Subject: LEACHES ATTACK!!!
Date: Thu, 13 Apr 2000 02:22:08 -0700 (PDT)
So here I am in Bangalore, with a 15 hour layover. What do you do with a layover? I did what any sensible traveller would do, I hit 150 golfballs, then came to check my email.
Ah, lovely lovely golf. Someday I'll come around to actually play a round. But for now, just smacking the suckers as far as I can is rewarding enough. I've solicited Golf Clubs in Calcutta, and Pune, but this was the first practice range that had enough range for me to play my way. I was averaging a flight of 175 yards or so, and then some more distance on the bounce. But its really the glory of those three or four that you get just right and the don't just arc up and down, but they slowly climb and climb seeming to defy Aristotle and Newton, by gaining acceleration. That third derivative that few even in the sciences can quite visualize.
Forgive me. I'm getting quite daffy over here. Naturalizing to India as a westerner takes its toll from the strangest accounts. I invested in an ominous combination that's bound to disturb the easy flow of my sentences. I needed a new book to read after I got half way through "Gravity's Rainbow" for the second time. I needed something timely yet meaty. Something one would never get around to in the stable world of homelife. I chose Moby Dick. I have a great white whale of my own, you know, which haunts me... But that's fair enough. However, I found a thin little book that proves to undermine my sanity in even more complex ways at the same time. Titled "Explaining Deconstruction." Now those of you who know the field of literature know what that combination may mean. A work patently alogorical, which is then opened up by an intensive examination of Derrida and thematic relativism; Deconstruction (in the literary world) is the flight of meaning as an objective truth. The deconstructionist critic acknowleges his/her own inevitably biased stance as well as the authors... the hell with this... No way to sumarize; But the critical thing to realize is that Deconstructionism is also a movement in Architecture which has only a tenuous grasp on Derrida, and some would say on meaning in general.
Now, as an architect exploring deconstruction through the means of Moby Dick with the sinking suspicion that I may be Ahab,or Ishmael with Ahab as a symbolic representation of my egoistic drives toward future goals of build the world's first deconstructionist cooperative/corperate hippie commune (my own white whale)... I think you can see where this is going.
But first you must know where I'm coming from. Which I'm not going to tell you in this email anyway... by the next installment there will be even greater transparency into the polluted waters of my mind. Shit there goes Derrida again. do you ever find that you are a sponge for styles. Lately whatever I read I become. Which explains the chaos in which I left the country, having just finished Finigan's Wake....Blah blah blah...
but what does this have to do with LEECHES (forgive my spelling but I really can't be bothered) In order to know that you must first know where I'm coming from.
Well, when last I wrote, I was in Madurai, sipping Chikku-Papaya-Mango-Carrot smoothies. I headed for the hills. And ended up in the mountains. It seemed incredulous to me that there should be mountains down here, but sure enough, they're full-on in Munnar. Annaimudi rises to 8849 feet. Which is ironic since Everest is 8840 meters. Thus the correlation of my northernmost and southernmost terminuses (termini?). And I thought it would still be just jungle. Well again, a major wrong! (RONG?!) Above 6500 feet, it becomes colorado. Dry grass, and barren rocky tops. This mountain and several others in the region has a rockface which after several days of estimation, I've determined to be at least, at least 2000 feet nearly vertical. These are very very steep mountains. You have to appreciate that. Well I do. Anyway, I climbed Rajamallai (King's Mountain) and towards the top, I faced the first terror I've felt since I left the Himalayas.
See I don't know how other people process danger, but for me its become a very systematic process. I don't want to die. I really really don't. In fact, I take extreme care to not die. There's this very loud alarm that goes off in my head when I sense eminant danger. My thinking clarifies like butter in a flame. Then theres a rigourous process of analysis, all within seconds of every possible way I could die in the given circumstances; in this case, at 7000 feet on the ridgeline of a knoll that rolls somewhat inconspicuously into a cloudbank that a know from previous experience to be a 2000 foot vertical drop. Cloud means wet, grass means slippery, andd.... I'm wearing flipflops. Shit. Anyway, there was a trail, and this particular type of grass was deep enough for really solid footholds, and I am becoming something of an expert at finding the best route up AND down (my motto; take the slow way up so you take the SLOW way down)... etc etc. The point is not that I was in any eminant danger; it was just that I was at that threshold where the warning signs piled up and my panic/preservation/analytical mind was activated. I felt alive and truly happy for the first time in months. You get complacent in the flatlands. Plains don't challenge you're awareness and alertness so much as precipices.
