ant hill. The original village had vanished beneath the tramp of innumerable camera toting tourists like me. The tourista buck strikes again, turning quaintness into cheap commercial fodder. Took a few good pictures. Still learning how to use this beast of a camera (Nikon D300.) So, to document the trip: take pictures, video, record sound and music, make journal entries, buy local CDs, collect choice artifacts: these are all your travel documentary assets. Gonna video the Central Market soon. Then gather everything together for editing, the fun part. This blog is just such a multi-media undertaking.

Why should it be that all good things that come to pass usually end badly? The hardy little stone temple that housed the purple and orange flame has been demolished. The flame itself has guttered and gone out. And so I am bereft because that little flame was nurturing and now I feel the cold tatters of distress and loss. I am distraught and undone and trembling like a leaf. My eyes stare out in all directions and my tongue cleaves to the roof of my mouth. My breath is a stench and a pestilence. Cold showers of disgust and rivulets of shame percolate through my innards and my bowels are loosened. I gag on the acrid taste of vomit. I so fear what is to come, I feel so unready to engage friend or foe alike and that all besotted I must take to the road of the wanderer, the drifter, the outcast. Do not all occasions inform against me? Ah Mary, I wish you were here. I think I know what you were going through. And you Larry and you Paul and you Ben. You showed me what it was to be undone in this life, to be naked and shivering, receiving indifference where you had hoped to find comfort. The Great Adjudicator has tallied up the cost of our upkeep and presented us with the bill. Your life! Your life! Your life! Cloud ear, rain tongue, the taste of brackish water on parched lips; piss, shit, mucous, blood, spittle and bile vomited up to all glory? Final eye, nose, tooth, nails, skin, hair and entrails consumed on the funeral pyre, the burning ghat belching smoke to all glory? Stench of all smell, abomination of all sight, deadened ash of all taste. I touched my dead father’s forehead and felt the last of his bodily warmth fly up and hover away into kingdom come. The forces of decomposition set in long before you are dead I discovered. My poor dear old dad! A fine mesh of black and gray filamentous mildew blotched his shoulders and chest while dementia tugged at and deformed his extremities into a grotesque rictus like a mummified ape. The eyes oozing! The mouth agape! the tongue protruding!

Shooting star mercury contrails in bright blue dots, wisps, and flashes. Begging bowl guerdon, patched robe and tattered straw sandals, as pathetic as a condemned man’s last meal.

Fuck it. Tonight I dine with the gods.

Fasting today? I hadn’t meant to. The return of healthy hunger is a good sign. I’ll go out in a while...

Flying down the Sacred Valley on a motorcycle is a thrill unlike any other. Urabamba River snaking silver in the distance. The cragged and eroded faces of immense cliffs, scoured and gouged out by wind and rain in all the primal colors of the earth. Going back in the other direction towards Cuzco, it all fell away over my right shoulder into immensities of space. Heightened sense of speed, of falling and being caught and falling again, away and away into the depths of the earth and back again. And flying up and up to condor highway heavens, blessed Apus you favored me. Zampona flute in the wind. Dark lengths of black braided hair falling down the backs and shoulders of native women chewing coca leaf in the market place. Old soup mouth eating his gruel and licking greasy fingers. Quechua mother trades drum stick for ice cream cone. Fresh orange juice, boiled rice and lentils, crust of bread and fat kerneled corn. Fragrance of parsley, mint, and garlic. Smoking coffers of meat! Steaming baskets of corn! Harangue, sell, barter, exchange, the smell of dust and old coins in the hot afternoon sun. Tincture of ayahusca in the shaman’s kettle, beautiful, doe-eyed attendant generously shows off her ample cleavage. Rare jewels dance from her pierced nipples. Belly button silver rings and twists of gold and silver tendrils, solar plexus tattoo radiating Panchmama potencies. Orb of sun on right elbow, crescent moon on left, sandalwood scent rises on curly cue clouds of incense...

Ah Christ! They won’t be there for me!

I will protect myself Bhikus, thus shall the foundations of mindfulness be established. And by protecting myself, I will protect others. Protecting oneself Bhikus, one protects others. Protecting others, one protects oneself. Thus should the establishments of mindfulness be practiced.

Nursing mothers! Breasts of burnt ivory! Oh yeah Panchamama! Sweet succulent mother’s milk, purple swollen nipples, eager lapping infant tongues. In the shade of the central square, Mom’s sweet smile.

Do not do the slightest thing that the wise would later censor. With good will to the entire cosmos, cultivate a limitless heart, above, below and all around, unobstructed and without hostility or hate whether standing, walking, or lying down. Sublime abiding here and now.

