gerrythetravelhund

surfing the stardust

A WONDERFUL DINNER PARTY

This is a story about four men and a wonderful dinner party.

…Phu, who drove a blossoming and aligned a country;                                                   …Binh, a powerful technocrat in Vietnam who helped Phu;                                              …Paul, who had to make a very difficult and risky decision;                                         …Bernard, who may have had an impact, although he had been dead for 40 years.

Me?   …   I am Gerry, and I achieved a bit of redemption in this journey.

Prelude

Intel was the egg in the center of my universe. So much of my life has been made rich by working for, what was then and may today still be, the world’s best company.  It is impossible to think of the many blessings my family and I have received without thinking of how Intel helped shaped so many of them.

I traveled to over eighty countries; my children, Nick and Jenny, have been to about forty, my wife Margo over fifty. Waynette, my kid’s mother, and I took Jenny to Paris at four years and Nick to Castiglione della Pescaia for a whole summer at three months age. In forty-plus of the countries visited I did business for Intel.  Some trips have been on vacations or sabbaticals.  I’ve been to Everest Base Camp and hiked into the mountains of Ladakh; scuba dived around the world; trekked the Alps hut to hut; rode elephants in 5 countries (I think); climbed Sigirya and Kinabalu; sailed the Great Barrier Reef; all while having a great job with Intel.

Intel was extremely generous with its money and its time.  And we operated within a firm construct of ethical purpose, and with smart, ethical colleagues.

Intel gave my friends and me a never-ending stream of tasks which, frankly, no person had ever done before.  That is because no one had ever before had the microcomputers, systems, and devices – Intel was an invention engine and I was lucky to have been hired to be part of its lubricant.  To give you an idea of how special my life at Intel was, my first ever trip for the company, in 1978, was to accompany Bob Noyce to Paradise Island in the Bahamas for three days where he presented his strategy for microprocessors to Burroughs Computing.  In 1985 I arranged and accompanied Gordon and Betty Moore on their first trip to China. In the first 24 months at Intel I organized and participated in day long “Introduction to Intel Processors” seminars at every IBM Development Lab throughout the US and Europe – I don’t think any other tech company or person had ever done that. These things just happened – it was like riding on the head of a comet through uncharted space.

I worked in EProm’s, Static RAM’s, D-RAM’s, Single Board Computers, Real Time Operating Systems, Ethernet and Bit-Bus, Math Co-Processors, Video Conferencing, Retail Channels, Distribution, Major Accounts, Third-World Development, sold Data Center Services, traveled with Andy and Eva Grove to Broadway and the horse farms of New Jersey to sell to  Beneficial Finance and AT&T.  And I wasn’t a big deal at Intel, even though I sometimes carried a big number (like $15 Billion for Asia).  In official capacity I met Presidents or Premiers of China, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Zambia, Sudan and Cabinet leaders of numerous other countries, many with Craig Barrett.  It was amazing.

intel founders

Intel early players in 1988, Bob, Gordon, Andy, Les, Jean, Ted, and others

The reason I am telling you all this is to ask you to put in perspective my background as I tell you a story.

I want to tell you about a magic night I spent with Paul Otellini in a candle lit, red room in Hanoi.  It was a night which I believe defines my life.

So, I’d like to believe when I say “it was one of the most important evenings in Vietnam’s history, certainly in the post war reconstruction period, and one of the most important events there since our American forces killed over 2 million Indochinese people, largely non-combatants”,  that you think “Ok, arguably, he might be right. ” 

And I want to try and let you feel what I felt, sitting on the right hand of the Intel CEO, while General Vo Nguyen Giap’s, son-in-law sat on his left, and the sense of timeless eternity enveloped us.

Back Then

In June 1966 I graduated from the University of Santa Clara – only a few mile from where Noyce, Moore, Vadasz, and Grove, the founders of Intel, were working at Fairchild; 12 weeks later I was pinned down in a ditch, ambushed from an old graveyard in Central Vietnam’s Binh Dinh Province.

This was almost a decade before General Vo Nguyen Giap defeated the

giap3

Gen. Giap on right, Ho in center

the American led armies and freed Vietnam from almost a century of foreign domination; and just over a decade since General Giap had defeated the French in the watershed battle of DienBienPhu.

 

 

 

I was in Vietnam early in the war:   there was little electricity, no televisions, no private transportation but bicycles or horse carts – no motorbikes.  Water buffalo were the primary power source;  most families cooked meals on charcoal.

I was a Lieutenant and a Convoy Commander.  A “convoy” is a group of ammo and supply loaded trucks, traveling through combat and enemy held territory, with protection of gun jeeps, tanks, and air. We would get into fire fights frequently and ran roads that were mined and subject to ambush.  I ran 300 convoys and drove over 20,000 miles in my gun jeep – all throughout central Vietnam from the South China Sea to the mountainous high plateaus near Cambodia.

I would take off with my trucks before dawn and not return until hours past twilight.  I would typically start my drive with the rising sun at my back its rays lighting the bright green rice paddies, the clouds over the Central Highlands, and the mountain jungle.  As we passed through the villages the folk were just rising, washing themselves naked in the open shower stalls or from porcelain tubs, feeding their babies, chasing their dogs away.  Men and women squatted in small groups smoking pipes and chatting. The peasant girls in white pantsuits and straw conical hats walked slowly to the fields, holding hands; sway back pigs wandered along the road; boys on water buffalo backs would wave as we passed.  Early rising rice paddy workers were bent over, planting or scything.

This was the idyllic farmland life that our entire world had lived in for centuries – even lovelier since we had no winter in Vietnam.  Three crops, warm, sometimes wet.  It was the most beautiful place I had seen.  The green and the light.  I had a few girlfriends – they were beautiful with soft skin and always laughing and singing.  One was Ann – rumored to be a spy for the Viet Cong, but as sweet to me as possible; often we would sleep together on thick quilts on her spotlessly clean dirt floor – her hut with mud walls and thatched roof.   It was the most beautiful place I had seen.  The green and the light. The people were wonderful.  But we were killing them.

More Recently – Margo and I Meet Phu

I left Vietnam and went on a long and winding road for thirty-eight years, and didn’t return until Paul Otellini, our CEO,  assigned me to become the General Manager and Vice President of Intel’s Asia Pacific Region.  Starting in February 2003, I was responsible for sixteen countries, from Korea and China in the West, to Pakistan in the East,  and a thousand people under my charge.  I lived in Singapore, which was closer to both SouthEast Asia and the India Subcontinent – two areas which we viewed as holding a great growth potential but were being somewhat obscured by the enormous shadow of the PRC. With this emphasis, I traveled to work in India thirty times in the thirty months I had this assignment.  I also learned quickly that, in SE Asia, the wild card for growth was Vietnam. So, with the memories of my war times years before, I shortly made my first trips back to Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City or HCMC.

India and Vietnam – two wonderful countries, as different to one another as samosas and pho.

India is one of my 3 favorite foreign countries, Japan and Italy being the others.  India is a lot like Italy: great food, rich layers of history going back through several epochs for thousands of years, countries of majestic ruins and marvelous architecture, a strong religious framework with amazing iconography, deeply spiritual heritage, terrific music, beautiful women.  I have had terrifically fun trips there dating back to my first trip with Hugh Swift into Kashmir in 1981.   But India has enormous issues that debilitate their ability for growth and modernization.  Many of these issues prompt India’s leaders to “get in their own way” and create the chaos and unfulfilled promises that one experiences too often there.  This penchant would ultimately lead to my dinner in Hanoi.

Margo, after shutting down her very successful art gallery in Portland, arrived on Friday July 4, 2003 to join me in Asia  She landed at 0100hrs in Changi Singapore.  At 1000hrs we were back at Changi catching a flight to Saigon on Vietnam Airlines.  I had been up to Vietnam twice to get acquainted with the business.  This time I was to be the keynote dinner speaker at the annual meeting and trade show of the “HCMC Computer Association”.

