Saturday, November 28, 2009
This is a link to a video on Amosh's (Unicycalex's) youtube spot. It is pretty poor, but gives one an idea of what silly things he does with his time until the day when his quixotic picaresque opens and he sprints forward youthfully, pedaling his single, little wheel on lonely roads across the world---hoping to inspire a tiny shared flash of family relation amongst the diverse peoples of the Earth, even if only in his humble passing through remote tropical villages in foolish, wobbling wheelings forth over mounds of dirt and trash, about our common belonging---notwithstanding the murders we've committed, the atrocities we've permitted*.
This video is one of unicycalex playing his ukulele and singing in his old Manzhouli apartment during Chinese New Year of last year, with fireworks blasting outside his window. As sad as the whole musical affair is---it passes the time until Unicycalex is shot from the cannon of finished contracts, landing cleanly on the lime green seat of his Miyata Flamingo unicycle, riding off into the proverbial sunset of his milder days---for the next sunrise will surely usher in his spiciest trials of life yet...
*Sorry, Hannah Arendt, "The Banality of Evil" is not so banal; and sorry, Stanford Prison Experiment, the horrors of assumed authority are not so naturally occurring.
*Zikukin Di Nur-'Fireworks' (Modern Hebrew via Aramaic)
Note: The username "TheRebbesUkulele" on Youtube is by no means to be taken as referring to Unicycalex himself, but in fact to a bizarre daydream he once mused, in which a great bearded Hasidic rebbe was envisioned eliciting Holy Sparks through the fervent pluckings of the strings of an illumined ukulele.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Yisrael KhAiMoSh ben ShaZ
Alex M. Schwartzman
Alon ben Qeni
16 Adar I 5768
[A Re-e-publication of Early Works:]
The Rabbi of Kartoshnikye
Once in the small village of Kartoshnikye there was a Rabbi Chaim ben Chutzpah. Rabbi Chaim ben Chutzpah had 4 disciples. His first disciple was Ari Af Gadol. His second disciple was Yitzhak haMensch. And his third and fourth disciples were Zalman ben Yokhanan and Aviv ben Shmuel. Rabbi Chaim ben Chutzpah also had a wife, the Rebbitzin, and a young daughter. Rabbi Chaim ben Chutzpah used to rate his disciples from brightest to most foolish starting with Ari Af Gadol, continuing through Yitzhak haMensch and Zalman ben Yokhanan, to Aviv ben Shmuel. Rabbi Chaim ben Chutzpah used to additionally rate the Rebbitzin as the second most foolish and his daughter as the most foolish of all. Rabbi Chaim ben Chutzpah was in the habit of frequently saying to his disciples "Can it be said, one attains?," in sarcasm, whenever he saw that his disciples were asking foolish questions and not thinking properly, and he wanted to teach them all a lesson. One day Rabbi Chaim ben Chutzpah's brightest disciple Ari Af Gadol said, "Rebbe, can it be said of the man who studies Torah day and night, he shall attain for himself a place in The World To Come?" Rabbi Chaim ben Chutzpah was about to answer when he saw that Ari Af Gadol looked as if he already knew the answer to the question. The Rabbi Chaim ben Chutzpah said, "Ari, is this really your question?" Ari Af Gadol said, "No, Rebbe, I heard it from Yitzhak haMensch as, 'Can it be said of the man who studies Torah every day, he shall attain a place for himself in The World?' So, Rabbi Chaim ben Chutzpah found his disciple Yitzhak haMensch and was about to answer the question when he saw that Yitzhak haMensch looked as if he already knew the answer to the question. The Rabbi Chaim ben Chutzpah said, "Yitzhak, is this really your question?" Yitzhak haMensch said, "No, Rebbe, I heard it from Zalman ben Yokhanan as, 'Can it be said of the man who studies Torah, he shall attain for himself a place?' So, Rabbi Chaim ben Chutzpah found his disciple Zalman ben Yokhanan and was about to answer the question when he saw that Zalman ben Yokhanan looked as if he already knew the answer to the question. The Rabbi Chaim ben Chutzpah