More bad news - world economic markets in chaos. Dow drops 800 points, then recovers a bit. Below 10,000 for the first time in years. Success of bailout uncertain. More panic as insect-like humans try to figure out the percentages. Uncharted territory! Economic meltdown! Rough ride ahead and a presidential election thirty days away. A dirty and desperate John McCain wallows in shit with his VP choice Sarah bitch. The prophecies are coming true, the only ones I've ever had the slightest belief in. Will 9/11 be remembered as a prologue to the new Dark Ages? Is it the end of times? I've always scoffed at such notions, but I fervently hope so. Let it come down!

Ah yes, the prophecies...

Bad news continues. No one knows quite what to do, as though the momentum of failing global economies has taken on a life of its own, defying any single or combined strategies to stop it. Deep global recession, if not depression now seems inevitable. Obama-McCain second debate tonight. Obama could score knockout punch to an increasingly enfeebled McCain. Obama must win the presidency as a prelude to stabilizing global turmoil. McCain/Palin? An unspeakable nightmare. America falls into the gutter. God, what times these are! A confluence of forces and events that will change the world forever. And right on schedule for the 2012 global transformation. I wish Terrence McKenna were alive to see it. I have never seen the lines between good and evil more clearly drawn. I rather like watching it unfold here in rustic Peru. It is truly a fitting place to be as American styled economics and politics unravel and begin, perhaps, their final descent into oblivion. Even if it means personal ruin for me, I hope it happens. Time for The Breaking of The Vessels! Time to bring back the sanity and renewal of the Green Corn Ceremony! I am a world citizen, not an American citizen. I look forward to the new age of global unity in government, economics, ecology, art, science and spirituality, a shared, inclusive human destiny and purpose. A telepathic global awareness. The coming forth of oneness through the Gaian Mind. No borders, armies or countries with insane hegemonic ambitions. But only if the good guys win? Or will it be a natural, cosmic transformation in which only progressive imperatives are subsumed. Will it be a truly evolutionary change or a step backwards into witch hunting and internecine tribal warfare, leading to ecological collapse and loss of species diversification? Will the good guys win? Or is this just another utopian boondoggle?

McCain screwed up big time tonight. Referred to Obama as “that one.” He is finished. Only the dirtiest, stupidest Americans will vote for him now. Dow tanked again today, down 500. So, good news, Obama will surely triumph, barring some last minute dirty trick-of- all-times by Republican swine. Bad news, economy has its hooks in me.

Sixth straight day of decline in the stock market. World wide recession is now predicted. Are we approaching the tipping point? How nice, for now, to be in cheerful, colorful Cuzco. I can live with less if I have to. Travel over the past twenty years has taught me that. I never trusted this boom and bust American economy, much less American politics, foreign and domestic. They always pander to the worse in human nature and indeed it has been the shitty dregs of Wall Street that have brought us down. They and their shitty underlings and the stupidity and greed of the American people. The people is a great beast, as one of the Founding Fathers once put it. Madison? Jefferson? Anyway, I have no sympathy for them. It would do America a world of good to be brought down a notch or two or three. America: an up and coming third rate nation! Hahaha!

It's raining gently outside of my cozy little Hostel Familiar room. Today, wandered about with video camera. A few nice candid moments with Cuzco street folks, then a full blown Cuzco religious festival. The Virgin and the Saint carried before fully costumed dancers, each troop with its own brass, drum, and wind-wood ensemble. Lots of fun and mummery as devil figures ran around grabbing and harassing anyone one they wanted. One flailed my legs with a rope whip and another grabbed me from behind and danced me crazily along, all in good fun. It was quite a spectacle and I got some outstanding shots. The color, sound, fury and just plain good fun was bracing and uplifting compared to the bad news outside. Is this not one of the reasons for staging festivals like this? Same for Carnival. Drink, dance and be merry and let the troubles of the outside world go to hell. And the beautiful Peruvian women and girls showing ample flesh was the perfect spice for this occasion. A wild combination of Christian, pagan and indigenous traditions.

I can think of a dozen places I would rather live than America...

Earlier in the day bought beautiful shamanic pouch from Kush's shop in San Blas. He is busy these days with his "ayahuasca tourism" gig and lots of people here in Cuzco are getting in on the act. Anyone it seems, can hang out their shaman shingle and start serving up ayahuasca "ceremonies." Taped local couple in back streets who do just that. They were friendly and welcoming but would I trust them to properly administer to me while in full ayahuasca trance? Think I would rather stick with more experience practitioners like Kush or maybe the good shaman and his partner I met in Pisac.