My host was our Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos Country Manager Than Trong Phuc.  “Phu”, as he was known by us “gweilo’s” has an amazing story of how he, and his mother, aunt, and cousins, made the last day, helicopter, rooftop escape from the Saigon US Embassy on April 29, 1975. He was 12.  In the chaos he and his cousin got separated from their mothers. The boys were sent to Guam while the mom’s went to the USA.  They had NO IDEA where each other was for many, many weeks and they were not reunited for six months! Once I asked Phu if he was scared being alone, with no knowledge of where his mom was or when he would see her again.  “No” he replied, “we were too busy going to the beach and playing every day to worry”.  Phu grew up in Southern California and joined Intel in Santa Clara shortly after his graduation from the University of California, Davis.  In 2000, Intel assigned him to lead  Intel’s business in Vietnam, an assignment that forever changed his life and, some might say, helped change the trajectory of a country.

Phu Than

Phu Than on left

On that Monday July 7, 2003, Margo, Phu, and I went into the Hotel Caravelle ballroom for the banquet. Across the Opera House square was the Continental where I had enjoyed steak-frites in 1966, my first day in country.  At the banquet, Margo sat next to the Vice Mayor of HCMC, Nguyen Then Nhan,  the senior leader for the evening, (he’s now head of the CP in HCMC and member of the Politburo).   As speeches started, he told that I had been in Vietnam in 1966 and welcomed me back with warm greetings of friendship.  I started my speech saying “how very happy I was to be returning to this most beautiful of countries”, in a quite poor attempt at the extremely complex Vietnamese language.

I then stressed Intel’s strategy of building local “computer and communications” infrastructure.    Vietnam’s unique problem was hundreds of thousands of computer educated, university grads with no jobs.  While there were a few international companies building factories for the textile and clothing industries, no major technology oriented companies, even in consumer electronics, had begun to invest.  It also had a bad reputation for investment protection.  The country’s population had soared from twenty-five million souls during the war to over seventy million in 2003 but neither job creation nor FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) had grown much.  At that point their strategy was “grow from within” so Phu and our regional teams were driving market development programs critical to their well-being.

I guess my talk was well received because Vice Mayor Nhan directed his assistant to meet Margo the next day and take her to the best dressmaker in Saigon, where she would be fitted with a beautiful, pale blue AoDai.

Such was my official reintroduction to Vietnam – 38 years later.

Two Key Players

Over the next years I made many trips into Hanoi and Saigon, meeting with all of our channel members, indigenous computer value adders, software companies, user groups, and telecommunications players. Very early on I met Truong Gia Binh.  Phu told me Dr. Binh was one of the most important people in the technology industry.  Whenever we were in Hanoi we made it a point of seeing him.  As with many Viet leaders, Binh was educated in Moscow.  He had pursued a career in “private industry” founding a computer company in 1988 which today employs 28,000 people.  He was Dean of the School of Business of Hanoi University and Chairman of the Vietnam Software Association.  He was a leader in driving youth education in computer and software technology, and later founded a University with that aim.

(l to r) Phu, Dr.Van, Navin Shenoy, Dr. Binh, Craig Barrett

Dr. Binh, w Craig & Navin Shenoy

Also of importance was that he had married General Vo Nguyen Giap’s daughter and was his son in law.  Of course next to Ho Chi Minh, Giap, co-founder of the Viet Minh and the hero of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, is the most historic and important person in Vietnam’s fight for independence.  Dr. Binh was a friendly guy; full of energy. He was a font of bright ideas, and was particularly adamant about the need for students to learn computing skills.

So there is one more player to sketch for the non-Intel reader and that is Paul Otellini.

It has been said the “Intel Measures Everything”, which is a truism when building trillions of things every day at the nanotech level.  I was excited to get hired at Intel because, in my previous job of selling silicon wafer substrates, Intel asked us to measure characteristics of the wafers that no other company ever did – that was the type of company to work for!  Paul was an SI & USF grad who started in finance & accounting, which naturally measured a boatload of performance indicators for the business – having a good finance team supporting you is a key factor for success and Paul accelerated from that foundation into numerous business management slots.

He ran Sales and Marketing and Intel’s core business – the Intel Architecture Group. He was asked by Andy Grove to be his Technical Assistant when Andy was Intel’s President.  In May 2005 he replaced Craig Barrett as CEO.  Paul had certainly been around the block, but yet had a reputation for not liking to travel overseas, especially to the Third World.  My experience traveling with him in India, one of the toughest places to travel, was that he was fine, a good trooper, although he did bring his own cases of American bottled water!  I remember him one evening at an outdoor evening  banquet in southern India dressed up somewhat like a Maharaja and having to dance with men dressed up as horses – fantastic. When I was with him he was totally focused on business and had no attributes of a nervous or novice travel.

PSO & cyclo

Paul – focused even in a rickshaw!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, that sets the stage for my story. 

In mid 2004 Intel began a detailed analysis to determine in which country to locate its next assembly and test manufacturing plant. Intel had been in the forefront of building these “final steps” plants in Asia.  They had built plants in Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, and several in China.  As the year wore on, the choice was resolving itself to be either in Southern India, or Vietnam, near Ho Chi Min City.  This was a “fight” between two countries vying for billions of $’s of investment that would take their technology communities to a whole new level.  And the decision maker would be Brian Krzanich, head of all manufacturing, as approved by Paul Otellini, CEO.

The stakes were higher for Vietnam.  An Intel move into Ho Chi Minh City would finally be a ringing endorsement that Vietnam was “safe” for large, medium, and even small companies to invest in by building manufacturing plants.  It would also test, teach, and help the chosen city to upgrade their infrastructure in key areas like electricity, water, emission control, industrial gases, etc.  It would provide thousands of great jobs and teach and train the employees.  Vietnam really needed to win the day and break loose from the image that they were only fit for textiles and coffee.  Vietnam also had a bad reputation on financial rules and intellectual property protection – in fact Intel Capital, one of the largest venture capital funds in the world, had refused to invest despite Phu and my best efforts.  Clearly a win would revolutionize Vietnam’s economy.  Foreign Direct Investment might go from negligible, to greater than Malaysia or Thailand – two of the “Four Tiger Cubs”.

For India the stakes were not nearly as high.  Intel had already invested hundreds of millions there in software development, and the country’s budding call center business was riding a modest wave of job creation.  It had a robust, electric appliance business and was making lots of tv’s and computers.  Even so India had been stuck at a 6% GDP growth rate for decades.  Everyone kept demanding from me “When is India going to start growing like China? Huh? Huh?”  India had a strong rooting section at Intel headquarters in Santa Clara.  My direct boss, the WW Senior VP of Sales and Marketing, pulled me aside and told me that I should do every thing possible to make sure India won the plant deal; that would give us special access to its supposed hundreds of millions prospective computer users.  I did not think a demand explosion was likely, and even today India GDP growth has seldom risen above its 6-7% average – never coming close to the PRC growth.  I told my boss that I was committed to Vietnam as the better choice.

By May 2005 Intel was down to the final decision process.  You may not know that, in these massive investments that multinational companies make, there is a type of bidding war in which the potential countries engage.  The countries offer up an array of benefits such as tax breaks, free utilities, new dedicated infrastructure like roads, power lines, sewers, and subsidies or contributions of many types.  These get wrapped up for ease of discussion into a single number.  Like “India is offering $100 Million in support to Intel if they put the plant there”.  Which was what our estimates were; but our confidence was not wholehearted that the Indian government would actually come through. Vietnam, being an agrarian society at this point had difficulty coming up with such a sizable number.  It looked like their contribution would be estimated at somewhere around $50 Million.

