Monday, September 8, 2014

Forty Days and Forty Nights - start now

Mao Propaganda During Revolution
There is something erie about the idea of 40 days and 40 nights. Both Moses and Jesus had earth-shaking revelations about their faith and themselves. Forty days and nights measures the length of my inaugural adventure to China with side-kick trips again to Vietnam and Thailand. Maybe the scene is more like Don Quijote and Sanchez Panza (My guide Jim who is still healing from surgery would be more Quijote and me the naggy Panza.) who continue to dream the impossible dream, fight the invisible fight and pray like crazy that God has us in his pocket and will keep us on the right road. After too many sleepless nights running a factory of  thought, planning, creating, worrying, remembering tasks,  praying and dreaming of things to come, however they arrive. Cervantes asks to bless the man who invented sleep because it is a “cloak over all human thought”.. and the only bad thing about sleep is that “it resembles death, since there is very little difference between a sleeping man and a corpse.” Well I’m running toward corpse-hood but not without cramming in my experiences as much as God will allow whether 40 days or not.
Departure yesterday from home - Memphis - at 6 a.m. became a comedy of errors. Delta just didn’t have it together
Feeling at Home at Shutters
although, thanks be to God, I arrived safely. Getting out of Memphis is a nightmare these days after that airlines robbed us of flights to anywhere in this nation. On arrival in Atlanta (plane changer), the pilot had to drive around almost a half hour trying to find a gate. Finally we docked.  The door was jammed and wouldn’t open. After ten minutes, a pilot removed a piece of metal (I think) and we were let free. Exiting I learned I was at one end of terminal A and my destination was the other end of Terminal T (I’d never heard of Terminal T). So i “ran” down underground to get a proper tram. The tram was broken. That meant, hoofing it under the big runways to Terminal T. I liked the walk idea, just not the fairly small window to get through the aerobics to the next gate. Whew. 

A bigger steed was the plane to Los Angeles but in first class no place to put bag under seat in front of you. (My carry on weighs a bunch and so lifting is dangerous to those nearby.) But I grabbed my fascinating book about China and stored the needlepoint. Settling in, there was this way too loud song by some popular female songstress playing over and over. The steward could not turn it down without turning off the entire entertainment system (they had movies and the works on this four hour flight.)
Ok. He turned it back on, still the music screamed. Turned it back off. The door was closed and we moved on down the runway with hope in our hearts. With the entertainment system down, there was no lighting nor call button, not safety film (most of us know that by heart anyway.)  I was not positive. In the row in front of me to the right was a precious 6 month old playing with lots of giggles. But that didn’t last the whole trip. A great mom spent the entire time entertaining her child (husband sat next row listening to something.) He was not a happy camper after awhile and of course he dirtied his diaper and that cast a perfume over first class. Oh well. At least by then I had a ray of light from the ceiling and could continue study. And we landed beautifully in sunny Los Angeles, where beaches are kept clean and the surfers are soaring in the highest waves in decades, thanks to a hurricane biting Mexico’s coast.


Today on Sunday, it happened again. The hotel had “looked up” All Saints  Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills. They said services were at 8, 9, 11. So I was at the door about 8:30 (no traffic on Sundays) but no one was there but a homeless man and so took a turn toward Starbucks to down a frappachino before the service. Returned to church. Not a crowd at 9 even. A lady greeted me and said, no they have services at 10 not 9, and then 11:30. I was due to make my regular pilgrimage to the Beverly Hot Springs Spa, another half hour away. I had changed the time 3 times already but they were easy about me coming earlier. So I had their super body scrub and washings that leave me so clean I’m another color. Then I made it back to All Saints. 
All Saints - Beverly Hills

There was a crowd outside as the 10 o clock was just exiting and the 11:30 Contemporary Service was full of energy - Rev. Barry Taylor, who has a British accent, takes the handles and brings reality and music to faith much like St. Augustine in Nashville. Primary was the 7-member band which spread in front of the ornate altar from which an enormous sign blared in lights “LOVE”. Controversial images were flashed on the huge apex wall at the back of the church (things like a bible with “blah blah blah” on the front or other images to make you think. But the music, it supplemented all the routine Episcopal service so there was no order but the passing of the Peace and a self-serve Eucharist. Prayer was in the song. And song was 90 per cent of the service. Prayer was in the people too who filled the pews. Rev. Taylor talked about the relevance and irrelevance of our faith and answered so many of my questions, right there, as he talked to the congregation rather than lectured to them. All I could do was thank God that the morning had been as confusing as it was so that I was in that church at that moment with that charismatic group of country gospel singers led by Rev. Taylor. And to be honest, I left there with a smile, then went to a favorite family site, the Prada store on Rodeo Drive. 

