Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I’ve been in places of transcendental beauty

Robert Hunter wrote the words to Ripple and Jerry Garcia sang them. The Grateful Dead played and I guess Jerry is the only public figure whose presence I really do miss. I mean, you know, JFK & MLK & RFK did me in and whether people know it or not their killings did in part of the soul of this nation … soul sickness. I started writing about a song & transcendental beauty and look where I got to. Songs like Ripple, Brokedown Palace, Morning Dew and others were the songs of a new dawn for me and I'm grateful to the Dead and others like the Incredible String Band ("We were trying to do something genuinely wonderful ...") and the Beatles for being responsible to so many people.

There is a road, no simple highway,
Between the dawn and the dark of night.
And if you go, no one may follow,
That path is for your steps alone.
(from Ripple)

Anyway, along the road (no simple highway), I’ve been in Places of Transcendental Beauty
  • Sitting by the Mekong running deep and strong through the hills of Luang Prabang
  • In a mind that sees others, truly, truly
  • In my Grandmother’s garden in the golden light of a dreaming vision
  • My beautiful wife, ____
  • Looking up at the desert sky in the deep night – a million stars shining like the First Night
  • Baby David, asleep, safe
  • In the kitchen with Jeff on Oram street, the walls yellow, off center, the warmest place in the world, it seemed
  • Waking up in a redwood forest looking up at the ancient trees and a bluebird flashing across the vision
  • My generation, from Vietnam to dancing free in forests and meadows
  • Visions: God; we really are all One
  • Leaving Vietnam in 1967 and returning in 2005
  • Walking with David behind deserted temples in Angkor
  • Seeing the strength of Cambodian refugees back in the bad old days of 1981-86
  • Countless 1000s of babies; old people writing new love and strength stories; I mean I get off sitting in North Park and watching it all flow past
  • Shwedagon; Burma (the people)
  • The Wind River Mountains

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pad Thai - a recipe for you, David

David asked for a pad Thai recipe - like what they serve for 20 baht at a little stand near the Tha Phae Gate in Chiang Mai (photo below). To-go orders are wrapped in banana leaf and newspaper. Here is a recipe for a classic lunch dish in Thailand.

For about two servings of pad Thai
· Fresh rice noodles or ¼” rice noodles soaked warm water 15 minutes
· 2-4 cloves garlic (crushed and chopped some
· ½ cup firm tofu cut in little strips
· 2 beaten eggs
· 2 or more T peanut oil (more oil improves taste)
· 1-2 handful bean sprouts, maybe also some finely shredded cabbage
· ½ cup water
· Green onions (3-4) cut into 1” pieces
· T fish sauce
· 2 T sugar (palm trad)
· 2 T tamarind juice or rice vinegar (tamarind better, I think)
· Some soy sauce – ideally ½ & ½ regular and sweet Indonesian
· In Thailand they often add a little or a lot little dried shrimp – I prefer fresh shrimp (6-8 ounces or more). You can also cook with pork or chicken.
· On the side: lime wedges,* sliced cucumber and shallot in cold water and vinegar with some sugar, chili powder,* crushed roasted peanut* (don’t be afraid to use more than restaurants), black pepper and lime Cambodian style, mint, basil, little "rat shit" chilis sliced in fish sauce with lime juice & maybe a little sugar,* & anything else you can think of.
* = essential

Set up all the ingredients in bowls in the order they’ll be added.

Heat oil – hot, but not smoking. Wok is best (more hot surface), but anything okay.
· Add tofu, shrimp (shrimp is done when it turns pink)
· Add noodles, then water
· Cook until noodles soft (just a minute or so)
· Add nam pla, tamarind or vinegar, sugar, soy & cook stirring for a minute or so
· Push everything to the side of the wok, add a little more oil and soft-scramble the egg & onion together and flop the other stuff on top of the egg & onion, mix it around some and serve with peanuts over (and on the side) and bean sprouts (just a few sprouts for me, thanks) and cabbage if you have it.