Connie's birthday. Sent her an email.

Dire, desperate news. Stocks tanked again today, a 679 point plunge. Economies are collapsing all over the world. I have always tried to be optimistic at times like this, but not now. I think world wide economic collapse is imminent, ushering in god knows what. Iceland appears to be the first country to belly up. Forces have been unleashed that no one can control or stop. Here in Peru, people seem serenely indifferent. I, of course, face personal ruin. Rough, rough ride ahead.

10/10/08 10:00AM
Economies continue to collapse the world over as panic selling sets in. Dow fluctuating wildly. Some experts give only to the end of this weekend for world governments to come up with a plan to head off a worldwide wholesale depression and collapse. My own personal savings would almost certainly be wiped out. The nature of the forces spreading throughout the world appear to be karmic as well as economic. Economic forces can be ameliorated to some extent; karmic forces are implacable.

Hit the Internet for six hours straight and watched in disbelief as American and world markets continued to collapse. Meanwhile, McCain has descended into race baiting and hate filled inflammatory rallies against Obama. He is creating a unique place for himself in the history of American infamy. Never in my life have I witnessed a more disgusting fall from honor. There won’t be much of the old man left after the election which he will certainly lose. My own status in this debacle is sure to be dire. I have lost many thousands of dollars from my IRA. Can’t bear to find out how much. Thousands. (Actually, it was
tens of thousands.)

Beautiful day in Cuzco. I probably shouldn’t have come. But now that I’m here, I don’t regret it. Here’s a video of the two Cuzco hippies I met on a backstreet of San Blas, offering the ayahuasca ceremony, reminiscent of Haight Ashbury in 1968!

My predicament nearly: unemployed, broke, no health insurance, bad back, and economy crashing towards final ruin. Well, these are interesting times. If I can just hold on into comfy old age and collect my government welfare check. I have never felt so caught up in the play of historical events as I am now.

Cuzco sure is a pretty little town after the tourists have left. Flowers, sunshine, smell of freshly cut grass. Home in a week to an uncertain future.

Hospeda Je Familiar, 253 Munay Wasi - my kind of place. Cheap, run down, colorful, of the people. Bright and sunny as only Cuzco can be. Plan to rent a little scooter and explore more Cuzco back streets. They are plentiful and mysterious. If only my pale white skin could turn coffee brown like the natives’. I’m happy to see some of the touts finding receptive tourists for their postcards and CDs. I don’t suppose they do so badly after all. Old Quechua grandmother on walking stick, stooped and imploring. No denerio? Smile and a shrug. Harsh sunlight at mid-day. Nothing casts a shadow. Policia Nacional Comisaria hover harmlessly about.

Rented simpler motorcycle for out of town explorations, i.e. Chinchero, Maras, and finally Moray. Chinchero, like Pisac, has been spiffed up to bring in more tourists. Picturesque as always but nothing new. Bought a beautiful old brass llama bell from pretty vendor Jualia. Gasped for breath (Chinchero at 13,000 ft.) to the amusement of the locals. Onward to Maras. I had forgotten how magnificent the plains and mountains are. Drove down the narrow streets of Maras lined with mud brick buildings reminiscent of the American southwest and this time found the proper turn off for Moray. Long, bumpy ride down rutted gravel road, overshot Moray by a mile or so, turned back and arrived at last. Pretty cool indeed. Huge concentric terraced construct beautiful to behold, used as experimental agricultural station, each terrace representing a different micro-climatic environment to test crop viability. Walked around and explored it from different angles. Had the place all to myself. Another example of Inca ingenuity. Here's what I saw approximately:

Back through Maras, a timeless mud brick city, to Urabamba, a timeless squat and unsightly city clinging to the haunches of the Urabamba River. Took wrong turn back to Cuzco. Should have gone back through Chinchero. It's getting late and it's starting to rain. I begin a three hour cold and punishing return to Cuzco. Before the light of day fades entirely however, many beautiful sights. First of all, the sheer immensity of the landscape I am passing through. I have never felt more physically diminished by mountains, rivers, clouds and distant fields in cultivation. I fall into the bottomless vortex of these elements as I drive and experience a sort of delicious vertigo. Distant snow covered peaks glow a pale unearthly orange in the setting sun, before all is plunged into darkness. I fly along anonymous roadways without much to guide me. The feeble flickering headlamp of my puny little motorbike is just sufficient to guide me around precipitous twists and turns along the way until I reach Calca, a fairly large town and a near disastrous doggy encounter. I see him out of the corner of my eye on the left as I approach an intersection and suddenly the little fucker is heading right my way on a collision course. I feel a soft bump or two as he passes under the wheels, yelping in fear and pain I guess. Tough shit! I barely manage to stay upright and seated but keep the hell on going and so it goes for what seems like an eternity. I’m wet, cold, and worry about hypothermia but plunge on. Tailgated by buses and trucks, blinded by the lights of oncoming traffic, it all seems to be getting more and more treacherous. By the time I reach Cuzco I am exhausted and shivering uncontrollably, so much so that I can barely steer the bike. I make one last desperate turn onto Calle Saphi and finally bump into the rental place where Jualio the proprietor is anxiously waiting. All is well as I get off sore and stiff and near frozen. I stumble across the street to my Hostel Familiar room and fall into exhausted sleep.

