Of Beasts and Men, The Jabberwocky and Laal Kaan, Traditional Knowledge and The Tale of The Ice Mommy, Who…Got “baked” in Sonoma?
Guess what…we are off to Graubunden tomorrow for the long weekend, and I am VERY excited, not only am I returning after a span of 13 years (and many lifetimes) to my first stop in Switzerland, a place that completely stole my heart, but I am returning to the place where my Ice Mommy story is based: the Weisshorn!
Unfortunately, I think that story is gone, back into the glacier, my diary is long lost (sob, sob)…but the ghost of the Ice Mommy still lingers in the shadows with a macabre twist.
As usual, your mail takes me journeying to distant lands and dynamic exhibits. I would have loved to catch a glimpse of this particular exhibit at the Tokyo museum of modern art, but your words painted a wonderfully fulfilling picture. I know somewhere its Murakami at work, the old TV monitors being a reflection of what is left of the man, his series of memories and experiences captured in the mould/ hardware of his time, it all sounds breathtaking.I continue to be intrigued by people with the uncanny ability to so subtly exhilarate the mind. After reading your mail, I discovered that a number of my memories were also wrapped up in little parcels, like an old song played by my first love, which then floods the mind with associated memories of place and time and food and dress. So, more Murakami for me… I can’t wait to read Sputnik Sweetheart. I always wanted to be an astronaut you know, now of course it would be impossible, i am sure they would not allow lipsticks on board, not even Dior!
In your mail about my trip to Paris, you had mentioned something about getting back to the “right” side of the mirror, now do tell me what would be my “right” side if I am UPSIDE DOWN??? The mirror inverts the image in any case, so the “right” side is always the FUN side. Three guesses to where that might be!
Talking about Paris, and my previous email where I mentioned that I was on a lifelong quest for the holy grail: the idea of Privacy, hoping to somehow find it in the alleyways of Paris, the arteries that run through the core.
You do know that I have been on a lifelong pursuit of understanding the idea, exploring the concept of privacy, which, as we have discussed in the past, is getting more alarmingly relevant in this technologically accelerated universe of ours. And, in my opinion, should forms the core, the fulcrum, the basis upon which any legal system that is to be relevant in this world is to be built. The French, somehow so intrinsically live, breathe, and represent this idea that it appears to be enmeshed in them and their culture. Which makes my journey to their heart soooo attractive. I am convinced somewhere within its alleyways lies the Holy Grail!
But, I did not want to make the fatal mistake of searching for this pivotal idea in the words and expressions of the “pundits”. A lesson I had learned during the years in America where I saw and heard repeated time and time again forceful, passionate, eloquent, apparently educated, debates and discussions by persons held up as the pundits of society, the intellectuals who “we the people” thought could make a rational logical argument/call on most pertinent issues, especially issues of peace and war. However, I saw these very faces so seduced by themselves and their own arguments, that all they wished to present was the agenda of the day and when the agenda changed and the “call to war” fell flat on its face and their agenda changed. These very persons spoke with the same passionate fervor presenting rational arguments couched in high flying intellectual verbiage brushing aside issues relating to the average citizen’s concerns relating to privacy, one that made us all crouch with reverence and admiration…today that bell has tolled.
Of course, my skeptical upside down brain did just NOT accept this and i ran. My name has been annoyingly shortened from Purnima to “P” by my “loved ones”, since we have gone this far, I often tell the children that I might change it to the symbol representing “pi”. (If Prince can change his name to a symbol, why can’t I) And that pi is such an irrational number unruly, impossible, unfathomable number, its value cannot be expressed exactly as a fraction and its decimal representation never ends or repeats…to the point where Lewis Carroll apparently based his Queen of Hearts, that irrational unruly character on this irrational pi. So, being true to my nature, an upside down irrational girl, oops lets change that to woman (who is always in love, real or imaginary), I say, just like Lewis Carrol’s Queen of Hearts, “Off with their Heads” “all of them”, lets get funky Fred to lead the gangplank (and oh how I loved him).
