A Bit of
After our Muslim hosts prayed we waited til the worshipers and tourists left. We waited a long time. When it was time Mohammed took me by the hand and led me here. He said, holding my hand in the softest voice possible, “the West will never tolerate the coming of Islam.” I mumbled something about his being wrong, we are all the same–human; just people, blah, blah, blah.
“Never,” he said, without expression.
When I paid enough for season tix, and he did too for ownership of the team, I was invited to breakfast with the Great One. It was one of those 2 second- flash-move-on-next! events. I remember: 1) He had a slight roll of fat about his waist when I assumed the manly arm around for photo pose; 2) something said “class above” as I shook his hand and moved out of frame. A puck magician, unafraid of the head hunting beasts determined screw down his talent and stop his scoring.
Wished some of the refined and very fine intelligence of WFB was available to me growing up. I was a reader and became a Gore Vidal fan. Gore’s books are impeccable, but turns out he was a vain and difficult man. Not so Buckley. Pedantic writer, great guy.
Eventually met WFB—after his first harpsichord recital (Bach) at, of all places, the Kerr Cultural Center, in Scottsdale where I was living. I was a sailor by then and he signed my copy of his book “Airborne,” and we talked about sailing the North Pacific, his troubles at Johnston Atoll and Danny’s injuries. I am a Socialist–but I loved this man of ideas. RIP, Bill. Next year in the Solomans– this time with fully functioning GPS.
The hutong is losing to progress. The black and white TV, single gas hot plate, even the bicycle—disappearing. Has Uber come to China? Couple of RMB and a pirate cab used to work great.
One full moon in Beijing, not long after the 2008 olympics, Lily and I were on some busy nightmare of a freeway and she burst into the 4 lane traffic to snag some dude in a Simca. Any random driver will give you a lift when flaged by a local. This happened more than once. people’s taxi. Moments later we arrived at the entrance of the Chinese People’s Revolution Museum, or China People’s Revolution Military Museum in Haidian District. She said, “You may not like museum pictures: American soldiers dead in Korea, so inconvenient for you.”
Many mural sized pictures of bloodied and dead GI’s strewn about some wintery Korean outpost in ’51. Also present: US F-86 shot down somewhere near Pyongyang; discarded US military gear of all types from uniforms to grenade launchers; assorted military equipment from the history of the People’s Liberation Army, up to and including modern-day machinery. Took no pix.
But below there is the entrance to the street of Lily’s great aunt’s home where the family prepared for us a lovely meal of steamed buns and pickled vegetables, ample rice and chicken meat. The floor was hard packed clay. A hole at the back was the toilet. There was a basin of water on the stand next to the hole. Was unsure of how to pay and Lily said to leave a few RMB as we left. So I did.