Friday, September 25, 2009

Part 4 Standing in the Sun, Egypt

I landed in Cairo's airport after a seeming eternity on the airplane...not surprising since we'd traveled what I believe is a ¼ of the earth's circumference. when we had landed in India we were asked to please step onto the tarmac and identify our luggage so that it could be reloaded on the plane. I thought this was weird at 4 am, what was weirder was we shared the flight with armed guards at the front and rear of the plane. The strange thing about the airport in Cairo is that it is only the home of the official transactions of entering and leaving the country, there are no airline offices located there. I waited by luggage claim for the better part of an hour waiting for my suitcase. I finally went to the customs desk and asked after it. The Uniformed man told me to be patient. I returned to my seat and waited another hour. I returned to the man behind the counter, I suggested that everyone on my flight had claimed their luggage and there had been at least two others since then. He took my passport and looked at my ticket, called someone and said that yes, it was here and I needed to be patient. I had been awake for about 20 hours by this time. I was getting a bit cranky, so after waiting yet another hour I walked up to him and began a conversation. Come to find out, he had a son going to Cal Tech. I commented that that was a fine school. I myself was an artist, I was heading to Art school. He nodded. I mentioned that seeing Egypt had been a life long dream, to actually walk on the ground of the Pharaoh's, to examine the birth place of western civilization...I was excited to get started. He smiled and nodded. I gently mentioned that I had had very little sleep in the last 3 days and had been awake now for the last 20+ hours and that the first thing on my list of things to do was to take a shower and get some much needed sleep. He sighed. He then asked for my passport again and my ticket. He motioned me to the side of the table and turned to face askew from me, I guess so that he could not be accused of speaking to me. “Mr. Kauslick there is a problem. We examined your bag, the razors and bottle of ink is explained by your being an artist. We x-rayed the statues in your bag and found them to be nothing more then souvenirs so we can give you back your bag...However it is policy to allow no one to enter the country that hasn't confirmed their flight out.” I said “OK, point me at the office I have to go to and I'll take care of it immediately.” He pursed his lips and shook his head gently “No, you see, the place where you would do that is in Downtown Cairo, I see you have a reservation at *********** Hotel...The place you would take care of this is across the street from your hotel. You see, I can't let you leave the airport because you haven't assured us you're going to fly out after a week, however you can't assure us that you are going to leave Egypt unless I allow you to leave the airport. Thus the problem...” I looked at him blankly...”you mean I'm going to live here in the airport from now on?” He pursed his lips again. “Mr. Kauslick, I'm going to take a chance on you. It takes One hour to drive from here to your hotel. I will allow you 15 minutes to check into your hotel. I will call the airline office in one hour and 20 minutes. If by that time you have not confirmed your flight out....Well sir, I wouldn't want my son to find himself in the position you'll be in, even in America.” I nodded and assured him that I would deal with this within the time frame. He smiled and nodded. I shook his hand and he brought out my bag. He stamped my passport and checked his watch. I ran through the currency exchange (you can't enter Egypt without having $200 Egyptian pounds on you) and hit the street. What awaited me was a line of official cab looking vehicles and a few free agents. I chose one who was driving what I recall was an Old Buick or Plymouth that was in dire need of a new set of rings. He introduced himself and I introduced myself. Then I presented him with a proposition. “ I need to get to ********** hotel. I know it takes an hour. You will run the meter and I will pay you the fee in Egyptian Pounds. However....”(I opened my wallet and pulled an American $20, I had a reserve of about $100 in American currency, cause it is the international language) IF you can get me to the front of my hotel in ½ an hour I will place this bill in your hands & I will ask Allah to bless you and your family.” he smiled, he had about 3 gold teeth in the front, loaded my bag in the back and floored the vehicle. I'll tell you what, if that guy had ever wanted to take a job driving stock cars, he'd have had a swell career. When we got to bridge that crosses the Nile, we hit a snag. It seems traffic was backed up because a donkey had died in the road about ½ a mile from where we were. I know this cause the driver pulled up on the sidewalk and drove the half mile around it. He got to the other side of the bridge and I could hear that American made engine scream. He was moving through traffic like he had studied the chase seen in the movie “The French Connection” and had done a masters thesis on it. The Lady singing on the radio/cassette player was wailing and he was right behind her. He pulled up in front of my Hotel 40 minutes after he threw my bags in the trunk. I paid him his fee in English pounds as promised and then I pulled the 20 from my wallet, put it in his hand and “You earned this.” I ran up the stairs and the doorman opened the door for me, I dropped my bag, pulled out my Passport and my reservation number and asked the guy behind the desk to please check me in as quickly as was possible, and please tell me how to get to the airline office I needed to find. He checked me in and gave me directions. I asked him if he could just please have my bag taken to my room I had something I had to do. He nodded, rang the bell and told the bell hop where to take my bag, assuring me my key would be waiting for me when I returned. I dashed out the front door, down the stairs and across the street. I found the office. There was a line of about 20 people in front of me. I watched all the people answering phones until I was about 5 people away from the front. I saw the only woman in the office pick up the phone and mouth my name. I got out of line and tapped on the glass she had in front of her, I put my open passport against the glass and told her to tell him I was here and I was taking care of it. She read it, said something in Arabic. Smiled at me and nodded. I got back in line & took care of the reservation. I sauntered back across the street at a more leisurely pace and climbed up the stairs. The doorman smiled and nodded at me, “Did Sir get his business taken care of?” I smiled back. “Yes sir, and my name is Albert, Sir is a term of respect I hardly deserve.” He chuckled and held the door for me. I entered, got my key and asked to send a telex to my parents in care of Morgan Equipment. I wrote out ' DAD-got to Egypt, oh what a story I have to tell you. All is well so far. Kiss mom 4 me- A' . I got to my room, stripped down, took a shower and collapsed in the bed. I was asleep almost instantly and I slept for almost 16 hours.
When I awoke it was to the sound of a call to prayer being broadcast on loudspeakers somewhere outside. It was afternoon. The sun was low in the sky. I walked to the bathroom and found two facilities there. One was a western Toilet and the other had a metal ring on the inside of the bowl with holes that pointed upward and a foot pedal. I approached it cautiously and I examined it without actually touching it. Once I had gathered a fair amount of information I believed I understood how it worked, but to test my theory I took a step back and placed my bare foot gently on the foot pedal. Water shot out of the holes and arched towards the center like a fountain. Hmmm. I examined it again and said aloud for no one to hear “I'll be damned.” I found out later that this was a bidet. Although the novelty of it was appealing I chose to stick with the equipment I was licensed and trained to use. I took another shower, washed out my dirty clothes and got dressed. I stepped onto the small Veranda that overlooked the Nile. There was one of those triangular sailed ships heading up river and the sound of traffic and people rose to my ears. I realized that I had not eaten since the sandwiches I'd had more then a day before and I decided it might be a decent time to get some chow. I put on my trusty Puma's and walked to the restaurant and ordered some chicken. After dinner I went back down to the Lobby and out the door. The same doorman was standing there. “Good evening S..., I mean Albert Sir.” I smiled and nodded. I asked his name and he gave it. I said, “I need your advice. I'm here in your wonderful country to see the museum of Egyptology, the Pyramids , Sphinx the place that was referred to as Mosque of 1,000 lights. I also want to experience Cairo as a non typical tourist. My question to you is this, would I be better off hiring cabs to take me to these places or should I take a bus or something like it, and if this is the case where would I find a bus schedule?” He nodded and then got the door for another tourist who didn't make eye contact with the doorman but gave me a nod. I nodded back, and looked back to the doorman saying, “I don't know why he was looking at me, your the one who has the cool threads.” This caused the doorman to chuckle. He nodded and said “Albert, sir, my nephew is saving up to buy his girlfriend an engagement ring. She's a beautiful girl and her family is well respected. I assume that you are a student at University?” I shrugged and nodded “Not yet, but I'm on my way...I'm going to Art school, thus the reason for my trip here. To know the adult, study the child- as far as western civilization goes.” He nodded, “Yes Albert sir, my Nephew is also a student at University, He is taking up engineering. I believe he could take you wherever you would wish to go for shall we say $100 Egyptian pounds for the entire week you are to be here?” I Nodded, “ I might want to do a few other things not just what I told you. To be honest I'm wanting to see all that I can.” He nodded. “He will happily take you where you wish to go for the week for $100 Egyptian Pounds.” I smiled gave him a nod, shook his hand and told him to have his nephew meet me here in the morning. I re entered the Hotel and made my way back to the room and read till I fell asleep.
The Next morning I was starving. I made my way to the restaurant and ate the continental breakfast, drank 2 cups of the coffee (“Home brew, not the stuff the European's want” I told the waiter and I'm here to tell you that that shit was as stiff as a board) I hit the street the doorman met me, smiled and introduced me to his Nephew. He was a tall 20 year old. Handsome swarthy with a single Eyebrow. I asked him how he wanted payment, now, after, during? He said that He needed gas however I could pay the balance at the end of the week. I gave him a bill and said the first thing I wanted to do was hit the Sphinx and the Pyramids. He nodded and asked if I might like to stop at Memphis first as it was on the way. I said sure. We stopped and saw the great monolithic statue of Ramses in Memphis and the small ruin there and was off to the plain of Giza. We pulled into the public parking area and my driver said he had some errands to run, however he would be back to pick me up in 2 hours. I said to make it 3. Then I walked. I stood were Napoleon stood and was face to face with the Great Sphinx, I wondered how many had stood there in that spot in 4,000 years seeking the answer. There are rumors that the Sphinx is much much older then the Pyramids, by thousands and thousands of years. I sat on the sand and drew what it was that I saw. Then I walked to the Great Pyramid of Khufu. Although it resembles a big pile of rocks I knew that at one time that the whole thing was once covered with polished alabaster, and the crown was of solid gold and shown like a star. It was said that the Greeks could see it on a clear day. A tour of the inside was being formed and I joined. We went in through the hole that Napoleon had blasted in it, and climbed the long ramp and stood in the silent empty burial chamber. Then we exited and examined the smaller pyramids surrounding it. I sat down again and drew all of what was in front of me. A man with a camel came up and asked if I wished to ride. I asked him where he was going and he just looked at me. I only then realize that this supposed to part of the Souvenir picture opportunity so you could say to your friends you were Lawrence of Arabia and produce the proof that you weren't nuts. I thanked him and said no. I moved to another spot and drew an odd angle of the Sphinx with extreme perspective. When I was almost finished with my drawing my ride had returned and found me. It was then well into the afternoon. He asked if I was hungry. I said sure, I could eat. He then took me to a crowded cafe and ordered for us both. To this day I don't know what I was eating, but it was mighty tasty. I think this was his form of test. The food was obviously unfamiliar to me however when it arrived I watched his technique on how to eat it and dug right in...I didn't ask what was in it, Hell if didn't kill him I doubted it'd kill me. I was returned safely to the hotel and told him to meet me there in the morning.
The next morning I hit the road ready to do the museum of Egyptology. I had my full drawing kit and my pad. He dropped me off in front of the main exit and asked when he should return. I told him to return at the end of the day, I had much to do here. As I entered the museum I was told I was not allowed to bring my pad and drawing materials in. I argued with the security guard that this was why I was here. He led me to his boss, same conversation, on to his boss....all the way up the food chain. An hour later I found myself in the office of the Director of the Old Dynasty wing. It was a nice office, a touch of classic with a hint of modern. The air conditioning was a bit too high for my taste and the Woman behind the desk was dressed as one might expect a museum director to dress. I sat. We had the same conversation that I had had all morning. I asked why I was not allowed to carry my drawing materials into the museum. I was told that they were afraid I might attempt to damage the antiques. I shook my head in disbelief. “Madam, I have traveled halfway around the globe to be here right now. And half of that in one leap. I have come far to see these things, to study them and to keep a record of my findings. This place is filled with the creative efforts of men, without these efforts you would have nothing to study, this would be a mausoleum filled with very old cloth wrapped bodies. You would not know from when or where just that they were old. By studying them you understand your own culture and to know the past you can understand the future. This is the cradle for my own culture, are you saying you'd deny me that understanding?” She looked over her glasses at me. “Sir, by your own admission you are not associated with any school, you are going to begin University at an Art school this fall. How do I even know if you are what you say you are?” I handed her my sketchbook. “I did those yesterday.” She flipped back and fourth and kept coming back to the accelerated perspective drawing of the Sphinx. She handed me back the sketchbook and said “You are very good. I think that if you were to make a cultural contribution to the collection it would prove your sincerity.” I looked at her and understood what she wanted. “Will this drawing do?” She nodded. I signed it and tore it out of the sketchbook. She then hand wrote a note in Arabic saying “if any of the guards suggest you have your tools in the museum without permission please show them this note, if there is any other problem please have them call me.” and I took my note and left her office and proceeded into the collection. For all I know that drawing is still in her office. I got a map of the museum and began walking amongst the collection. When I went into the hall of the monoliths I looked carefully at the statues that were attached to the walls. At one time the walls had been painted a light gray, then after that a very institutional light mint green, and then the present yellow. How did I know this? They had not bothered to mask off the statues from the walls so there was a ribbon of color where the statues met the walls. The gray was the oldest, then the green was on top of that, then the yellow. I also noticed that many of the statues had been the victim of of over spray or spray from a brush as they had a thin mist of the yellow paint on them. So much for their concern that I might be the one to damage the antiques. You cannot imagine the amount of stuff that they store in that museum. The mummies were stacked like cord wood. We are talking hundreds upon hundreds of mummified cats. Glass Cases of the jars used to store the organs of a mummified person. They made a habit of wrapping small charms of precious metal and semi precious stones in with the mummy-there was an endless number of these, and statues, and pieces of statues....My god it looked like history's rummage sale. The star attraction of King Tut's tomb just happened to be in New York at the time (Damnit, it would fit I'd travel half way round the world to see this stuff and the star of the show was in my own country). Oh well. I did some drawings of the statues, a couple of a much smaller and more complete sphinx and some line drawings of some of the charms, mostly concerning the God who's name I believe is Bela, the prankster god of children. I also took about a roll of film. I was hassled about a dozen times, I pulled out the note, they read it, handed it back and left me alone.
I decided it might be time to get some chow, so I left the museum and headed in a direction seeking a place to eat. As I walked I encountered Cairo. What a place. Women dressed from head to toe completely in black with the only visible part of them being their hands and eyes, they seemed to flow across the street effortlessly. The men were dressed in this garment that looked like a thick Night shirt with pockets...I decided I must have one. As I traveled down the street I saw something that I thought would be an unbelievable photo Op. I saw an ancient man in what seemed traditional dress astride a donkey. Both were leaning against a high stone wall seemingly asleep. I thought of the scene in the Movie Cat Balou where Lee Marvin is in just such a pose. I pulled the camera up to my eye after having put a new roll in moments before and pulled the image into focus. I reached for the shuttle release and heard a nose that every man seems to instinctively know: The sound of the bolts of rifles being pulled back to load a bullet into the chamber. I dropped the camera and looked to my left. A soldier was pointing a rifle at me, I turned to my right another soldier another rifle, I instinctively backed out of the way and felt one behind me. “NO Take picture!” said the one to my right. I nodded and dropped the camera back down around my neck. “NO TAKE PICTURE!!!” he repeated. I nodded and pulled it up to show him that the picture counter was still on “0”. He nodded and they lowered their rifles. “YOU GO NOW!!!!!!” and I nodded and was on my way. I am truly amazed I didn't shit myself. I walked up the block and turned the corner attempting to get out of the line of site in case they changed their minds. I turned again just to make sure I'd lost them....I saw the front of what I had previously been trying to photograph the back wall of. It was an Embassy, and I seem to remember it was the Swiss Embassy. It all added up...the middle east was and still is a tense political situation and I had just had my first taste of it. I nervously found a place to grab a bite and returned to the museum using an alternate path. At days end my ride was there and I was delivered back to the hotel and as I read myself to sleep that night I thought....”dear diary, was not killed today. I guess we should call it a success.”

