Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Gnats of Irritatation

First of all, is there anyone else, say over the age of 45, for whom computers are not a natural extension of the fingertips, who believes that both the computer and the printer are inhabited by gnomes or gremlins or some perverse little supernatural beings? The old fashioned method of dealing with irritating mechanized things was to give them a kick or a thump and scare the little imp-ling away; but electronics are too delicate for that treatment. Today's irritation is that I've replaced a black ink cartridge in my printer and now it neither wants to print or scan. And there's a great possibility if I let it sit over night tomorrow it will have forgotten this fit of stubornness and work fine .. or so I hope. Yes, the cartridge is in right, it did the self-test thing quite successfully. Who knows? Not I.

A few years ago when the beloved Colliseum Book Store on Broadway and 57th Street was closing, I purchased a book that caught my eye, THE BONES OF THE MASTER by George Crane. It proved to be a fascinating read. Crane, from Woodstock, NY had become a Buddhist with an elderly Mongolian monk as a teacher. One day the teacher suggested they travel, now that China is welcoming tourists, to the area in the Gobi in Inner Mongolia [i.e., the part that is in China] to find the bones of his master. The monk had to flee China during the religious repression and his trip from the farthest nortn, all the way down to Shanghai was brave, dangerous and almost miraculous. We Americans have little idea, even though we know something about the horror of the "cultural revolution" that not only did Mao's Communism destroy religous structures and murder monks and send the intellectuals to work on pig farms and be re-educated, but a land reform caused a terrible, terrible famine which killed milloins of ordiniary people. It's parallel was about a decade earlier in Stalinist Russia when similar stupdity caused the same sort of famine in the Ukraine and other parts of Russia, killing millions. Nothing on this scale has ever touched the West.

Anyway, Crane and the elderly monk went to China, a trip fraught with diffficulty not the least of which was the monk's fragile health. The monk's story gets told in the body of the book, of course. It was moving as the best quest books are. I recently found another book by Crane called BEYOND THE HOUSE OF THE FALSE LAMA . As it turns out the monk might be physically fragile but he has an iron will and he wanted to complete some unfinished homages to his master and his master's master so he asked Crane to return with him. Their first attempt was aborted by terrible weather in the Gobi where it is possible for sand storms to completely obliterate roads.

So far I'm disappointed because this book has the feel of something agents and editors pushed for because the first was a success but apparently there was not enough material for a full book so the first third, or perhaps half, is about an ill fated cruise with a crazed owner of a concrete boat in the Caribbean during hurracane season. This is second rate adventure and I will chug through it because I know he'll eventually go back to the Gobi once more. I am sometimes put off that most of the Asian adventures are by men who are basically hippies. Dalva Murphy is the only woman traveler/writer who holds a candle to most of the men. I've got another of Murphy's books to plunge into sometime soon. How nice it would be to be retired and planning a long lazy summer on the beach, say of Cape Cod ... long book reading days. Ah, well ...

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