As you can see, it's a little complicated if you cook it once or twice, but much less so if you make it more frequently.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


When you find out who you are, beautiful beyond your dreams ...
From 1981-1986, Leslie and I were immersed in service to Cambodian refugees. Around 6,000 Khmer had been resettled in Old East Dallas and there were almost no resources for them – no health care, no assistance with education, no food help, not much of anything. Leslie and I were in the community 7 days/week, sun-up to sun-down and beyond. Those truly were the best of times and the worst of times – which I’ve written about elsewhere.

Sometime in those times I attended a meeting where one of the people present, Dan Foster, a distinguished physician at UT Southwestern Medical School, made a strong impression on me. Among other things, he talked about being called to a commitment to being in and working to build community. Photo: "Sophea go to study" - Hey Sophea - see you in December

Around 10 years later, when Leslie and I were looking for a church, we ended up at First Presbyterian where someone who knew me said we should go to the Open Ring Class, because we’d like the teacher, Dan Foster. So we went to Open Ring and our first time there, Dan said something like, “I’m not going to talk about trivial things.” And I thought, we’ll see how that goes – and now, almost 20 years later, still, no trivial matters in this class (too bad I can't say the same for myself). Sunday after Sunday, Dan teaches from deep wisdom to deep wisdom, often touching places “too deep for words.” (Did you ever notice that the deepest wisdom is often that which we already know, but somehow it slipped from awareness …).

We were looking for a church because we, especially I, had been let down by the church we started attending shortly after David was born. First, there were several times during church that it seemed like I could hear gunshots, automatic weapons, bullets hitting men, the usual sounds of battle. I told the minister about this and he was nonplussed, like with no idea of where to go from there. I told him it was a part of healing, but still, it was as if he was struck dumb - he really could not understand or relate at all.

Second, my father died and it was like I was not there. No response from either minister. So we moved on to First Presbyterian where there was support and response when my mother died. Glad to be home.

Today at Central Market I ran into someone I worked with in the past. She said, in a joking way (but it wasn’t really joking), “You look pretty grungy – oh, I forgot, you’re retired.” I guess she wasn’t speaking in Seattle terms of grunge and I thought, yeah, here we are, scrutinized by the Appearance Police, a branch of the Thought Police and once again, feeling gratitude for being a

L O N G...G O N E...D A D D Y

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Com tam thit nuong & a garden gate

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Every weekend we drive to Garland for Vietnamese food. We usually eat at Bistro B and also frequently at Pho Bang. We went today to Bistro B, but it was closed because of a fire eight days ago or there was a fire and the damage will be repaired in 8 days – language issues. The young women working the cash registers were there, giving away baguettes and café sua da to anyone who wandered in. They’re part of the Bistro B experience, easy on the eye, snatching your money (but still glad to see you), multitasking with speed and intensity. So I had my 2nd café sua da of the day and we fired on up the road to Pho Bang for com tam thit nuong (broken rice plate with charcoaled pork chop) with fried egg on top of the rice and some brilliant nuoc cham – and it comes with a little bowl of pho broth. We started out sharing a table (tables in the center of the room seat 8) with a family of five and when they left a woman with three children came to the table. We talked a little and the woman said, “When you want pho, you come here.” It’s true.

Pho Bang is exactly like a basic restaurant in Saigon. The only differences are that Pho Bang has aircon with fans instead of just fans and padded chairs instead of blue or pink plastic. Everything else is the same – the food is great, there are many employees keeping everything moving, everyone there for the food, everyone chock-a-block – it’s a scene.

A nice email to get

From: Carrie
Subject: The Gate In Your Garden (A Cottage Garden)

Good morning!

My husband and I recently bought a house that we are renovating. Part of the project is to grow a fantastic garden. First, however, we are replacing the fence. Months ago I came across a photograph of the gate to your fence (pictured below). I instantly fell in love with the tree (carved?) on the gate and knew I must have something just like it :) It would mean a lot to me and be much appreciated if you could please pass along any information you have regarding that gorgeous gate! Thanks so much!