So today, Tuesday, I’m sick again. Got some of the goddamned unsanitary local water in my mouth while taking a shower and now having filthy, mucousy, diarrheic shits and then vomit on top of that. Misery! By any standard of comfort, this has been a terrible trip. I’ve been sick and exhausted most of the time between adventures, but all and all worthwhile. Maybe one more trip to Ollantaytambo before I leave.

Stocks are up, yesterday and today over 900 points! But what can all these wild gyrations mean but more instability and uncertainty. Obama continues high in the polls thank God...

Warm and pleasant in the Plaza today. Ever since I overpaid for a shoe shine on my first day here all the shoe shine kids in the Plaza have offered their services "for only" 50 soles. Haha but I’m only that generous on my first day of arrival, in gratitude. Then I’m off the hook?

Sickness finally drove me to seek medical assistance for the first time ever in a foreign country. I was in such pain this morning I was practically crawling on all fours. Sharp, agonizing pains in the gut, dry heaving vomit of yellow bile while I’m shitting in my pants. The pits. Two pairs of underwear were so utterly soiled I just threw them away. Took taxi way across town to “Panamerican Emergency Hospital,” a very nice walk-in clinic. I am interviewed by an attractive lady doctor who spoke little English but I managed to say in Spanish, “mucho delorous“ while pointing to my stomach. They hook me up to an IV and soon I am relieved of both stomach pain and nausea. They give me a little plastic bowl to poop in for a stool sample but I can’t squeeze out a single drop! So, they give me a scrip for Cipro and send me back.

Back in Lima. Seven hour wait for flight to Mexico City, then another six hour wait for flight to Seattle. Milling about of local and international riff-raff. Feel tired and crappy.

Mexico City Airport again after long and uneventful flight from Lima. I am in the cavernous main concourse. A bit cold and forbidding. Sounds echo and murmur off into an inchoate white noise that envelops you, actually rather soothing, like the old Grand Central Station in New York City.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Thrangu Tashi Choling

Here at last is the web site of the Thrangu Tashi Choling Monastery I visited during my visit to Boudhanath.

It was here that I was introduced to the extraordinary child Rinpoche, who sat on a throne in one of the secluded rooms of the monastery, and was attended to by elder monks. I do not know his name or who he is the incarnation of. I presented him with a khata which he placed around my neck. Alas, no English spoken. I asked for his blessing. I remember a child‘s hand placed lightly upon my head, then I bowed and departed.

The monastery is located down one of the streets leading away from the Great Stupa. It is a busy place; many monks and nuns coming and going. I was escorted about by one of the young monks after removing my boots, then sat and meditated in the beautiful shrine room.

A lovely Nepal memory, which I ponder to this day...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Khandro Rinpoche

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Posting From Kathmandu

This is the mysterious city you've dreamed about but could never quite identify. Sparks of old incarnations flash everywhere

4/6/06 8:30 PM
Newark Airport
Waiting for my flight to Delhi. My first trip to India will not be particularly auspicious; I’ll only be there for fifteen hours or so. Still, a memorable passage into the lush and sensuous matrix of world spirituality. The land of the Upanishads, their immense sophistication, of Pantanjali, Hanuman, Krishna, Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva, moon faced Parvati, Mahabharata, Ramayana, Vedanta, oceans of sutra millennium ahead of their times in fathoming the vastness of the ages and the I dash madly for newly announced boarding gate with only minutes to spare and my first lesson in panting to gate, drop my CD player, batteries and CD fall out, beautiful little Indian girl helps gather everything attention for Christ’s sake...! Indian gate personnel are tut tutting and demanding to see passport, visa and boarding pass...try not to get rattled as I grope for all the foolish credentials required of one in this insane world...sigh of relief as I pass by the Archons who guard their world against the vicious, violent, or just plain foolish and inattentive...finally about to take my coveted window seat but aged, respectable bapho claims it's his! He's a bit senile and cranky, he and his Indian father! We tussle a bit. "Sir," I keep repeating, "you're sitting in my seat." He waves his boarding pass about muttering God knows what. Should just have let him have it, this is going to be a long flight, an aisle seat would have been more practical. Anyway things get straightened out via fussy flight attendants and so am properly seated. Funny little wife sits next to me, she's fumbling with her seat belt (no English spoken here) so I help her get it fastened. Hear the mighty engines roar! And off we go, Delhi bound, a sixteen hour flight. Gods of India, have patience with me.