Phu Than was nervous, “Gerry”, he said, “India is putting up such a BIG number.  How will we ever compete?  Are we going to lose this deal?”  However we thought India’s commitment was shaky. There were multiple state, city, and federal governments involved – the situation was murky with different stories from different government leaders. I told Phu “Relax, you just focus on Vietnam; there’s a good chance India’s commitment may not show up”.

Phu had a big job to do.  In June Paul was going to make his first trip into Vietnam.  For Vietnam to have any chance at winning the factory, Intel’s CEO would have to come away believing that the country was up to the task.  Paul needed to feel that Vietnam’s leadership would do everything to make the plant successful – there could be no failure, no serious stumbles.  And very few Americans had a feel for the Vietnamese people.  Did they still hate us?   Could they develop a competence in ultra sophisticated automated manufacturing?

Phu had to come up with an array of technical and financial benefits but also had to develop a rational but aggressive PC market growth plan that necessarily had to include communications infrastructure.  He had enlisted as far back as 2001 a small cadre of Vietnamese political and tech leaders to help. Leaders like Nguyen Minh Triet, later Vietnam’s President but at the time the HCMC Party Chief; the Head of the Saigon High Tech Park; various Ministers, and most of all Dr Binh.  He had made good progress using the numerous Intel teams that planned new factory establishment and aligned our needs with the government’s.  Locations were being scouted, infrastructure evaluated, financial plans and policies developed, Phu insuring all was moving forward.

Meanwhile demand rate for PC’s in Vietnam continued to steadily grow by thousands every month as local assemblers and system integrators stretched their wings and internet cafe’s sprung up.  One early Saturday morning, as I prowled around the Hanoi open-air food markets around Gia Ngu St., I heard a screeching of voices up an alley. Exploring, I went up it to find a small room with two dozen young boys, all lined up around a dozen computers, gaming away – it wasn’t 7 am, yet they were in full swing!  Vietnam’s PC demand was surging towards 2 million units a year – with encouragement and education we could envision demand hitting as much as 3-4 million units a year – that would be about a third to a half of India’s internal demand – a country that was well over ten times larger. But the government had to drive this growth with connectivity, manufacturing, and localized software.  Phu and Binh derived an aggressive local growth model that had to be included in the Intel deal offer.  But Paul Otellini was coming for his state visit – would he feel the fever?

Paul’s trip had been scheduled to coincide with an annual meeting of youth and university computer societies from all over the country.  A few months before I asked Binh whether this would give Paul a good feeling for the enthusiasm of the nation for technology.  He assured me it would be a good setting for Paul to interact and see for himself how important the Vietnamese citizens felt technology was.  Also Dr. Binh asked me if I would approve of a special dinner for Paul.  In the evening of the big visit, at the end of surely a long, long day, he would like to have Paul and us to his home for dinner where we would be joined by a few national technology leaders.  Hmmm?

To step back for a second, one needs to understand that, in those days, a visit from the CEO of Intel, one of the world’s most valuable companies to a Third World Country, or even to London, New York or Tokyo, was like a rock star appearing at Bukodan or Wembly.  The CEO traveled with a US based entourage of writers, graphic artists, soundmen, lightingmen, and video teams.  There were numerous technical staff to make sure the “not yet released” new technology actually worked when Andy, Craig or Paul demo’d it before 10,000 people…PR people, right hand aids, government specialists, marketing and business deal makers; and local geography based leaders like Phu and my staff were there – his chief guides. A couple of platoons of supporters.

A typical CEO’s day would start the night before with a briefing as we drove to the base hotel after meeting the private jet, then a “full dress” review of local business at 0700, followed by several political or guest meetings – including a meeting with the country’s President or Prime Minister where deals and relationships were discussed, then the first BIG speech of the day (always showing off the latest), then a big lunch at round tables typically with partners and customers, then another visit or two, then another BIG speech at a different location, then a press conference, then another visit, then an email break, then another big round table dinner with either a third BIG speech or just remarks. Then the CEO might leave on his private jet to another day a couple of hours away.  It always varied a bit but the evening dinner was always a major production. It was a time for team building with the local Intel team, entertaining important guests in restaurants’ private dining rooms, or speechifying in hotel ballrooms.  However, I had never heard of a private dinner in someone’s home. Binh’s invitation was a new twist.

Well, we decided to give it a try.  Hanoi was still pretty basic – there were a couple of nice hotels and a few exquisite restaurants.  Binh’s idea might work and give Paul a chance to feel out some of the men, gauging their commitment to Intel and America.  Margo and I were up in Hanoi a few months before the big trip and were taken to check out Dr. Binh’s home.  We drove into a comfortable neighborhood; as we walked through a small garden to a lakeside setting we were impressed.  The home was a beautifully rebuilt, old, northern Vietnamese town home; single story, thick stucco walls, tile roof.  The rooms seemed to be separately built, with foot tall sills which one had to step over to move from room to room. The walls were deep crimson. There were polished wood ceiling beams and heavy, carved, wood doors.  Polished wooden pillars and shelves abounded; ancient Viet art everywhere – a museum of magnificent craft, speaking of the history and rich tribal lore of the indigenous, aboriginal tribes and Viet people.  Brass and wood masks, beautiful musical instruments, carved idols, vessels of all types.  A luxurious, exotic home. The dinner tables would be placed in the two living rooms,  separated by raised doorsills, looking out on the garden – a wonderful setting.

vietnamese livingroom

a Vietnamese living room

(As an aside, Vietnam has some 50 indigenous tribes. In ’66 I often visited with the Gia Rai Montagnards – animist people, with log-walled villages, built around a central, stilted, thatched, long house; also one person, thatched, sleeping huts the size of a small cot, on stilts, with woven stick walls. Hanoi has a terrific museum honoring the indigenous tribes – a hi-light of any visit.)

Paul’s Day in Hanoi

The June 2005 day arrived for Paul’s visit.  We met him at the airport and on the way to the Metropole Hotel briefed him and his “aide de camp” and Technical Assistant, Navin Shenoy.  In the early morning we had regional reviews, then headed to the Vietnamese State House where we met for an hour with Vietnam Prime Minister Phan Van Khai.  Gifts were exchanged, and the PM gave his assurances of the importance of Intel and computer technology to the country.

PSO 2

Paul Otellini and Prime Minister Phan Van Khai

Next on the agenda was Paul’s address to the assembly of student computer societies from throughout Vietnam.  It was being held in an enormous indoor sports arena that had been built for the ASEAN Games in December of 2003.  I was afraid the stadium was not a wise selection, thinking the student audience would never fill up the 5,000+ seats – it would look like a paltry turnout.  Binh said I underestimated the importance of the conference – they would be turning away applicants for attendance.  With the reticence of cultural sensitivity and difficulty of language I deferred with some skepticism; still I imagined a half full ground floor, thousands of empty seats, and dozens of empty rows reaching up to the rafters of the hollow complex.  I feared Paul going away scorning and patronizing the small potatoes of Vietnam’s farming economy.

As we waited in the green room we could hear raucous applause and cheering as the previous speakers wrapped up their talks and then began the introduction of Intel and our CEO. Soon we were led out into the sports arena where a sustained roar broke out, rising to the domed roof.

Hanoi Conference

Paul is greeted at “Digital Summer Conference” in Hanoi

I imagine it was as if the SF Giants had just won the World Series in Candlestick on a Wille Mays or McCovey homer!!

Paul walked down the middle row towards the stage and as I scanned the crowd I saw that almost all the attendees had donned Intel logo regalia – shirts, hats, banners. It was pandemonium with Paul’s face and waving arms shown from enormous screens.  As the cheers subsided Paul went into his multimedia presentation – greeted by massive applause at every significant point.  It was wonderful.