The next day I was bound for a place that I was told I could not, should not miss. It was referred to as the “mosque of a thousand lights”although the only place that I could find now that had that reference was in India. I told my driver what I knew and he delivered me to a medieval fortress of a building and told me to meet him back at this entrance in 3 hours. Considering it was 30 years ago I believe it was the Mosque of Sultan Hassan and/or El Rifai Mosque which is just across the street. I just don't recall. The description of one fits except for one detail and it is present in the other. I was greeted at the gate by a man at the great doors with "Salam alékum,” he then asked if I would like a tour of the great Mosque? I said yes, He told me it would cost me the sum of 5 Egyptian Pounds as an offering. I said of course. I was then told that I should either remove my shoes or apply coverings for them, These I could use for the sum of another 5 Egyptian pounds. I said of course. I applied canvas like sacks to cover my shoes. I was then asked if I might like the tour in French, German, Italian or English. I said English and we were off. The place had been what we think of as a Cathedral of sorts. It was a school as well as a place to gather to contemplate and pray. He gave me a tour of the extensive grounds, the buildings that had acted as dormitories for the schools were abandoned. We then entered the place of prayer. How to describe this place? It was immense. Unlike the St. Peters in Rome which looks like an overcrowded Antique store this place was lavish and restrained. The beauty was in the small things, the interlocking blocks that left engineers baffled. The mosaics on the walls constructed without mortar or any kind of adhesive, the intricate patterns that were part decorative but also Cali graphic passages from the Koran. I am attempting with little success to filter through my memories of this place seeking details that I can relate. It was overwhelming, The quietness, the silence. I have to say that in my opinion that if God were to visit he'd feel more comfortable here then at the Vatican. There was a tomb that was surrounded by sandalwood screen that was immense. The smell of the sandalwood both pungent and sweet, Small indentations in the walls that had had elaborate patterns when one looked, yet when one stepped back they were of simplicity itself and could easily be missed. I have never seen anything like this place, and were I to ever go back to Cairo I would scour the city until I found it again and I would just sit and take reams of notes and thousands of sketches. I have remembered this place whenever I sit down to design something, I remember the lessons learned there. Many people celebrate my designs as being pure, that there is nothing that I include that does not belong, or does not serve the overall purpose...It was here that I learned the importance of these qualities. My head reeled as I stepped back into the world. Unfortunately I stepped out in a place that was not where I had gone in. I walked along the wall and encountered the Egyptian mystique, yet the presence of the military on every corner assured that this was only part of the whole...I finally found where I went in and my driver waited for me, he was much relieved to see me, it seems I had been let out in somewhat dangerous part of town. I mentioned to him that I wished I could find one of the garments that I saw men wearing...He smiled as we got into his car and said in essence “I know a guy...”. He had attempted to make my riding with him comfortable by playing Rock and Roll from the west on his stereo...however one can only listen to Smoke on the water so many times...I commented that he must REALLY like Deep Purple...He looked at me and told me that he had only played it for my sake. Would I like to listen to some local stuff. I told him I was here and 'when in Rome...'. He didn't know the passage. However he did put on an 8 track of some local Egyptian music that he rather enjoyed. It wasn't unpleasant...doesn't help when you can't understand the lyrics...however it beat the hell out of deep purple. We arrived at his friends store. I was greeted by the owner and told I was his first customer and thus he must make the best deal of the day with me. I explained what I was looking for...He produced examples of the article in question except these were embroidered with patterns, more elaborate, made from finer cloth. I shook my head no, no, no. I could tell that he was getting frustrated. He asked again what it is that I was looking for. I took him to the door of his s hop and pointed at a man walking down the street....”THAT is what I want.” He shook his head in disbelief. why would I want the clothes of a common worker? I smiled and said “because my friend, I AM a common worker. He nodded and brought forth the same garments as before accept in common canvas, the pockets deep, long sleeves that covered my hands should I need to touch something hot. I smiled and told him I'd take two. He then attempted to sell me the head gear cloth with the joined head band that one immediately associates with an Arab suggesting that it would amuse my friends. I shook my head and assured this man that any friend of mine would not be amused by the clothes of such a complex group of people, more amazed at what I would tell them I'd seen. This seemed to impress the hell out of him, He knocked 20% off the price he'd quoted me for what I had chosen to buy. I wore those garments for years. They were warm in the cold of Cleveland winter, they were cool in warmth of the summer. They got covered in spilled ink, coffee, torn and patched, until they were little more then rags. Best article of clothes I ever bought. I have had complaints concerning the length of the chunks of my trip so I'll just end this here and next we'll go to Greece.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Part 3 following the path of the sun, My last days in the South Pacific and going west.