See below Alice in Wonderland-The Red Queen:
So, similarly, I decided to abandon any discussion on the idea of privacy with my friend, for I suspect he would represent that very spectrum, that I ran ran ran so far away from. My goal is to get to the core of this idea, an idea which is so integral to these people that I believe is woven in the fiber of the average man, who has some beliefs that he treasures as being integral to his identity and not one that is thrust upon him by the media or authority political or intellectual and similarly cannot be wrestled away. I think my search will have to involve a longer stay and many conversations (including my fancy dancy friend) with all I encounter to get a glimpse of that holy grail. It looks like I’m back to my French lessons!
Well, since we are back to Lewis Carroll, I did see the movie Alice in Wonderland and enjoyed rereading the Jabberwocky, a supposed nonsensical poem, a fantastical play on words.
“Beware the Jabberwocky, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”
See below Alice in Wonderland- The Jabberwocky:
However, The Jabberwocky is not so nonsensical from my perspective (an upside down look through the mirror). I have been told that this fierce beast resides in a magnificent castle on the periphery of Lake Geneva! And, since I have found myself thrust in Wonderland, the eventual clash with the jabberwocky is inevitable I’m afraid! It’s written somewhere…
A little background, if you are able digest big game hunting, but of course in another time another world. As my son embarked upon the biography of his maternal grandfather for his school project, and I scurried around looking for appropriate photos of my father, I found that his grandest and most glamorous ones were by the side of a tiger or cheetah, glowing in the glory, sitting broad chested, sporting his signature Tyrolean hat beside the slain beast gun in hand. OK, those photos WILL NOT WORK. So, how about a biography on my grand father, again the Bavarian hat, the fierce and formidable beasts “the jaws that bite, the claws that catch”… man testing his wits against nature, raw gut instinct and the pulse of the jungle. The Tale of Laal Kaan. No, not a good theme for my sons middle school project, but a good one for us, yes?
See below pics of The Mysore Palace with a mounted tusker akin to Laal Kaan a pic of the Game Room where you can still get a glimpse of the Raj superimposed by images of The Maharaja and Viswanathan:
See below The Mysore Palace: Mounted Tusker – The Story of Laal Kaan
I am taking you back over half a decade to the jungles of the Deccan. The Maharaja of Mysore (a state in south India) was very perplexed with stories of a rogue elephant heard to be rampaging through the villages killing cattle destroying property and crushing human life in his path. The rogue elephant was massive and very fierce, far removed from his herd he had turned mad, aggressive. He was called Laal Kaan meaning red ear by the villagers as he used to rub his ears on the tree trunks till they were bloody and charge onto the villagers. My grandfather was invited by the maharaja (buddy) to take this beast down and the story of my grand father who chased the rogue through the forests on his elephant with his massive elephant gun (which would send most people flying off) is to be heard to be believed. There is really only one shot, one chance you get at a stampeding rogue elephant coming right at you, and that is between the eyes. The rogue was shot, the villagers were triumphant, my grandfather returned to the North with his tusks to his dear wife and double patiala peg (scotch), melodious Sanskrit verse and mathematics!
The Patiala Peg originates from the stories of the larger than life Maharaja of Patiala: https://food.ndtv.com/food-drinks/what-is-a-patiala-peg-and-how-did-it-get-its-name-1671444
Here is a blast from the past, an Old World birthday pic from my teenage photo album at home in India with Laal Kaan’s tusks looming n the background. I’m being fed a piece of birthday cake (Forêt Noire of course!) by my maternal grandma.
Purnima’s Birthday in India with Laal Kaan and Foret Noire
Following on their footsteps, I sense somehow my future too has been written, and the Jabberwocky awaits the final battle in the deep dark depths of lake Geneva.
Good night and hope to see you next week.
