Photo me sadhus, road safety & the vanity of experience (Durbar sq & Bhaktapur)
Dear Internet, Kathmandu—July 2, 2013
1:58 a.m. Half-waking, half-sleeping, can't tell the difference. The same with j. Mind keeps having the same dream, though we're not even sure we'd call it that so much as pineal pinings or déjà vu gone haywire ... similar to the thought chambering dream in the last post ... obsessing thoughts concerning our brother & the nature of experience ... to the extent that we're convinced we already wrote this entry before. If so, sorry, Internet, for the redundancy.
To be honest, we're not even sure what the dream was. Suffice to say if we did, we wouldn't be including it here, but in the 'SSES"3 book we've embarked on in tandem. It had something to do with a journal entry our brother wrote, back in the days before you, the Internet, existed .... weird to think you, the Internet, didn't exist for our brother, at the time of his death in 1997 ... at least not in your present wide-open, searchable & hyper-linked manifestation.
Good thing we recently indexed 5cense because now we can go back & find all the posts where our brother makes an appearance. But for our journals before that, especially the hand-written ones? ...
Besides the Internet, the other thing we can't believe our brother never experienced is Radiohead's OK Computer. It's almost like, in our minds, he has been here all along, stuck in a state of arrested development, but still experiencing things vicariously thru us ... & Nepal is something we've until now only vicariously experienced through him. Maybe it is even a part of him writing this ... we are after all 50% the same, genetically speaking. And it is our genes doing the talking ... in regards to this writerly compulsion. Somehow this seems related to what we mentioned 2 posts ago about how we were created by plants to propagate their DNA .. writing & agriculture, one & the the same (in theory).
Sorry if you came here looking for a travelogue about Nepal. Maybe we'll say something or show some pictures later ... or maybe not. Part of what we are thinking about has to do with the vanity of travel. There's a part in our brother's journals where he gets so frustrated dealing with the hassles & expense of getting from China to Tibet that he considers just not going & saying he did. This seems to be the motive for many people ... especially in regard to doing things like climbing Mt. Everest ... just to say you did it. We just happen to be here because j is doing some work here ... we're along for the ride. That seems to be how it is for us most of the time, in regards to travel .. very rarely, these days, do we choose a place out of the blue & just go.
But now that we are here we feel this compulsion to do this & that, to go trekking, to go to the base camp of Everest. To avoid the questions later of "you were in X & didn't see Y?" We don't care about what we see so much as what we think. Our brother told us once about a performance artist who took the Trans-Siberian Express across Russia (like our brother), but he sealed all the windows so he couldn't see out & never got off the train (we've since not been able to find a record of this artistic event on you, the Internet .. but now that we post this at least this will maybe come up & one of your users will tell us) ... he got on the train in Finland & got off in China ... so can he say he's been to Russia? We love hiking & being in the mountains, we just don't like the spectacle it has become in Nepal .. just a bucket-list item to tick off. And there's all the hassles associated with it, the permits, planning, etc. When you read about it seems absurd, especially now with the "Krakauer-effect" which seems even more absurd, because the book (if you bothered to read it) is about what an absurd & suicidal spectacle it has become ... the masses of rich out-of-shape people clambering to climb Mt. Everest at whatever cost. For what? ... to say they did it. And then you got all the people (our brother included) wanting to go to the basecamp ... why, we're not sure. To see all the mounting garbage & dead bodies these expeditions leave in their wake. Supposedly you can't even really see Everest from basecamp ... it's not even much to look at really. Machapuchare on the other hand is compelling ... not to climb, but to look at ... to circumnavigate ... not just because it is visually stunning, but because it has never been climbed (it is holy to the Nepalese so they don't give permits ... meanwhile they dole out far more permits for Everest than can be sustained ... they should be held accountable for all the deaths & trash).
The main reason we'd want to "go trekking" (& what's wrong with just calling it hiking?) is for the exercise. And because our brother did it & it meant something to him. Not Everest though, but perhaps the Annapurna basecamp (where he went on his first trip that seeded his 'SESS" 'SESS" thesis ... Everest basecamp he did later, when he came with his French girlfriend). We're going a bit stir crazy here not being able to run. Even walking is hard in Kathmandu. We'd love to go hiking for a few days, but the logistics are a pain, it takes a lot of planning & flexible time. But we only have a few days before we got with J on a trip south, to the land of "malarial mosquitoes & poisonous snakes" as her co-worker called it. Also near the birthplace of Buddha. This will likely be the subject of the next post ...
The bottom line though, even if we did want to go "trekking," chances are we wouldn't see anything (& we're advised against it from multiple people here) ... it's monsoon season. Raining every day & clouded over constantly. In theory we should be able to see the Himalayas from our hotel window, but with the exception of a few flashes of distant snowy peaks, all we've seen are clouds & haze. Right now we can't even see the nearby hills. There's also the touristic flight option, but that seems even more ridiculous & decadent ... not to mention dangerous (& again you likely won't see much during monsoons). At this point, why not just look at pictures on the Internet? When we were flying back from Indonesia six months ago, we remember waking up mid-flight & opening our shade & having an amazing view of the Himalayas. We'll keep that incidental image.