I turned 21 while on Bougainville. Although I could drink anything I wanted anywhere I wanted, officially I was underage. As I announced this fact while I sat on the Veranda of LSSC, listening to crashing of the Ocean's waves not 10' below me,feeling the salt air lick my face and surrounded by the Male friends I had made I was told by them that it was common that on one's 21st birthday one showed at the local Pub to “call the Bar.” IE buy a round for house. I had learned to love these people so I had gotten quite comfortable there and was more then willing to honor this tradition. It was that evening that over the shortwave that piped rock and roll music into the bar when the the 50 Toya juke box wasn't being engaged that I heard a song that was a call from the life I'd had in Phoenix, less then a year before. It was Queen's “39”. Not a great song by Queen but one that hit me in a vulnerable spot. I began to think of my friends there, they were doing pretty much what I was doing, turning a buck while it was light out, spending free time in each others company to share war stories and allow the alcohol to do the job on us that WD-30 did on rusty threads: un stick, loosen, remove the mechanical energy stored in us doing what we had to do to survive. I was suddenly Homesick. It didn't last long but I recall the sharp edged emptiness of that moment even now. I would love to have celebrated my 21st with the guys I left in Phoenix however I was here, and these loud raucous Sex maniacs and talented alcoholics suited me. I was also considering doing a few other things. My crew and I had gotten tight and I was offered the opportunity to join the clan. On the Island this condition is called “gon Tropo”, and I have to admit, the life of being a fair sized fish and still growing in a very small pond appealed to me. TO join the clan I would have to undergo a manhood test, get my nose pierced for a pig tusk that officially I would have to take from a pig I killed but I could buy one at the local market. I would undergo a scarring that would mark me a man and a member of the clan. I was actually seriously considering this. I bought the Pig Tusk and when I emptied my pockets on my arrival home from the market my father saw the pig tusk and wanted to know what in the hell I was going to do with it. So, I told him. Well by now you can imagine his reaction: He blew a gasket. He threatened to remove all assistance while I was in School and I would never be welcome in his home again... He ranted and raved for about 20 minutes when I noticed my mother just quietly staring at me. She had the look. That look warned that you were coming very close to the end of her patience and that she was rallying her troops, and those troops consisted of the all the armies of Hell. She looked at my dad and silenced him with the same look (I think paraphrasing Rudyard Kipling is appropriate here “ They called her Raksha, meaning Demon, Father wolf had almost forgotten what she was like in a fight, they called her demon, it was a name she had earned and not because she was a great dancer.”) My mother turned to me and said just loud enough for me to hear through her clenched teeth. “Albert K, You're 21 now. You can do whatever you wish to do. Just know this...IF you do this, I will not know you, I will not know your children, I will not know their children. Now you do whatever you want.” and with that she turned and walked away. Needless to say I abandoned these plans. I think I still have the pig tusk, Shame really I'd have been a huge hit in Art school.
My last days in the yard were extremely odd. One day a strange local struggled up the road, turned into the yard as though he had some sorta palsy coming straight for me. This man had something wrong with him and the crew could smell it. He struggled to me and said “Masa, need wok? Mi wok.” meaning he was inquiring if I had a job available for him. Before I could answer I saw a stone fly past me and damn near hit the guy. Then another then a rain. The boys were expelling this man with curses and a word I'd never heard before. “Masalia!” (Masa- LIE) the man ran away up the road, tripping as he went. I asked Clabus what the hell that was all about. Clabus wouldn't look me in the eye as he tapped his finger to his head as he shook it to suggest that the guy had something in his head and he didn't want to say. That night I related the incident to the guy I worked with while we sat drinking our beer. He shook his head. “Masalai is their word for the devil, they thought the guy was possessed. Bloody Kanaka's, The guy is sick in the head, and they see it as the work of the devil. He won't survive the week. Bloody Kanaka's”. I usually waited for my ride in the morning in front of the Arawa Post office which was slightly down and across the street from the Hospital. As I stood in the cool morning light I saw something not right in the jungle just behind the Hospital. There was something that was in the trees that didn't belong there. I walked slowly towards the visage, as I grew closer I could see that there was a man that had climbed into a tree. Maybe he was sleeping up there. As I grew closer I could see that he hadn't climbed the tree, he was hanging from it. As I approached I watched as the Pink snails moved over his flesh exploring it for whatever they could eat. He dangled at the end of a knotted sheet that had been tied around his neck and had been used to hoist him into the tree. The ground around was trampled and the man had been beaten. It was the same man that had approached me looking for a job the day before.

It was also at this time that my career as an artist almost took a serious hit. It was one of my last days in the yard and we were waiting on a crane to come and pick up a large container that was shaped like the shavings container that covered a pencil sharpener, except that this one was 12' tall and made from plate steel and weighed about a ton. It was a fuel tank for one of the mobile machines at the mine and we had placed threaded bungs on all the lines that lead to the interior. One thing anyone who has any experience working with or on machinery will tell you is that sand in the fuel tank will quite literally destroy the machine that the fuel is powering. We had removed the bungs on the side and we were waiting for the crane to come to lift it so we could get the two on the underside. We got word that the crane would be delayed a day, and although I would have needed the same crane to put it on the back of the truck to carry it back up the mountain, I decided, foolishly I might add, to get a pipe wrench under it and twist the threaded bungs off. The box itself was supported by logs of “Diwai”(wood) and I grabbed a monkey wrench and reached under it and began to turn the bung off. Before my third turn the diwai log holding the container upright slipped and the whole thing came down on my hand. To this moment in time I cannot understand why my hand wasn't crushed. Needles to say with the rounded bottom it rolled over a bit and I was able to pull my hand free. I had a gaping hole in the back of my hand near the base of the thumb that was an 1” wide and 2” long and was at least ½” deep. The Jungle with its moisture and heat is the last place on the earth you want a serious wound like this. I told Clabus I needed to be run to the haus sik (hospital) and that he should finish that blast, shut it down, clean up and wait for Robbie to come back and To tell him where I was and I'd call him. I ran down the road and got the guy who ran the mine's junk yard and told him I needed a ride to the hospital. The blood pouring out of my wound told him why. He dropped me off at the hospital and I ran in and got the attention of the doctor. This was the one of the weirdest hospitals I'd ever been to. Because I wasn't a mine employee he didn't know what to do with me, I assured him we could straighten this up after he sewed me up. He then took me into the operating room and asked if I wanted him to clean out the wound. I assured him I did. He then asked me if I would want him to put antiseptic on and sterilize the wound. I said yes, that would be swell. At that moment a stray dog walked past the open door and I told him that I would also prefer it if he kept the dog out of the room while he was sewing me up. He closed the door and cleaned and then sterilized my wound. He then sewed it up. By that time Robbie had shown up and I filled him in on what had happened and he just shook his head in disgust. I think he figured I was smarter then that and maybe he'd been wrong about a few other things. I told Robbie that I'd cover an expense that I incurred and he assured me that this was indeed the fact. The doctor sewed me up and Robbie took me home and without a word drove away. Within a week the wound was red and sensitive to the touch. For some reason they only gave me antibiotics when I went back and showed them the wound. It was then that they told me that if it got much worse they might have to fly me out to have my thumb removed. I went into I was just months from going to art school and I was contemplating removing the thumb of my drawing hand. I'm not sure if I was upset with myself for doing something so stupid or at the doctor for not giving me antibiotics after he sewed me up, however I looked the doctor straight in the eye and said “you cut off my thumb and I'll kill and eat your first born in front of you.” He was shocked I guess because he thought I'd meant every word of it. He asked then what I suggested they do. I remembered that they kept some serious antibiotics on hand for spinal and deep wound and bone infections, I think it was Cipro. It was what they gave a guy at the mine who had had fallen three stories and only saved his own life by grabbing onto a cable. Sliding down that cable had turned the palm of his hand into hamburger.
I was warned that the potency necessary would make me nauseous and give me diarrhea. I assured the doctor that me being sick was preferable to me being maimed. Inside of two weeks my wound was clean again and allowed to heal normally. However for years I had a prominent scar on my right hand that resembled a sickle and I noticed nerve damage in the surrounding area of the wound itself. I don't know if allowing me to take the slurry house job was his way of assuring himself I wouldn't be hurting myself again, or if he was just so disappointed in me that he didn't want to look at me any more then he had to. I could be imagining it...30+ years is a long to speculate on the subject, however I did notice that he had less to say to me, and if he did it was all business. However I survived intact. I have done some equally stupid things since then that did harm to my hands and the rest of my body...It wasn't the first time nor would it be the last. I suppose that's why youngsters heal so fast.

It was also coming on time for the planned trip into the bush to find Yamamoto's plane. The number in attendance would be about 12 guys. Half of them made the trip regularly, the other half were some of my father's minions and the guy I worked with, along with prior discussed mine equipment manager. We loaded up into 3 range rovers and headed toward Buin. It was up the road past the mine and into the Jungle proper. When surrounded with this untamed wilderness, one feels small, insignificant. One would drive past trees that were as big around as a house, and dealing with the sensory overload of the green surrounding with the only light being delivered in small bright pin points in the canopy over head one begins to understand how the world was when we were still monkeys hanging from trees. The trip was long and arduous. We traveled on roads that were just barely that, through rivers and streams that traveled at various speeds and were of various depths. It took us all day to get to Buin. We camped in a clearing on the outskirts of the Village of Buin and the guys set up camp. What can I say, they had generators, cooked pork, had a stereo and of course all the beer you could drink...a real testosterone male bonding event if I ever experienced one. We fell asleep surrounded by the forest but because we had camped in a clearing we could see all the stars of the milky way above us. I have never seen the stars like I did that night. It was one of the more beautiful things that I ever saw. The next morning we had breakfast and broke camp. We were back on the road within an hour, driving through Buin and beyond. We finally reached a small village close to the site and found the man who owned the property that held the plane. A deal was struck for him to take us there and back. So now we set out on foot. We went deeper into the jungle wading across a stream that we were told was good to drink from. I did something then that I have never felt safe to before or after. I reached down and drank directly from the stream. The water was cool, sweet and clear. After walking for almost an hour and a half at about 1 in the afternoon we came finally to a small clearing. Until one has done it one can never truly know what it is to sweat in air that has damn near 90% humidity. We were soaked to the bone in our own sweat. There before us was the wreck of an aluminum airplane, Partially grown over by the bush but not as much as it could have if not maintained, the area around the major part of plane was littered with parts of the plane, some of them having been molten in the past and allowed to cool and remain where they landed, A testament to a Horrible crash, a terrible fire. One could almost hear the screams. Around this was pieces of fresh cut wood with Japanese writing on them. The air was quiet and thank God the men I was with treated it like the tomb that it was. My father had little to say. I think that all the romance he had put into the idea of WW II finally all added up to useless pain and destruction and complete futility. I can't be sure of this, I half expected an eruption of curses concerning Pearl Harbor...but he remained mostly silent and only spoke in a low voice when he spoke at all. After about an hour we decided it was time we started making our way back. We reached the edge of Panguna by dark and drove the rest of the way down the mountain back home and were showering getting ready for a well deserved sleep by 10:00. I don't recall my father discussing the trip until we were back in Phoenix the Christmas after we had all returned to the states.

About two weeks after the trip into the bush I returned from work to find my mother in my bedroom staring out the window with a sort've fascinated glare that one sees on people who are either watching a car wreck or somebody about to jump off a roof. My window faced the neighbor's house. He was a local who found himself a job as a low level manager so he was given his own house for him and his family. I headed for the shower to rid myself of the grit and sweat that I seemed to achieve at work and upon returning to my room found my mother just as I'd left her. “Hi honey, how was work? Come here and look at this.” I came up behind her and saw that the neighbor's dog was tied to one of the posts that held up the house. The Dog was a bitch in heat and every buck within miles had come to pay his respects. There were dog “confrontations” going on in the yard probably to figure who was going to get the next turn. The bitch seemed to look as completely exhausted as I imagined she was because of all the attention she was getting, I sorta understood what caught my mothers attention, Nothing like a canine gang rape to pass the day. “Ma, Please don't have me explain to you what they're doing.” She turned and with a 'shut up smartass' look, assured me that she KNEW what they were doing, after all she had brought both me and my sister into the world. What confused her was that if the people wanted to keep the puppies they'd have picked just one of the males so that they'd be sure what the puppies would like like...with this approach, she was sure that each puppy would come out looking completely different from each other. I realized what was going on and as gently as I could, explained to my mother that the puppies would come out looking exactly like they were supposed to, like dinner. My mother was at first shocked and then concerned. The reason for her concern is one of those things that I learned was just part of my Mothers unique charm: she stated she hoped that the lady of the house would hopefully forget that she, my mother, had requested a sample tasting of the local native cuisine. The subject never came up again. My mother was in her element on Bougainville. The house was small and we showed up just before dark with little more energy to do anything but to eat and sleep. She had developed a ring of friends that met for coffee damn near every morning. All were married to the guys who made the Mine work, All knew the same folks, all would share info, exchange food goods far particular recipes ( my ma took a shot at cooking some of the pink snails into escargot) gather to learn from one something that they all wished to know. At night there was nothing else to do but to get together and socialize so my father would accompany her to other peoples houses while the men talked of sports and work, the woman would discuss all those mysterious things that fascinate women that they hadn't covered in complete detail during their meetings during the day.