May 11, 2010, 2:54 PM
I can well imagine that your brief foray to the other side of the mirror has left you in an heightened state of despondency after returning to the “right” side. Flights of fancy, be they real or imaginary, almost always leave us longing to be able to remain in that ethereal state of bliss rather than returning to the hard realities of our lives. AND, the memories of those often dizzying times keep flashing through our consciousness when we least expect it, like flickers of light through a pitch black room. We went to the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art https://www.mot-art-museum.jp/en/exhibitions/kadist-art-foundation/ the other morning, and there were several exhibits that really struck me. One was devoted to the memory of a very famous newscaster in Japan who died in the 1980’s His son found a whole collection of old videos and audio tapes that his father had done, and went through them all and edited them into a superb exhibit involving the sound of his father’s voice, images on sever smallish tv monitors spread around the room, and text (both in Japanese and English) on a large screen, all of which was in a totally dark, round room. The effect was really spell binding, and many of the tv images showed events that the correspondent had covered throughout his life. It was uncanny how my own memories of many of the events from the past that were evoked played a central role in how I reacted to the exhibit. One of the things that I loved was a short bit from when he was in New York to cover a story. He said that one morning while he was getting ready to leave, the phone rang. He said that before he even picked up the phone he knew it was from Tokyo and from his tv station. He went on to explain that for some reason an international, overseas call always had a slightly different ring to it, and while it may seem illogical and that the phone is a machine that responds to a signal and electrical impulses to activate the ring tone, it nevertheless sounded different. The description of the exhibit also quoted his son as saying that the small tv monitors that were used to show the various images were tv sets from the period of time when his father did his extremely popular nightly newscasts and that it was most likely that the images of those broadcasts had been shown on those very sets and that they had somehow left an imprint!!!
Another exhibit in the collection was an entire wall covered with black and white photographs of people living in Switzerland during the 1940’s. The people were all totally anonymous and the pictures themselves were without any artistic merit in and of themselves, but they had been found in a box by an artist that creates her art by using objects she finds and in the way they are arranged and presented. One of the photos really got to me. It was the picture of a young girl together with what were probably a group of her family members. The mood in the photo and the girl herself for some reason took me back to a time when I was much younger and in Denmark and a young girl that I had known there, the memory of whom often flits through my mind. Those events only live in my memory now, and are real only in that context, but I was really effected by that one picture and the effect it had on me. The past is completely unretrievable and yet lives on in my mind. It is evocative of both pleasant, unforgettable experiences that have shaped my life and the way I view the world and yet profound nostalgia.
You asked which of your stories I preferred. I love them all and always marvel at the mesmerizing prose you are able to weave, but I think your evocation of Morocco was so rich and moving that I like that one best of all. And I loved you description of how you tip toe through La Place Mollard of a morning taking great care not to step on the transparent cobblestones that carry their multi-language greetings!
Place du Mollard, Geneve: https://images.app.goo.gl/236WftbptZ35Eo2D9
And talking about war and atomic bombs, I heard an interesting discussion about warfare on NPR this morning (we can pick it up on the radio from the American military radio station). There was a lengthy interview of a fellow of the Brookings Institute who has just published a lengthy study of the history of warfare. His rather gloomy, I must say, conclusion is that warfare, in spite of all its violence, uglyness, death and destruction, is part and parcel of human nature. Even though those of us who constantly hope for a more enlightened humanity that will attempt to find other means to settle dispute and differences have always felt that we just might be capable of moving toward a higher plane of awareness (knowledge, as you put it) and do away with warfare, that simply hasn’t happened ! It’s a terrible thought and conclusion, but I’m afraid that he is right!
So much more to share, but I have to run. We leave again for Geneva on Friday morning and arrive that evening, that is if the volcano doesn’t interfere with things. So far SAS’ flights have been operating normally, so I think we’ll be okay.
You didn’t say anything else about Boise???
See you next week sometime. I’ll let you know when I can get away for a long coffee break.
Apr 22, 2010, 2:34 PM
Your email came just in time to brighten an otherwise grey, rainy day in Nagasaki, especially that image of spring and flowers in Geneva ! And one of my favorite all time movies, to boot. I agree that Bogart has to be the quintessential hero in that film, and Ingrid Bergmann is so tantalyzingly beautiful, and I love that final scene when Bogart and the French policeman walk off together to shape a new world in the future.
