Monthly Archives: March 2012
I’d mentioned earlier that I’d met a poet on the outskirts of Goa . The neighborhood is called Arpora. It’s a place where you wake up, walk outside to grey monkeys playing along the treetops and pigs roaming the forest. It’s a place where flashlights are a must at night so as to avoid stepping on the occasional cobra, and where the gargling calls of the neighbor’s pet kite (a hawk-like bird of pray) shake the air.
Though his conversational English is among the best I’ve encountered in India, Lloyd says he’s not read but maybe seven or eight books in his twenty-eight years. Lloyd’s never traveled out of India. Yet, by some special recipe of the cosmos, Lloyd’s poems have a way of pointing straight at me, too directly, with an acuteness to suggest they’d been designed only for my benefit. They rough up and untangle my psyche, seeing me in ways I’m afraid to be seen.
I first met Lloyd at his book-launching party for “99,” his first published volume of poetry. I’d read a couple of the pieces he’d released online, expectations low low and low, but soon realizing that this was an artist I had to meet. I’ve obtained permission from Lloyd to share some of his work from “99″ on my blog, beginning with a piece called Orient. Enjoy.
where the sun rises.
The ancient of the herb drinks.
Big walls stand through your plains.
The simpletons and the democrats,
your hills provide solace for the arts.
We are grateful for your works.
The fortunes lie in our cookies.
Hard toil and sweat brought about change to the lands.
I could dwell in your half existent glory
for years, like a hermit.
Since I’m running behind schedule I’m going to double up and send you an email that will double as a blog post. I realize this represents some departure from our traditional privacies, and I think I might enjoy making a nice inside joke out of the whole thing. Perhaps I shall make this a very odd email, thereby giving it the impression as the norm of our correspondence. And who’s to say it’s not?
I’ve been worrying lately about the prospect of turning into a goat or some other field creature. Let me begin this story near its end. When I was running around the Goa “party” scene, doing my most solid night’s partying since parting ways with the US, I came across five or so Italian men on the roof of a beach-side dance club. 24 hours earlier, in the heat of a nightmare stoning session, I’d succumbed to vast and over-complicated fantasies of old magiks and voodoos being practiced in the wildernesses of Hindustan. Conspiracies and covens, that whole thing, evolved for the modern era, and headquartered in a place called Goa, where the unspoken T at the end, stands for Tourist, and the rituals are most gruesome.
Back to my Italian friends— five young men, lady’s men, all muscles and gonohrrea, looked and acted as if the Jersey Shore cast were their interdimensionally removed descendants. Brain still pained by the fantasies of past moon, I couldn’t help but notice that each of the five Italians had rings running through their septums. And, poor diplomat that I am, I couldn’t help but allow said septum rings to cold-launch me into a conversation about my previous night’s musings on animal transmutations, the kind I speculated was being practiced in Goa(T). And I followed it all up, wearing sudden bright-eyed alarm, by noting how peculiar it was that we were visitors in a land where the cows roam free, without the obligation of certain non-conformist fashion statements (meaning their septums were kept intact). Still not meaning to be rude, I began talking about the Italian debt crisis via free and crude associations…
It was unfortunate, and I must confess, to feeling a tad guilty for doing so, but at one point I seemed to create a five-wide ripple of fine worry through their stoned minds. Reading it on their faces, I think we’ve got a Situation here.
Here’s the beauty, I departed the Italians amidst many laughs and few judgments, on well terms and in perfect spirit. Perhaps this pleasant ending can be attributed to the outright supremacy of these most bizarre communication methods, or perhaps due to the resilience and strength of my dashing American charisma (strangeness, I must say, tends to look good on me), but most likely, I suspect, it was due to the persistent phenomenon of basic human goodness and chemical intoxication. I would see them, the Italians, later in the evening and proceed, by conscious obligation, to alight and craft with them new conversation of a kind enjoyable as the last, but driven, by careful design, through polite and normal channels of topic. I fancy this proferred recovery package to be recognized and admired, and my hope is that both the Italians and myself will depart our travels bearing better refined notions of responsibility, humility, and service, lessons we can take, not just from each other, but from the noble beasts that here roam free through field and street.
Other news, book is going well… growing in all directions, beastly and bold as an Akira-style curse.