said, "Zalman, is this really your question?" Zalman ben Yokhanan said, "No, Rebbe, I heard it from Aviv ben Shmuel as, 'Can it be said of the man who studies, he shall attain?' So, Rabbi Chaim ben Chutzpah found his disciple Aviv ben Shmuel and was about to answer the question when he saw that Aviv ben Shmuel looked as if he already knew the answer to the question. The Rabbi Chaim ben Chutzpah said, "Aviv, is this really your question?" Aviv ben Shmuel said, "No, Rebbe, I heard it from the Rebbitzin as, 'Can it be said of Man, he shall attain?' So, Rabbi Chaim ben Chutzpah found his wife the Rebbitzin and was about to answer the question when he saw that the Rebbitzin looked as if she already knew the answer to the question. The Rabbi Chaim ben Chutzpah said, "My dear wife, is this really your question?' The Rebbitzin said, "No, my dear husband, I heard it from our daughter as, 'Can it be said, one shall attain?' So, Rabbi Chaim ben Chutzpah found his daughter and was about to answer the question when he saw that she looked as if she already knew the answer to the question. The Rabbi Chaim ben Chutzpah said, "Daughter, is this really your question?" His daughter said, "No, father, I heard it from you as, 'Can it be said, one attains?' So, Rabbi Chaim ben Chutzpah found himself and was about to answer the question when he saw that he already knew the answer to the question. All of a sudden, Rabbi Chaim ben Chutzpah turned red in the face, and looked up to see his four disciples, the Rebbitzin, and his daughter all looking at him with amusement. They all said to him, "Foolish Rebbe, that will teach you to rate us from brightest to most foolish again. Clearly, you are the greatest fool among us." However, strangely, Rabbi Chaim ben Chutzpah only smiled mysteriously in response. His four disciples, the Rebbitzin, and his daughter, who were all still feeling smug after having taught Rabbi Chaim ben Chutzpah a lesson, suddenly stopped feeling so smug when they saw that Rabbi Chaim ben Chutzpah was now smiling mysteriously at their having taught him a lesson. The Rabbi Chaim ben Chutzpah then said, "Can it be said, one attains?," as he was in the habit of saying whenever his disciples were asking foolish questions and not thinking properly, and he wanted to teach them all a lesson.
The Rabbi of Polzhoi
Once in the village of Polzhoi there lived a Rabbi Yitzhak Sifrutho, who had 7 disciples. He had among his seven disciples a favourite. This favourite disciple was named Sabje.
One day Rabbi Yitzhak Sifrutho and his disciple Sabje were walking down the oldest lane in Polzhoi, discoursing on the Torah. As their discourse tapered to a silence at one of its many joints, for both Rabbi Yitzhak Sifrutho and his disciple Sabje were accustomed to pausing momentarily to think quietly as they walked, the disciple Sabje asked his rebbe, "Rebbe, how do I know that you exist?" Hearing this, Rabbi Yitzhak Sifrutho turned to his disciple Sabje and slapped him in the face. As soon as he recovered, the disciple Sabje began to apologize to Rabbi Yitzhak Sifrutho for such a rude question, but the Rabbi interrupted him mid-sentence, slapping him in the face again. By now, the disciple Sabje was very confused. Rabbi Yitzhak Sifrutho said, "Sabje, did you feel pain when I slapped you the first and second times?" His disciple Sabje replied, "Yes, Rebbe, I felt pain." Rabbi Yitzhak Sifrutho continued, "Sabje, did you desire that pain such that you would inflict it on yourself and slap yourself in the face?" His disciple Sabje responded, "Surely not, Rebbe, I did not myself desire any pain, and nor therefore did I slap myself in the face; you slapped me in the face." Rabbi Yitzhak Sifrutho said to his disciple Sabje, "Sabje, who else then could have slapped you in the face?" His disciple Sabje said, "No one." Rabbi Yitzhak Sifrutho explained, "Sabje, that's how you know that I exist. Anytime you are in doubt about my existence, forgo your silly question and just ask me to slap you in the face, so you can be sure of my existence again."