New Delhi Airport
A rough and tumble passage through India. Awaiting flight to Kathmandu after getting on wrong plane and nearly ending up in Kabul. Night approach to Delhi immense network of pulsating lights stretching to infinity in all directions...each point of light was flickering and subdued, giving off no more illumination than a lantern or camp fire...totally unlike American or European cities with their obscene flying over an encampment of some vast tribe, who had set their cook pots to simmering all at once, hinting at the profusion of humanity below.

First smell upon arriving like burning garbage and outside, a disheartening cloud of smog hovers over the entire city. Delhi at night: hot, smelly, chaotic. The airport touts snatch at you like piranhas, barely concealing their contempt for people of my standing and nationality. But what did I expect? Indeed, one of them says something like "this is India, this is the way it is here." It's all too much as I scuffle with the boys, my hands shaking as I try to light a cigarette while they look on in amusement. One enterprising fellow manages to get my baggage into his taxi and then promptly holds it hostage unless I pay him 35 bucks for a ride to a local hotel. I angrily protest, and after some shoving and harsh words, the baggage comes out and I'm back on the curb where I began. Finally end up in so-so airport hotel for fifty bucks a night, driven there by one not so tainted by desperation, "Kumar." Strange, wraith-like creatures swirl through the dusty, traffic clogged streets.

Flight to Kathmandu in rickety old Airbus 620. It rattles and groans as it taxis down the runway. Christ, I hope a wing doesn’t fall off! Upon arrival no one there from Hotel Karma to pick me up. I am accosted by a wiry, talkative fellow named Surya who offers to take me to Hotel Blue Horizon, where he works of course. He is precisely the kind of for-you-no-problem tout that I have come to distrust over the years, but it looks like it'd his way or the highway. So I reluctantly pile into his busted up mini-van. A curfew is in effect and armed police are on every corner. We pass through one check point after another, six in all, manned by smirking national police who demand to see passport and visa. Finally arrive at the Blue Horizon, which turns out to be the perfect place for my purposes anyway, down an alleyway just off the Thamel main drag, cheap and with an international clientele. I settle into a beautiful room on the upper floor surrounded by a garden and jungle-like tangle of trees and vines.
Thousands of crows and talkative native birds whistle, call, croak, gabble and shriek outside.

Kathmandu in lock down. No one may leave or enter the city. This includes tourists like me who must remain within the confines of their hotel. So I spent a pleasant hour or so at the Himalaya Meditation Center just across the alley from the Blue Horizon. Meditated in their lovely shrine room with Mark, who runs the place and Drukya, a Buddhist nun from England. Mark provided the missing corollary to the Buddha's injunction, "of the spiritual path, better not to begin. But once you've begun, better not to stop." Why? To abandon the path, only to start again, perhaps many times, reinforces negativity. It exposes our susceptibility to doubt and lack of perseverance. This is, perhaps, an obvious, but invaluable teaching that bears repeating. So where does that leave me? I have retreated many times into my cloud of intuitions which have served me well but this is, perhaps, neither on nor off the path. Do not trifle!So I have arrived at a troubled time in this troubled country. How I wish that this land of Shiva and the Dalai Lama could achieve peace as an example for the rest of the world. I am confined here for the moment at the behest of my hosts which is not so bad after all. Troubled world alas, here in Nepal, civil war in Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the whole fucking world at its own throat. And South America tilting, country by country, towards a huge socialist driven, anti-American block! Tough shit! I salute Evo Moralis in Bolivia and extend a guarded admiration for Hugo Chavez in Venezuela for standing up against this downward spiraling, ever more dangerous American hegemony, that it may not take the rest of the world with it. So finally we are permitted to leave the confines of the hotel. I wander round in amazement through Thamel, camera in hand. All the store fronts are shuttered. The narrow alley ways are jammed packed with one little store front or shop after another, side by side with the dwellings of the impoverished, who live and work here. In due course, I meet up with a street full of angry, brick throwing protesters. Piles of garbage burn in the street. To my amazement, the police let me through their check point and I walk closer still towards the chanting, jeering crowd, but am turned back finally by a policeman who fumbles for the proper words:

Uprising! Demonstration! Danger! Go Back!