I had finally decided to make my way to the travel agent and start the ball rolling for my extraction from New Guinea. I had pretty much decided the route that I would pursue, I would go to china, I would go to India, I would go to Egypt, then on to Greece, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, France, England and then home. I mentioned my plans to my parents and saw the look of concern on both their faces. China was communist, Germany was up close and personal to the iron curtain and the Egypt had terrorists that set off bombs. I wanted to see the Great Wall, The Taj, The Pyramids, The Acropolis and then the major Museums and still have about 3 weeks back in the states before I needed to worry about getting to Cleveland to start school. My Father pulled me aside about a day later after I'm sure some private conversation between him and my mother. “look, I want to reconsider your itinerary. We don't want you dealing with communist countries or the middle east. Please your mother is worried sick that something will happen and I still live with her.” The three of us discussed this at length for days, I arguing that this might be my only chance to see these things, they concerned that where these things were located were locations that I might never escape from. The debate ensued. We finally negotiated an either or situation, I could either go to China, or Egypt. I decided on Egypt. After all I wasn't sure I'd get a visitors visa for china. So I made my appointment with the travel agent. When I had finally made it into his office I forgot to bring the notes and had him make the reservations out of New Guinea, to Manila, which was one of two choices I had the other being Australia. From there to India to Egypt, to Greece, Italy, France, Netherlands, and then to England. I forgot to mention Germany. And the travel agent booked me to India as only a three hour stopover at 2 am on my way from the Philippines to Egypt. I didn't realize all this till I was on my way to Manila, and by that time is was too late, my visa into Egypt was date specific. I planned on leaving Bougainville at the end of May. I began to take my camera to the separate spots on the island that I wished to photograph. These were not the postcard views of the island such as the palm tree lined beach, The New England seaside village quality of Kieta, The modern efficient gloss of Panguna, the vast hole in the earth that was the mine, the happy national/western work force working side by side struggling to bring Papua-New Guinea into the 20th century. I had no interest to take one photo of a copra or coco plantation, I didn't wish to capture the Primitive Charm of the Island I had called home for almost a year, or even the nostalgic objects left there by the war. I didn't even take a picture of Mt. Bagana, the active Volcano who's smoking top always threatened to let loose and spew like an over ripe pimple in the middle of the island. I photographed the yard. I photographed the front of LSSC, I photographed the market with the nursing mothers selling their wares for coins and their husbands, brothers, fathers and sons in the shade chewing beetle nut and smoking their 2 toya cigarette/cigars made from twist tobacco rolled in strips of the national Papua- New Guinea newspaper. I photographed the milling locals that hung out every day in front of the supermarket, not cause there was anything for them there, it was that they had nothing else to do, the mine had probably brought them and their families there to work and because of one reason or another, whether it was drunkenness while at work, Or over reacting to some insult delivered by an expat, whatever the reason they had lost their job and didn't have enough money to return home. To proud to beg, they sought whatever work they could find. I photographed the places that meant something to me and the people I saw. Mostly the locals...I had been studying their faces for almost a year and I sensed the intense confusion with what was happening to their culture and their country. It was the look of culture shock. On my last day at work, I handed my keys to the truck to Robbie. He handed me my last pay envelope and a letter of recommendation. I shook his hand and told him I'd enjoyed every minute of it and we parted. The next day I began to pack. I was able to make myself a drawing board that fit into the suitcase with about 5 pads of paper. I collected together a small drawing kit of pencils an eraser, a metal quill, a watercolor brush and a bottle of ink that I double wrapped in plastic. I packed a pair of overalls, 2 pairs of jeans, and about 4 shirts. I would wear my Puma's. I packed toiletries. I then began packing my books, my portfolio that would be sent directly to Boston and be waiting for me there when I got there. I packed the boxes of the things that I had collected, the carvings, the shells, the moments that I had spent there. As I sit here now in front of the screen. My fingers tapping the lettes to assemble the words, the Thompson Twins blaring out of the speakers part of me is still there. Walking on the Island, along the beach, sitting with a rowdy group of mechanics and miners drinking and yelling over the din, I'm standing in the dark watching the pink universe quiver as it ate and mated. I'm loading sand into the hopper, dictating directions on how when and why in a language that sounds alien but made sense to the people that depended on me to make sure they earned their lively hood. I was leaving. This chapter of my life was quickly closing...I would bid it farewell in the morning.

The next morning my father and mother drove me to the airport. I had one suitcase that I would take with me. Another along with my portfolio case with the artwork I'd managed to keep that I'd claim when I'd gotten back to the US. I was introduced to a friend of my father who was fulfilling his requirement to return to his his home country once a year. The Officialdom of PNG had seen what happened to these westerners when they show up and don't that made it necessary for anyone getting a work Visa to return home for 2 weeks every year so they wouldn't get used to living in New Guinea. We took off and out the window Mt. Bagana blew a cloud of smoke that said farewell. I was on my way back to Moresby.

I guess my dad had told this guy that he'd introduced me to keep an eye on me, because when we got to Moresby I found out that he was on the same exact flight leaving the next day going to Manilla. After we checked in to the Davara he headed to the bar, I hit the streets. I wanted to buy some souvenirs for the Aunt that would be picking me up in New York and let me stay with her for a week to get my bearings at being back on American soil. I also needed something for my Great Aunt in Ohio for storing a trunk of my stuff while I was doing my adventure. The plan was I would land in NY, get my shit straitened out, head to Boston, be met at the airport by my Sister, head to the cape and hang for a couple of weeks, get acclimated to no longer being a stranger in a strange land and then drive the family station wagon to Barberton to my Aunts house, hang out there for a day our two collect my trunk and head north to the Dorm and College a few days later. Yeah well the best laid plans of mice and men...

I found a gallery that specialized in local crafts and bought a couple of hanging head/bird carvings, and then decided that some chow was in order. I roamed the open air market and found that the fermenting spoiling dressed carcass' of cus-cus (about the only native mammal to New Guinea, it looks like a possum) that the tattooed local was fanning to keep the flies off of to not be in the least helping my appetite. So I got some banana's and explored. I checked out a Haus Tambaran, This is a highly pitch roofed house that the men use for ceremony and to store ceremonial objects. It looks like the open mouth of a crocodile. I had been trained to notice the scars and facial tattoo's of the locals. I noticed different tribes, villages, and clans. I just wandered that day, feeling lost, purposeless, in a holding pattern. I wasn't there and not quite on my way yet. I was loaded in the chamber and was waiting for the hammer to fall to send me west. However considering what awaited me at the next stop I probably needed as much down time as I could get.

I have debated with myself extensively about how to write down the next part of my story. I spent 46 hours in Manilla, and how I occupied myself there during most of it is not something I would necessarily wish to speak of in front of women or children. It lends little to the story...Its the kind of talk that men speak of when sitting around a table in a bar, with leers and reassurances. Seedy talk, concerning some of the things men and women do together. I can usually pick out the liars just from my dealing with this experience. I wrote out the whole thing here, read it, changed a few things to make it seem less seedy and then just decided to delete it and leave it at; I spent the evening with a few girls attempting to re define Sin, and they about killed me. Anything you may have heard about multiple sex partners at once being the greatest experience any man ever had is either a better man then myself or lying. I felt like I'd been passed through a meat grinder. The morning after I could barely walk, I could not speak, and I had possibly the worst hangover of my life. I have often described how I felt as feeling as though someone had removed my spine, beat me with it like a rubber hose and then managed to put it back upside down. Lets just leave it there. As the girls left I fell back on the bed and attempted to sleep. I checked the clock it was 2 in the afternoon. It took me about 3 hours to muster myself into a clean pair of jeans, a clean shirt and to put the clothes I'd worn the day before in plastic so I could wash them after my next stop. Although I had hours to go before I needed to be at the airport, I decided I'd check out and just motivate in that direction, maybe get some lunch and attempt to read the book I'd brought while I waited in the airport bar that was if I could remember how to focus my eyes. As I left I knocked on my traveling companions door, I heard “What?!” and I announced I was checking out and heading for the airport, he said “OK” and I checked out of the hotel. The sun assaulted me and drilled holes into my eyes as I flagged down a cab. The ride was at breakneck speeds and we had countless near misses, but at that point Death would have been welcome. I got to the airport and stopped at the duty free store, I wanted to buy some this point I would have drank bleach if I thought it would make the pain in my body hurt less. I made my purchase and went into the bar. I ordered coffee, the bartender assured me that they didn't serve coffee. I laid the equivalent of $20 on the bar and asked him if he was sure of that. He got me a cup of coffee, I ordered a sandwich...which I wouldn't have been able to swallow if I didn't have to coffee to wash it down with. I slowly but surely began crawling out of the pit I had woke up in. I drank another cup of coffee and ate another sandwich, It was then I noticed a large older man looking my way. He got up and walked to the table I had been occupying. It was then that I noticed that he and I were the only westerner white people in the bar. “Do you mind if I join you?” He had an unusual accent, and I noticed his suit, It was handmade...probably cost him a couple of grand, at least. His white hair was neatly combed and he his hands were manicured. When he held out his hand for me to shake I noticed that they were as soft as child's. This man had never worked for living. He introduced himself as Michael (MEE shell). I must admit I felt ashamed of my appearance. I was grateful I had bathed, cause I was sure I look like something the cat had thrown up. I offered him a seat and introduced my self as Albert Kauslick, of Phoenix Arizona, most recently from Bougainville, Papua-New Guinea. His eyes lit up, “You know, in all my travels, New Guinea is one of the only places I've never been. But I always wanted to go...Please tell me about it.” He flagged the Bartender and made a circle with his fingers pointing at the table. So I began telling him of where, what and why. I asked him where he hailed from “Originally Belgium, but I only go back once in a while. I've been traveling the world since I got out of University.” His name was Micheal (Meeshell). He was a duke, His cousin was Boudoin, King of the Belgians, and although he and his brother were in line for the throne “many people would have to die before either of us were called on.” He had decided to fly into the Philippines because his brother enjoyed the cigars they made there better then the he had popped in to pick him up a couple of boxes. He was actually on his way to India. I explained the recently discovered Faux Pas concerning my trip to India, and he reassured me that It was a pity, it was worth the trip. However he doubted that it would be going anywhere and it gave me an excuse to return to that area of the world. We entertained each other for an hour or two, and I finally Said “Look, nothing personal, however I used to date a woman named Michelle, and the way you pronounce your name reminds me of her...How about if I just call you Mike?” He smiled wide...”Oh, that would be delightful...Mike...yes, I like that. They call me Meeschy at home and it makes my skin crawl. Yes Mike, Mike will do wonderfully. Tell me Albert, What airline are you traveling on?” I pulled out the ticket and handed it to him...”I can't make heads or tails...I think Egyptair and I think that's the flight number.” He looked at the ticket and handed it back. “Albert, I need to be excused for a moment. I'll be back however...If you please?” I nodded “Pal, I've got no plans other then to rebuild my spine and be on that plane when it leaves.” He smiled and walked out of the bar. I ordered a beer...I was beginning to feel as though I might just survive. He returned in about 20 minutes and sat grinning. “Ah, my new friend, I see you have graduated from coffee to something with some spirit in it.” I nodded and eluded to the evening I'd spent. He shook his head and said something about youngsters. I asked if he'd taken care of whatever he needed to do. He smiled a yes and then told me he'd arranged to change his flight to the one I would be taking. I lifted my Eyebrows. He noticed, “I hope you don't mind, however I rarely find a traveling companion who's company I enjoy as much as yours. I hope my company doesn't labor you too much?' I smiled and shook my head “Naw pal, I don't mind your company in the least, however you must let me buy you a drink for a change.” He smiled and stated that if I insisted he was drinking cognac. I killed my beer and motioned to the bartender for two of what ever Mike was drinking He complied. I was ready to down it like a shot. Mike held his soft hand on mine and said “No Albert. Cognac is a complete experience. First allow it to sit in the glass. Treat it like a beautiful woman. Sit, let her fill your senses. Put your nose in the glass, notice how it is shaped so the vapors will be funneled into your nose. Now gently breathe in through your nose. Let it fill you. Allow her to warm in your hands...let her unfold for you. The glass in the bottom of the snifter is thinner so that the heat from your hand will allow it to bloom. Now take just the smallest bit in and allow it to sit on your tongue and gently let it slide down your throat. Yes. Good yes?” I nodded. Yes it was good. He nodded and smiled. “My friend, Good cognac and fine cigars are the grease that allows heads of state to sit as men and have something in common. It is the joy that each find in these that allows them to discuss their differences. Trust me on this. Many wars have been avoided in the modern world because of the two items that we are enjoying.” He then related his adventures as a part time diplomat. There was an incident with the wife of a head of state when he was in college. Seemed she had her own plans for Mike, The tryst was discovered and it almost caused an international incident. It was decided that Mike should possibly abandon his diplomatic responsibility and just do whatever he wished. I smiled. “so, we're a couple of black sheep who happened to land here on our way to somewhere else?” He nodded with a smile. Mike and I sat next to each other on the flight out of Manilla and discussed many subjects: Art, Politics, religion, elected government vs. one of inheritance ( I recounted the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where one is dubbed king because a watery tart threw a sword at him...Mike laughed so hard I thought he was going to have a stroke...He needed to see that film so I wrote it down for him) I think he enjoyed my company because His being what he was seemed to be far less important to me then who he was. We deplaned in Bombay at about 2 am and I walked him to his gate. We parted company when his flight loaded with a hand shake and a farewell. He turned and was gone. I sent some postcards of my travels to the address he gave me. When I finally got to Cleveland and had a chance to unpack, I chose a drawing of one of the locals I had done in New Guinea and signed it “for my friend, Mike, Who needs to go and meet this guy in person and who taught me how to drink a civilized beverage in and uncivilized place.” and I sent it to the address. About 8 weeks later just after my mid terms, I got a box delivered to me, the post mark was from Istanbul. Within was a bottle of cognac and a note “Albert my friend, received the drawing. It was beautiful-thank you so much. Here is a small gift I retrieved from the house...enjoy it my friend. 'MIKE'”. I called a couple of the guys that lived in the dorm and we sat down and polished off the bottle in one evening and I gotta admit it was as smooth as glass. I kept the bottle and kept pennies in it for years. When I was in Boston after I'd graduated, a guy I knew who drank cognac regularly, saw the bottle and asked just where I'd gotten it. I told him. He shook his head and stated, “ That bottle of “hootch” as you called it would probably cost you about $5,000 to replace.” he offered me $100 for the empty bottle, I told him no. It broke in the move down here. I dunno. I never heard from Mike again and I lost the address years ago. I hope if he is still amongst the living that he is well and to know, that the only hootch I drink now is Cognac, and I have introduced many of the deserving to the 'beautiful lady.'

