DAY NINE SINGAPORE
But these days I am preoccupied with thoughts of destruction. I tried very hard to write something else today but I could not control my seething fingers. I have become so distracted, so preoccupied, almost oblivious to the memories of the way things used to be in our lives, before he was elected. All I see in my future is conflict. I am embarrassed and ashamed of my country for the poor choices we are allowing to be made for us and the new set of despicable values that have become the norm in Washington DC. We have lost our honor, America.
America, bless its ignorant heart, is killing itself. We have become suicidal.
I thought we had become better educated than this. I have become sadly preoccupied with watching America self-destruct as it unfolds in the daily news. There are not enough hours in the day for every single thing that needs our “powerless” attention and our hollow “hopes and prayers”. In a miniscule period, equal to one ten-millionth of the blink of an eye in the universal scheme of Time, we have lost our democracy to an uninformed, poorly educated, narcissistic, sociopathic, immoral lunatic who takes sick delight in chaos and hatred.
Our fragile world is fish-tailing across time, bobbing and weaving under the pressure of the increasing number of internal negative elements whose common purpose is to take us to our knees and render us helpless to change anything. The path of destruction widens daily as new levels of insidious corruption and malfeasance reveal themselves. Things have always been dicey on this planet; no consistent certainty of which side is winning during the time of our existence. But now… these days, it seems clear that the good side is losing. Before I was preoccupied, I woke up optimistic about humanity. Now a disproportionate portion of my waking hours are spent in terror of what is unfolding right before my eyes.
I am ashamed of my government. It no longer stands for the greater good. It is infested with greed and corruption and hunger for power in epidemic proportions, destroying our foundation in methodical precision. As if by hoards of ravenous grasshoppers on a rampage, we are being chewed down and eaten alive by our elected officials, leaving a barren path of nothingness; devoured by politicians who are getting fat and sick on rage, revenge and the new Republican mantra of apathy toward the people who elected them. Do these people in Washington not have children and grandchildren? Where is their vision for the future? What sense of responsibility do they have, other than to their own egos? For all this their dark legacy will be remembered; they are the destruction-ists.
If you are a person who cannot see it, you are more than just blind; you are self-absorbed, in denial, numb to the truth, ignorant of past history or too lazy to care. You are not preoccupied enough with the current state of affairs. You must fortify your courage and read about this phenomenon. You must be informed. You need to know what we are losing on a daily basis and define just what it is that you personally believe is worth fighting for, not abstractly but in the bloody trenches. Do not remain blind, deaf and dumb to history being made in the daily decisions of ignorant fools.
Major accomplishments that have taken decades to put in place are being vaporized right before our eyes. Not only basic human rights and privileges for every human being, but environmental protections critical to our planet’s survival. Water and air are becoming more and more contaminated but clean water and fresh air are no longer considered a basic human right. Education loses and guns win. Poverty and hunger remain as ostentatious military parades are planned. Parks and national treasures are being destroyed and dismantled for the sake of more oil and minerals. Walls are built and fear is mandated. Does this sound like it could be a description of North Korea or Russia? Germany during WW II? Hell yes it does, but it is happening here in America.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that a handful of treacherous men and women in high places have taken it upon themselves to promote, follow and enable a warped and perverted leader in the process of accomplishing his murderous agenda.
How can we allow this to happen?
What is wrong with us?
Must we allow everything to be torn down in order to see the light again?
History is always our teacher; nothing good can come from this.
Tomorrow is my Monday art class – advanced abstract expressionism. If you are following you know by now that I have been offered the odd assignment of working on one canvas for an entire year. Oh I do other canvases too, but I use one of them as a 365 day continuing, living breathing project that I vow to keep working on whether I want so badly to finish it or not. Yes I accepted the challenge. Yes I sometimes feel that I am nuts to have done so. You have read all of my speculation about the why’s and wherefores of this project (check my archives) – I am sure you could offer some new ideas I have not yet considered about the lessons to be learned from doing this.
What I do know for sure is that I am not a person who gives up easily or is likely to give it anything less than my best effort. I believe that when you commit to something you keep at it until it is no longer for the good of any one thing or person – it has turned sour, in other words. I don’t foresee that happening with this project – there is just so much to be learned from it.
But I do want to think about other things besides THE CANVAS. It is a big world out there and whatever I choose to fill my free time will support, inform, guide and feed my art projects – all of them. I am working on several things at once, parallel with THE CANVAS. Life goes on, all around them.