Once there was a traveling bookseller who would traverse between the two villages of Oblik and Turinsk in his humble, wooden wagon. Whenever the bookseller was in Oblik, all the children would run to the sides of his wagon, followed by their mothers and older siblings, then their fathers, and then their grandparents. In fact, the entire village of Oblik would surround his wagon, excited to see what new books he had brought with him. The villagers of Oblik would excitedly demand a new cookbook here, the latest almanac there, or the best new collection of talltales for the children over here. However, never on any occasion did a villager of Oblik ever ask for a Sefer Torah, Chumash, or TaNa’’Kh. The villagers of Oblik became avid readers of all books other than those of their fathers. So, the bookseller would prepare his old donkey, Khaver Tov, and set off for the village of Turinsk. When the bookseller arrived in Turinsk, no one came running to the sides of his wagon demanding this or that book. The children of the village remained learning, the men and women working, and the elders studying. Eventually though, the very old Rabbi Herzog would stumble on his cane from the small shul and limp up the muddy road to the bookseller's wagon. Earnestly and quietly, Rabbi Herzog said to the bookseller, "Bookseller, I want to make an order of 50 Sifrei Torah and 10 copies each of every other volume of Judaica you have." The Rabbi Herzog of Turinsk having completely bought the bookseller out of all his religious volumes, save the bookseller's own personal Sefer Torah, he bade the bookseller, "Baruch HaShem," and whistled as loudly as he could muster. The whole village of Turinsk turned out in a single mob to help the rabbi carry the good volumes back to the village.
As the years passed, the villagers of Oblik became very knowledgeable in the ways of the contemporary world, learning agricultural calculations from almanacs, new recipes from cookbooks, and even novel talltales on which to raise their children. Meanwhile, in the village of Turinsk, the villagers knew very little about the contemporary world, but became very well-versed in the Mitzvot of the Torah.
One day it came to pass that a horrible pogrom swept the land, and it just so happened that both the villages of Oblik and Turinsk were caught up in the terror. However, the villagers of Oblik and the villagers of Turinsk reacted differently. The villagers of Oblik greeted the marauding bands of murderers and pillagers, trying to impress them with their knowledge of contemporary agricultural calculations, new recipes, and talltales, but the marauders only laughed at them and spit at them, saying, "Stupid Jews, you will never understand; our ways are not for you---you can never be like us." At that, the entire village of Oblik was set aflame and burnt to the ground. When the marauding band of murderers and pillagers reached the village of Turinsk, they were unaware that the old Rabbi Herzog, who used to study Torah so much that it was rumoured he even studied it while he was sleeping, had had a strange dream a week before the pogrom. He had dreamt of Noah and the flood and how HaShem had ordered him to build a great ark lest he, his family, and other selected animals perish with the rest of an evil-doing humanity beneath the waters. Next, the rabbi had dreamt of his very own village of Turinsk. Then, the dream had abruptly ended. For a long time, old Rabbi Herzog only sat up in bed, trembling. He thought and thought and thought about the meaning of his dream. The next morning, he was convinced. He called the entire village to his heels and said, "Anashim v'nashim of Turinsk, I have had a dream. I dreamt of Noah and the flood and then of our very own village of Turinsk. We must build an ark that shall grant us safe passage under a great flood that shall overcome Turinsk." Soon, the whole village was whispering that the old rabbi must have lost it and was now trying to impose his crazed delusions on the villagers. First of all, the old fool was comparing Turinsk and Noahidic times. Second, the old fool had declared they should find safe passage under a great flood that shall overcome Turinsk. Everybody knows, they thought, that Noah's ark granted Noah and those in his charge safe passage over the great flood. So, right as the whole village was about to abandon the crazed old rabbi and go back to their various routines and chores, one of the brightest young women of the village,Yonah, stood up next to Rabbi Herzog. The old rabbi was taken aback to see a woman defending him. Yet, his doubt would soon prove foolish and subside, and never again would he doubt a woman any more than a man. Yonah addressed the whole village of Turinsk with the sweetest voice that any of them had ever heard, such that no one could turn away. She asked them all, "Who among us has studied Torah more than he, our great Rabbi? Who among us is thought to study Torah even in his sleep? You shall bear your guilt, villagers of Turinsk for your insolence before Rabbi Herzog. For even if he has gone mad, you at least owe him a last request." The villagers of Turinsk all stood in a mixture of awe, guilt and annoyance. Albeit, they were at a loss to do anything other than exactly what the rabbi decreed. So, Rabbi Herzog said to the villagers of Turinsk, "Each Noah among you, gather your sons, your wives, and your sons' wives, 7 pairs of each sacred book and 1 pair of each secular book that you have among you, that we preserve the seeds of our knowledge, for in 7 days a great flood will come and swallow up Turinsk." So, muttering and grumbling, the villagers of Turinsk did as the rabbi said.
