After years and decades of horror stories, movies, TV shows, graphics & advertising the actual does not, cannot possibly, penetrate. Not when it comes from the same screens and talking heads. Unreal. All vastly unreal. Especially so to the young no doubt, therefore the scenes at Bondi Beach and reports of bars and clubs buzzing in Australia. A Chinese delegate recently in Italy offering expertise commented on the concerning “partying” he had witnessed. Again here last night at Al Azhar, where it is a case of the traditional, kampung people disbelieving, three or four handshakes had needed to be rebuffed. One old chap who always sports beautiful batik shirts that a tailor in Batam made for him suggested the thing was “all nonsense.” The old dodger Latif with his recently grown moustache brushed off similarly when his hand was left hanging. Many of the older fellows continued to believe this was a Chinese problem, their own diets and ablutions preserving them from harm. As usual, a good many stopping at the table for the familiar foreigner. One uncle who previously never approached unexpectedly did so last night, enquiring about the pretty companion of the night before. This man’s shake was likewise graciously declined and the heart-felt palming substituted. To not much avail as it turned out, with the fellow clapping the shoulder and giving a hug at the assumption of well done with the girl. In the house one really does want to take the handyman by the leg like a horse and remove the tappers on his sandals. (Does his wife actually get reassurance from that clatter?) The rising irritation from tourist guide Richard’s banging of pots and pans in the kitchen likewise needs care. A morgue silence would not be any good either, perhaps. Sabar, sabar the Indo domestic helpers exchanged between themselves at their weekend debriefs at the tables. Patience, patience. They, the sweeps, the ill and wheelchair-bound (and their carers), the tall dark garbage truck jockey this morning, all teach the lesson. (How did the latter keep his Panama so spotless? The lad will have no trouble keeping his hands off his face.)
In the States the gun Scottie ordered in SOCAL has not arrived:
Been 2 days online, impossible any CA gunstore, trying to find a 45 cal, CA legal (10 round max mag) gun. 2 weeks ago so easy—now NONE anywhere. Must buy ammo at store in CA and they’re all closed now. Can’t imagine how many more guns on the street after this. I’ll never get caught without firepower again.
Practical Ethics & Profound Emptiness might just about be the way to go from here on. In the Buddhist shop window at Bras Basah Complex after the airline wild goose chase. On the Cathedral corner one stop back from the library an unconnected pair had gone in through the gates and one after the other up the stairs into the house of worship. Chinese and Indian. Passing the temperature test at the entry to the airline offices on Magazine Road was something perhaps. (Reminder: most cities and all major colonial outposts had old armouries sited by the river.) On the 7th floor no personal contact was understandable; the numbers tried by the door on the intercom found people away from their desks. There had been no expectation of anything better; the fraying was well underway. Ghost town throughout; it had been a simple matter crossing the roads in the heart of Chinatown against the red. In an imaginary street walk for a news service a queue on Havelock Road was guessed for the camera as toilet paper—turned out a café with take-out cups. In Australia as well as the beaches the liquor stores had been rushed; the more rulely segment of the population would find it hard to get by without the caffeine fix. (To say nothing of substances that cannot be mentioned here, which might perhaps in fact remain unaffected, if not actually trading more smoothly.) On the airline site that had finally been restored after days of blanks only the next 48 hour schedules showed. Understandably. Who at present was planning much longer than a couple of day ahead, serious hoarders aside. The library café peopled and the tables upstairs too, judging by the 1.5m separated queue at the doors. Registration and temperature testing could be managed at all civic hubs across a city-state of this kind. Was there a better haven in our contemporary moment than the library? You would bet sheep stations it would get as much patronage as any of the other notable faiths. How rapidly it had all collapsed? An earthquake in Zagreb to add woe in that corner. Refugees, the poor and homeless might become more of a concern now because of the dangers to the rest of us; prisons had already come into calculations. Across the library forecourt sleek, slender legs briefly worked their old magic again, giving a little reminder at least of carefree days. The day before Ni had needed to be rebuffed. Through the morning it had been touch-and-go with the arrangements for meeting, the gal proving difficult to deny. For younger lovers desire was no doubt unaffected by a virus. Apart from food and water supplies this place was well positioned; for a foreigner without health insurance and on a limited visa not so much. In the time ahead of course medical treatment anywhere outside China would be problematic—a deposit system for a non-cit. one would guess in this particular marketplace, say $5–10k. One needed to prioritise one’s own, naturally.