From the barren sands of northern Africa to the lush countryside and rolling hills surrounding the harbor of Nagasaki is quite a leap, but the two are, sadly enough, connected by a tragic war and suffering and sadness. Your thoughts about the a bomb are an uncanny reflection of my very own this morning. We spent several hours at the a bomb museum and memorial, and, as was the case last year in Hiroshima, I was engulfed with a whole gamut of emotions from deep sadness to disgust and dismay over my own governments decision (taken at least three years earlier by Roosevelt and Churchill) to drop an atomic bomb on innocent civilian populations. It must surely rank as one of the great crimes against humanity, but then history is always written by the victors and the feeble rationalizations given at the time that the two atomic bombs saved hundreds of thousands of American lives just don’t wash any more. Japan was already reeling in the war and had already approached the Russians to act as arbitrators in peace negotiations – rejected by the Americans, and there is no justifiable reason for killing so many innocent civilians (not to mention the totally arrogant assumption that American lives are somehow worth more than Japanese), and the long-term effects of the radiation, something that was far from being understood at the time, are another terrible consequence of that act. I am convinced that once the machinery to produce a bomb and the decision was made to drop it on a Japanese city (specifically without any prior warning), it was next to impossible to stop it. The Americans were not only bound and determined to punish Japan for the attack on Pearl Harbor, but also to demonstrate to the Soviets that they possessed a super weapon that made them superior to everyone else in the world. Who cares if it set off an arms race to acquire the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons that could many times over obliterate the human species. What a colossal exercise in futility !
I was also beyond myself this morning when I read that the city of Kyoto was also placed on the list of potential targets for the A bomb. It even made the final cut of the last three targets. Can you imagine that? That they even considered obliterating such a jewel of a city with such historic importance is beyond me. I really can’t fathom it.
Your mention of the recent talks and agreement on arms reductions made me think that each and every participant in any such talks should first of all be required to visit both Hiroshima and Nagasaki before ever sitting down at the negotiating table. I don’t know if I wrote this last year from Hiroshima, but it was interesting that only one president of the United States has visited Hiroshima, and that was Jimmy Carter! They should have all, each and every one of them, beginning with Harry Truman, made a pilgrimage to both of these cities so they could vow never to unleash such searing suffering on innocent victims again.
Hiroshima Peace Museum: http://hpmmuseum.jp/?lang=eng
A Symbol of Hiroshima: https://visithiroshima.net/world_heritage/a_bomb_dome/
Well, there’s my rant about one of history’s great foibles. Other than that, I have really enjoyed Nagasaki. It is much more picturesque than Fukuoka and has lots of narrow little alleys and streets lined with shops and stalls. We stumbled quite by accident onto a kind of fish market yesterday that consisted of a couple of dozen small stalls in a very narrow little street about two meters wide. It was really great.
We’re off tomorrow for the island of Sukuoku and the city of Matsuyama and some hot spring onsen close by. The Japanese trains are a real delight and a long day of riding the rails will give us a bit of a respite from rain we’ve had in Nagasaki.
Dogo Onsen – Ancient Bath House: https://youtu.be/r6-t54PfAJQ
And to answer your other question, it was far more than ten years. It was more like 23, but only the last three or four were really unbearable and we both kind of sank into a state of non-understanding and non-caring, compounded, largely on my part, by longings for something else and greener pastures and lush gardens of delight, which led me to a brief respite and an eden like rapture that soon turned rather sour, but that’s another very long story for another rainy evening.
By the way, I just finished another Murikami novel – Sputnik Sweetheart. It is by far his best and most subtle evocation of the possibility of a parallel existence where one part of us can dwell and where dreams are the connecting link.
May 10, 2010, 4:08 AM
I can’t believe this wonderfully descriptive email slipped through my fingers! I read it of course, but waited much too long to respond and it somehow got lost out there in ether. So, I decided to put all my correspondence (mainly our correspondence), covering my time/adventures in Geneva, in a folder labelled “The Geneva Diaries”, to be read at leisure at some later date. However, you must tell me which stories you enjoyed the most, was it Alice in Wonderland/ Purnima in Geneva, the Moroccan trilogy, the tales of Tavernier or the tale of dodging the multiple assassins in Pink Panther returns/ Sing is Kiing? The last tale surprisingly continues and appears to unfold around the glorious central square in the heart of Geneva, Place du Molard, where the sandstone cobbled streets interspersed with glass squares with greetings in numerous languages jump out to greet you. A place bustling with life and energy, people sipping wine enjoying the sunshine as they become spectators, cobblestones awaiting the drama to unfold. I find myself scampering past these cobblestones across the Place du Molard, which is on daily route to the health club, carefully avoiding the glass squares as they upon being touched morph into the assassins (in The Pink Panther Returns), representing the language they are written in, and mingle with the cobblestones awaiting their moment to strike. Something tells me that these tales must be kept between us, don’t you agree?