Next, the rabbi ordered every villager to retire to their homes, relinquishing all their usual routines and chores. Each family should as quickly as it could begin digging a secret underground tunnel leading from an inconspicuous corner of its home to the point under the center of Turinsk. The rabbi concluded his order with the following command, "You shall all work, every single one of you---without exception---and not cease until Shabbos." So, every single man, woman, and child in Turinsk did nothing for a whole week but dig a secret family tunnel towards right under the center of Turinsk. Finally, by a miracle of days, the villagers' family tunnels converged under the center of Turinsk a minute before Shabbos eve. Every family of Turinsk brought with it 7 pairs of each sacred book and 1 pair of each secular book, that the seeds of their knowledge be preserved. That night, a great flood swept over the village of Turinsk. But it was not a flood of water. It was a flood of fire. That night, the marauding murderers and pillagers of the pogrom reached Turinsk and looted every store and every home, never discovering the secret tunnels beneath each. After their looting the marauders set Turinsk aflame and it burnt to the ground in a non-descript pile of ashes and tinders. Thinking that the absent villagers had heard of their coming and fled to the next village, the marauders mobbed out across the fields to the next village. That morning the rabbi sent out the young scholar Orev to scout the situation above. The flames had not yet subsided and he circled around and around the village, trying find water to put out the ceaseless flames. When Orev did not come back, Rabbi Herzog sent out the beautiful and sweet voiced Yonah, whom he trusted now more than any other in the village. Yonah also saw that the flames had not yet subsided and were spread out all over the village and returned to Rabbi Herzog. Rabbi Herzog waited for 7 hours and again sent out Yonah. This time she returned with a jar of olives which had miraculously survived the inferno. She distributed the olives out to the hungry children of Turinsk, who huddled with their mothers and fathers in the subterranean pit, shivering and frightened. Not long thereafter, the flames wholly extinguished and left behind only ash. Rabbi Herzog and the villagers of Turinsk emerged from their secret compartment beneath the village center. Every man, woman, and child wept, for their village had burnt to the ground. But Rabbi Herzog, even amidst his own tears, admonished them all and said, "Anashim v'Nashim of Turinsk, do not weep so, for we still have what is important: we have ourselves, our loved ones, and the seeds of our knowledge, all with which we will repopulate a new village." Just then, the bookseller rode into the village on his wagon pulled by his trusty donkey Khaver Tov. He had seen that Oblik had been burnt to the ground earlier and wept profusely (and not merely for the loss of his best customers). Still weeping, now arrived at the ruins of Turinsk, the bookseller fell over doubly into heaving convulsions of tearful blubbering. That is, until Rabbi Herzog and the villagers of Turinsk covered in dirt and worms emerged before him. The bookseller exclaimed in ecstasy, "Todah la-kEl!---you live!" Because they knew that they could not stay where they were safely they hatched a plan to leave as secretly as they could. Dressing up the bookseller in the clothes of a goy and shaving his pe'os and beard and burying his books, Rabbi Herzog bade him transport as many villagers as he could fit into his wagon and his donkey Khaver Tov could haul. The destination would be Palestine. Taking 40 roundtrips from the ruins of Turinsk to right over the border of their country, the bookkeeper was able to transport every villager just over the border, where the pogrom had not reached. Then, the bookkeeper, Rabbi Herzog, Yonah, and the other villagers of Turinsk set off on the long journey towards Palestine. Never again did any one of them take a dream lightly, nor put little creedence in the power of books, the seeds of their knowledge. The Torah was for them a beacon, a thread of light leading from This World to The World To Come.