Write back soon =-)
The café was set up and designed by a Russian expatriate, couldn’t have been much older than 30, who’d come to India with his wife and small son. The Russian, presumably inspired by his son, had built a small indoor playground in one section of the café, just a rope ladder, swing, and a high lofted platform. Kind of dangerous for kids, actually, but I could tell the Russian was keen on raising his child to be fearless.
After taking the afternoon to do some more exploring on my Honda Hero, I ended up back in Shaporra that evening planning to visit the famous Shaporra Juice Bar in the center of the commercial district. The place was swarming with hippy Euros and finding a place to sit was near impossible. I settled for a small stone ledge just outside the shop, where I was greeted by the most charming cow I’ve ever encountered. She was a favorite among the hippies and happily strutted from street-side to street-side to greet this or another human admirer. The next task was figuring out how to order juice. There was no visible cash-register or ordering area, and you couldn’t really discern staff from customer. I decided to just sit and wait for some solution to present itself. I noticed a girl, newly arrived at the juice bar and perusing, as I had—somewhat uncomfortably—through the Euros, looking equally mystified by the whole apparatus of the juice bar. Rather than wait it out like me, she proceeded across the intersection and sat down at a little Thai café.
With much patience, I managed to locate a willing—if not attentive or easily demarcated— server and to place an order for a Pomegranate juice. I returned to my ledge to wait. I waited… and waited. At about the fifteen minute mark, I noticed that the young woman who had left for the little Thai café was now sitting out street-side with a plate of pomos. Seemed she was all by herself, like me, which kind of made me feel obligated to go over and say hello to her. Not only had I expressly resolved to be social today, but I also figured the odds were in my favor that I would brighten her day some, the whole consideration of this gambit arriving upon me with some sense of semi-serious karmic obligation. So, after swallowing the fact that this cold approach would be monitored in plain site by scores of Europeans and Indians, I stood up,walked across the intersection and executed my karmic duty.
“Hello, Hey. I’m waiting on a juice,” I motion back to the chaos of the juice bar, strategically telegraphing the fact that I’ve conquered the beast, “but I thought I might join you afterwards. After I pick it up, my juice.”
Big brown eyes grow wide with alarm. “That is… I mean, if you’d like some company.”
The verdict comes out thickly accented, Easter-European, “Hasshu Vish”
I’m not understanding. “What’s that?”
“As you Vish.”
“Oh, sure. Ok, see ya.”
I get my juice a few minutes later, and I notice that the girl seems to have made an effort to pace her dinner some to permit time for our impromptu visit.
In a somewhat beleagured manner, I sit down and begin showing off. “Ok, Estonia,”
The girl smiles and shakes her head no.
And I proceed to parade my command of geography, all the way south to, “You couldn’t be from Romania?”
She’s from Russia. She tells me her name is Kate.
“Of course. Kate. Of course it is,” I say. Kate’s limited abilities with English colloquiallism prevent her from picking up on the strangeness of my response. But she favors another Kate I know in the Western Hemisphere, and this won’t be the first time I’ve entertained notions of fractal identities linked through names, likeness, and circumstance.
Long blog short. We enjoy a dinner over broken English, each of us, as I suspected, preferring the quickly evaporating discomfiture of companionship to the lag of Saturday evening loneliness. Kate leaves me with a recommendation for an amazing beach to check out, further north. A long drive up through the mountains, but worth it, she says.
I follow-up on Kate’s recommendation Sunday morning, and, true to her promise, the drive is an amazing journey and the beach proves a spectacular payoff for my two-ships-passing-through-the-night-type gesture of socio-karmic ambassadorship.
I’ve got some video of the Sunday trip that I’ll share soon.
At present—I’ve relocated to a place called Arpora in North Goa. The downside is that I’m out of network range and my connection, if it exists at all, is very slow. This is going to temporarily prevent me from uploading video content. The upside is I’m staying with really amazing people, two artists who make their living designing T-shirts and selling them at this enormous flea market every Wednesday. One of them, an Anglo-Indian from Bangalore, when evaluated under the best literary scrutiny I can muster, appears to be a uniquely gifted poet; this rendered by the judgment of one who tends to be quite cynical on the very notion of “poems.” I’m truly mystified by how this person has managed to tap not only the inner most mysteries of the soul, but also the gentlest subtleties of the English language. More on this later. Much more. I’m dead serious. This could be big.