Queues at both the rice counter & also the laksa. There had been a middle-aged woman down on her knees in front of one of the gold painted altars among the plumbing and paint shops. Usually those places appeared like any other retail outlet facing the street—mannequin Buddhas in residence and almost no show of worship. The underlying anxiety was mounting. Tables very much over-populated, however, so much so that a share was needed for a seat. Being 1.5m diameter there was no difficulty with the chap opposite. Masks nowhere to be seen, understandably at lunch, but neither were there any on the table-tops. Stuffed in the bags—or perhaps the Buddhists eschewed. The pariahs were lords of the manor now, having a head start with all the dodging and avoidance. It was difficult to dislodge the image of the tall, dark garbage truck jockey from yesterday in the resplendent panama. The fact that the latter was one’s own signature motif (formerly) only part of it. Young and reed-thin, the lad strongly flashed Southern Serbia, wonderful Nis in particular. O‑rig-inal Cigo, Gypsy, the arrogant fairer-skinned would have commented. There seemed to be some odd kind of radiance like a protective halo emitted from the hat. Had the lad given it a coating with something from the kampung, perchance, aloe vera say? People messaging and forwarding all kinds of items, remedies, warnings, news pieces; one had fallen into the same practice. The hot citrus drink was forwarded ten times on Whatsapp; then simple tea for its imputed benefits, as supposedly discovered by the Wuhan doc who had first given warning of the virus and subsequently succumbed. The Texas Lt. Gov. featured on a talk show essentially advocating a sacrifice of the older population—the over seventies such as himself—in order that the America he had enjoyed could be bequeathed to his six grandchildren and their descendants. Get the country back to work; save the businesses. In Spain elderly in the nursing homes were being abandoned by staff; Polish authorities had refused airspace to a Ruski mission carrying aid to Italy, because of the potential undermining of NATO solidarity. Pressure points giving way on every side. The while the queues lengthening here, all the meat-eaters leaping to vegetables for the touted immunity. Stranded in BKK with his dialysis while wife Madeleine was here, Mike Tong forwarded warning to spray clothing with vinegar or antiseptic on returns home. Landlord Tan provided his usual porn, in this case home-made from the Mainland—rather unusual for that old player who had long ago exhausted his interest in Asian flesh. In Malaysia Doria was ailing with Stage 4 bone cancer. Memory now returned of early or mid-teens it may have been in the last period of religious faith, wearing oneself out bedside recalling all those who needed mention in prayers. Double the usual custom without any doubt. Lockdown here would be near impossible. Some coped immured within four walls; not communal kampung folk, not those beyond their forties. Factor the heat and humidity in addition. Only a privileged minority, the thoroughbred winners in the meritocratic stakes, could afford aircon. Still the Mainland waitress cannot get used to the White returning to the trolley and scraping his own plate. All the protocols were overturned by the woman’s appreciative touch of the hand giving her thanks. Adding You’re welcome in her own language raised one heck of a smile.
Was it wise forwarding the piece of the Spanish doctor reporting from the hospital, especially to older friends? In BKK Mike responded that one better get used to sawadee Thai style. Not perfectly clear what he meant by that in the moment of writing, even after explanation and a search. Goodbyes with the signature Buddhist calm possibly.
In SOCAL Scottie had received his 45 colt—
I managed to find the last 45 cal acp round Glock semi-auto used online in a bid from a store in Texas. Now shipped to a licensed dealer in CA for background check then a 10 day wait. With enough clips, I could wage a small war, certainly defend myself. Almost every US cop carries a Glock.
Notes from online:
ACP — automatic colt pistol
….The round was developed due to a lack of stopping power experienced in the Moro Rebellion …
[The Moro Rebellion (1899–1913) was an armed conflict between the Moro people and the United States military during the Philippine–American War…. The word “Moro” is a term for Muslim people who lived in the Southern Philippines, an area that includes Mindanao, Jolo and the neighboring Sulu Archipelago.]
This experience and the Thompson–LaGarde Tests of 1904, led the Army and the Cavalry to decide a minimum of .45 caliber was required in a new handgun.
The previous incremental melting of soap sitting in its dish in the heat here was worth only a passing mental note. Still after meals washing slipped sometime. Bedsheets have been left unwashed as usual these three weeks—how to keep up with everything adding chores?
A news items forwarded by George in Melbourne added flesh to the bones of the picture of Modi in India, in this clip speaking a vernacular Hindi it seemed, announcing the nationwide lockdown for 1.3b people. Clearly a polished performer, the finger-pointing sternness was unlike anything whatever in our politics; never seen previously in any comparable form. Truly remarkable; a grandfatherly visage from another place & time. From the era of the old children’s books, it came to mind, those schoolroom volumes read by teacher at the desk out front, accompanying pictures held up for the class. Dread from the dark forests; young innocent children victimised; Hansel & Gretel &etc. Strangest of politics. Some of the commentary on ABC contrasting the Indian with the US scene used the image of the half-naked, muscled guitarist on Times Square, standing triumphant in the middle of the road. Trump of course was implicit in the DNA of that figure, hiding within like in a matryoshka doll
We are nothing but vessels of memory. Overnight in the usual sleep-split at the witching hour. There had been no need to record the words at the time. Observing the long trunk of the body in the posture of the corpse that Confucius had warned against, except for the crossing of the feet, for what that was worth. (A weakness in the calm of the old Master, understandably.) In that position a kind of vase was figured, the memory coursing down from the saturated brain. Some older culture had it that a library was lost when an old person passed on. And Borges wrote about the especially unfortunate victim prone and overloaded, unable to forget anything.
Since the lockdown a Chinese writer in the States had begun an online group reading of War & Peace, unusual choice perhaps for the end of times. (All those dreary magazine profiles that had included the question, desert island form.) The woman quoted Stefan Zweig for explanation: (Tolstoy is) “supreme as artist when he is indifferent, dispassionate, unconcerned, incorruptible, neither confused nor led astray by sympathy.”
Ya, ordinary comforts certainly would prove unsatisfactory currently, you would guess. Few colouring book resorts, gothic, fantasy, kitchen realism &etc. But you never can say maybe. Whatever gets you through the night
Australian by birth and Montenegrin origin, Pavle Radonic’s eight years living and writing in S‑E Asia has provided unexpected stimulus. Previous work has appeared in a range of literary journals and magazines, most recently San Antonio Review, Panoply, Modern Literature & The Blue Nib. A mountainous blog holding mainly the Asian writing is here—http://axialmelbourne.