Once At A Siberian Crossroads
Once, on a dusty dirt highway in a remote part of Siberia, four travelers far from home convened. A priest, an Ostyak shaman, a vodka drunkard, and a Jewish rabbi happened upon each other at a crossroads. When they met, the priest said to each stranger, "Zdrastvuitye." The shaman said, "Joltash em-wlak!" The vodka drunkard said, "Ya yedu vMoskvu." The rabbi said, "Baruch HaShem." None of them knew any of the others' languages. The priest spoke Russian, the shaman spoke Mari, the vodka drunk spoke a drunken babble Russian that only other vodka drunkards could possibly understand, and the rabbi spoke Yiddish. The priest said in his own language, "I take it as a sign of the holy cross that we all have happened upon each other at a crossroads." The shaman said in his own language, "I take it as a sign of the sacred bird spirit---beak, left wing, right wing, and tail feathers---that we have all happened upon each other at a crossroads." The vodka drunkard said in his own language, "I take it as a sign that I should plop my dizzy self down in the steppe grass that we have all happened upon each other at a crossroads"---and as sure as day, the vodka drunkard plopped himself down on a patch of green and his alcohol-infused body came to rest on the ground in the shape of a T. The rabbi then said in his own language, "Oy Vey---I take it as a sign that I have run into a priest, a shaman, and a vodka drunkard that I have run into a priest, a shaman, and a vodka drunkard!"
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Here is the projected riding itinerary, or "ridetinerary" as I have so punishably taken to calling it---Aunt Brauna is sure to give me a proper "Yiddishe Aunte" whupping for this one.
Note that the "ridetinerary" is tentative and is subject to change without notice. However, all divergences will be reported faithfully and carefully as the tour itself begins and real turnings of single wheel begin to rack up revolutions---whether as per my tyre or per the countries I ride through. Whichever takes. I hope both.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
This unassuming photograph is nonetheless the very postcard for "Let's Going, Let's Gone: Goodbye for Mao"---an esoteric phrase I coined to size up my own emotional situation---and that of the greater People's Republic of China. "Let's Going, Let's Gone" is intended to be a mock-Chinglish* rendering of some standard English catchphrase like: "Let's Get Out Of Here---and Now!" Funnily enough, the English text of the exit sign of the train station in Baotou, China, wherethrough I passed en route to Mongolia not quite a year ago, read tactlessly: "GET OUT OF HERE" [meaning: 'The Way Out'].
My then co-worker, Jordan of Kent, England, (whom I suspect is really from around Lagos, Nigeria, and the bearer of an altogether different real name, considering as how, I once eyevesdropped on one of his many passports the title 'Makembe Okonkwo'*), belly-laughed over that one for about 2 nights and half...if not for a fortnight.
*Chinglish is a now popular portmanteau for often hysterical mishmashes of the Mandarin and English languages---one may be unlucky enough to spot them on public signs, billboards, and product wrappers. They are often so absurdly worded and "serendipitously" mangled, that one cannot often help but to collapse into a tiny, hunched-over, convulsing ball on the floor of the supermarket, dragged wholesale into the asphyxiative dry heaves of hysterical lung-lytic laughter. Numerous humour sites online attest to the aptness of this coinage.
*"Goodbye for Mao" is an activist, but still unfortunately paranomasiac* rendering of 'Goodbye for now.' I replaced 'now' with 'Mao' to signify Mao Tse-Dong, he who is regarded as the most recent savior of China in China, but a murderous, bloodthirsty casus belli-maniac in most of the Western World. Dare I say outright my own position on the man and his position I might be assassinated in the night as I soundly sleep---with a bullet in the belly from an assassin sent from the West and a bullet in the back from an assassin sent from the East. Khas veShalom, that I should have a Full-Body grande mort.*
*'Okonkwo' is the name of one of the most important character's in Chinua Achebe's masterwork "Things Fall Apart"---a classic Nigerian, and now Pan-African, semioticon for the Fanonesque struggles of all humanity against unwarranted Colonization---but its eventual "assimilation" into the national character.
*Paranomasia is a documented condition wherein a sufferer is pathologically compelled to logorrhoeate puns in everyday discourse. A very malady I am said to suffer from acutely, by my Aunt Brauna, et al. In fact, on her visits to me in Virginia, and on my visits to her and my Uncle Marc in NYC, I was frequently permitted a 7.25 or so pun quota for each visit---a quota which, gone over, could result in severe chastisement, albeit still in good fun. We call it Chutzpah, the whole shebang. Of course, I believe Aunt Brauna will contest this quote of 7.25 puns as too high---the actual limit was much, much lower, it is sure to be disputed.