Certain, ever-dynamic, and demanding subject matter prevented me again from wrapping up the book section I was working on last week, so I’ve still not been able to devote the time needed for some longer term business planning. Nonetheless, I’ve been privileged to enjoy some great refreshing company here on this leg of my journey, and can honestly report to feeling less stressed and more content than I’ve felt in some while. I’ve no choice but to allot due credit to the intermittent ingestion of a certain medicinal herb, crediting too the sensible, nay, enlightened tolerances of certain local, state, and federal governments. Cheers.
I know it’s a harsh term, “Euro-trash,” but I use it moreso to illustrate than to condemn. Goa’s tourist base, best generalized, is probably 90 or so percent European hippy/trance types of all ages. These are the people who’ve acquired success in life by learning how to enjoy it, as oppossed to people like me, who tend to A) perceive success as an end to itself, quite secondary to happiness, and B) measure success through hard work and accomplishment. Though I’m hoping I’ll take much of the former “Euro-Trash” sensibilities back home with me, I’ve come to realize that the latter philosophies will always dictate my fundamental personality. I contemplate what I’d look like as a person focused mostly on pleasure, lying out on the beach or frequenting trance-parties, smoking cigarettes, drinking and using drugs for no other purpose but to “feel good,” an expert at “relaxing” and “letting things come when they come.” My ability to visualize myself this way is peculiarly limited. It’s exterior only— though I can visualize myself there on the beach, basic dimensions of real life have been abstracted wholesale, amputated. When I try to contemplate this person’s thoughts and character, I see, at first, nothing. When I attempt to pry my way inside the image-as a viewer might investigate the interior life of some “great” painting hanging in a prized gallery-I can only withstand faint, foreboding senses for the painting’s raison d’etre, fleeting as the tolerance of one who holds his hand over a flame tip. Walk away. You don’t want to see this, the painting seems to whisper. Ignorning the warning, I keep looking, searching it for life, goading it on unwisely until… I glimpse it, just for a second, and God is it fucking awful. Behind the image, a soul frozen in life-threatening panic, screaming like an unrepentant sinner who’s found himself in blasphemous devotion to that which is other than the production and suffering of art. It’s a vision of unsustainable terror and hence, nonsense, for the subject could never exist beyond the art that confines him.
Saturday morning, a dwarven Indian woman waddled up to my breakfast table and dotted my forehead. She and a group of six other festively dressed women were going from restaurant to restaurant up Vagator Beach Rd, dancing and singing and tamborining and, of course, collecting. Using the tip of her pinky, she’d dabbed some gluey, orange stuff from a pallet, and, like a priest christening a small child, she made my ass Indian… earthy and red as the ground that awaits my departure from this planet.
Just as my very first hour in India was punctuated by a purely chance visit to the great “Gateway to India” landmark, the punctuation I received Saturday morning I took as a semi-divine coronation, an acknowedgment and blessing of the journey that lay ahead.
You see, I’d marked Saturday as a special day, set it aside. In addition to not working, my Saturday action plan included the following:
- Rent motorcycle
- Explore Goa
- Talk to people
- Go to beach
- Buy pot
The To-do’s shared one particular commonality in that they were all things I didn’t really feel like doing, but things I felt I’d be glad for having done, things that would ultimately serve my best interests.
The motorcycle was some old eighties model called “Hero” by Honda, 250cc I think, standard transmission. 300rs($6) for a twenty-four hour rental, down from 350rs($7) asking price. Finally motorbound, after ten days of chump-humping around on foot, I couldn’t have been happier had I sprouted wings. How was it I’d managed not to look forward to this?
With the greater range of motion at my command, my first big find was the magical land of Chaporra. I’d seen a couple teenagers on motorized scooters turn off the main road onto a small paved pathyway that ran down a long hill. As the day had been devoted to adventure, the choice was obvious, I was to depart from the larger road and follow my unknowing guides to whatever fortunes lay waiting downhill and around the bends. Two minutes later I was no longer in Goa. I was in the mother-flippin’ land of Oz! A neighborhood of shrines and bungalows, everything painted in bold yellows and reds, sky blues, whites, the spectrum of a standard beachball. Parades of festively costumed children and adults interspersed among one another admidst many a song and smile, their revelries sounding well akin to those sung earlier by the dwarf and her troupe, musical folk-canons marking the day with what I soon deduced to be some or another religious significance, just as I’d marked it myself, Saturday, setting it aside in accordance with my own rites of solipsistic spiritualism.