Okay so I turn around and head back the way I've come, only to meet another band of noisy protesters throwing stones and bricks and setting new fires in the street. Finally, the police, heavily armed and with shields and clubs in place, begin to advance. I hasten my retreat and the protesters melt away into back streets and hidden doorways. I head back to the hotel video taping scenes along the way

Awoke this morning to breathe more rarified air, after a night of bad dreams. The magic of this place seeps into you, displacing bad thoughts, bad dreams, maybe even bad karma. Long walk through Thamel to Durbar Square. Curfew lifted for a few hours and the good people of this place awake from their stupor and spill into the streets, which, formerly abandoned, are now roaring with human activity. I am carried along like flotsam on a wave of humanity that deposits me finally in an enclosure along the street to Durbar Marg where musicians are singing sacred hymns from a play book of sorts, spread out before them. I fumble with my recording gear. The first thing you see when approaching Durbar Square from Thamel is the magnificent Taleju

To Pashupatinath, arrive by cab, make the mistake of taking on a guide, slick and fast talking, he suckers me in. Not so bad though as he gives me the standard tour of this major center of Hindu devotion, and what a place! The old and infirm come here to be cared for and die - am taken to their version of "rest home," very simple and open to the elements in veranda-like settings where the elderly sit serenely about on mats and chairs, many of course in their dotage but beautiful and delightful, with smiles that would light up Tartarus.When they die, the nearby burning ghats await. The family stands about as the body is consumed and then the ashes are swept quite unceremoniously into the Bagmati, a holy river that flows into the Ganges. This is as it should be. The family retains some small portion of the ashes for remembrance and that's it, no obscene wasteful funerals, grave yards or mausoleums. The caste system is in evidence here, the better born are cremated higher up the river amidst more tidy surroundings. I am shown the ghat where the royal family, assassinated two years ago, was cremated. This is a center of temples, stupas, and unending devotion, especially to Shiva, and monkeys slink and prowl about everywhere. Clouds of incense rise up through the hazy sunlight. Am shown the Mother Terresa center and hospice where the old and dying are lovingly cared for. I give a donation to the doctor/director, a good man, Namaste. Finally pay off my guide who has become a bit of a pest, off you go, and return to wandering about. I am in accord here, even though resentful and unwelcoming eyes sometimes greet me.
My wanderings eventually lead me to the "Milk Baba," (AKA Dudh Baba, Paramahansa Sri Ram Krishna Das.) I am invited to sit with him. I remove my boots and step into his tiny hut that overlooks the river. There is an ashram here and devotees and assistants wander by. In the guru's home are all his worldly possessions; a shrine, books and items of devotion, pictures of teachers and saints, household goods and a butane stove. Baba is a lovely, serene man in his seventies who has sustained himself on milk alone for twenty five years. He travels, has a world-wide following, and is scrupulously attended to by his devotees. He has braids of dread locked hair over six feet long which he wraps turban-like about his head. Don't know what he makes of me as he quickly sizes me up but is gracious. His movements are calm and precise. We exchange a few words; the search for the guru, the necessity of performing Sadhana etc. In a moment of awkward silence I am about to leave when he offers to make tea. I watch his precise movements and preparations with butane stove and utensils. Two pinches of tea, one large and one small are tossed with surprising vehemence into a metal canister along with milk and sugar. Water is set to boil as Baba reads from a devotional text, and at the proper moment, is poured into the canister to steep. And oh yes, he is a mantra meditation master. The tea is strained and poured into two cups and Baba hands one to me. Lovely, serene moments ensue amidst the fragrance of incense and devotional music played just outside. Harmonium, tabla and hand cymbals, the aching beauty of heartfelt song. So I sip the delicious tea, Baba reads, the musicians play, and magical moments of floating timelessness pass by. At the moment of leave taking I ask for Baba's blessing. I lean forward, he places a golden cord around my neck and murmurs mantric incantations in Sanskrit over my head. I make as gracious an exit as possible, bumping into things and overturning a canister as I back out , ah me thank you Baba, Namsate. Outside, I sit with the devotees and listen to the beautiful music. Later, I join the inner circle where I am not much welcomed. That's alright, after all, who is this guy wearing western clothes and backpack with camera, I could not be more of an outsider much less a devotee...
The sacred and profane bump against each other and overlap in the most extraordinary ways here. In Boudha (more later) the sacred stupa is ringed about by shop keepers selling everything from Tibetan antiques to yes, Buff Burgers! In the dusty garbage strewn streets are always to be found a shrine to one god or another, be it Shiva, Vishnu, or Kali. Burning sticks of incense are found tucked away into the folds of an ancient trees at the intersections of streets clogged with cars, rickshaws, and motorcycles. Indeed everywhere old trees are transformed into temples that embrace within their roots an effigy of the prevailing deity. The dust and smog are a scourge. I have come back from trips hawking and spitting up a slimy brown mucous. Not good! I feel its ill effects as a burning sensation deep in the chest. Many go about with handkerchiefs about their mouths, perhaps I should too?