Place du Mollard, Geneva: http://www.geneva.info/place-du-molard/
See below Clouseau at the Octoberfest a Target of International Assassins:
Back you your mail, thank you for this incredible email sharing experiences of your time in Nagasaki, the bomb museum and memorial and a slices of US history. The series of decisions that resulted in dropping the A bomb, boggles my mind as it does yours, but what completely blew me off is the fact you mentioned, that Jimmy Carter was the only US president to have visited the bomb museum and memorial! Incroyable!! In my mind, this should be the first shrine any US president visits, remembering, reliving, relearning the lessons of the past as he is entrusted with that absolute power to save or devastate. Of course, not only should this be a lesson limited to the president, but one taught to every middle/high school child using modern technology to virtually visit this very place that shook our souls, so that when this generation is in a position to make some pivotal calls having unravelled their celestial weapon of devastation, they are able to revisit this place in their minds before they make that call to fabricate or fire. If they could look through time, would the great minds that started this process, split the atom, have enjoyed the science and the cerebral speculation without proceeding to the next step, or is this beyond us, bound in this human form do we lack the strength to manage the very weapons we have brought down from the realm of the Gods?
All this brings me back to Drona’s Art of Warfare: Knowledge is the best deterrent as it somehow levels the playing field, everyone has the knowledge and everyone through their proxies have the nukes. The situation today, relation to nuclear deterrence with its many conventions, treaties and summits to scale back and secure reminds me of a Mexican stand-off scene from a Western movie: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. A Mexican stand-off is a stalemate or confrontation where neither side can conceivable expect to win, a situation where all weapons are raised immediately, either directly at each other or through proxies everyone all at once stands exposed, stands covered. This was dramatically depicted in the above mentioned movie, with Clint Eastwood as the Good (bearing an uncanny resemblance to a blue eyed cowboy in common, don’t you agree?), Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach as the Bad and the Ugly, all chasing after the same gold end up in the graveyard with a Mexican stand-off. The scene unfolds with the three staring each other down, evaluating dangers , calculating alliances each with his gun drawn pointed at the other, frozen, somehow drawn into a reluctant partnership of restraint for 5 LONG minutes! How long have we been waiting nukes drawn, how much longer do we have?
See below The Good, The Bad and The Ugly-Mexican standoff. And remember that in this clip like in Yoko Ono’s White Chess installation, there are ever really two guns, the third is a proxy (without bullets):
Back to lighter subjects and romantic interludes, after that memorable 24 hours (in Paris), my life feels even more desolate. The lack of communication, the absolute dearth of concern, the high stress seems to be dragging each day to an irreconcilable juncture. Perhaps, I should not have peeked through the door and glimpsed the other side? And, to add insult to the injury, I was told that the Taj Mahal of Marrakech, a dream built by my dear friend and the one responsible for the introduction to this alternate realm, where our story (yes me and my beloved froggie) was to unravel in its second phase was usurped by the girls in my favorite TV series, Sex and the City, who took her Taj Mahal for a month to stage their next drama (movie). True! So, I have at least one return planned for Marrakech!
And Roger, before I jump onto the next subject and let this pass (regarding marriage and timelines) do let me reiterate, that the last ten years have been insufferable and not that much shorter than your incarceration! Roger, some people are just not made for this type of thing, and most certainly not Genji…I am still trying to figure how I got so stuck!?!