The path narrowed into an alley between a crimson farmhouse and a baby-blue bungalow, terminating at a large and busy cross-street lined in the shops,restaurants, bars, and cafes of a robust commercial center. Immediately across from the alley’s end was a green half-tent, half-bungalow structure. Painted neatly on its green canvas walls were yellow stars and sinuous ribbons of rose and violet. I would soon journey inside and make a grand discovery, a culinary artifact of mythical significance, something I’d long given up for lost.
The End § 1
I’ve got a big section of BRAT winding down, a very challenging section to write, keeps trying to forcibly remove my butt from the chair. But I’ve been relentless in turn, hammering hours away on it even if my reward for the day is nothing more than a lonely half-decent paragraph, a glimpse of tiny light at the end of a long dark tunnel of doubt. I doubt too much. It fucks up my writing. I doubt and worry over that sentence I just wrote, the one about the tunnel, worrying about it sounding too cliche. It does sound cliche. Maybe doubt is good. No, I just read it again. I read the whole paragraph this time, and the sentence doesn’t read that badly when you read the whole paragraph. I doubt too much.
I concluded, with much reluctance, that it would probably do me well to take small doses of a certain medicinal plant in an effort to improve my overall mental health. I say reluctant, because, historically, smoking this plant just makes me freak out hard core. Because of said freak-out risk, I’m careful to only do it while alone, sans peer pressure of any kind, free to toke in laughably small quantities. I’m still freaking out, but they’re non-debilitating, solitary, low-intensity freakouts, highly manageable, the bud-light of freak outs if you’re keen on puns. The positives seem to be showing up. The whole thing’s been quite an adventure, actually, a good choice overall I think. More on this subject later. I’m documenting my experiences.
So yeah, BRAT, gave it one hell of a push last week, and I’m back at it again, relentless again, ready to put it to bed by week’s end. As soon as that’s done, I’m taking three to five days and devoting them to a bit of long-term planning (professional, financial) 3-months, 6-months, 1-year, that kind of stuff. At which point I’m hoping to have a better sense of, among other things, what I want this blog to be about.
On a minor and lighter note, I’m thinking it might be fun to regularly update the sub-header (Expatriate of India, Writer…)
Three ideas I like for future sub-headers:
Bryan Basamanowicz, Letters of a High-Functioning Paranoiac
Bryan Basamanowicz, Transmissions of Distress from the Ivory Tower
Bryan Basamanowicz, Unpublished Writer, Rejected 13 Times, Already Whining Like a Baby
=) any other ideas? let me know
I know Weird Tales Magazine continues to print, but, for the most part, I’d taken the Weird Fiction genre to have more or less passed on into the Outer realms with Lovecraft. Then I discovered this weirdo, Damien Walter, an accomplished journalist and Weird Fiction author who writes for UK’s The Guardian and, like me, has fond recollections of the amazing Milton Bradley board game Hero Quest.
Walter recently launched a contest that’s drawn out the most freakish of the freaks from the literary woodwork. Perhaps I’ve finally found my tribe.
10) Being able to call a friend or family member just to talk and not having to worry about time zones or expense
9) Seven Eleven Nachos
7) Low-risk tap-water
5) Taco Bell
4) Hot water showers
3) A healthy and happy canine majority
2) Street signs
1) Brewed Coffee!!! (really, it doesn’t exist here)
From handwritten journal – entry date 1.28.12
Stung wide awake! A second night now my sleep’s been disturbed by the swirl of spurned muses haunting this bedroom, waving before me my breach of contract with the city. It’s a type of nightmare that prays only on the waking, a haunting of unborn ghosts who once lived in the future, their murdered verses now never to be written, dead at my hands for having chosen the uncertainties of the world over the comfort of this monastic, mid-western peace.
This image copyright John Shannon © 2009.