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Part 2 Tracking the Sun, My life in New Guinea

We had been there about a week. I had already settled into the “boys” bedroom that was blue and had anchors and life preserver curtains, my parents had taken the master bedroom with the air conditioning. I set up a table in the spare room that my mom was using for storage and her sewing. I pulled out the art supplies I had brought and realized that I had no straight razor's to sharpen my pencils. I went down to the chemist shop (drugstore) and asked after straight razors-I was pointed at a small 5” x 6” square box on one of the shelves. I figured that I'd save time and buy the whole box. Little did I know that this would be the event to lead me to meet most of the expat community in Arawa and hook me up to the Wontok code. See, I had managed to buy the island's entire supply of Straight razors. When living on an Island one learns to depend on the 3-4 times a year when the “ship comes in” bearing the supplies that make life less of a drag, When one sought something one did not see on the shelves, one would hear the term (In Pidgin, usually from a local working the cash register) “He gon finish” which literally translates to “its gone for good.” When my sister came for Christmas she brought three suitcases, 2 ½ were filled with the stuff that my family couldn't get there or was gone finish. I would get visitors damn near every day asking if I was the “Yank that bought all the razors?” I answered I was, well they needed one or two-what did I want for them, I said 'hell her just take a couple'. This put them in my debt. I thought nothing of it however It had some surprising consequences.
After about a week on the job, the other employee came into the yard and unloaded his crew and their supplies. I was just waiting for somebody to drop me off at the post office, about half a mile from my folks house. When he looked at me and asked “Yank, could you use a cold beer?” I said yeah, actually I had needed one for about a week. He invited me into his truck and we drove about a mile up the road and parked in front of the Loloho Sports and Social Club. I was led through the bar proper to the open air Veranda in the back that faced the ocean. This sported three long tables, this is where single men drank, Single woman sat at the bar. Tables in the bar were for married couples ( I guess this arrangement kept the confusion of who was sleeping with whom that night down to a minimum.) and I was offered a seat. ThenI was told to pay Homage. I found out that this was a “game” of sorts. The first one to sit at the table was dubbed the King. He bought himself a beer. The next one to sit had to buy himself and the king a beer, the third had to buy himself, the first guy and the king a beer. Etc. We were the 5th and 6th to arrive. I ended up buying about 7 beers that night, and drank hundreds. I was introduced to many of the people that worked under and with my dad, and many of the people that work in the other professions dealing with the mine and everything not involved with trucks. I was told that L.S.S.C. was a private club and if I wished to join I would have to fill out an application. I did. I had a swell time and was poured into the seat of the truck that brought me and delivered to my front door. I staggered in and went immediately to bed. Needless to say the next day I awoke feeling like I'd spent the time in a tub of frogs that possessed hammers and spent their leisurely evening beating me over the head with them and pissing in my mouth. I was picked up to go to work and was obviously hung over, so Robbie told me to take it easy and let the job handle itself today. It was then I discovered something about Aussies. IF you have dysentery and are throwing up because of the drinking water that has things living in it the Aussies will call you all sort of names and make fun of you, however if you've been “on the piss” as they call it the night before your obviously sick and should take care of yourself. I got three hang over cures that I've employed over the years, the best one was orange Popsicle s and mydol. Anyway, I learned later in the week that I had been turned down as a full member of the the LSSC, A. cause I wasn't officially on contract by the mine, and B. because I didn't own a boat. I guess that living on an Island where it rains every day, had earthquakes regularly, and an active Volcano one doesn't socialize with anyone who doesn't own a boat. However I was given special permission to drink there, come to movie night, and socialize with the members as long “as I didn't prove to be too much of a bloody c*nt.” and folks that was how it was put in writing to me. I was given an anchor shaped bottle opener at the end of a chain for all social occasions I was to attend and instructed to have this opener with me. I still have it on my key chain. I fell in with the Single men at their table, and made friends with a couple of my father's apprentices. After we'd been there for about a month or two all these guys that worked with my dad came up to me en mass while I drank my beer and surrounded me. Okay, guys what's up? I was just sure I had offended somebody...No they said, They wanted to talk to me over here in the corner...we want you to bring your dad down to have a beer with us. I assured them that they should ask him themselves, and they looked at each other and stated that No, they wouldn't dare. They wanted me to do it. And to have me bring him the following Wednesday night. I assured them he wouldn't bite them, They just looked at their shoes and said they wanted me to ask him. OK, I'd ask but I warned them that dad wasn't a drinker...he might drink half a beer if he decided to come at all. They looked at each other and said that would be fine, but they were depending on me. When I got home Dad was sitting at the dinner table looking over a some paper work associated with performance of the trucks he was there to maintain. I sat down and said “I'm coming directly home next Wednesday and taking you to the bar with me. Your people have requested your company and sent me to deliver the invitation. They're afraid they'd offend you by asking you themselves.” He shook his head and said “I don't have time to go to a bar and drink...” I said, “You don't understand, You are coming. You will sit at the table with them and you will drink beer with them, and don't be surprised if they lay palm fronds down for you to walk on.” He looked at me wondering if I was serious, I nodded that yes I was serious and so were they. So the following Wednesday my father accompanied me to the LSSC and I delivered him to his people. I guess they had a hell of a good time because from that day on I wasn't their “friend the yank” I was Their Mate and Wontok. I've used that word twice now, I suppose it needs an explanation. New Guinea has about 2/3 the worlds separate and distinct languages. A “place tok” can only be good for about ½ a mile from any given village. This is why they developed Pidgin, as a trade language. A “Wontok” {one talk} is somebody from your village, probably a member of the family not your brother or father. Somebody you've know since childhood and trust implicitly. For the Aussies on Bougainville it meant a mate, somebody they could trust to steal something that they needed in exchange for them stealing something for you. As I was now Wontok to the guys that worked for my dad I got hooked up to the social scene, what little there was. One guy who was a Kiwi (From New Zealand) even hooked me up for a date with his sister. Single white women were rare on an island of men doing little but drinking and working, a date with his sister without getting on a weird sorta waiting list was an honor I didn't fathom at the time. Needless to say this girl was 18 and a real handful...however...It was an interesting evening, that led to a few others.
I began drawing the locals. A few of the drawings that I still have can be found on my “New Guinea Page” of my website. This came to the attention of the population soon after my work was seen by people outside my family. I'd spend 2-3 nights a week drawing, 2 nights at the bar, and 2-3 nights a week reading and studying for when I began college. I read every bit of “literature” I could get my hands on, I had my sister bring a copy of Gray's anatomy for me to study and draw from when she came for Xmas about 3 months later. During this time I'd go to the beach occasionally on the weekends, did movie night at the LSSC on Saturday nights, and spent the rest of my weekends drawing. I actually got quite good, but I knew I needed to be better. There were some artists there who swapped me art supplies and materials that I could use for straight razors or “a six pack of beer” or to see what I do with them. Soon everybody knew that I was the “yank Artist”. My father would have to occasionally report that no, he wasn't the Albert Kauslick who was the artist, that was his son. And yes it would be OK for the person inquiring to stop by the house and me him. On one occasion while we were eating dinner my father was on a tirade about why in the hell I was going to waste my time getting a degree in art, after all how in the hell was I going to make a living doing that? When there was a knock at the door. A guy was there to meet the artist. I shook his hand. He wanted to see my work. I took him in the back room and showed him what I had done. He would comment about each piece I showed him, and after every few drawings take one to look at and hold onto it. After about looking at about the 50 or so drawings that I had done and the 8 he had in his hand, he said “OK, how much?” How much for what? How much for these that I have in my hand? I did some quick math and told him some ridiculous figure like 500 Kina ( a Kina is the currency in Papua New Guinea, and at the time was worth about $1.60 ) he said fine and wrote me a check. The whole thing took 20 minutes. When I showed him out with the bundle under his arm he apologized to my folks for interrupting their dinner. As I returned to eating my dinner my father asked “What the hell did he want?” I said he wanted to see my work. Then I took the check from my pocket and handed it to my mother and said “could you deposit this for me?” my mother took the check and read it and looked at my father, “Whats that?” he asked. I answered “ A check for 500 Kina, what was it you were saying before we were interrupted?” My father had nothing to say for the rest of the evening.