These young men and women, whose families had fought and died for self determination, Paul Joins Young Tech Leaders soaked the air with enthusiasm, and thirst for change, and shouted out for Intel to join their bandwagon – just as Dr Binh had predicted.

After that adrenalin laced event we returned to the hotel where a number of meetings, and press interviews took up the rest of the afternoon. All the reporters wanted to know what Intel’s intentions were on investing in Vietnam – Paul was circumspect.

MOU signing

I sign the Agreement

Later we had more photo ops as we signed the agreement that Phu had developed for the market expansion plan.

So far Paul was pleased, to say the least, although these types of big conventions were somewhat old hat for him and the other Intel CEO’s. They were always competing with Jobs and Gates for adulation from the tech fans.  Therefore, they would soon forget such an event as they moved on to the next capital or the next COMDEX, CES, or Davos keynote.  It would take something special to firmly plant the seed of Vietnam’s commitment in Paul’s core and the dinner party was what did it.

A WONDERFUL DINNER

As evening fell we headed over to Dr. Binh’s home for the final meeting. It was almost 30 years to the day since General Giap had finally won after 35 years of fighting the Japanese, then the French, then the US, and now we were going to his daughter’s house. I thought of the struggle that the Battle of Dien Bien Phu represented, as we walked up the small garden path to the massive red wooden doors of the house. Evening dusk had settled so the home was gently lit with candles and art lighting – flowers were everywhere.  We were met by a group of six senior men who all wore soft tunics, almost uniforms, without ties but some with standing collars.  Binh had rolled out the red carpet as we were served a fine French Bordeaux and we stood for 10 minutes chatting as Binh took Paul around the room showing him pieces of ancient craft. Navin, Phu, and I looked at the interesting old style architecture and the carvings and chatted with the Viet guests.   Soon Binh invited us to all sit and begin a wonderful meal.

It took me back 40 years…back to one night on convoy, when I needed help to protect some disabled trucks near the Anh Khe Pass in central Vietnam so went to the Korean Tiger Division camp, out in the dark rice paddies, where I was escorted to the officers’ mess tent. The CO and his team were eating dinner in dress uniform. There was only the dim light of Coleman lanterns. I came in to the large tent and the staff came to rigid attention in honor of the visiting American officer.

The light in Binh’s room reminded me of that evening.   The dusky shadows of the candles veiled indistinct idol forms.  Carved, lacquered, wood pillars separated the rooms.  Icons and effigies stood on Asian cabinets.  The crimson walls created an otherworldly atmosphere.    There were 10 of us at the beautiful tables – frankly it was like sitting around a campfire off in another world – far away from the noise and crush of a city.  And as the wine was passed the atmosphere too became one of travelers together resting at an evening way-station.

There were no big speeches, although both Binh and Paul exchanged brief toasts. Congenial conversation carried the meal.  As the dessert finished, Dr. Binh stood.  He thanked us all, and especially Paul, for joining, and then an extraordinary thing happened. He said: “I would like to do something which is traditional here in Vietnam.” He turned to Paul: “When we gather together we love to sing and, Paul, with your permission we would like to sing to you one of our most beloved songs.  Is that ok with you?” Paul of course gave his consent.

With that, Binh moved over towards his comrades and as they moved their chairs, still seated, and gathered around, he gave them the pitch with a hum. These six, powerful, communist revolutionary, ex-warrior leaders of the country began a soft and measured paced ballad in simple two part harmony.  Their lovely baritone voices were full with emotion, and they looked at one another’s faces in the muted glow, or looked off into space.  The song was a gentle one, and we were told after that they sang of the beauty of their country, and their love of their people for one another, and of course, of the scenic wonders and their beautiful girls and families…some of its lyrics were:  “Young girls smile in the lovely life, green trees are on the hills;  Rice fields show their full waves, while storks fly o’re the fields.”

Phu remembers the evening atmosphere this way: “I recalled the dinner ambiance at Binh’s home as serene and peaceful.  The dining room looked out to the garden by the lake (Westlake) – dimly lit with traditional Vietnamese lanterns, giving us a sense of timelessness, a place where time stand stills.  That’s what I remember.”

The evening ended with all of us feeling that something very, very special and quite important had just happened.

The Decision

Well to wrap this up, the Indian governments were not able to fulfill their support commitment.  They did not offer the $100M of incentives and Brian K. and team decided to move on.  Brian made the manufacturing recommendation to Paul to put the new plant in Vietnam and Paul ok’d it.  A few months later it was announced and in 2010 opened with Paul’s return.  As Intel’s press release stated: “First announced in 2006, the facility represents an investment commitment of $1 billion and opens up extensive new opportunities for economic development in Vietnam. The facility is the largest assembly and test factory in Intel’s global manufacturing network… .”

This first ever, significant, high tech investment kicked off an investment boom.  Before the 2006 Intel announcement, Vietnam FDI was under $2Billion a year a year – in 2007 it catapulted over $20Billion and has been between $15 and $20 Billion annually since then. As per The World Bank, “Vietnam now is one of the most dynamic emerging countries in East Asia region.”  President Nguyen Minh Triet told President George W Bush in 2006 that Intel’s decision to build its plant in Vietnam was the most important event for Vietnam since the end of the war.

Again, Phu’s thoughts: “The notion of 2 nation at war with each other now come full circle in doing business with each other, letting the past be the past.  With Intel’s stamp, Vietnam is seen as rising from the ashes of war into the new century.  What a symbol that is!”

To me particularly that magical dinner at Binh’s gave me the pleasant relief of completion.  In late 1965 I had begun believing that our war of interference was wrong as I talked to other members of SNCC while working on civil rights awareness campaigns at college.  I have always felt uncomfortable about my fighting over there.  But I came from an almost completely military family; my dad was Secretary of the General Staff of the 8th US Army in WW2; my uncle was Captain of the battleship USS Arizona; my godfather was a Navy Chaplain; my parents had been married at Annapolis; my sister Kay was the first female Army nurse to go into Vietnam.  As early on in the war as I went there, 1966, I had little chance of not going – it was go to Canada, go to jail, or go to Vietnam.  Besides I wanted to go, having been raised in that tradition, and so I had volunteered.  But I knew then and know now that we were on the wrong side of that war.  So I was happy to have played a roll in some compensation to the people of that lovely country and to truly feel their forgiveness as they sang to us that evening.

Bernard Fall

So that is my story of Phu, Binh, and Paul…but I said there was a fourth person – Bernard.

One of my contributions to this whole Vietnam factory decision was to tell Paul why I thought Vietnam was a great place to build a factory. Way back in early 1966 I had read a book by Bernard Fall called  Hell in a Very Small Place. Written in 1966, it is about the crux battle in the French Vietnamese War, the battle of Dien Bien Phu.  I believe everything one needs to know about the American Vietnamese War is in this book including the hubris of big countries, the overconfidence in technology, and the power of will, determination,  love of country, and the desire for self determination.  There is a paragraph in the epilogue that talks about what General Giap’s army did to bring Vietnam’s power to bear from the hills above the French fort – it is a word painting of almost superhuman commitment.  I told Paul in a note, accompanying the book I sent him, that if we could harness the Vietnamese’ people’s energy like that then the factory was sure to be successful.  I think it made a difference. Here is an excerpt from my email to Paul in May 2005, accompanying the book:    “The key take away for me in studying their struggle is the depth of their commitment (nonstop fighting for 30 years), their never-ending pursuit of the goal, the suffering that they were willing to go through (2.5Million non-combatants were killed in the US war – primarily by us), their optimism and self-confidence in the face of terrible odds set against them, and their resourcefulness and versatility in overcoming objections.  These guys are an inspiration to me.  Please see page 452 for some surprising statistics on what they needed to do to beat the French in this battle.  If we decide to build a plant here sometime in the future, I think this book portrays the type of people who will be working for Intel.”