Do you need to endure all these hassles, permits & altitude sickness, etc. to experience the Himalayas? Perhaps. This is the conundrum ... the vicious cycle that fuels the hypocrisy. Everyone wants to experience it for themselves. But what of reading about something & looking at photos or a movie? Doesn't this count for something? We've been feeling this way more & more lately in regards to art. Do you really need to go to a museum in person? How is looking at a photo on the Internet, without all the distractions, any different? That's the other thing ... if we did go trekking, we'd probably be so disgusted by all the trekkers in their fashionable gear we'd want to puke. Suffice to say, we can't go & we don't want to go. So in lieu of trekking photos we'll post this one here of our brother.
Kathmandu—July 4, 2013
Fourth of July in America ... or actually, we guess it's still the 3rd there. What's happening in the world? A bear in Knoxville broke into a zoo ... the Random Penguin merger is official ... people in Ontario are being bombed by airplane shit ... some dude in Crimea stabbed his neighbor after she dumped his homemade borscht down the toilet ... a naked psycho high on mushrooms broke into a Ypsilanti, Michigan school & tore off part of his penis ... lots of orders lately for Marsupial from Ypsilanti, thanks to Joe Sacksteder who is teaching it again in them parts ... a woman in California was sentenced for life for cutting off her ex-husband's penis & putting it in the garbage disposal ... an excerpt from The Becoming appeared in Diagram, thanks to Ander Monson ... not to be confused with monsoon ... which continue to ravage here & nearby northern India where 1,000 people have died & a TV reporter was fired for filming a broadcast riding on the shoulders of a flood survivor.
Our neck of the woods remains Kathmandu ... roosting 5 stories up waiting for a glimpse of the distant Himalayas. Or hanging out down by the pool. For the most part Kathmandu is a shithole ... not as shitholy as say, Delhi or Bamako or Dili, but fairly shitty. J says it ranks 157 out of 187 on the "human development index" which seems about right ... hence why she is here. Not much of a city for flâneuring ... in fact walking is downright dangerous ... especially if you need to cross the street. Everyone is always trying to find the cure for this & that, but how come no one gives a shit about road safety? It's a serous problem in most of the developing world ... motorized vehicles become weapons of violence ... & here, as in India, it seems to be aggravated by the caste system ... the Brahmins drive cars, Kshatriyas drive motorcycles, Vaishyas ride bikes & the untouchables, well they walk like the rest of us. Even though there is no where else to walk, anyone with a motorized vehicle thinks pedestrian have no right to be on the road & should be run over. Even if there is a sidewalk or you are a 3-year girl ... motorcycles will skip the curb & try to run you down, blaring their horns. The Nepalese in Kathmandu have a certain mean-spiritedness that seems to derive from this. The city is a hive of incessant beeping horns ... & the pollution is so thick that walking in the rain comes as a relief. But then you have to contend with the puddles & dangling electrical wires, the mud/shit (open defecation is the norm here), sewer drains covered off & on with precarious slabs of broken concrete & cars spraying muddy water on you. Here we are trying to navigate this with slippery flip-flops like some fucked game of Frogger, where when you die you die, or at best only suffer dismemberment. All for what? To see a bunch of janky billboards & shoddy unsightly construction that will all collapse in the next earthquake ... your standard "3rd world" affair. The only observation likening it remotely to a land of milk & honey was an empty lot of full wild ganja. And the only words those Hindu holy men (sadhus) with dreads & facepaint know is "photo me" (... & then if you do, it's "money me") ... this is what Kathmandu can be reduced to in a nut shell. Then again, we haven't yet been to the area where all the tourists & backpackers hang out. Anyway, we'll shut up now & just show you photos of things other than photo me sadhus ....
Later in the day, we saw this same cow (that was being shoed away by the above woman) stuck in the middle of the road (see below) ... this animal sacred to the Hindus ... yet no one giving a rat's ass. The next morning on the way to work, j saw it still there ... & by evening it was still there, dead ...
Yesterday we went to Bhaktapur ... some sort of well-preserved medieval town. Hired a guide even, this perverted little Brahmin man ... he would say things like "... these are the vaginas, and these are the phallic symbols, you know ... the COCKS. For the fucking." When introduced, he said his name rhymed with tissue. It was his dream to go to Las Vegas & when asked if for gambling, he said no, "for the ladies." Wouldn't Bangkok be closer? we asked, but he had his mind set on those Vegas showgirls. A couple of times, in reference to being a family man & having children, he called it a "life of suffering." The rest of these photos are from Bhaktapur ...
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