It was during this time that my mother saw a carving of birds siting in a tree that was done in a certain village in New Britain, My mother had to have one, so it was decided we would go there for New Years to indulge my fathers instantaneous interest in the WWII things that surrounded us, and allow my mother to shop. My sister would be there over Christmas so this would provide a nice vacation for all of us.

As we were quickly approaching Christmas my mother went into over drive. Since Xmas trees don't grow on Bougainville her friends told her of a bush that looked sorta like a Xmas tree that was available if she knew where to get it, My mother approached the manager of Morgan Equipment, which was her source for anything unusual or from the outside world. He said yes he knew the guy and would order her one. Then the race was on to acquire Christmas tree decorations. She frequented the Chinese stores (trade stores that handled every form of junk you can imagine) the supermarkets both there and in Panguna, talking to the various friends she'd made, talking to people who were “going finish” meaning their contracts were up and they were heading back to wherever in the world they came from. In the 8 weeks that proceeded it until a week before Christmas my mother had everything she would need to decorate the tree, Except one thing. She had no Angel for the top of the tree. As hard as she hunted this was the one thing that eluded her. She got more and more worked up about this one thing...thus driving my father crazy. About a week before Xmas it got to the point of obsession, and my father was at a point where he was just about ready to have one flown in from Australia, which would have cost him a mint. I decided that I needed to intervene. I sat my mom down and told her that since it was so important to her, I'd make her one for the top of the tree. She lit right up. “OH, that would be'd make it nice right?” I nodded and told her I'd make her anything she liked. OK so what would I need? I went around to the different trash cans, rescued tin foil, paper tubes, thread, little pieces of colored paper, small scraps of cloth and I got some scissors and some glue and got to work. It took me three days, but I made her an angel that belonged in a Baroque Painting. She was ecstatic. My father admitted that bringing me along on this venture might not have been a bad idea, and we celebrated Xmas with my sister who couldn't believe the desolation that awaited her on her trip there from Boston. Christmas came. We went to mass, and by that time I was pretty handy with Pidgin. The mass was done in Pidgin, and I have to admit I was giggling like a school kid looking at a comic book. The reason it was funny would be lost in translation, leave it at I needed a good laugh and I got one during that mass. While in New Guinea was the first and last time I actually enjoyed doing mass during my whole life. What was beautiful about doing mass there is that the walls were perforated with cross shaped holes going outside, thus allowing the birds to fly in and out at will. One got a little bit of bird shit on ones clothes (which drove my folks nuts) but I enjoyed it. On the 28th of December we got on the plane to go to Rabaul on the island of New Britain. The first stop for my mother was the open market to deal with the Carvers. We had these guys show up at the door pretty regularly and I bought a few choice carvings, but my mother was seeking a particular carving. She wanted the one with the birds in the tree. As I was interpreter I explained to the guy what we were looking for. I had a plan. The next day he showed up with just the carving my mother wanted. I thanked him, paid for it and carried it off. My mother reached for it so she could see it. I let her handle it and look at it. And she announced that she knew just the place she would put it. I said that was nice, she would have to get one of her own and put it there, but this one was mine. She gave me a look that said quit kidding around, I gave her one that said I wasn't. She got mad and started giving me the guilt trip, which didn't work. I told her that I had asked for it, I had paid for it, it was mine. Well after a few hours she enlisted my father's help. He came up to me and told me in no uncertain terms that I was to give my mother that carving. I looked at him and said “You know how seriously that woman takes Mother's Day. I don't know about you but I've got my present for her.” he nodded and went back to her and told her that she'd end up with it eventually, so we were able to move on with our holiday. I bought some Dolphin carvings from the guy that had sold me the bird to say thank you and that was all he needed. He followed us damn near everywhere trying to sell us more. It seems Rabaul was a Japanese strong hold during the war of the Pacific. We saw the Japanese caves that held the abandoned boats stored them, [we had a few of these caves on Bougainville, and the girl who I was dating once in a while found one with the ceiling caved in and she used it to grow Marijuana, which if caught would have landed her in a New Guinea prison for 20 years and the life expectancy in prison was 5. I told you she was a handful.] We saw ammunition dumps that were abandoned. We saw the small “museum” of Japanese occupation things, heard about the Coast Watchers and how brutal the Japanese were on the locals. It was at this time that my father decided come Hell or high water he was going to make the trip into the bush of Bougainville and visit the wreck of the Yamamoto airplane. The Airplane that had Admiral Yamamoto in it was shot down over Bougainville in a very daring mission, seems these guys had enough gas to linger over BOugainville for about 15 minutes. The site that was maintained by the people that owned the property was a sort of Shrine for Japanese Tourists. My father felt is was kismet that had him visit the Japanese homeland and then visit the grave of their greatest WWII hero. My father got pretty worked up about all the WWII stuff he was looking at. So on December 31 in the middle of the night when the siren's went off my father jumped out of bed and yelled “AIR RAID!!!!” and woke us up to get out into the courtyard of the hotel we were staying we stumbled onto the veranda that led to the stairs downstairs the natives in the courtyard below looked up at my dad who was still yelling “Air Raid!” and said quite matter of factly “Happy New Year.”
When we returned we took down the Xmas tree and my mother made a pact that she would use the angel I had made every Christmas from then on. Needless to say The angel didn't survive the trip back to the states, being one of the first things she put in the box. So when I came home the following Xmas she talked me into making her a new one, and then that one didn't survive to the next year etc. so every year I had to make my mother a new angel using stuff I rescued from the trash. One year we did Renaissance, one year we did Riccoco ( I tied into some Gold foil that had come with some poinsettia's) one year we did something Romantic, then Pre Raphaelite...What could I say, My mom knew what she wanted and knew how to get it.

Right after we returned from Rabaul my father got on the Yamamoto thing. There were people that did the trip regularly, One had gotten one of the engine serial number plates. My dad decided he must own this item. The person that told him this told him the name of the individual that owned it. I recognized the name but said nothing. My dad got this guy on the phone and promised him cash or whatever he wanted to put this item in my dad's possession. The guy said no, it wasn't for sale. My dad asked if he could at least come and see it. The guy agreed. I asked to go along. My dad agreed but told me to keep my mouth shut, that he'd do all the talking. I agreed. We went to this individuals house and I followed my dad in. The guy in question was the equipment manger for the mine. He and I did business regularly while I was in the yard. He always wanted us to drop everything and do his stuff now so that he could have it back in place asap. I sometimes relented and sometimes I refused-showing him the yard of things that needed to be blasted and painted that had shown up days before him, and that I had responsibility to take care of all the customers that brought things to be blasted and painted. We drank together pretty regularly, Yes this guy and I knew each other well. I stood there and let my dad do all the talking and just smiled at the owner of what my father wanted. The guy we'd come to visit looked at me, smiled, and said to me while my father was trying to convince him into selling the engine plate to him “This is your father?” I nodded “You weren't exaggerating were you?” I shook my head. He smiled and said, “ Damn Pommy Yank, if I give this to him will my stuff move up in the line to get blasted and painted?” I shrugged . “...and I don't mean once in a while, I mean regularly.: I shook my head, but let him know it was in his best interest to give my dad what he wanted. It was at this moment my father realized that the guy wasn't hearing anything that he was saying, that the owner of the precious engine plate was talking to me. “You know this guy Alb?” I turned to my dad and said “oh yeah, we see each other at least once a week, don't we?” The guy just swore and handed the engine plate to my father saying “take the damn thing, bloody yank. Albert and I are wontoks...right?” I nodded. And we left. My father questioned me at length about all this and I reminded him that I hadn't said anything. Lets just say When this guy showed up with his stuff he got took care of as soon as I could squeeze him in. Power is a wonderful thing.

Now might be a good time to discuss an incident that on the surface seemed trite and an exercise in the ridiculous however when one examines it becomes the nut of the human condition. As you've probably gathered by now, My father is from another time and another place. In his mind there is black and white, importance and foolishness and order and chaos. One of his few Romantic passions is WW I. To this day at 2 pm, there is a ongoing program on the “war” cable channel that concerns “the great war” as it is known-especially the Air war, and my father is fixated like a 6 year old watching cartoons. Long before we reached New Guinea my father found a decal of the German “Iron Cross” that had other implications to the Biker community which is the reason I'm sure the decal was manufactured, however my father placed this on his Hard hat as the Medal that the original designers had meant it to represent. While in New Guinea this decal marked my father, and his attitude, stubbornness, his almost mythical understanding of the Trucks that he was there to maintain, his ability to think on his feet such as when the actual part to make the machine whole again was unavailable to be able to improvise and put the machine back on its feet became legend. I've already told of how my father's apprentices regarded him. He was like a god to them. ( I don't exaggerate the facts here) but his peers and the executives of the mine felt similarly. In November my father asked my sister to chase down some more Iron Cross decals, he needed between a dozen and 20. My sister wrote back after a month that she could only find about 6. I made the suggestion that she Contact the Monogram Model Company and order about 8 decal sets from their model “The Red Baron” a car model I had built when I was younger. This was accomplished and when she came for Christmas my sister presented my father with His decals. The following Friday after lunch my father assembled his Mechanics and the other service people associated with Morgan equipment. He pulled out a tape recorder that had a cassette Of German WW I tunes, all of them of a Military vein. He explained to the assembled Aussie and Kiwi crew the significance of the Iron Cross in the German Army. Or at least his version of it I'm sure. He commented that it was given for valor. It was given as more then a good conduct medal but to an individual that has served the Fatherland in a capacity above and beyond ones' Duty. My father pushed the button on the tape recorder and began calling out names. Beginning with the smallest of the decals for the lesser of the heroic deeds that were performed in the maintaining and repairing the Euclid trucks that they were all there to do, leading up to the larger decals like the one he sported. These Guys were every inch men. They drank, they fought, the loved and they came to work. However there wasn't a dry eye in the house. At this point it could be said that my dad was establishing his own cult and these, his followers would have done anything he asked of them. A man will spend the money he earns and think well of the person who gave it to him, however give a man a medal and he belongs to you.