Bernard Fall died with the 9th Marines in February 1967.  On that day I was in An Khe with the 1st Cav running convoys. I had been in Vietnam five months, he had been there 13 years; I was 22 – he was 40.

Read the book – you’ll like it.  …and many thanks to Phu Than who helped me write this, and who, by the way, has other amazing stories of Vietnam.

Gerry Greeve, Portland, Oregon, Aug 2017, retired Intel after 30 years in 2011.               Phu Than, Venture Capitalist, DFJ VinaCapital in Saigon

Postscript: In preparing this essay I checked with several of the attendees to insure reasonable accuracy. I received the following comments on the work from Paul who is now retired from Intel and living in San Francisco:                                                                   “… It brought back great memories of my trips and, of course, you are correct that the evening at Dr. Bhin’s home was absolutely the most memorable evening I have ever had in 40 years of Intel business. Your description was perfect. I recall as we were driving into Hanoi and you pointed out the “Hanoi Hilton” from the war and then the Phantom that they had shot down into the lake and made into a monument to their victory. You are right that it put trepidation into my thoughts. You are also right that the seminal event was the arena. At that point, I was pretty convinced that this would be a great place to operate and grow. The dinner put the icing on the cake…Best to you and thanks for sharing this with me!   paul”

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“JEEZ I CAN’T FIND MY KNEES”

This is about Bob Dylan’S 30 minute long “2016 Nobel Lecture in Literature” which was just provided by Bob on June 4.  
 
– This is NOT his 10 minute acceptance speech which was delivered by a woman in Stockholm at he ceremony.
– This is NOT about the content of Bob’s speech…it is about his delivery.  

But,  before I write about this I want to acknowledge to whom I am sending this.  
 
They are all people whom I believe (with one exception) have enjoyed with me and, in some cases, loved Bob’s music. 
Humor me please, here are my friends to whom I am sending this with fond memories of our joint experience of Bob Dylan’s work

     – Lawrence (Laddie) Davaney – my first cousin and oldest friend and he who, in summer of 1963, first introduced me to Bob Dylan’s work on a summer’s evening on a porch in their rental house in Los Also Hills
     – Kathy Sheehan – we went together to Dylan’s December 21, 1965 “Highway 61 Revisited” tour- his first electric shows
     – John Farnan – We spent hours studying the lyrics and crafting them into parts of our philosophy and theology papers at Santa Clara
     – Pete Borelli – we sang these songs in our apartment as we began to learn how to play the guitar; later we’d sing these songs as “buskers” in the streets and subways of Germany.
     – Greg Quintana – Bob’s civil rights song were the music that helped us shape our thinking and propel actions in support of the movement 
     – Dan Pisano – with whom I went to my second Dylan Concert – with Maria Muldar..later we got kicked out of Original Joes. This concert does not seem to show up on concert lists
     – Russ Rottiers – with whom I went to the “Gospel Tour” and waited for Bob to “play some folk songs”
     – Adam Welch – Nick and Jen’s cousin who is as close to a Dylan scholar as I know and who, with his Mom, has seen more concerts than me.
     – Jenny and Nick Greeve – two fine children who learned to love Bob despite his rough and crumbling voice
     – Frank & Mary Gill – who set up a fine concert last week where Joan Osborne sand 90 minutes of Bob’s songs
     – John Miner – who has shared that his one goal in his twilight years is “workin’ for a while on a fishin’ boat right outside of Delacroix
     – Rich Bader – with whom I’ve seen several Dylan concerts and his mother Mildred who worked for Dylan for 30+ years as his accountant (a great picture of Mildred and Bob many many years ago attached below)…Mildred was one of Margo’s favorite people and we loved our visits with her in New York.greev

OK – here’s  the link to Bob’s Lecture:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TlcPRlau2Q  

Here are my thoughts on it: While the lecture content is wonderfully written and ties together much imagery which runs through 50 years of his writing, there is little that a serious fan will find new.  It does show his thoughtfulness in reading and contemplating classic literature.  Most of the lecture is devoted to 3 novels:  Moby Dick, All’s Quiet on the Western Front, The Odyssey.

However, what I found most lovely was how Dylan talks throughout the lecture. How he uses his voice; how he caresses words or spits them out, and varies his vocal instrument continuously.  This is particularly rewarding give to that old saw “Good Songwriter but HORRIBLE singer”.

The arrays of sound mechanisms a person can use produces an individual “print” that is, like fingerprints and eye appearance totally unique to each individual.   These include attributes such as pitch, tone, air sensation, articulation, modulation, timbre, dynamics, intensity, accent, emphasis, length of hold, frequency level, shape of vowels, impact of consonants, their looseness or tightness, vibrato, etc etc.  In addition to the physics based variations there is the note structure of how sentences and phrases are constructed.  Ending on a high note, ending on a low note, how many notes might be used in a single syllable – all these can be varied.

I saw two fine concerts in the last month with Frank, Mary, Russ, Rich, and Abe where different musicians devoted hours to singing Bob Dylan songs:
     – Old Crow Medicine Show’s rendition of the Blonde on Blonde album
     – Joan Osborne’s concert of about 15 Dylan songs at The Aladdin Theatre.

While it was nice to hear these terrific songs, their interpretation in ALL instances was, to my taste, inferior in their quality of singing to the originals.  The words were the same, the bands were top notch, the venues were terrific. But I left longing for the originals and their moving, emotional, rendering which Bob created.  
Bob’s singing of most of these songs adds SO MUCH to the emotional impact of the lyrics, that to hear a whole set by someone who is not able to duplicate or expand on his phrasing merely reinforces the extremely controversial claim that Dylan, in his prime, was a great singer.  A rough, scratchy, raspy tone with annoying timbre’s and a bit too much nasal sound – yes he was;  but never the less GREAT in his ability to communicate the depth and type of feeling that he wants the song to communicate.

Rather than pontificate on what was missing I encourage each of you to listed to Bob’s lecture.  Set aside 30 minutes, put on a good set of earphones, and listen to his voice as it flows over the rich words – it is magnificent.

Here is the link again as kindly provided by our friend Ralph Henkhaus https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TlcPRlau2Q  
BobandMildredBader
and here is Rich Bader’s mom Mildred back in the days that they were a team:

Some good eating places in Kyoto

here’s what we have found in Kyoto.

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Konchi-in

Since I was a child, Margo and I have been there twice for a total of about 6 weeks.  We rented a house and did breakfast and an occasional lunch there.  There are many coffee shops with fine coffee and pastries.  There are a number of excellent pastry shops too.

Both times we stayed on the east side of the city in an area called Higashiyama (Eastern Mountains)between Shijo Ave (Dori) and Sanjo (Dori) Ave (Sanjo is 3rd Ave), Shijo is 4th Ave.
These Ave’s run east west and there are 3 North-South Streets that one moves up and down on.  We stay in Higashiyama because the mountains run straight North-south and are pretty much a non-stop run of shrines, temples, museums, parks, interspersed with interesting neighborhoods.  Also because the bus system and subway system run along it as do several of the train systems to out of town (especially the little train to Ohara and the amazing Sanzen-Ji) .  At the furthest south end is the rightly famous Inari Temple, dedicated to foxes, in Fushimi and to the north end is my favorite of the Imperial Household grounds, the “Shugakuin Imperial Villa” with hawks flying and farmers working in the rice paddies.