Finally, to distract my mind and keep the machinery in proper functioning order between dodging assassins and preparing breakfast, I have spent the last couple of days mulling over a topic which we discussed at length over lunch/coffee thus sharing yet another wonderful afternoon of thoughts and ideas (unfortunately not in french), the topic of Traditional Knowledge and Biodiversity. Traditional Knowledge, the knowledge generated by local communities, indigenous peoples, used and passed down from generation to generation encompassing knowledge of plants, minerals, processes, combinations, even artistic expression which enhance the health and welfare of a community. A knowledge so integral to a people, a community, that it forms an essential part of their cultural identity. We had discussed the case of the Indian herb turmeric which and the neem plant being patented and the uproar that followed. The neem plant case was a landmark case as it was the first case where a patent issued on the traditional knowledge of a country was successfully challenged as it was demonstrated that patenting would lead to expensive seeds which poor farmers would be unable to purchase and plant thus a plant which was integral to a culture and whose products are used across India for multiple agricultural and personal uses, would be unaffordable and not be planted thus patenting would lead to the erosion of the diversity of the neem tree. Similarly, the case was made for turmeric based on traditional knowledge, which is used in Ayurveda and has been used continuously in India from 600BC both internally and externally as herb and medicine and is very much identified as an integral part of the culture eventually resulting in the US patent office revoking the issued patent. Thus an understanding arose that the issue of a patent is both dangerous and powerful as it excludes others from its purview. And, more so in the field of Traditional Knowledge, where that knowledge is so integral to a community and culture that it forms an essential part of their cultural identity and issuing the patent to an outsider would exclude the very people who have been using that knowledge, process, expression for generations that it would be like relinquishing a part of those indigenous people to a third party.
This reminds me of the famous painting in the Louvre and at the Metropolitan Museum titled “The Rape of the Sabines” by Nicolas Poussin. https://www.metmuseum.org/en/art/collection/search/437329
The Rape of The Sabines – Nicholas Poussin – Public Domain
This painting represents the myth behind the founding of Rome where the roman men after having secured their land and organized themselves under Romulus realized that they needed women to procreate and populate their tribe, so they invited their neighboring tribe for a grand feast. The feast was in reality a ploy to abduct these Sabine women and make them their wives. The Sabine men were unaware, in-alert, and inattentive and thus relinquished their women, which represented their biodiversity, their essence, their flora and fauna to their more powerful and smarter neighbors. The women then become Roman women and give birth to the roman empire and the Sabine men have to forever look upon their own women as the ones from the neighboring tribe. As I saw it, this rape, plunder, abduction, was the first representation of the essence of a people, their Biodiversity/Traditional Knowledge (for in the women lie the traditions and the knowledge of a tribe) being snatched from them from right under their noses as they did not have the leadership, knowledge and tools to secure, protect or reclaim it. The Sabines would represent the indigenous communities that do not have the knowledge resources or ability to secure their own biodiversity.
Unlike the turf wars of yore, we are onto another plane, a deeper more insidious one, where its no longer an issue of relinquishment of territorial space, one fluid and changing with times, very short times, but one of usurping the knowledge, herbs, plants, traditions, that have been a part of a people forever and sometimes the people themselves, changing both the face of the acquirer and acquired forever, one completely consuming the essence of the other.
Good night and hope to hear from you very soon! When do you return?
Jun 27, 2020, 12:04 AM
It’s been a while since we last connected. I do hope you and the family are well and safe during this pandemic.
One of the things I discovered referenced throughout my correspondence was The Story of The Ice Mommy…it’s one tale I never did get around to narrating. And time has now distorted this poignant tale of the Ice Mommy found five thousand years later seemingly intact with her long eyelashes and the rattle for her kids in her knapsack at the foot of the Weisshorn.
However, something bizarre has occurred to the story…the ice mommy who was assumed to have fallen to her death has been found with an arrow point at the base of her spine. Who would have done such a dastardly act, who would have shot an arrow into the spine of the Ice Mommy?
The tale is now one of assassination… A WHODUNNIT… Who killed the Ice Mommy?
See below Otzi the 5,000 year old Iceman (mummy) who was found intact, frozen in the Tyrolean Alps, not far from the Weisshorn. It is believed that he was murdered and didn’t just fall to his death as he was found with an arrowhead in his shoulder that went through his back. See Otzi below:
Otzi -The Ice Mommy killed by a spear to his back:
love n hugs
PS: My Ice Mommy, is from the “other” mountain range, from a place which is like the mirror image of the Weisshorn of the Alps, but is in the Himalayas– The Weisshorn Solang. She found herself with one wonderful bottle of California wine too many and got “baked” in Sonoma 😂
See below California Wine Country where CA attorneys go to bake 😉
The Culinary Institute of America:
The Weisshorn (The Alps):
The Solang Weisshorn (The Himalayas):
Disclaimer : P
All persons, places, events are fictitious; all imputed relationships purely aspirational. There were no men harmed during the penning of the Feminist Manifesto