I'm leaving the old intro here, but adding this- it appears the doves have taken over my blog for their fiction. Just as well, I was doing a piss poor job of updating. They're doing much better.

This blog is infrequently updated, full of incorrect spellings, misused words, and general bad grammar. It started when I was trying to use google+ (which I've since given up on) and discovered there was no character limit for posts. If you've known me a long time, a lot of these stories will be old hat. If you plan to know me for a long time, you'll no doubt hear many of them in person. But, folks seemed to enjoy them, so here they are.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Eighty First Story

Sitting in this spot, the reality of where we were really started to sink in (for me, my mother is a little quicker on the uptake, I think). We arrived in town by mid afternoon, and the very first thing Mamadu did was to order us food (We had already learned to order food at least three hours before getting hungry). He asked us if we wanted meat or no meat. Mum and I looked at each other, shrugged a little and asked for meat. He shouted something to a little boy, and we wandered around the rest of the day, only later realizing that the child had gone to catch the town's one goat.

Now- I'm quite certain we paid more than enough to replace that goat. It's not that I feel bad about it, per se. It's just- what if some other travelers came through the next night, and the townfolk had not yet gotten a new goat and had to explain this? Or maybe that's what happened- maybe this place usually had a goat on hand, it had recently been consumed, and when we surprised them by ALSO asking for meat, they had to scramble, and as luck would have it, someone else had a goat. But what if that emergency goat already had plans? What if it was meant for a particular feast, and now there was no goat? What if someone had to get married with no meat dinner? What if someone had already started to prepare it for a sacrifice and had to start all over?

In short- I spent the night thinking about how, in a place with very few travelers, one set could really fuck things up if they wanted to. We didn't order meat again till Timbuktoo.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Eightieth Story

One of my old neighbors interviewed for a cleared job with the government, and warned me that the FBI might want to talk to someone in the neighborhood and asked if i was ok with this (I gather it was a high clearance). Weeks passed. I forgot. I got a knock on the door, and went up to answer it, dustmask and hearing protection in place, hammer in my right hand, glove on my left. I opened the door, and stood there dumbfounded, thinking "Not the UPS man, Shoes to shiny to be selling bibles" while he stood on his side, presumably thinking "THIS is the person he's got vouching for him?".

Once we got past this, I invited him in and offered him tea. He asked me questions about my neighbor. I admitted a large amount of ignorance, but said i liked the fellow well enough. He asked me, several times, in several different ways, if I would recommend him for the job. I responded, several times, in several different ways, that without knowing the job, I couldn't well know the answer. "I'd trust him to feed my dog, but I wouldn't trust that he knows the proper way to feed, say, an elephant. It's not a referendum on his character. I think he's great. But I have NO IDEA whether he'd be good for the vague task you are describing"

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Seventy Ninth Story

There's a spot in town where the sidewalk is made of brick, and someone, years ago, planted petunias. They've inched there way into all the cracks, and now, come the right season, every year, the flowers sneak out and cover the sidewalk.

Monday, March 18, 2013

the Seventy Eight Story

A conversation I had yesterday with my mother, as overheard by
Caitlin, just for amusement:

"I don't know what you're going to do with the stump,
either...standing that thing up might be harder than getting rid of
it...yes, that would be wonderful... oh, even better!...like the
throne up in cambridge?... I love it... even if they can't stand it
up, maybe they could carve it into a low bench... what?!... I've never
even used a chainsaw...yes,yes...I know you have, but cutting limbs
off a tree is entirely different than a plunge cut... mum, this is a
terrible idea... mum, wait, mum... no, MUM! we will lose limbs...I
can't think of a way to do it without a plunge cut... I'll look at it
when I come visit."

Caitlin's reaction: "It's so great that your mother has so much confidence in you!"

Friday, March 1, 2013

the Seventy Seventh story

We had planned to spend our remaining four days in Djenne, but... we didn't. Instead, after one full day, we made our way back to the Carrefour and hopped another bus, this one going south. We got as far as Sikasso, jumped out, and asked folks what to go see. Unanimously, everyone I managed to communicate with agreed on this place, who's name translates to something like "Mosque of the Grotto". We hired ourselves a cab for the day, and headed out, expecting to see a mosque much like the rest of the ones we had seen.
But no. There are no photos of the wonder of this place, because it was too beautiful, and I too tired, to muck around with the camera. There's this one snapshot, and that's all. These rocks were worn with centuries of worship, prayer carpets made simply by so many knees kneeling in the same spot. There were droplets falling from this, the skylight, making a thin, sparkling, glowing veil. Mum and I, an agnostic and a raging athiest, looked at each other, and agreed that this was the right place to worship god.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

the Seventy Sixth Story

This tree, when we were walking up to it, was in full bloom- covered in large white flowers that, from a distance, looked like magnolia. As we got closer, some of the flowers started to lift off; by the time we were within a hundred yards, it was bare, and the sky full of egrets

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Seventy Fifth story

In DC last weekend, we attempted to go to the Sunday concert at the National Gallery. No go. It had just been written up and the line was out the door. We waited anyway, just in case, but were just a tiny bit to far back in line. I was a bit disappointed. Walking back to the Metro, we ran into this fantastic violinist on the steps of the Natural History Museum. This gal and her friend had arrived just before us, and she was dancing, beautifully, to the music. Dustin and I sat and watched for a long while, long after she left, until we felt as though the violinist was playing just for us, and we knew we weren't gonna pay him enough. It was glorious.


the Seventy Fourth story

After Timbuktoo, we wanted to go to Djenne. Djenne was on our way home. It also has the largest mudbrick structure in the world, and because of the impredictability  of travel, we had four days to spare. We got off our bus at the Carrefour (literally "crossroads" but there were so few that no one seemed to feel any need to name any of them). and set ourselves, as per normal, to wait until there were the requisite number of folks to persuade the driver of the pickup truck to move it. We asked if another bus would be coming by the carrefour later. We were told probably tomorrow. We asked what he was waiting for, then. He said he was waiting for the next bus so there would be more people. We asked if he was planning on waiting overnight. He shrugged. This wait was much more pleasant than most of the others had been, though- there was a local politician waiting for the same pickup, and after sharing his rather tasty bagged lunch with the both of us (we had long since stopped making a point of telling people that we were not, in fact, the forward guard of some aid agency) he persuaded the driver to maybe start out a little sooner than planned. We did spend some four hours out by the crossroads, but this meant we made it to the river crossing right at sunset. The oranges and purples and wonders reflected back on the water, perfectly silhouetting young men standing up in their small boats, poling their way back to the shore. We arrived in town after dark, but our new friend escorted us to a small hostel and introduced us to the proprietors, who then took it upon themselves to make sure we got dinner.

The following day there was a wedding at the hostel, in the courtyard. We found a high point, up on one of the roofs, and watched as everyone mingled- Fulani, Tuereg, Bambara, western aid workers, hostel owners; all in different ideas of formal dress. It was grand, and glorious, and oh so very bright.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

the Seventy Third story


The above is an article  I came across yesterday, about trying to save manuscripts in Timbuktoo while there is fighting going on all around. My mother and I made it to Timbukto, maybe four years ago, now? There were little museum/libraries all over the town, where a family would charge some small admission and let you come in and look at very very old manuscripts under plexiglass displays. We went by the institute in this article, too, and most miraculously, met a resident (student? professor? scribe?) who gave us a mini tour of his favorite books before getting back to the work of copying them. I didn't see the digitizing process, only hand copying. Many of these papers have been hidden before- in walls, underground, taken out to the dunes- and we were told over and over that many had been forgotten, and were likely still encased in mudbrick homes. Here's hoping that words win out.