from The Size of the World
© 1995 / Jeff Greenwald
Whenever an O approaches in my life, I get an irresistible urge to jump through it. The ’round-the-world overland journey I envisioned was my gut response to a long-anticipated need – as March 6, 1994, crept ever closer – to perform a worthy and appropriate ritual. What better way to celebrate the circle, as cycle, shape and circus hoop?
But there was something else, even more compelling. In Indo-Tibetan Asia, performing a kora – a clockwise circumambulation around revered shrines, holy cities or sacred mountains – is considered a supreme act of pilgrimage. This, then, was my goal: To perform a kora around the Earth itself.
The idea had looked great on paper. As I plotted my route, though, and fathomed the lonely logistics of such a voyage (weeks at sea, days on trains, hours on oxcarts), my heart sank. Six months was a long time. It was a very long time. It was more time, I realized, than I could bear to spend with myself. (more…)
Here’s a little sample from the pages of Scratching the Surface…..
My God, it was hot in Tokyo. The kind of heat and humidity that makes the jaw go slack. Morning was to stagger toward the newsstand, shielding my eyes from the glare off scooters and vending machines. Afternoons were spent careening through Tokyo in search of information, or prone dumbly on the tatami beneath an oscillating fan, listening to Tony Bennett on the Far East Network:
“The little boy lost
will find his way once more/
Just like before/
When lips were tender….”
Our apartment, like most in Tokyo, had no shower. But when the cool evening finally arrived I climbed gratefully into my yukata (robe) and made for the sento (public bath).
How I loved our neighborhood sento! Big bright locker-room-cum-gym, spotlessly clean. Please Leave Shoes At Door. Never crowded. A handful of Japanese men – I was the only foreigner – attended themselves naked and unselfconscious, rubbing their bodies with rough towels.
The walls were lined with low mini-showers. One must squat. Also, Please Turn Faucet On Slowly: those little Japanese showers can knock you across the room. (more…)
from Mister Raja’s Neighborhood
© 1986 by Jeff Greenwald
Night moves…in a plush living room with the mosquitoes buzzing, the sound of bells outside, always bells even if they’re only voices, the dogs that never stop barking, the arrogant horns of the nouveau-riche, sound of my own breathing, arrogance of the man alone. Three and a half weeks and already a surfeit of tales to tell. My senses are sharpening to what’s going on around here and I’m keeping good company, although none of it stays the night. Only the ‘skeeters…. (more…)
Jonathan Frakes has been in the director’s chair for nearly eight hours by the time I arrive on Stage 29. I walk quickly past the catering table and makeup stations to the radiant corner where filming is underway. The Main Bridge is dormant, lit only by auxiliary lights. Peering over the sound man’s shoulder, I read the daily call sheet. They’re shooting scene 17, the last work of the day.
There are many new roads in Kathmandu, the oldest of which is named “New Road.”
New Road begins at the Tundhikhel Parade Ground, and plows a broad swath through what has become, such as it is, downtown Kathmandu. I steer my old clunker – a Chinese-made “Flying Pigeon” with tassels streaming from the handgrips – through the brightly painted arch, and glide by the district of the gem shops; past the American Cultural Center, which used to have pictures of the Space Shuttle in the window but now shows photographs of Ronald Reagan felicitating the stiffly self-conscious personage of His Majesty, Sri Panch Maharaja Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev; past the pipal tree, beneath whose spreading branches are stacked piles and piles of newspapers issued by banned political parties; past one-hour photo finishing, 21 Flavors Ice Cream, cows lying complacently in the road as traffic swerves around them. And in the windows of the tour agencies I can read the brightly lettered signs saying,
LIVE ANIMAL SACRIFICES
EVERY TUESDAY AND SATURDAY!