*grande mort---as opposed to "le petite mort" which is French for "little death"; the phrase has been used variously to refer to the existential aspect of the orgasm, as well as to a general state of losing a part of the self to the advances of the void...so, by grande mort I mean "big death", or death proper
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I met and befriended Rolando P. in the Academy and we quickly began to develop fledgeling new mini-theories of primal psychology and behavior: most notably, "Tranthropimpostorismicruelty" (or "Tranthrop") and its concomitant behavioral manifestation "Pendulentropy". These new unwieldy collections of conceits were not merely descriptive visualizations of fact, but also provided a new guideline for 'supracultural praxis.'
Of course, our "counterculture" manoeuvrings were largely a reaction to the stuffy, normativizing coercions of the stark sentinels of our surroundings---a suburbanized military society of army personnel and statesmen and their families, a subset demographic which culturally dominated the rest of NoVa's populace: Hispanic, African, and Asian immigrants and the economically healthy, but just as peaceably objectionable smattering of Good Ol' Boys.
Rolando and I were high on a sober-psychonautic vision of Life, I a born Ashkenazic Jewish kid, he a son of Bolivian parentage, with suspected Portospaniard Moorish ancestry inmixed. Among our many esoteric and almost Abulafian "Concentrations", which often took on the feeling of Vision Quests complete---across Alexandria, Arlington, Burke, Lorton, and DC, and in the second-storey parking garage lot of our school---which itself was a little room located in an upscale shopping mall of all places---was a bizarre notion we conceived and continued vigourously to carry out.
At some point in our arcane studies, we became aware of cans of soda and cups of fountain drinks left standing upright in the parking lot by insouciant folks walking out from the opulent bowels of the shopping mall after a day of fancy-free expenditures on overpriced knick-knacks and brand-chic bric-a-brac. So, we took to making sprinting starts across the lot, lifting off the asphalt from the skin of our sneakers, bending a right foot forward in mid-air, and letting release, as that raring foot kick-jettisoned that erect vessel of soda pop or savoury juice into a great elliptical arc of 'Khayyamian proportions', spanning across the low-bellied sky in a spectacle of flying drink droplets and their shed vessel falling beneath like a space shuttle's sloughed booster rockets veering back to Earth.
Well, somehow we imagined that if we formulaically executed this action with right concentration, we could just conceivably transport ourselves for a split-jiffy to the open steppes of Mongolia, only to be immediately transported back, before we should be much conscious of the cross-continental teleportation. This exercise, as juvenile and unrecyclable as it jars the brain, had severe philosophical undertones, exemplifying a novelly modern, but antiquely primaeval concept of action and intent. It might be mistaken for a cheap imitation of old magic, but in fact it was modernizing mysticism of gestural permutations. Nor was it mere dance or theatre, but a form of gesticulant Dvekuth. Of course, I later instituted the proper disposal of the "trash" qua Kavvanic prop.
This very youthful mythology between us, Rolando P. and I, and the others who may have become minutely initiated beyond their better judgment or even awareness of the fact, was heavily popular in our abysmal discourses a la Tehom* for a very long stretch of our young lives, weaving us through greenest lanes home on fog-misty evenings after school and in the traumatic drip, shot, and surge of NoVa-Cain into, and disarming, the higher conscience.
Then, years later, I ended up going to Mongolia in full body "4 rlz", on a business trip for the school at which I am employed; temporarily departing my post in Manzhouli, China for the obligation. While there, I thought, I must make the most of this fulfillment of a youthful dream in adult duty. So, I had Batbold stop the car outside Ulaan Baatar, somewhere near the outpost of Terelj, and I went off onto the freezing Mongolian steppe---somewhere between its own Secret History and my own Keatsianly infantile high school fancies. There I asked Batbold to film me in the debilitating frost as, this time, I turned the tables, and in an adult answer to a childhood question in the 'Aliyah of Rolando's and my "Dibbuk Khaverim", I kicked a vessel of soda pop on the Mongolian steppe, momentarily transporting myself back, perhaps, to that old parking lot outside Landmark Career Academy.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
This little soiree went down in Erlian, China about 3 miles from the Mongolian border with a group of rugged folk from Ulaan Baatar, the Rome of the ceaseless, surrounding Mongolian steppe. All dirt tracks lead to it. The woman on my right is Tyyn, an originally pixily helpful sprite, and then, mysteriously disappearing skipping stone. She had made weird talk of introducing me to her school in the capital, but vaporized in a miasmic burst of damp morning mist at the train station across the border. I suspect that the travel-nervous, Eurotrashy Frenchmen-backpackers we picked up en route, with my snaggle-minded interpreting (as I had already become one with the ruggeds somehow---for I had drunk beer with them---even having had downing contests with the next guy I'll tell you about), may have confused her then auspicious perception of Westerners, thereby incriminating me, infecting me with the dreaded disease---the real "White Man's Burden." Of course, she knew I was a Jew, and so quite distinct, looking different and acting in no way alike; but nonetheless, I say, the damage was done, for I had sacrificed to lay myself down across the abyss as a bridge between the titan Mongols and the edgy Frenchman, so that we might all get across the border in one "peace".
