Dreaming about the fires and passions of yesterday.
Dreaming about the passions of life.
When I was 20 I took a motorcycle tour of Africa - from Casablanca all the way down to Madagascar. It took 3 weeks and cost 1200 US. My traveling companions were all middle aged guys who owned bike dealerships.
We made the trip on Honda 250's.
It was a great trip at a great time - poverty, vice corruption and a sense of adventure. Last time I was in Africa I saw what the future brought and I realize just how very lucky I was.
I remember the animal preserves. You knew them because the roads were suddenly lined with human skulls. I pretty sure this was in Kenya, but it might have been Uganda. At the end of the road was a crudely lettered sign, painted with looked like human blood: POACHERS WILL BE KILLED ON SIGHT, in English, French and German.
These roads were dirt and formed mainly by buffalo drawn wagons. So the road was a huge hump tracked by two deep but thin grooves.
On a bike the only way to navigate the path was to do a serpentine up and down over the mound. It was dry dusty work and your mind would just rock itself to sleep in the pleasant monotonous motion. Which explains how i turned a corner and suddenly realized I had ridden into the middle of a pride of lions.
The massive male was sprawled across the length of the road, sunning himself. To the side were two females nursing some cubs. In my peripheral vision I saw two more females and a young male very quickly moving behind me on either side.
The big male looked at me. I was frozen and operating on instinct and I realized then I like being alive but I could handle it if it was going to end like this.
It's like when you're hanging from a cliff - you know you want to live but you're not terrified of death.
All I was thinking was, "Boy, these guys are big!"
The large male was looking at me, still lying down he roared, big deep and, in other circumstances, beautifully. Then he easily got to his feet, growled and started to move.
This time my only thought was the old Stepin' Fetchitt line, "Feets, don't fail me now!" I started to back up the bike with my feet, slowly, absent mindedly or nervously (I can't figure out which) gunning the motor.
I kept backing up slowly when behind me I heard the sound of the others. The guide was in a jeep. He came up about 50 yards behind me and starting saying, "Shoo Simba. Go on get away from here. Shoo!"
And with grace, reserve and elegance the lions got up and moved out of the way . . .
In the tradition of Arlo Guthrie, I told you that story so I could tell you this story.
The return flight to America was out of Paris. After the veldt Paris seemed enchanting and human. I didn't speak French but I was getting by. I was looking for the Cinematheque when a cute girl started talking, in French. I thought she was talking to the girl besides her and kept moving, until she stopped and yelled, "Stupid'!"
Then I knew she was talking to me. Women don't accept being ignored in any language.
She spoke as much English as I did French. But we sauntered around the streets until we encountered some of her friends. Boys and girls, all my age, walking arm in arm and singing the Who's "The Punk Meets The Godfather" - in French. I knew the melody and the chorus.
So we all locked arms and moved down the road singing at the top of our voices when we turned a corner and saw - it.
At least 5000 kids, our age in a square. Three sides of the square were surrounded by policemen in the latest leather fetish riot gear. At least 500 of them were on horseback.
The crowd was roaring and surging towards the cops. In our group the singing continued until from all sides we got caught up in the surge of bodies moving towards then away from the riot squad, music and the rhythm of moving bodies - it was highly erotic.
Then the tear gas came and the riot broiled.
It was great. Plastic shields and helmets. Billy clubs and government thugs. No translator required. It was a day for individual battles and a group sense of war, them and us decided by age and lack of riot gear, although somehow I ended up with a shield that was fabulous for charging and blowing up police phalanxes. The cop wedge was nothing compared to the Notre Dame wedge.
When it seemed there was just general milling about all I thought about was thugs and bullies defy nationalizing. they are as universal as gonorrhea.
It was a war and in the gray streets of Paris, surrounded by delicate pixillating light and ancient statues screaming of liberte and freedom, I felt like a lion waiting in my own road.
Most of the battle was in the side streets now. I was just ambling away wondering whether I'd ever see the cute girl again when the Surte showed up, armed with Stens (burp guns - trench sweepers). Even locked in full battle mode you don't go up against a Webley-Vickers Machine Pistol with out proper motivation. As to this day I have no idea what the riot was actually about I let myself be lead meekly to the Gare Du Nord.
There several hundred of us were prodded into a cattle car that soon began moving. No one asked my name at anytime, we just herded and dispensed. I figured we were going to jail or some sort of processing center. My plans to overpower the two guards and jump ship were ignored. Some of the guys were in shock but no one looked beaten up to me.
The doors opened suddenly. We were in a freight yard in Belgium. I walked to the terminal, brought a ticket back to Paris.
I realized I smelled heavily of sweat and tear gas.
Now, I told you that story to tell you that I saw the doc's today. They are all bright and healthy looking. They are all people you'd be happy to know and meet, clean, bright intense faces.
The leukemia is no longer in remission. I'm doing fine. I just keep pushing through as you knew I would. They're going to give me a pill to see if I can handle an oral style of chemo.