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Inari

These restaurants are in these general areas. They are all difficult to find due to little english signage. I recommend trying to find them on Google Maps, going to the general area and looking around then finding the resaturant. I ALWAYS get reservations and often will go to the restaurant a day before and book the reservation in person. That way I am sure of its location and feel welcome when I arrive. In most of the restaurants we sit at the counter – this allows us to interact with the staff and admire the work. It is always better to have a few beers or wine also. We try to order “Omikase” which means “what ever the chef feels is specially good” and then we don’t have to struggle with the menu. If one of the party does not like fish we find either a noodle restaurant, a chicken restaurant, a yakatori cafe or a Sukiyaki or ShabuShabu restaurant. The big department stores like Takeshimaya have great food courts and cafes (on each floor) for a nice lunch.

– Our favorite places in Higashiyama are as follows:

The Yagenbori Sueyoshicho restaurant in the beautiful northern Gion geisha district (north of ShijoDori). This is a small chain of family run traditional fine restaurants. booths and counter

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g298564-d3882425-Reviews-Yagenbori_Sueyoshicho-Kyoto_Kyoto_Prefecture_Kinki.html#REVIEWS
here is the chain website.

http://www.yagenbori.co.jp/english/tenpo/sueyoshi/index.html

Another spot in the south Gion area is a fine chicken/yakitori restaurant called Wabiya Korekido. You find it by the lovely circular drawing on the website and its wall
http://www.wabiya.com

Our favorite place is a restaurant called kitchen Occobe. It is on the south side of Sanjo Dori close to the Higashiyama Subway station. Its owner is Kouji and his sushi chef is Shingo. Their omikasi meal is terrific. Kouji heads the local wine club.
https://www.facebook.com/京都東山三条-Occobeおっこべー-ワイン洋食-347763642044159/

Next to that is a restaurant called Bamboo which provided us with the finest meal I have ever had in Japan (almost). The owner chef is somewhat tempremental but if he is on you will remember it always. Look in front of it for a small bowl of live freshwater crabs which he frys and you eat whole – terrific.

CHECK OUT TRIP ADVISOR FOR NOODLE SHOPS AND BAKERIES.

hope this helps

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the garden which gathers green Sanzen-ji

PLACES TO STAY

Jenny asked me to do this…!!

In reviewing I find that I have been to almost all of them with Margo whom I met when I was 52 and who did me the honor of taking me for her husband. She is an intrepid traveler and shares my love of new places – without her this list would be much shorter.

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Jungfrau from our Hotel Beausite room

A few things needed to make this list…you must be overlooking, or in the middle of, something beautiful. You don’t need to be able to see it from your room, although that is icing on the cake, but you must be able to walk out, stroll no more than a minute or two and be in the middle of a wonderful earthly paradise or wonderland, made by God or man, it doesn’t matter. And, if possible, there you may purchase & start your day with a cup of coffee.  Also, with two exceptions,  it must be a charming building with comfort and atmosphere to spare, those two exceptions have unique and special settings.

My Favorites

Relais Christine, Paris – right in the middle of the left bank tucked away on a quiet small street around a courtyard entrance, this small Inn has comfortable rooms with blissful quiet. IMG_0530.JPG3 minutes walk takes you to (a)the Rue De Buci street market,(b) 3 -5 Michelin starred (either now or in the past) restaurants/bistro, (c) Odeon metro, (d) Pont Neuf. Hard to beat – I’ve tried the Maurice, George V, Raphael and others but this is where I prefer.

Nishimuraya Honkan, Kinosaki – Near the Sea of Japan is a famous spa town; in it is one of the finest traditional Japanese inns you will find. Beware – I refer to the “Honkan” not its modern sister “Hotel”. With 8 official bath houses, temples and walks in the lovely wooded hills you will have a stay to remember.

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Nishimuraya Honkan Ryokan

Moana-Surfrider, Waikiki – is its old name, now a Sheraton it has a permanent place in the families heart and is my favorite hotel. It really is the verandah and the Banyan tree but the Waikiki outrigger rides are terrific. The old market has been torn down sad to say – but the memories of making “Meadow foam Madness” movie with Nick and searching for Jen’s b’day cake will never die. We always get a room at the top of the stairs in the old building so we don’t have to ever use an elevator.

Stephanie Inn – The most beautiful beach I know of is Cannon Beach in Oregon. Sitting overlooking one of its claims to fame, Haystack Rock is this small hotel.

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View from Stephanie Inn

The Janice Kay suite is where Margo and I stayed the weekend before we left for the turn of the century party in Salzburg and Paris which ultimately led to our marriage. It is also where I did my first drawing in my new journal which accompanied us through many countries. It is luscious.

 

 

Beausite, Wengen – wake up to the Monch and Jungfrau or take the cable car 10 minutes to the face of the Eiger. There are no cars in this village and the mountain train can take you to dozens of trams, funiculars, cable cars or lake steamers. Warm swimming pool and massages. This is your ultimate Swiss inn.

Hotel Sacher, Salzburg – We woke up one Christmas morning with snow coming down on the Salzach River and the turrets and steeples white in front. This may have the setting of all town settings; with great chocolate cake and Mozart all around. Try their Christmas market and late Xmas Eve mass. Dinner with Barton’s is icing on the Sacher Torte so to speak.

Asia Comfort

Metropole, Hanoi – Any hotel with a Graham Green bar has got to have historic atmosphere.

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Hanoi market

This one cannot be better sited in the middle of the robust action of central Hanoi. Close by are french bakeries, wonderful temples, markets, ice cream parlors, galleries, you name it. The old building rooms are comfortable and Pho is cooked on open fires for breakfast.

 

Avani Resort, Qui Nhon, Vietnam – In 1966 I ran convoy’s to the Cambodian border from this town.  Now outside it, past the leper colony, is a lovely place on the South China Sea.

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South China Sea

Looking for a quiet get away from the crazy life of Saigon or Hanoi, with a look at the real Vietnam, this will do it. http://www.minorhotels.com/en/avani/quy-nhon

 

 

 

Jaipur Palace, Jaipur – Majestic and enormous old palace now converted to a hotel.

india-2-188Impeccable service (for India), wonderful meals on the lawn or in the massive dining room. A great base camp for shopping and historic outings. Memories of Christmas dinner with Nick, Jenny and Margo.  There are sights galore in this town and in short drives to the countryside.  Best shopping in the world for precious and semiprecious stones.

Lalitha Mahal Palace, Mysore – The Maharaja of Mysore built this palace for his guests including Mountbatten. In 2005 it had a lovely vista of this interesting and exciting town. Close by is a stunning architectural wonder – Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace (he who handed Cornwallis his final defeat). Suites are enormous, dinners are complete with floor show, monkey’s help deliver breakfast on your verandah,

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The verandah at Mysore

and a magician hung out in the lobby for guests sleight of hand enjoyment.

 

 

 

Beautiful Vistas

Pere Bis, Talloires – has only about 25 rooms and is its third generation as a Michelin starred retreat. The lake is beautiful, warm and you can dive from a rowboat for a refreshing swim back to shore. There are towered villages across the blue water and comfortable lunches out on the patio. The lake steamer stops every 90 minutes for a leisurely ride to Annecy for shopping and lunch

El Tovar, Grand Canyon – The most beautiful view in the world is 30 feet from the lawn chairs on the porch. While the rooms, like most WPA hotels in the NP’s, are rustic, the dining room is lovely especially for a nice bit breakfast

Shiv Niwas Palace, Udaipur, India – Possibly the most romantic views in the world are around the lake in the center of this princely state in SE Rajasthan.

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breakfast by pool, Shiv Niwas

Many choose to stay at the Lake Palace which is a great choice; we prefer the Shiv Niwas Palace because a) it is the center of the town and b) it looks out on the Lake Palace. We were invited for cocktails with the Maharani which will forever be in the Greeve family lore

 

Fretheim Hotel, Flam – There are numerous fine hotels on the Norwegian Fjords and this one is the only one I’ve been to but we loved our quiet stay. Ferry trips through the fjords, bike rides, fires in the lobby. good wine and a brewery 3 minutes away, and one of the great rail trips Europe make this a winner. Between Oslo and Bergen – arrive by train and leave by boat – brilliant.