For months I have tried to learn about life in China post the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, a ten year of Red saturation of China,  which ended with the death of Mao ZeDong in 1976. His aim was to keep communism holy and strict while tossing Western ways down the garbage disposal. He turned this fourth largest nation in the world into a mass of “like” - every citizen looked, dressed, acted, worked, lived like the other. The aim was to have no “better than” or “worse than”, but it didn’t work. Women even wore men’s work clothes. To be truthful, style and culture were based on whatever Mao did. This Great Leap Forward aimed to push the bourgeois behind through persecution and disappearance of those not in agreement.  Culture and religion went underground or were broken apart. I remember watching the May Day parades when pieces escaped the Mao control and made it to television. Uniformity. Masses. Tanks. Banners. Sameness. Impressive for how everyone high kicked at the same breath.  

Post Revolution art by Gu Dixen
When Mao died and the Gang of Four (communist leaders) were arrested in 1976, truth came out and the Central Committee of the Communist Party admitted that it had been a terrible time. One thing Mao ZeDong did that it seemed to me was positive, he pushed the opium trade out of China - temporarily - and it oozed over the borders into neighboring nations.  Those of us who lived through the Cold War with both Russia and China rattling the proverbial sabers week by week (hence Korea and Vietnam wars), didn’t really understand how such an enormous land with so many people could put aside their individuality and creativity and independence to conform to non-identity. But maybe we are egotists. 

One of the most fascinating results of this land of dragons and I Ching and Confucius was the blast of creativity that emerged at the end of the 70ties as artists came out of the woods and burst onto the international scene, so much so that many became millionaires just selling their art. It was a huge effort at shock. The paintings and sculptures and live performances and photographs are not comfortable to look at. They tell of a tortured heart and soul, of sameness, of suffering and imprisonment finally set free and not happy about what they had to go through to get there. I hope to follow this story while I’m traveling in China, and to also seek out the roles of women in the last three decades and to address the fact that everything today seems to be “Made in China.” I’ve brought my red scarf, since Red is such a symbolic color for China, and a great hope God will keep us safe as we explore (for me) a new world with new people to meet and love.
(We have been warned that my blog will probably be blocked. Facebook is and the New York Times. But somehow I’ll get my blogs and photographs home for my family and friends to enjoy.  )
Omasake at Sushi Roko
Police Angels outside my window

My refreshment these last few hours has been walking into Shutters, one of the most inviting hotels in this country, smack on the beaches of Santa Monica where one can watch from their room all the fast walkers, runners, skateboarders, roller skaters, stroller pushers, and other pushers, some dirty homeless young folk (there’s nothing more unattractive to me than whites trying to do dreadlocks - it comes out wrong) and dog-walkers among clowns, musicians, and others who sleep on the sand under a stand of palms about a stone’s throw from my hotel. A great meeting with my public relations group, Julia and Jarred who are going to get me savvy on the waves of today’s digital world, and then dinner with a designer friend Aviva Carmy:  omasake at Sushi Roko which has a friendly chef with an artistic flair. Since I had failed to nap or sleep since 2:30 in the morning Memphis time, I fell into the amazing comfortable bed in my room (which wastes no space) after saluting the huge moon as it lit up the night in competition with a ferris wheel that provides a light show til dawn. Tonight at 1:30 a.m., we are off to walk on the wild side of the unknown. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Audrey,
Don't understand how you ended up in Santa Monica. However, the picture of you standing on your balcony at The Shutters is really pretty. Beautiful Lady and a Beautiful Place!
"40 Days and 40 Nights" is certainly Bibical, but the movie, "Noah," strays quite a bit from the account in the Bible. You probably won't like this movie.
While you traveling so long and so far, why don't you go to Mount Ararat also known as Mount Judi in Turkey. This apparently in where Noah's ark landed and an imprint of the ark is in the earth there.
Everything is about the same here, except there has been a lot of violent, juvenile crime in the last week. A mob of 40, all but one were juveniles, went to the Kroger in Poplar Plaza and beat up four people for no apparent reason. Ten of the juveniles have been arrested and are in our detention center.
Have a fabulous time and take good care of yourself. Please don't ride to many animals.
God bless you!
Love you,
Geraldean and Judge