Today some of my thoughts are on Singapore, for instance, and a trip I made there last fall. I cannot get Singapore and Bangkok off my mind – in a good way. I miss them. I want to go back. I learned a lot while there. The entire journey was eye candy for me, but I also learned a lot about Asian people, Asian food, legends, Buddhism,Monks and relic tooths and Jim Thompson textiles and silk worms, temples and markets and the Asian art of foot massage. What an exotic trip. Thanks to my lovely daughter who was my tour guide, and knows the area well, my simple mind was loaded up with layers of complexity. That is what travel does.
I am also thinking about that rascal George Clooney, who is astoundingly, enthusiastically and actually voluntarily engaged to a lovely woman who is finally, I believe, a person with brains as well as beauty. For all of us (girls mostly) who have been fascinated with him from afar, this is something that has captured our attention. This will be interesting, watching the progression, from sworn, dyed-in-the-wool bachelor to husband……would love to have been a fly on the wall when gorgeous George changed his mind and had his epiphany.
One of the best meals I ever ate was at the Turkish café pictured above, located in the Arab Street section of Singapore. I am thinking about food (I am starving and ready for a meal right now) and how it unites us all in its never-ending daily preparation ritual. You are fortunate to have it and lucky be you if you can enjoy the luxury of choice, answering your cravings and satisfying your palette. If you have a well stocked pantry, I consider you wealthy. If you ever watch the National Geograhic TV show called “Living Below Zero” about Americans who live near the Arctic and must hunt caribou, bears, fish, goats etc , for survival, you are probably as impressed as I am with their strength and courage. Their pantries are well stocked or not depending upon weather, ammunition, deadly accurate shots and absolute luck, plus their own ability to trek way out into the wild and cut up and haul back whatever they shoot. I know that I could never do that.
Back to George Clooney – he does great things in Africa. And she is a brilliant lawyer based in London who deals in Humanitarian issues. Perfect.
Aren’t you fascinated by what other people do?
Sculpture near the Fullerton Hotel in Singapore, river flowing below
Hope you are enjoying this series about Singapore and Thailand. I believe that this will be the final blog on my experiences there, but then again one never knows. It struck me today, especially today, now that I have been home a week and have some perspective under my belt, that the backbone, the heart, the soul of anyplace you go is of course the people and how they represent themselves in art, sculpture and real in-your-face life. What a person like me chooses to make permanent with a photo says so much. I, personally, look for moments that capture a variety of emotions that float my personal, uncomplicated and joyful little boat. I was on vacation – I chose to be easily entertained. I saw wonder everywhere.
In many of the places I visited, accompanied by my daughter, we were met with the friendly question – Where are you from? The curiosity was enormous and reciprocal. I wanted to ask many things of the people I encountered along the way but at the risk of being perceived as rude and pushy, I did not. You must remember that the Asian people are usually more reserved than the typical American. Someone asked me when I got home if I believe that the people where I traveled like Americans – if I had to guess, I would say that in a small group, almost as small as one on one, they generally do. They seem to get a kick out of us. But many people listen to CNN and BBC, Aljazeera and other far more objective news reporting stations than we offer here in the USA, and so they are very much aware of our recent Congressional dysfunction and governmental foolishness because it is on display to the entire world. I never asked what they think of the USA because I didn’t want to hear what they had to say, really, and I was at risk for putting people in uncomfortable situations with little time for a totally thoughtful response. My choice was to enjoy the light-hearted and brief exchanges that came my way and call it a day.
But of course people fascinate me. Thus the following selection of pics that made me smile because of the universality of them, the sense of humor they display, and how flattered and happy most people are when you ask to take their picture. AHHH…that is nice. Now we are friends, they say with their eyes. We have made a personal connection and I will be with you forever, held in touch by the tiny thread of one photo in your forever collection. Thanks go both ways. The epiphany here is the human connection, and that without specific words exchanged, we know we are all souls together in this life.
If you are a junkie for the sensuality of color, the allure of textures both worn and shiny new, and the perfectly fascinating personality of various patterns, then you must take a look here. I am an artist – I paint. I am especially passionate about color, texture and pattern which are always present to a certain degree in my artwork. I just returned from a trip to Singapore and Thailand – can you imagine my delight, observing such magnificent color, such tactile and time worn textures and such intensely busy pattern? I was on such a happy/goofy level of sensory overload the entire time I was there that the culture shock of coming home was evident to me on so many levels…I flew through Seattle back into the states…and it was raining and gray….coming home…leaves gone from the trees…winter.
In this photo gallery I hope you will notice that this much color and pattern and texture brings a joyful response from your senses, a few audible WOW’s I hope – yes it is a lot to see all at once so take it in small doses if you’d like – but please do accept these pictures as a sign that the world can still present you with visual delights that make your heart race. Surprisingly the restaurant shophouse entry with white chairs, so uninhibited in color that you might suspect it of being Mexican, is actually located on Arab Street, where some of the most fun and friendly people greeted us. The ornate temple facades, reminiscent of icing on birthday cakes (no disrespect intended!) are of course from the Grand Palace grounds in Bangkok where the three-dimensional tiny mosaic pieces are not much larger than your thumbnail. The gorgeous mural at the top of the stairs in the first photo is in the entry foyer of the Four Seasons Hotel in Bangkok.