Chateau Lake Louise, Canadian Rockies – two fine stays here – New Years eve with the kids (the top floor is turned into a family casino); more atmosphere than believable, sleigh rides around the lake, which, by the way, has the most beautiful water in the world. Rooms are rustic but fun. Skiing and hiking galore.

Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island – This experience FAR exceeded Margo’s and my expectations. It is a long trip to get here, but if you are looking for a restful and relaxing stay it cannot be beaten. It is the living embodiment of the 1890’s – and it has 3 fine golf courses. NO motorized vehicles allowed on the island – horse carriages only. http://www.grandhotel.com

Shore Lodge, McCall, Idaho – morning mist rising on Payette Lake in the sunlight just cresting the foothills of the Bitterroot Range; WS award dining room; luscious spa; kayaking, water skiing, & golf galore and the best 4th of July show in the west. A stay last September showed remodeled rooms that were not as comfy as the old ones but still fine.

Magic Town Inns

Hotel Cathedrale, Strasbourg – We went here to visit Jen during Thanksgiving 1998; while we were there the city’s famous Christmas market opened. It was a thrill to look out from our window on the magnificent cathedral and in its surrounding square and teeming cobbled streets the booths strung with festive lights and garlands of lights. Make sure you get a room with a view!

Steigenberger Hotel, Dresden – The hotel is just a comfortable business class one but its location is terrific. On Germany’s most beautiful square a room with a view also takes in the steeples and spires of royal places, opera houses and multiple churches. Its crowning glory is ten steps from its outdoor cafe – a view of the magnificently rebuild Frauenkirchen. read my post on Dresden in this blog Mar 4 2015. https://www.steigenberger.com/en/hotels/all-hotels/germany/dresden/steigenberger-hotel-de-saxe

Hotel Wentzl,Krakow – I believe this Polish gem has the most charming square outside of Italy and this hotel will give you a window opening right into its midst with flower markets and ancient chapels underneath it. Terrific middle European cuisine, cathedral concerts, open air cafe’s and horse buggies to take you to tour the castle make for a wonderful stay.

Grand Hotel, St Peterburg, Russia – The ten days we spent here were some of the best of our lives.

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our living room

 

For Margo’s 65th birthday we went thru the hassles of getting real visa’s and bedded down here.  This city is really a town because you will almost certainly never stray more than 3 miles from the theaters, churches, parks, and museums that are within a stones throw of this great lady.  Dining is a problem in Russia but there are 5 restaurants in your hotel.  Excellent concierge service makes the problems disappear and the guide & town car appear.  We went to the Hermitage 5 different days, two ballets, and one opera innumerable palaces and museums plus a great boat tour of the canals and rivers.  A 15 hour tour of the countryside was exceptional  Truly worth the time if you are an art and music lover. http://www.belmond.com/grand-hotel-europe-st-petersburg/?langredirect=true

Cipriano Inn at Torcello, Venice Lagoon – The original island settlement islet in the Venetian lagoon has been inhabited since the 700’s, still largely given over to small farms if has a comfortable Inn run by the famous Cipriani family. Fine food and wine, luxurious garden dining, under the rust red brick domes and towers of the hote11th Century basilica. Some come here first to get over jet lag hanging in the beautiful garden. Its byzantine era mosaics are some of the best preserved in the world. The rooms can be tiny so reach for the best

Hotel Savoia & Jolanda, Venice – I am troubled by hotels in Venice..so easy to find yourself paying $800 a night and have a disappointing stay. This hotel will save you 25% and put you on the magnificent Riva if you spring for the “junior suite”. Once the hordes have left you find yourself in the most perfect “view” spot in the city. http://www.hotelsavoiajolanda.com

Shangri-La, Hangzhou – Hangzhou was the first Chinese city I felt comfortable in and this traditional old western style hotel was a big part of the reason. Situated along the lake with beautiful views of the garden islets, it is a center for walking, casual biking or boating on the lovely archipelago. Two of the finest Chinese restaurants are on the lake, one only a 5 minute walk out on a causeway.

Hotel Raphael, Rome – I suppose you can call Rome a big city but it always feels like a town to me. This 70 room vine covered spot feels more like an inn – casual and in no hurry, crazy room layouts, but always willing to please. It has been a favorite of our family since 1983. It’s payoff is the 3 minute walk to the alley entrance to Piazza Navone – certainly one of the top squares in the world. The is no better place to start and end a day that a coffee or gelato in this glorious space.

“Tropic” Inns

Sun City, Livingston, Zambia – I believe the Queen Victoria Falls are the most spectacular in the world. This sunny hotel is safe & comfortable and a short 5 minute walk from spectacular views. Zebras graze outside your windows, you can walk across the bridge to Zimbabwe or take boat or walking safari’s. Great fun.

Oberoi, Seminyak, Bali – This is one of the best hotels in the world.

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Jen and Nick at The Oberoi

 

It exceeds The Oriental Bangkok by a good margin. You must get a compounded villa and spend hours by the pool.  Nighttime entertainment, terrific food, and convenient sight seeing and golf will keep you busy when not soaking in the India Ocean (good body surfing).  see the reviews in TA for confirmation of this opinion. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g469404-d302392-Reviews-The_Oberoi_Bali-Seminyak_Bali.html

Casa Dell’Arte, Borum, Turkey – This is paradise on the Aegean with meals al fresco and one of the most beautiful pools in the world. Gracious hospitality and interesting art all over. And you can rent their 90 ft+ gulet schooner and disappear for a week or two if you have 6 good friends to split the bill.
http://www.casadellartebodrum.com

Ibah (Warwick), Ubud, Bali – The first time we stayed here in 2003 Margo and I dubbed it “our soul hotel”.

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view from an Ubud villa

For the upcountry view of Bali, where a few days with a hired car & driver through the temple and garden complexes will immerse you in the real Hindu paradise get a villa here. Deep in a gorge of rice patties and lush forests you cannot help feeling transported. Long walks with cool pool soaks, dinners in the garden, massages, and gamalang music, all help you feel its special charm.  http://warwickhotels.com/ibah/

Raffles, Siem Reap – a short tuktuk ride from the Temples of Angor this has a fabulous pool with outdoor massages under the spreading banyan trees. The suites are small but comfortable. You must stop your jungle touring in the middle of the day and rest with a refreshing lunch and a massage by the excellent pool. Short walk through the park to the village center and the boat races down the river. This is one of the top historic sites in the world, but it is exhausting – use the Raffles to help you enjoy it. http://www.raffles.com/siem-reap/

Amanjiwo, Borobudur, Java – The only one on the list at which we’ve never stayed but Harrison Ford has many times. It overlooks the jungles, mountains, and in the distance Borobudur – a truly, truly, wonderful temple with a mystical story. We had lunch. No need to describe an Aman luxury resort.