It wasn't long after the holidays had come and gone that the damnedest thing that I have ever seen happened. My head “boy” was a guy in his early 40's named Clabus He was considered 'Lapoon' (old). There was something about Clabus that wasn't like the other guys. He always walked in front, he always sat in the front of the truck not in the back. He ate first, he called “Kai!” (Lunch) and the guys paid him as much respect as they did Robbie. When Clabus spoke the boys listened, and I don't think it was because he was head boy, I think there was more to it then that. They sorta respected me but only cause I was the same color as Robbie. I guess I didn't carry myself that way. I think they saw me as one of them cause I worked along side them and didn't just point and tell them to do it.
One day just before Lunch Clabus was feeding the sand hopper and the Diesel Air compressor we were using was making one hell of a racket about 5' away. I was facing the jungle and Clabus was facing me and the compressor. I was yelling to be heard over the compressor to him what I wanted to blast next while I got the other guys to paint what was being blasted now. He instantly got stiff, put his fingers up to his lips to silence me. He slowly reached down and picked up a stone about the size of a tennis ball and in one motion stood and threw it into the jungle behind him. At that second a flying fox was gliding from one tree to the next. Clabus nailed him in mid flight. There was absolutely no chance that Clabus could have seen him, hell I didn't see him and I was facing that way. With the racket that the compressor was making he couldn't have heard it. He dropped the shovel and went to retrieve it and yelled “KAI!” and brought the large bat like creature to the guys who proceeded to clean it and build a fire to cook it. When I asked him how he knew where the flying fox was he told me that his ancestors had told him. And that was the end of the conversation. I ate the piece I was offered. It tasted a little gamier the chicken.
IF you can tell me how this occurred without some form of mysticism I'd love to hear it.

While I worked the yard, the guys taught me all kinds of things. How to find Sugar cane. How to roast a plantain. How to husk a coconut with nothing more then a screwdriver and if you have a machete how to make you a spoon from the husk to eat it. I learned how to pick a banana bunch and ripen it in a sack in a dark room. I learned how to Pick fruit at the market. I once picked up a pineapple that was over 20” tall with the stalk. It was the color of light walnut on the outside and was so sweet you could smell it 10' away- it cost me the total of about .35. I got pretty good with a pot gun and could tear one down and clean it and reassemble it in about 5 minutes. Robbie and I had our moments. I was loading a crew to take to a job and half of them were dragging their feet. He told me to get on the road and to hell with the guys who weren't ready yet. When I tried to argue with him, he just told me to get on the road. SO I did. He was about 5 minutes behind me with the rest of my crew, madder then hell at me because I had left with only half of them. It was pointless to point out to him that I had just done what he told me. I didn't mind the job.
My drawing was making serious progress, I was developing a style that marked me as different from anybody else. I was beginning to get a name for myself. The Island provided many distractions for me. Sometimes I and my family would be invited to a picnic on Pok-Pok, a small Island about a mile off of Kieta's coast. It looked like an alligator in the water thus the name Pok-Pok (crocodile). It was during one of these Picnics that I got on an inner tube and swam out to the reef, I was about 20 yards away from the actual reef when I was joined by one of my 'Wontok''s who swam out to use the bottle opener I had around my neck. As we sat and chatted while he treaded water and drank his beer (a skill that all Ausies seem to have) a black fin broke the surface about 15 yards off. This fin was about 20" out of the water and I saw it and said "Oh cool, a whale" The Ausie stated that it wasn't a whale, It was a great white, and a big one too. I have never swam that fast in my life again. I had made friends with one of the Island's Matriarch figures who happened to be the wife of the manager of Morgan equipment, I had a brief crush on her. She was a Berkeley Graduate who listened to classical music and some Grateful Dead. She became a social source for me introducing me to other people of the management status on the Island. My social life didn't suffer. I saw my friend's sister a few times and I think she cared for me all the more cause I let her know that I really didn't care what she did or said, that I was on this Island for a short while and would leave with no regrets. However we did enjoy each others company occasionally.

In March My Father's Boss came for a visit. He liked me, I always got him a drink when he came to visit and I entertained him with stories of my life. This time was no exception. I met him at the door with a glass of scotch from the bottle I'd bought from the LSSC. They didn't usually sell liquor but I told them it was an emergency so they sold it to me. “So, how's it going here, lad?” I showed him the pictures that I had drawn and told him of my job. He seemed to be entertained so when he was finished with his drink I got him another and broached the subject that I had been thinking on since I got there. I started out with the conversation that my drawing would be of great help to me when I started school in the fall. That I was really looking forward to starting at the Institute. He nodded and said that he was glad that I would be so close to the factory that my dad could visit when he came into Cleveland for meetings. I swung it back to the point. I suggested that it would be of great benefit if instead of following the contract to the letter, IE returning via Japan and the west coast it would be great if I could just continue West and see Asia, Egypt, Europe and all the Museums there. He suddenly understood my point. He sighed and said that it would probably help me in my school work. I nodded. He said “OK, how much is this going to cost me? I reminded him that the contract stipulated that I make the trip back to American soil 1st class. IF I went coach the other way it would cost him as much maybe less. He smiled and said “yeah, do it, send me postcards of the stuff you see and I want to hear how this helped you in school.” I was suddenly elated. I would be seeing Art in person rather then in books. I thanked him profusely and got him another drink. I also signed one of the drawings he'd especially liked and gave it to him as a gift.
During this whole time I had achieved a great respect for the mosquito's there. They make the tiger mosquito's we are bothered by here look like simple pests. The ones there are about 1/2” long and swarm in clouds that are about 20' across. Those little bastards will indeed carry you off. Our greatest fear was Malaria and we took our quinine regularly. Malaria was rampant on the island amongst the Aussies. One morning the guy who Robbie had hired to do the storage station for the ore slush coming down from the mine came down with a case. It had gotten into his spinal column, this was usually crippling and sometimes fatal, (he and my mother had come to logger heads when he claimed he could buy her some buka baskets (actually they're made by a family in Buin, and he spent the money on beer. My mother got her money back from him and went and got her own baskets.) So I Volunteered to take his job. Running the yard was important, but this job had to have somebody on site. Clabus could run the yard in a pinch with Robbie checking in every couple of hours, It was agreed that I would take over the Slush station. That gave me a vehicle to use. It was an Isuzu 5 speed diesel dump truck. I took the crew to the site and oversaw the work. Although I was there mostly as a babysitter the guys knew what to do. I missed the yard but I knew that I had to be doing what I was doing so I spent the rest of my time while employed at Bougainville Protective Coatings Pty. Ltd. Working on site as a babysitter. The time flew by. It was coming on time for me to plan my exit from New Guinea and plan the stops I would make on my journey west towards home.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Part 1 In the valley of the Sun.