Journeyed to Patan today in the delightful company of Malika, a beautiful 28 year old woman from Naples I met at the hotel. She is smart, strong headed, and somewhat disdainful of the workaday Nepalese man or woman. We begin our trip to Patan in a rickshaw but the impracticality of this mode of travel becomes immediately apparent. So, at Malika's insistence, we continue our way in a cab. She is a bit mysterious, this lady, and very private. She will not, for instance, meditate with other people "too personal," she says. She is a Buddhist, does not drink, smoke or eat meat, so she is a bit scandalized when later I order a schooner of beer. We take the usual tour about Patan's splendid Durbar Square. As I feared, the presence of another distracts me from a closer examination of the sights and sounds of Patan. No time to sit and ruminate, which is essential to my understanding of a new and exotic place, so will have to return.
Malika (pronounced Mah-LY-Ka) is a delightful conversationalist even with her limited English, spoken with beautiful Italian inflections. We are shown a hidden court yard where religious ceremonies are performed, courtesy of a little old wrinkled trickster who giggles a lot, and the spot where animals are routinely slaughtered (bulls, chickens, ducks) which does not accord with our Buddhists sensibilities but...? These are the ways of a timeless Hindu spirituality, though it does seem to violate the Hindu principle of ahimsa. Within a court yard that was once a part of the royal palace, we are shown a big circle drawn in the blood of a sacrificial animal, signifying I know not what.

And so it goes as we wile away the afternoon, taking tea in a tiny tea shop and conversing amiably with the proprietor. We have lunch on a terrace with a panoramic view of the square. Later we observe the local women gathering water in big plastic and metal jugs in a sunken courtyard, reached by steps, from gargoyle-like stone spouts. I videotape the scene and give Malika my camera. We wander about recording this scene of water gathering, perhaps their only source of clean water, and again, perhaps understandably, we are not much welcomed.
And so, back through the traffic maddened streets to Thamel, where we part, a bit disillusioned with each others company. I have a feeling that this beautiful woman, private and strong willed, is use to sampling the company of others who strike her fancy, only to depart abruptly when it pleases her.

...the Nepali new year.To Swaybunath, the Monkey Temple. Extraordinary in every way.
Arrived in rickshaw, which was not so smart a choice. I end up jumping out and helping the driver push his machine up steep and winding streets. Arriving at last, I ascend the many steps to the temple in a dream like trance. I synchronize my walking by silently chanting om mani padme hum over and over again deepening the trance and filling me with a quiet euphoria. Scenes along the way: the old, the sick, dying and wasting away souls seeking, perhaps, a final benediction by making pilgrimage to this place; scantily clad children, nursing mothers, holy men in flowing Tibetan robes that appear out of no where who place a holy mark upon my forehead. Sounds heard: buzzing crowd noises, children playing, chanting, bells ringing, chattering my entrance fee and climb the final steep stairway.

First thing I do is turn the three big prayer wheels, and then begin my walk around the stupa, spinning numerous smaller wheels, set back in niches, five or so to a niche. Made of bronze, they are worn and polished from the touch of numberless fingers. The circle of devotees is packed! New year‘s day is thought to be particularly auspicious. I rub up against the impoverished and well heeled alike who place small twisted ropes of burning incense into cups just below. This tight circle moves slowly clockwise and my body and clothing are suffused in clouds of incense. There is chanting, incomprehensible chattering, the ringing of bells. Parents lift up their children so they too can spin the wheels, and I, with half closed eyes repeat the mantra and benedictions, spin each individual wheel and bow at larger niches containing images of the Buddha. There is jostling, laughter, and much good humor as we make our slow way around the stupa with the all seeing Buddha eyes gazing down. There is so much more here then can be taken in on a single day. You walk, chant silently, and let the powerful energy of this place uplift you. Balconies behind the stupa offer up stupendous views of Kathmandu, befouled by leaden colored clouds of smog and dust. The trance state melts away before more worldly interests. I photograph and video tape the circumambulation of the stupa, holy men reciting from texts, devotees praying and lighting more incense. On it goes into the afternoon. Many hawkers of singing bowls, statues of Buddhas and bodhisattvas, prayer beads and prayer flags, thankas, Gurka knives and hand held prayer wheels. One face stands out amongst the others, the face of one with authentic heart... 