So I get to what I thought to be the top only to look over and see a higher peak. Shit. So I walk over to the other peak; only to see a sheer cliff and a highest peak. And then the cloud breaks and I see, for real this time, the summit of Annaimudi, a cliff above a cliff above a cliff. Very nice mountain. so I didn't summit that day, and felt a little silly for all my panic.
The next day, I thought I'd take another stab at Annaimudi... one more thing. Later the previous afternoon I climbed yet another mountain, just cause I could; one for breakfast, the other for lunch. But here I am the next day, well versed (or so I thought) in the ways of these here mountains. I had scoped out what I thought to be a far safer route than the one I'd attempted the previous day, this time approaching from the east. But not to take any chances, I sighted a mountain to the south of Annaimudi from which I figured I'd get a better look. so I climbed that mountain for breakfast. Got to the top; this one was jungle all the way up. Wandered about, found a little clearing where I could study Annaimudi from, and sat down. Smoking a err cigarette I noticed a tiny drip of water eminate from under my pant leg... Think about that for a second. What would cause a droplet of water to form under you pantleg, I mean wouldn't your pants absorb... by this point I checked and found....eewwww a leech! No cause for alarm, leaches are healthy parasites. They're quite gentle in fact. They even have something in their saliva that deadens the pain of their bite. You don't feel anything. when they're full they just drop off. Of course, they also have something in their spit which prevents blood's coagulation, so you bleed a lot. Well, by this point, I've noticed another on my ankle. And oh god three more between my toes.... The appropriate reaction to this is Sideshow Bob's shudder of disgust. Now remember, being a good Buddhist means you can't kill bugs, and further, you shouldn't even really begrudge a parasite, realizing, Tat Tvam Asi or Thou art That. I was still able to be philosophical at that point. But my friends, there is something to keep in mind when trecking with open footware through jungle; where there's five leeches, there's probably more. So as I stood up to leave, I walked a few feet and stopped, looked, sure enough, three more. brushed them off, another 100 feet and five more, in my pant cuffs, under my flip flop straps. Shit. I'm beginning to understand the gravity of the situation. So I take off my shoes, figuring my flight will brush them off ; and proceed to panic-but in jest this time-except that, well it may be jungle but its still a very steep slope that I'm now running down, tearing through brambles whilst big black monkeys are laughing at their distant cousin who is suddenly learning the virtues of the trees.
Anyway, no real danger except loss of half a pint of blood. I made it out with only 10 leach bites and a new appreciation of the north face of jungle growth, thick topsoil covered, newly rained upon hills. I was back on the trail through the tea plantation and decided to forge ahead to Annaimudi. I found a stream and washed my bloodsoaked pants and mudcaked feet (leaches leave clean wounds too, aren't they thoughtful). But meanwhile, three officious looking Indians with knives and umbrellas approach. I already know what they're going to say. So I throw on the charm. And display my war wounds. Never let them see you bleed-its a sign of weakness; but scars are to be flaunted-- what is it with that Y chromosome anyway? So the only part that shocked me was that its a 25,000 rupee fine and three years in jail(!!!) penalty for climbing Annaimudi without a permit (which they won't issue anyway without a largish, well placed bribe). But I wooed my "captors" and I got off with a police escort to the nearest "saloon" where my escort bought me a cup of tea and then walked me to the edge of town. Bizarre day. There's more to Munnar than this but, you've put up with me long enough. So onward the next day to Cochin, on the Lakshadweep Sea (subset of Arabian Sea), an old dutch colony and mostly christian, though with significant Muslim and Hindu and, strangely, Jewish communities. There's a cafe there with french press coffee. So I stayed for a while. Other than that, I bought Moby Dick and thus we're back to the NOW, all night train last night, and another night train tonight. sleeper trains are like mobile hotel rooms. If you look at it that way, its kind of surreal and inspiring. But two nights in a row is not for the feint of heart. As most of you know, though, I function best on sleep deprivation. And besides I hit 150 golf balls today. 22,500 yards I drove today. Something like that has an effect on your perception of personal influence upon the world.
I love you all. Until next time.