So, back to "the next guy I'll tell you about": He went only by a brash sobriquet of the day, although to my knowledge Mongolians do not actually take this name in more sober nomination, viz., "in vain", "Chingghis Khan", we roared together, creating a monster between us, which means "Genghis Khan" in the Khalkh dialect, as I heard it. Of course, this idolatry had to be in pure fun, because THE Khan is accorded the respect of some status that is non-existent in non-"Transturkic" cultures. If I were any less sensitive to my own background, I would have said, G-D forbid, "a g*d"; but this it is not---in Mongolia, human honour has a level of sanctity that makes the heavens rub up against the skin like spring zephyrs. Clanmansship, valour, and family loyalty become as necessary acts of faith out on the unforgiving plain. The Secret History of the Mongols, an old record, perhaps cherished sacredly, of the exploits of the great khans, explains these phenomena. Such a humanism in a syncretic web with "The Higher", so authentically, without dustructive pretensions about gender control and a panentheistic way of going about one's daily chores on the open steppe, this makes one squinty-eyed, faced with the systems WITH pretensions about G-d. Perhaps the only other people with fewer pretensions are the Piraha People of the Brazilian Amazon. I am not saying such a way is Better, for I myself am of a people with pretensions about G-d, who strive NOT to have them. This very moral striving is what works for the world in our particular mission. The needs of the brokenness of the world call for sheer pluralism of action, and so we all have our own missions. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
This man, the new "Chingghis", was an obtuse slope of Naadam muscle, one eye cut out by a stray-handed shard of glass in a vodka brawl in the streets of Ulaan Baatar, years back. He and I became quick friends over the long day crossing the border. At the actual border, I had to use my best Putonghua to convince the Chinese guards to let him pass through into his own country. He was perfumed enough by this point to right blow up if I were to have lit a match within two kilometres of him. No less hopelessly plastered was he that he couldn't still embarassingly flirt with the unamused-looking Mao's poster child, or better yet, Mao's pin-up of a lady customs agent. Now, one might say alcohol was the "friendship" between us and the friendship was nothing if at all sober, but then one has never been to Mongolia; where even the nuclear moonshine of barbarous khans, can not ever intoxicate the sober ties of transsteppe fealty.
This was an early game I developed at Oumeida English Language Training Center in Manzhouli, China a few months ago, during a period in which, like any newcomer, I was undergoing a sort of professional "hazing" ritual. I was expected to take the blame for most anything that went wrong ever anyhow, but that soon ceased, when they saw I don't play such games. I make my own; and mine aren't to "break people in", but to "break people out".
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
This disastrous flop of work is from the hand of Amosh; Art Brut graphics as of a straight-jacketed patient unleashed on a poor, unsuspecting early version of Microsoft Paint. The Kanji is pathetically ungrammatical and Ad-Libbish, like the trendy faux-AZN tattoos of so many illiterate inkers, whose tats read in surreal, mangled
characters mantras like: "Crazy Diarrhoea" and "Particularly Troublesome Lard Noodle".