Have a look – I hope I will detect a smile of pleasure on your face. If it makes you dizzy, enjoy the ride.
I have been away, in case you hadn’t noticed, and don’t feel bad if you haven’t. I don’t expect you to follow my every step. It seems like I’ve been gone forever but it was about 10 days including 2-3 extra for de-jetlagging after a combination of flights equaling a 27 hour trip home…yes you read that correctly. Sitting straight up at full attention, unable to cross your legs or turn on your side just a bit is a miserable way to ride home for 27 hours. I was a heap of flesh and bone when I was finally poured through my door by a friend. But it was all worth the pain! Travel is like that – it rewards you in great abundance for your travel inconveniences.
I thank those of you who decided to subscribe to my blog in my absence and then wondered why nothing happened!
While in Singapore I stayed at a charming 5-star place, full of charm and character, where the accommodations were impeccable and the personal attention was top notch – my daughter and her husband’s home. They moved to that most sparkling of cities in order to grab some career opportunities that were too good to pass up, and they love it there. Singapore has been a more than pleasant hub for them, affording them the opportunity to visit many other exotic nearby places…Viet Nam, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Thailand and Cambodia to name a few. Singapore is an island – four or five days worth of sightseeing there and you still have time to move on to some nearby destination and soak up a second culture. We chose Thailand.
Singapore is like a beautiful, English speaking lady – thoughtfully put together, extremely well groomed, polite, organized, elegant and dressed to the hilt. Her aroma is both sweet and spicy; she is well spoken and she sings many songs of life. Singapore is especially stunning at night, dazzling with bling the likes of which you have never seen, and yet she wears it tastefully. The cab driver announced immediately and unapologetically that Singapore thrives on good manners, efficiency, tidiness, order and calm. She hates disorderly conduct and chaos. Don’t plan to misbehave publicly in Singapore; do have somebody put aside bail money if you think you might. Sing will entertain you endlessly in gorgeous, jet-setty environs, but don’t be rude or crude – be nice.
Singapore is known for its spectacular cutting-edge, award winning architecture which contrasts starkly with the charming, ancient shophouses, mosques, temples and restaurants in those neighborhoods – walking miles a day as we did, becomes a constantly entertaining lesson in the juxtaposition of the old and the brand new. Be sure to see the gigantic infinity pool that spans and connects the very top of the three structures that comprise the Marina Bay Sands resort hotel – the view from atop that surfboard-like pool is breathtaking and unique. The Super Trees – well you must see those – and the Marina Bay Mall is out of this world and dripping with designer names and jewelry. We visited the local shops and markets in Chinatown, Arab Street and Little India. The street food, the music, the people watching and the merchandise were all fascinating and entirely new to me.
We also spent two nights in Bangkok, Thailand, and if Singapore is an elegant lady, Bangkok is a loud, fun-loving, rowdy broad who loves a good party, or in our experience, a well-rounded “market party” just the way markets ought to be – lively, shocking at times and riddled with quirky characters. The Chatuchak Market will keep you entranced for an entire day. We bought some wonderful, inexpensive lightweight dresses to wear with flip-flops, we bought jewelry and gifts and table linens – and then you must have a foot massage to stop the throbbing. Because you are going to want to go back again. You must try the sticky rice with sweet coconut milk and mango for a refreshing treat.
In Thailand the name Jim Thompson brings smiles of gratitude from the people and conversations about theories for how he might have disappeared and why. Jim Thompson was an American who had such an appreciation and love for the Thai culture that he devoted his energy and time to saving the silk industry from near extinction – he revitalized a dying art and built an empire of the finest silks in the world which has continued to thrive many years after his mysterious, clueless disappearance. The lovely home and gardens where he lived, located right in the center of Bangkok, are testament to his appreciation for art and the finer things in life. The silks and the silk products resulting from the weaving of the magical threads are derived – literally spun – from the cocoons of the lowly silkworms on the Mulberry trees in the Thailand countryside. We were fortunate to tour his home, see how the silk was spun, and yes spend our money on a selection of the many colorful products resulting – fabrics by the yard, purses, tote bags, travel bags, clothing, bed linens, men’s ties, pillows and more. Each item is more beautiful than the one before, and you want to know more about this tall, nice looking man who is responsible for it all. I immediately ordered a book when I arrived home to read more.