Sincerely, Carrie

Hi Carrie,

Thank you. I made the gate from cedar boards, framed vertically into a kind of picture frame box, except the back pieces to hold it steady & join the boards (I used 3 vertical pieces 1½ “ wide to join the vertical boards that make up most of the gate surface), I left off until the last. There is a top, horizontal board (on which is written & carved, “Memories” in my son’s hand). Then I drew a picture on 8.5x11 paper, then drew the same thing, but larger on the gate. Drilled holes where leaves, etc. were to gain access with my hand scroll saw. Cut out leaves and branches. Put in the vertical joining pieces. Used a rasp, then sandpaper to soften the edges of the cuts. Didn’t use preservative – I expect to give out before the gate does.

I know you can grow some great things over there in PA. It’s cold at times, but no searing summer months on end like here. If you decide to grow roses (specifically, old garden roses), I recommend you read about them – that’s what winters are for, reading and dreaming, catalog reading, list-making … find a good nursery that has a good selection of OGRs – most get a new shipment in early spring (well, not that early for you). There are three such places in Dallas – all are independent – you may have to look a little.

Enjoy your home and garden.


Thursday, October 9, 2008


On one side of my helmet was written, "Morituri te Salutamus" - which I understood to be said by Roman gladiators before the fight and to mean, "We who are about to die salute you." They started with “Hail Caesar!” – but I wasn’t hailing no mf Caesars. On the other side was a wonderfully rendered Grim Reaper (and my blood type). I understand that lots of people now are running around with tattoos that say similarly grim or grimmer things. In some cases they’re reality statements, like my helmet.

An entry on pain in Erika Lopez’ “clog” (http://clog.erikalopez.com/) put me in mind of that place of mind. I’m adding her site to my links as well as Jo’s wonderful photos taken in Burma and dorf’s backpacking site.

It’s about 6 weeks until we leave to visit David for Thanksgiving in Berkeley, then to Hong Kong for 4 days, Bangkok for a few days, then fly to Hanoi and around (Ninh Binh?) for I don’t know how long and then train on down Vietnam via Hue and I’m unsure where else and on into Saigon and then bus to Phnom Penh where we’ll meet David and spend the week with Samnang’s family. David and Leslie and I will go from there to Chiang Mai area or maybe Penang and back to Bangkok, where we’ll split up and David will head to Houston and Leslie and I will hang in BK for a few days and then fly to Hong Kong for 3.5 days, then home. Photo: Star Ferry stairs

It’s a little strange to be doing this in these economically perilous times, but it’s all been done for a month and Samnang is pretty sick. I’ve been thinking, like many others, about things laid up where moth and rust corrupt. We may need for me to unretire. We’ll see how it goes.

One year, maybe about 1983, Leslie and I were talking about having a garage built, you know, thinking about size, construction, color, cost and what not and then the idea of going to Asia came up and we realized not only would it cost less to go to Asia, but going would be a memory treasure uncorruptable by anything except death or dementia and she looked at me and I looked at her and we laughed - talk about a no-brainer! Annnd, we ended up getting RT Thai Intl. tickets 2 for the price of one!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Those Were the Days

These Are the Days (Van Morrison)

These are the days of the endless summer
These are the days, the time is now
There is no past, there’s only future
There’s only here, there’s only now

Oh your smiling face, your gracious presence
The fires of spring are kindling bright
Oh the radiant heart and the song of glory
Crying freedom in the night

These are days of the endless dancing and the
Long walks on the summer night
These are the days of the true romancing
When I’m holding you oh, so tight

These are the days now that we must savor
And we must enjoy as we can
These are the days that will last forever
You’ve got to hold them in your heart.

These are the days by the sparkling river …
Those were the days and these are the days – the only days we’re given. May we embrace them as the treasures they are.

Thinking back on the 1960s, the time of this song, the time I came up, the time of war, then of healing and boundless possibilities - days when we really did think in terms of "Oh the radiant heart and the song of glory crying freedom in the night," and thinking now, what now? Those days are past, and what are these days? A time of slowing, slowing and remembering with sweet nostalgia how it was? Or a time of turning from the long middle of life, now toward now (enriched by what went before) and what lies ahead like a sparkling lake in the high snowy mountains, into lakes, lakes into streams, into lakes, into sparkling rivers and
These are the days
All the days we’re given
All that we have
Holding together
I added a new site to the "other links" section on the right side of the page. I met Jo on the internet - his passion for Burma shines on through his photographs and words. I hope you'll visit Pictures from Myanmar.