An Acquaintance of mine has put forth a form of request. “I'd like to hear more about your travels”. Yeah okay, that is a long and arduous task. I might as well begin at the beginning. In the summer of 1977 I had been accepted to the Cleveland Institute of Art to pursue my undergraduate degree, however they had no room for me in the Fall class, would I be interested in beginning in the “spring”? Yeah, I was going to fly from 70* Phoenix in mid January to arrive in Cleveland that would be -14* and ass deep in snow...I figured I'd ramp up to that joy So, I told them I'd begin the following fall. That left me with a year with little or nothing to do. I was at that moment in between apartments and in between Jobs...IE I was living in the servant's room of my mom and dad's house and they would have loved it if I'd found a job and moved out, and I didn't have $1 to spend. I sought work but I had gotten tired of the service oriented job market available to someone with a high school diploma and few skills. My life at the time was one would expect of a 20 year old in the Valley of the Sun, I'd go to bars at night and hang out with my friends, go to movies, looked for a job during the day and did artwork in the moments in between. In early August My Mother had accompanied my sister to Boston to begin her education at Wellesley College, and that left my dad and myself at home alone. The Tension was thick enough to cut with a cleaver. About a week after my mother and sister left he approached me with the news that he (and my mother) would be going for a year to Bougainville. As I've stated in the past my dad worked for Euclid, {big trucks}, and there was copper mine on Bougainville that needed my dad's special attention. SO, they'd be selling the house and I'd need to find myself somewhere else to live. “However” my dad said “Legally you are still my dependent. You have no job, you have a year to kill, I'm sure you could find a job on Bougainville, they'd have to pay your way round trip and it would be first class.”(I include this fact as it works itself back into the story later). After a great deal of thought I decided he was right, I wasn't doing anything so, I decided to go. We packed the house, got it sold, got our passports and Inoculations, and I helped my returned mother get ready to go the South Pacific while my father went to Bougainville to get the skinny on what he would be doing there. In September, I bid farewell to the house in Phoenix which was the last time I lived with my family, from then on I would be "visiting". Our first stop was San Francisco -we needed to get Visa's to get into New Guinea. After a few tense days they were given and we were cleared to go from San Francisco to Hawaii, from Hawaii to Tokyo, from Tokyo to Nagasaki, from Nagasaki to Port Moresby, and from Moresby to Bougainville. I had to admit I was excited about going to Japan. I had been a long admirer of Japanese Culture, I found their artwork to be remarkable, their approach to life unique, and it would indeed be the most Alien culture I had ever encountered. I will leave the 1st class trip from San Francisco to Hawaii to Tokyo out, leave it at I had to watch “For the love of Benji” twice and a terrible Japanese Spy movie, and despite that we were in the air almost a total of 18 hours the stewardess' wouldn't allow us to sleep, they kept waking us up to ask us if we wanted anything to eat. We finally landed in Tokyo at about 4 am local time. It was cold, windy and the air smelled like the air in Gary, Indiana-permeated with Sulfur. We got to the Hotel about 45 minutes later and they gave my parents a double bed and rolled out cot for me. I slept as deeply as is possible and not be dead. The next day My father who doesn't care for ethnic food that isn't from Eastern Europe said that we would be going to have breakfast at the Holiday Inn. The fare that was offered was a “western” breakfast for $25 a head. In 1977 that was serious money. It consisted of limp toast, over cooked sausage, scrambled eggs, Cold coffee, and oatmeal. I announced that (after about 4 days in the immediate company of my parents non stop) I was going to seek out a museum, My mother would go shopping and we would meet back at the hotel to do a organized tour. It was during this time that I discovered a few interesting things about Tokyo when I compared it to New York City. 1. Despite the number of people that crowded the streets (it was like looking into a bee hive) the streets were immaculate, where as New York is Filthy and smells like a sewer. Not a used butt, not a candy wrapper, not a windblown newspaper was on the streets of Tokyo where its not unusual to turn the corner in NY and find someone relieving themselves on the street in a pile of garbage or where someone has already done it, all the brass and bronze fixtures attached to the buildings were polished like a mirror in NY they're covered in a film of pollution and etched with acid rain . 2. People with cars had in their possession a glove that had wire prongs that were “V” shaped coming out that were covered with the yarn head that one found on push broom type of mops. They used these to “dust” their vehicles and on these vehicles there was not a scratch, not a dent, not a blemish of any sort, where as in NY most of the vehicles look like they've been through a demolition derby. 3. Everyone was incredibly polite where the NYC attitude is world famous. 4. They had Vending machine for anything and everything you could think of, where as in NY, they have street vendors who will attempt to sell you nothing for something. And lastly there was a sense of calm but intense purpose in the people that passed me on the streets. I found a contemporary art Gallery, was told I could not draw what I saw so I spent the morning just looking and comparing this culture to the one I was used to. I met my parents back at the hotel and we strolled through the Ginza. I was shopping for a camera. I knew I'd need a decent camera in the future and since we here....I'd done some research and found that the Cannon AE-1 would serve my purpose well. I made a list of the stores that had given me the best prices and accompanied my parents on the tour. We went to a few historic places like a Buddhist temple, the Imperial Palace, A house that had been maintained as it appeared in the pre Western influence period of the 19th Century, We went to a supermarket where the managers of each department would stand on the corner of their department and yell out what they had on sale (Like one would find in an open air market). While we were at t he Supermarket I took to opportunity to sample Sushi at the Sushi Bar for the first time, My Father stated that I must be insane (an opinion of me that my father held and shared with me regularly) and found it to be wonderful and it still remains a special treat for me. I also saw an locally grown Apple that was the size of a cantaloupe. We went to a department store that was 6 stories tall and sold nothing but electric lamps. When we were checking out the historic sites and the 20 something tour guide would comment on the damage that we saw being done during the allied bombing of WWII my parents, who were of that generation, would comment that “that's what [they] got for Pearl Harbor...” After about 2 hours of this I finally pulled my mother aside and said to her (in front of my dad) “look, first of all that little girl wasn't even alive then, 2. you are in THEIR country, and there are more of them then you, 3. We WON the war, so you don't have to labor the notion, 4. We dropped an atomic bomb on these people that left anyone near it as nothing more then a shadow burned into the stone they were standing next to, and anyone not vaporized was melted... I'd say our revenge was complete.” I only mention this incident because it will dovetail into the story later. All in all the tour of Tokyo was nice, although I would have enjoyed a bit more immersion into the some puppet theater, Sumo, eat local fare, in short do the whole thing...however my parents didn't do cultural immersion real well. I left them and went back to the Ginza and picked up my shopping for my camera with earnest. I found the best price and bought the camera. I still have it and it has accompanied me on my every journey since. We left Tokyo for the short flight to Nagasaki, then the long flight to Port Moresby. Port Moresby is the capital of Papua-New Guinea. We arrived about 7 pm local time at about Dusk. Port Moresby is located on the southern shore of the long finger of Papua that extends east. It was separated from our ultimate goal of Bougainville by the Solomon Sea. Although it is an International Port, the airport consisted of a cinder block building that held the offices and ticket counter for the national Airline “Air Nugini”. The actual business of the airport such as customs and luggage recovery is handled under an open air area that had a thatch roof covering it somewhat like a pavilion that one sees in parks covering a group of picnic tables. The air smelled of deep forest mustiness, Human body odor and Jet fuel. There were drums of Jet Fuel between this area and the actual tarmac that had the planes, all this was surrounded by a chain link fence and that describes the airport at Port Moresby. The Runway was not electrified so flights could only come in during the day...we were the last flight for the day. We went through customs, with little incident and went directly to the Best hotel in Port Moresby. The Davara. Now by any standard the Davara is not a two, three, or four star hotel. However it was the best available and it was a double. So I finally got my own bed. We would be there over night...Which was enough. Lets just say that as in any third world country the capital offers some culture and much more crime...I stayed a day and a night on my way out of New Guinea, and understood a bit better what was going on...however lets leave it I came, I saw, I moved on. By this time my Father was on edge, he doesn't deal with alien cultures well, and he was leading this expedition. He wanted to achieve the goal as quickly as possible, and the goal was to get to Bougainville, get us in the house that we would occupy and get back to the mine where he belonged dealing with the trucks who had mechanical problems that he understood. My Mother was typical of her generation, she wished to get her things and to make the nest that would be her home for the next year. My goal was to find out where the beach was, locate the gym, find a bar, and figure out how to spend as much time pursuing these ends while “looking” for a job. Yeah well the best laid plans of mice and men. However I'm getting ahead of myself. We climbed aboard the Fokker 3 engine that would take us on our last leg of our journey and within about an hour and half we landed on Bougainville. The airport was a runway and a dirt parking lot for vehicles sent to pick up or deliver passengers, and the man there to meet us was my father's predecessor as the Euclid rep on Bougainville. He greeted us, allowed us to collect our luggage directly out of the planes belly and we got into a range rover and climbed on the the only paved road on the island. This road was the main artery of the island, it went from the airport to Arawa and then onto Kieta, and intersected with the road that went from the mine in Panguna (which was atop a mountain that the mine was slowly removing and turning into a sludge that was piped down the mountain to waiting ships in Kieta) to Loloho, which was where one of the beaches was, where the mines Junk yard was, was the location of the single men's quarters (called Donga's) and the “Mess” where these guys ate their meals . and the location of two places I would get to know intimately: the main yard for “Bougainville Protective coating's Pty. Ltd”, and the “Loloho sports and social club” . Every building that wasn't a hut along this paved road was there to service the mine. We plunged from the open air of the airport area moist heat into the cooler darker forest jungle that was as thick and deep as a well and seemed to envelope us. How to describe the overwhelming forest that surrounded us? Imagine being the size of a germ and then being tossed into the produce section of supermarket. It was every color of green you can imagine from the border of blue to the border of yellow. Some of the trees were ancient, almost 12 feet in diameter and the canopy over head let small pin points of light through making it impossible to tell direction from the sun or stars. One could get lost here and never be seen again, and it had happened. A story had been related at the time of our arrival that a fallen fighter plane from WWII had just recently been discovered about 20 yards into the jungle off the main road...almost 35 years after it had crashed there. It was like entering a green womb, that held many surprises in the coming months for yours truly. He delivered us to the Bougainville Davara hotel, where we were given a room that would be our home for a few days while this prior representative of Euclid and his wife moved out and started the long journey west through the far east, India, Middle East, Europe and eventually home. In conversation it was mentioned by my father to the guy he was going to replace that I would be looking for a job...I said yeah OK. We had dinner at the Davara and my father loaded both me and my mother into the Range Rover and gave us a tour of all the paved road, a grand total of about 35 miles....We climbed the mountain, and I noticed the skull and cross bones that was painted into the road like huge traffic lines. This is where people had died on the road. They were grouped in 4's and 5's which had sorta a macabre feeling to it. Panguna was the town that serviced the mine directly, It had the best stores, the most modern mess, the apartments for the married couples and the housing for the mine executives. It looked like a modern small town. We ate lunch at the Mess, and met a few of the guys that my father (and to a smaller extent myself) would come in contact with every day for the following months. We ended up back at the Davara late in the day, and had dinner. I love seafood and this was the place to get it. So I ordered the appetizer of oysters on the half shell and a lobster, as it was on my father's expense account he didn't care. What came was 7 halved oysters on 3 plates. It was the only time I'd ever had to eat oysters with a knife and fork and the lobster was a very large shrimp. I noticed that the wait staff and every other local spoke a strange language that seemed to be littered with some English and German and some words I couldn't make heads or tales of. This was Melanesian Pidgin. I learned to speak it in a few months of having to deal with the locals. My parents either couldn't or in my father's case wouldn't learn so for the time we were there I acted as interpreter for them. We retired to our room and we slept, I listening to the sounds of the mysterious life that crawled, flew, glided, slithered, walked and other wise moved through the jungle that theywere born to but that was new for me.
My father was up at 6 am and on his way to work...he was now comfortable because he would be returning to what he knew best...leaving my mother and I to fill our day the best way we could. We decided to go to the beach, remembering to bring our sneakers as there was life in the reef that loved to burrow and attach to warm flesh that lived under the water...the water was about 70* and the beach was white sand the was bordered by coconut trees that allowed us to not only notice their presence visually but with an occasional thump of a coconut working itself loose and dropping to the sand below. One had to keep abreast of this cause one of these falling projectiles could kill and I know from experience definitely knock you on your ass and allow you see little stars that floated in front of you. We spent the day lounging on the beach, swimming a bit, and just relaxing from our long journey, it was a beautiful day and we could just make out the peak and sulfurous cloud around Mt. Bagana-the active Volcano on the island. We had dinner at the Davara again and spent the evening recovering from too much sun and and too much sand and salt. The next morning found the guy that my father was going to replace at our door. He had spoken to one of his “mates”and might have found me a job. Would I like to meet the guy, like now? Yeah OK...I put on my shoes and we headed towards Loloho. I was delivered to a ring of scrap metal of every size and shape on one side was a group of 4 sea containers (the long train car size metal boxes used to transport cargo on ships) on one side, hinging off the line of containers was an building that had a warehouse to store paint, and 2 open bays one side had diesel operated air compressors and on the other a pile of sand about 14' tall. It was about 100 yards from the Loloho beach and about 50 yards down the road from the Donga's. I jumped out of the truck and was introduced to a man who's appearance was memorable and still leaves me with a smile shaking my head. His name was “Robbie” as is damn near every other male on the Aussie mainland. He was 6'3” tall. He had a barrel of a chest and a gut to match his chest, shoulders and arms that one might see on a blacksmith and below what supported the mass of a man were the skinniest legs I've ever seen on a man. He was in the standard working Aussie uniform of a sleeveless work shirt, shorts, knee high white socks, and construction boots. His face was broad burned brown the color of Mahogany, his smile wide and his eyes flashed below the shrubbery that he used as eyebrows. His hair seemed to have a will of its own as it climbed and fell around his head-having been permanently matted like this by years of hard hat use. “So, ya lookin fa work?” I nodded. “WEED wantya to watch the boys, they know what to do, bloody canaca's need to be watched-they-r all Tolais or Sepiks...locals don't know how to wok. SO, have ya ever run a pressure pot paint gun?” I stated that I had used one once. “SO, do ya know how to tie a knot?” I told him I'd been a boyscout. He smiled and nodded “So, are ya afraid of heights?” I answered “Just falling from them.” He smiled again and nodded. “Ya Hide. We'll pay ya 315 Kina a week. Ya can start in the morning. Unless you want to start now.” I said I had no plans for the day. The guy who had brought me there smiled and said he'd stop by and tell my mom that I'd gotten a job and that she should expect me that evening and quicker then I could spin and spit I was the newest employee of Bougainville Protective Coatings Pty.Ltd. It was and still is the damndest job interview I've ever had.
That first day was brutal. I was not dressed to spend the day in the sun doing construction. Although my time in AZ had prepared me for being under a brutal sun, the humidity and alien terrain plus having to communicate with few who spoke English left me exhausted. I had my first Meat Pie for lunch which is a staple in Australia. At the end of the day I met my co worker, A tall lank Aussie who had scars of teeth marks around his nose that was at an obvious 10 degrees out of square to his face...I was just sure there was a story there. At the end of the day he was the one who delivered me back to the Davara. “How did it go?” asked my mother. My Father was just so pleased that I had a job he just sat their smiling. “It was OK. I'll need to get into the swing of things...” I was the color of a cooked lobster, I was covered in grit and paint, I was half blind from the sun, and exhausted from trying to manipulate 6 individuals who were brown natives, (the local Bougainvillian's were blue black and some of the sweetest nicest people that God put on the earth-these were from the mainland (along the Sepik River) and New Britian)...had holes in their Nose for placement of a shell or a pig tusk, and some were covered with patterns of darker stained scarred welts that were in some sorta Geometric pattern. I figured it had to do with some sorta family/tribal thing....I slept the sleep of the just that night. This would be our last night in the mother would oversee the move into the house while her men went to work the next day. I awoke at 6 am. I got dressed and went outside to wait for my ride to the yard. What met me was in the top 5 of the strangest things I've ever seen. I had just sorta come accustomed to the fact that my new world was every color of green I could ever experience, However what greeted me was not even remotely green. In the half light of the morning the Jungle surrounding me was Pink, It was pink, slimy and undulating. For as far as the eye could see in the half light, damn near everything was covered with huge pink snails. They were the size of your fist and quite literally everywhere. I felt like I'd gotten into some weird mushrooms....It shocked me at first. My ride came and explained that “the bloody things came over in some Chinese sewer pipes and the bloody things were eating the island damn near to the ground....I thought to myself that the next year was going to be interesting.