Traveling brings illumination and epiphany. Light bulbs turn on, understanding grows, people come to know each other and humankind expands its awareness in leaps and bounds. Individual faces are remembered – eyes meet eyes and connections are made. You must come home changed – you must. There is no other way. You understand the universality of emotions – what is funny to one is also funny to a person who lives halfway around the world. When a man such as Jim Thompson disappears off the face of the earth, everyone wonders how that could happen and the same possibilities run through hundreds of minds. Food is a common love of all people, as is music, dance, beautiful scenery, art, adventure – we are all one. How could we not be? The planet has grown small with technology, but what unites us all is the human bond. The sharing of times and places and stories all feeding the universal, collective soul of people everywhere.
I know….sounds a little crazy…..but that’s what’s on my mind today, first and foremost. The weather here is very coolish – there were 3 inches of new snow at my house this week! The mountains had more of course. So when the weather turns on a dime and we are no longer having 75 degree days, I start thinking of pumpkin bread, apple crisp, a fire in the fireplace and winter blankets on the bed.
Except I am going to SINGAPORE this month!! With a side-trip to Thailand!! Heat and humidity are in my future!! There was a mad dash around this week looking for sale items that would be suitable when the sweat is dripping down the entire length of your body underneath your clothes, puddling here and there along the way. Even the summer clothes as we know them just don’t cut it in Singapore – you need flimsier garments that float around your body rather than sitting right on your skin. Dressing one’s self there is a challenge. Think gauzy. Think filmy. Think two showers a day.
I have family in Singapore – my daughter and her husband. They will be living there for several years, adding that locale to a long and growing list of places they have traveled to and lived in for a time. They love it, not just for Singapore itself but for all the other enticing places you can see in just an easy weekend jaunt. This fabulous trip will be another addition to my quite small but growing trip-of-a-lifetime list. Do you know the New York Times best selling book “1,000 PLACES TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE – A Traveler’s Life List” by Patricia Schultz?? It is in its second printing, with 200 more places added now and although it is a paperback book it is nearly 2 inches thick. You will get lost in this book so have post-it note paper handy. It will take you away to places you had no idea existed as well as reassuring you that your must-do places, like Rome for instance, will never not be a place to see before you die. You need a copy of this book – you need several to have around when you need a great gift for delighting seasoned travelers or opening the eyes of others who want to broaden their horizons. And NO I am not making any money by plugging it.
Of my entire core family of two grown children and a former husband, I am the least well traveled. My son filled up his first passport and is on his second; he travels the world with his job, sometimes calling me on a satellite phone while standing isolated and alone out in the field of a place I have to find on a map after I hang up, and I do know my geography. I don’t really get around much, except in my robust imagination, and in that regard you might say I have been around the world several times. I have spent all of my life painting and writing and with other creative pursuits. I have, actually, been to a handful of great places including some across the pond, but I have never traveled farther west than to Japan and Hawaii. Singapore will be something very different for me. I do have reasons – valid reasons, for my modest travel schedule – and although it would be virtually impossible in the time I have left to catch up with the others, I am setting my priorities and intent upon crossing some of my dream trips off my bucket list. Oh I have always had a bucket list, don’t get me wrong, but my practical life got in the way of it. You know how it goes. I have had a big full life of many transitions, changes and challenges, much joy and great sadness and all that lies between. I would be just fine if I could not ever travel anywhere again – but I am fortunate enough to finally have the will and the way both at the same time.
Through the eyes of my nomadic children I have gained a great deal of knowledge, acceptance and pleasure for exotic places I have actually never seen myself. My kids are great ambassadors for the United States, through their genuine curiosity and respect for people everywhere and their consistent, unspoiled good nature and polite manners. I know that was first taught at home, but is it not true that in many ways we learn more from our kids that we ever taught them? I have a fresh appreciation for the Buddhist way of life, for instance, and am now aware as never before, living in the now, and practicing a higher degree of tolerance after seeing their countless photos of temples and shrines in Bhutan, Burma and other countries in that area of the world and choosing to read books that back up that visual experience with substance. I have become a more well rounded person as a result of their travels. I am more enlightened and in tune with the universal plan.
These days, the world is our backyard. I am glad that my children and yours are finding it easier to navigate the globe than we ever did at their ages – it is true that in traveling we gain greater understanding and acceptance of eachother, and we could all use more of that. With travel, life becomes deeper in meaning; our purpose here clearer. As a favorite t-shirt says, “Life’s big questions. What is the meaning of life? Why am I here? …and where are the cookies?”
So I am making apple crisp today, secure in the happiness that a grand trip awaits me. I am ready and eager to learn about places I have never been, and perhaps I will gain the answers to life’s big questions. NAMASTE.