Saran Shahi, who is to become my friend, beckons from the doorway of his shop and I go to greet him like a long lost relative. He manages well with the English he has picked up from tourists and is patient with my occasional incomprehension. Not once have I observed a shadow of anger or calculation cross his face. We fall into relaxed conversation and he plays me the music of Anil, his brother, an excellent classical - fusion guitarist. Nepali folk music set to the rhythms of tabla, djembe, flute and vocals. Excellent! I buy both of his CDs. 

Anil Shahi
Later that evening I am honored to share dinner with Saran and his wife and two children, a son nine years old and daughter, fourteen. We enter through a doorway and squeeze past a huge motorcycle in the stairwell that is apparently leaking. There is a strong smell of gasoline. Their living quarters are a single room with a recessed place in the back that serves as kitchen and hearth. Saran and I converse together as his wife, who speaks no English, prepares dal bhat, a rice and lentil dish. I am provided with a spoon while Saran and his wife partake sumptuously with fingers.


Saran's a hard working dude, heartbreakingly so. Every morning he awakes at six, walks the entire distance from Thamel to Swayambhunath, then climbs up those innumerable steps to his shop. He does not complain. His two prized possessions are a color TV and a CD-DVD stereo system. The small space they occupy is illuminated by a single fluorescent tube. There are two beds, one for Saran and his wife, the other for his two children. As Saran and I talked, I could see flames leap suddenly as Saran's wife lit the butane stove. Shadows danced briefly on the walls and then vanished. These are small quarters indeed for four people. They are well managed but Saran confesses to the strain of no privacy. His kids are like two restless cubs. Saran's wife (alas no name) defers to him but is not subservient. So unlike Morocco where I never once laid eyes on Rachid's wife, cooking a meal for the boys in heavily curtained off kitchen, in anonymity... so it goes.

To Boudhanath. Strong Tibetan community, young monks and nuns in their characteristic maroon and yellow robes come and go with serene indifference. I do the circumambulation same as Swayambhunath with lovely Tibetan women in native dress. Their movements have a grace and precision that comes from a lifetime of devotion. Incense openly burns in sacred bowls beneath each prayer wheel placed there for that purpose. Clouds of incense waft upwards suffusing the pilgrim amidst chanting and ringing of temple bells. As before, I walk around the mighty Boudhnath stupa spinning the well-worn prayer wheels and chanting silently.

In Bhaktapur with friend Saran. So many wonders. Arrived by mad man Kathmandu taxi this day after the king has effectively abdicated. Wandering about in wonder through quaint streets of Newari daily life...drawing water from ancient street wells, washing clothes and dishes, selling produce, scenes of beautiful children and bewizened old ones...again, I am in accord here. Museum showing exquisite artistry of old thanka masterpieces, sumptuous, infinite, the unashamedness of being human, or better yet, spiritual human beings leading good strong human lives amidst poverty and strife...only live your own myth and have faith in basic goodness, banishes bad dreams and self doubt. 

Om! Let my limbs and speech, Prana
And all the senses grow in strength.
All existence is the Brahman of the Upanishads.
May I never deny Brahman, nor Brahman deny me.
Let there be no denial at all:
Let there be no denial at least from me.
May the virtues that are proclaimed in the Upanishads be in me,
Who am devoted to the Atman;
may they reside in me. Om!
Let there be Peace in me!
Let there be Peace in my environment!
Let there be Peace in the forces that act on me!

I am now officially writing "off the journal," that is, I have transcribed everything I wrote in my journal while actually in Nepal. What follows are impressions and mood patterns drawn from memory. They will include events not originally recorded and afterthoughts of certain events after a three month hiatus.

Besieged at the Delhi airport! I remember thinking Christ, even in Morocco, the touts were not this aggressive or downright menacing. I must have looked a sight, tired and bedraggled after a sixteen hour flight. It's hot and I'm itching with discomfort and annoyance. I'm surrounded by a crowd of sneering, unsympathetic hoodlums. That's when one of them says something like, "this is India friend, what did you expect?" Finally, a fellow named Kumar comes to my rescue. He's one of the boys but a bit more diplomatic. I accept his offer of $10 and away we go.

Disjointed memories, the best of which is my return to Bhaktapur at night to retrive my "missing" journal.