We are grateful for Masha's talent here at Amoshimasha Artistries Group.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
From the crow’s nest of my unicycle seat I could see the sparkling, grey road unravel Tohu vaVohu and topsy-turvy before me, disappearing into valleys, and resuming up the verdant hills, like a long stretch of yarn unrolling from a highspeed yarnball, and in the queer sunset, the sun perched right above it looking ready to pounce, like a silly-eyed, smug, sunburst, fat Cheshire cat.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
This is Manzhouli at its most Gothic. It is unusual in this way for a Chinese city. Incorporating, both Han and Russo-Siberian conventions in architecture, its emotional decor including greater Mongol and Inner Mongolian Man Ethnic Group influences. This is the city I live in, a compact blot of recent buildings and old wooden houses in the Chiberian steppelands, appearing to be a city for a few blocks, but then abruptly ceasing and giving out to endless pastures and rolling hills on every side. This might have been what Rod Serling was thinking when he thought up The Twilight Zone.
This place is that weird.
As of September 8th, 2009, 19 Elul 5769, I will have lived in China for 9 months----a date only 6 days away. Certainly, enough time for a child to be conceived and birthed---and, yes, in a sense one has been.
My being here has been a screaming, shrieking baby in the womb the whole while, and when it comes into the light of day in a placental outburst, crying for a very first hit of oxygen, maybe I will be overwhelmed with motherly achievement in a recumbent sweat, a sense of real human doing, of mounting a milestone to be seen up close and from a distance in modest and headstrong reverence. I will say, “That is one thing I have done” and be satisfied. Of course, no such sojourn can compare, really, to the blessing of a true organic birth. Such which is a masterpiece of biology and something more.
Come December of 2009, as my contract here ends, at Oumeida English Language Training Center, in Manzhouli, China, where I have led a long and twisted carrière en miniature in this lovably loathsome locale of tragicomic horrors of the streets; and sad, clownish wranglings for a future from Maoism, even in subtly dedicational deference to its paternal punch, I will disengage this banal and yet amazing little city, and head for the High Seas of Unicycling from Vietnam to al-Quds. It will be a long and entangling road of macadam and dirt, pebbles and hurt, tyre puntures and bursts, flirtations with wildom and wily, wild flirts, for a better way to sanctity, to human righteousness, that we may be judged by our virtue and not our vice,
when vice becomes as close as we can humanly come to virtue, straggling and struggling after a morsel of Right.
To be practical, the day is coming when I depart in full heart, beating, red and ready to tear and part, from excitement; I will take off on one wheel, and stay that way, until the world too, is a little more One.
This is Amosh of Amoshimasha. Out.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Welcome to AMOSHIMASHA. We are a small, dedicated team of artists, writers, and worldwatchers posted at international locations, devoted to bringing to a wide and diverse audience base our newest major project: Visions of Planet from the (U)nihovermobile*. This great undertaking will include a unique literary travelogue accompanied by real world photographs and romanticized sketches, along with third party commentary and input.
The writer: Amosh, also known as YaKhaBa''Sh/יחב״ש.
The artist: Masha
The Consultants: "Bassio" and "Dereau"
In February of 2009, Amosh will embark on a tour almost exclusively by unicycle, taking him on a single little turning wheel from one end of Asia to the other. Currently living and working in Manzhouli, China, Amosh will go by train and bus to Vietnam via Lao(s). The unicycle tour proper will begin here, at Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon. The tour will continue all the way to The Mediterranean. The full tentative itinerary will be posted very soon, so stay tuned and don't go away. We say 'tentative' because the exact tour itinerary will be partly determined by fans of and contributors to AMOSHIMASHA and the (U)nihovermobile* project.
Along the way, Amosh will update his progress across the continent, with accounts of his adventures, lands pedaled through, people met, and things learned. These accounts will comprise written entries, photographs, and video clips. Masha, from a remote location, will provide visual commentary on the former. "Bassio" and "Dereau" along with fans and contributors will provide articles, commentary, consultancy, and other deciding input as the tour and project progress.
Three levels will characterize the tour. The first level is that of purposefully visiting locations which have traditionally been hotspots for human rights violations and crimes against humanity; and to make righteous and deep connections with the peoples, cultures, and places there and in between. The second level is that of 'Aliyah by unicycle. The third is that of a mystical artistico-literary quest and collaboration, pitting likes and opposites in style against each other in an arena of utterly wowing syncretism and dazzling reperceipt of the world around us. While this may sound banal and unpromising now, as the project unfolds, all will become clear and understood.
Please stay with us as we make preparations to launch this exciting and ambitious undertaking.
This is Amosh of Amoshimasha. Out.