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2012 Brooklyn, Portland, Oregon, United States
Five precepts
A friend told me about the five precepts of Theravada, her tradition of Buddhism, one of which is, “Take nothing that is not freely offered.” Right away I thought of all my odd found objects, asked my friend what she thinks would be the precept’s guidance as to picking those objects up. I was not surprised that she had no answer; the question she stops and asks herself when she is uncertain – Is this freely given? – was worth any number of answers.
Wage slavery
My numbers at the call center have been bad this week, way below the standard. Under these circumstances, a worker is generally “put on ultimatum,” given one week to meet the standard or be fired. I suppose I can hope I won’t be put on ultimatum; this is at the discretion of the management. I suppose I can hope that if I am put on ultimatum, I might not fail. But truth be told, it wouldn’t be too terrible to lose this job. Whether we workers are threatened and rewarded or threatened and punished, it looks as if we can count on being threatened. I admit I’m scared – unlike the Union Maid of the labor song who set a high standard because she “never was afraid” – but I’m not desperate.
Despair and discomfort
In the midst of all this difficulty I have been remembering my discovery, again and again, that despair precedes creativity. Though I can’t say I have experienced despair lately, I have experienced plenty of discomfort. What, I wonder, does discomfort precede?

2011 Phsar Dey Hoy, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Today is Thursday, and this is my first day writing since Sunday. I am climbing out of one of the strangest illnesses I can recall: two days of fever, maybe even three, and a terrible racking cough. There is no trace of the fever today, and the cough is abating. But I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. I am going to take it plenty easy today, make sure there’s no relapse, as with the bronchitis that lasted most of the winter, two years ago in Poland.
But it may have been worth these three days of wrestling with a kickass pathogen just to ride through the Flooded Forest on Sunday, when I knew I was under the weather as the day began. I might do it all over again exactly as I did, just to glide quietly among those surreal trees in a boat piloted by a silent Khmer woman.

2010 Hampi, India
It was wonderful wandering by myself yesterday, among some of the oldest structures in these parts, finding more tanks and rocks and square holes in lines. I did a splendid job of ignoring a fellow who kept trying to get my attention. He finally stopped. There must have been something about him that sent my virus scan into the red zone. On the whole I’m becoming less crabby with people who don’t seem to grasp that being alone is not the same as welcoming company. More often than not these days, I am polite to strangers who intrude on my solitude, for which they may have no cultural reference.
My new friend thinks the local children never get to see themselves, but I disagree. They live in a tourist town, and unless there are more tourists like me – who don’t take their photos – than tourists like her – who do – they probably see themselves a lot. I am beginning to harbor a scary suspicion I didn’t share with her, that the local children are learning to exploit or deride tourists. I was wary around them. I wanted to be far away from them.
Elephant bookends
Yesterday began with temple elephant Lakshmi’s bath. Among the river rocks, lying on her side, she didn’t look as big as I was expecting, but the event was wonderful, even if my camera batteries were dead and I had no way to photograph it. She seemed to like being bathed. Everybody was invited to help wash at the end. My favorite part was when she stood up or lay down. Changing positions is a big deal for an elephant.
Now that I think of it, the day not only began but also ended with elephants, a phenomenon I call “bookends.” As the sun was going down and I was waiting at the Roof Restaurant for my penne arrabiata, I saw what I can only describe as elephant rush hour down on Bazaar Street. Eight elephants. Best traffic jam I’ve ever seen, or hope to see.
Staggering beauty
Virupaksha temple was bathed in colored light last night. I went out to photograph it. I stood in the middle of the street and let rickshaws and motorbikes and autos go around me and let locals gawk. I can outlast them all. Staggering beauty brings out the best in me.
Talking about gods
We saw a Sarasvati temple, which my friend called “modest.”
“She was a modest kind of gal,” I posited.
“Look at all the big temples to Siva and Vishnu,” she continued.
“They weren’t modest kinds of guys,” I deadpanned.

27 styczniu 09 wtorek 5:51 room 441, Nawojka, Krakow
Notes from underground
Strange, vivid dreams last night. A roommate asked if I could give him a potato “to smoke,” while I peeled an orange, only to find just three sad sections inside. We were in a rustic hut, and it was raining outside, and there was a guy in a suit standing in the rain outside the window. There were lots of little rooms in the hut. I was trying to get somewhere I had been before, though I am not sure why I wanted to go there again. There was produce spilling out of big boxes on a bus.

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