Palau Pacific Resort, Palau – The best swimming beach hotel (no surf) I’ve ever stayed at.img_0396 Basic comfort in a lush paradise of palms and white sand. A magnificent and large coral garden begins 10 steps from the beach and is good for scuba as well as unparalleled snorkeling. Prices have tripled in last 5 years. https://www.palauppr.com/en

Big City Ships (Expensive)

Gotham Hotel (now The Peninsula), Manhattan – Waynette and I stayed in this wonderful 245px-usa-nyc-the_peninsulaold building which is now beautifully restored. It was Thanksgiving Weekend in 1977, 9 months before Jen was born. We had Thanksgiving dinner in the Rainbow Room and saw Liza in The Act. Built in 1905 in a beautiful old style it is the center of 5th Avenue action. Now our suite will cost you $2000 a night over the holiday. http://newyork.peninsula.com/en/default

Imperial Palace, Tokyo – refinement galore in the beautiful public rooms of this images-3comfortable and attentive high-rise. Nice little spa, in room massages, helpful english speaking concierges. Right in the Marunouchi/Ginza area close to the palace, kabuki and shopping.The previous version was designed by F.L. Wright

Westin, Kyoto – You would think that in this ancient city you would look for an old hotel with traditional Japanese hospitality – CANNOT for less than $1000 a night. So get comfy in this well placed hotel and rest easy in between prowling thru the heavenly gardens and temples outside your front door.

Oriental, Bangkok – Rated continually as the best hotel in the world seems to me an exaggeration, but it is fine. Its crowning glory is its position on the ChaoPraya River, the city’s boulevard. boats of all type whisk you to the temples, markets, and museums. Then return to a cool swim in the lovely pool and relax on your balcony overlooking the interesting scene.

3 “Dumps” worth your while … Ok “dumps” is too strong a word but if you don’t mind floors that squeak or are linoleum, bathrooms like a Motel 6 , or no phone to call the front desk these will work. You wonder if they’re really clean but in the end they work out just fine. These are all locations you can’t get any other way.

Ola’s Bird Safari, way above the Arctic Circle – it is comfortable and clean enough for most but you are staying here not for the facility but its spectacular location and the terrific wildlife boat tour leaving from your front porch every couple of hours. After all it truly is at the end of the earth. UNBEATABLE! (if the sun is out) read my blog post 9/18/16.

East Lake Resort, Newberry Volcanic Monument, near Bend, Oregon – Deep inside the caldera of the volcano this place has good breakfast, canoes, outboard fishing dinghys, pontoon boats, trout galore, and some marvelous hikes and short drives. Best lake in the Northwest is you can do without waterskiing.

Prince of Wales Waterton Park, Canadian Rockies – It’s a shame this magnificent building, iconic really, has been let to go to seed by the Canadian Government. It is still worth a trip just to see it and its magnificent view. We stayed in 2009 and wrote a scathing review and as of this summer there are scathing reviews from visitors. Worth a trip.

SeaFoam Motel, Nags Head – we went every summer to Nags Head when we lived in Williamsburg. My mom and I would walk in the early morning up this beach to the pier and back collecting sea shells. This motel was there and is no different. Basic but clean.
http://seafoam.com

Other places I like to stay or have stayed once and liked a lot:
I could write a page or more about each of these.. If your stay at one would be like one of my stay’s it will make your list for delicious places to bunk as well.

North America:

-Black Rock Sheraton, Maui
-TuTuTun Lodge, Gold Beach, Oregon
-Hannover Inn, Dartmouth
http://www.hanoverinn.com
-Hotel Monaco, Seattle (you get a goldfish friend for your stay)

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views from out turret room at The Empress

 

-Empress Hotel Vancouver

 

 

 

 

 

Europe:

-Dukes, London
https://www.dukeshotel.com
-Hotel Miramare, Castiglione della Pescaia
http://www.hotelmiramare.info/?lang=en
-Hotel Majestic Toscanell, Padua
http://www.toscanelli.com/index.php/en
-Hotel de La Poste, Beaune


-Hotel Manoir Les Minimes, Amboise
http://www.manoirlesminimes.com/en/Amboise

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-Manoir at Amboise

-Grand Hotel, Zermatt
-Atlantic Park Hotel, Baden Baden
-Hotel Cathedral, Barcelona
http://www.barcelonacatedral.com/en/
-The Manor House, Castle Combe, England
-Montreux Palace, Montreux
-Palazzo Dragoni, Spoleto
http://www.palazzodragoni.it/25-Welcome.html

Asia:

-Four Seasons, Chang Mai

Gerry's Picks 190.jpg

Four Seasons, ChangMai

-Dalat Palace Hotel, Dalat, Vietnam
http://www.dalatpalacehotel.com
-Intercontinental Hotel, Sydney
-ShangriLa Hotel, Singapore
-Raffles Hotel, Phnom Penh

-Surin Phuket (on the same small bay as the Amanpuri but half the price) http://www.thesurinphuket.com

Any decent inn on Gili Trawangen, off Lombok

gerrys-picks-034

Nick on Gili Trawangan

 

 

 

 

The Butcher of Tiananmen Square

Bob Noyce had been the first senior leader of Intel to go to China.  He had gone there in late 1982 and met with Deng Xiaoping.  In about August 1983 Hank O’Hara, then Vice President of Sales for Intel, went to Beijing and met with Premier Zhao. China was anxious to do a deal with us which would get them more microprocessor technology fast. Zhao had chided Hank with an admonishment that went something like this: “Why have you Intel people done nothing with China? We have asked your Chairman to propose a deal for us to work together yet no one has done anything”.

Well Hank came back and talked to Bill Lattin who called me into his trailer. Bill said something like “Look Greeve the Chinese are all in a dither and you and your guys have got to put together some type of technology transfer deal. There’s been lots of talk but no results and you’re going to have to change all that”!
Well to make a long story short, a bunch of people joined me and we pulled together Intel’s first proposal for a business relationship with the People’s Republic of China. Our proposal was we would transfer computer hardware and software technology and training to the computer engineering department of the Aviation Ministry in return for them purchasing tens of millions of dollars of single board computers. In February 1984, four guys, Francis Yu, Chris Lingle, Mike Kemple, and I flew up to Beiing and negotiated the deal and the final watershed agreement with their Import/Export arm CATICunknown was done by the spring.

So as the wheels of that deal started to turn it was time for the ceremony. Of the Intel “office of the president” only Bob Noyce had been to China and so in early 1985 I helped Francis Yu organize a visit for Gordon Moore, then Intel’s President and his wife Betty. It was largely ceremonial with tours of factories, speeches to technology associations and ministry leadership, and a public resigning of the agreement. Of course we ate our way through the trip with one memorable feast after another. There are a number of lake parks just west and north of the Forbidden City which are fun to stroll through – we had a small luncheon banquet in an ancient building for about 30 Intel and PRC leaders there – delicious.

But the high point of the ceremonies was to be a “state meeting” where Gordon was to meet with the very powerful Vice Premier, Li Peng, who for a decade, starting a year or so after our visit, was the Premier of the PRC and head of its National Congree.

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Vice Premier Li Peng

I had to do the briefing for Gordon and in my research uncovered the fact that Vice Premier Li was the adopted son of Zhou En Lai. Li’s father, a member of the revolution, had been executed by the Kuomintang. During the “Long March” Zhou had given the six year old Li his blanket to keep him from freezing as they hid out in a cave in mountainous western China. So Li was destined for power in the seemingly, never ending incestuous realms of human politics.

I had to come up with the ceremonial gift that, in Asia, is a required part of any meeting between leaders. Teeing off from the tale of the blanket I went to our Portland based Pendleton woolen mills and purchased a lovely American Indian patterned kingsized blanket. Gordon raised an eyebrow when I told him what he was going to present but I convinced him with the cave story – and anyway, who doesn’t want a Pendleton blanket?

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Pendleton Blankets

There is a marvelous building near the Forbidden City which some nickname “The Chinese White House”. It is called Zongnanhai, which refers to the multiple lakes west of the palaces and the “imperial garden” in its midst…it now refers to the compound where the seat of power in China often resides and usually holds its most significant and power laden meetings. That was where our state meeting was to take place. Home of emperors and presidents, its history is palpable as you approach it in a limousine and, after disembarking, begin the walk to its majesty. The entrance to this compound is an enormous two story, carved wood, polychrome gate called “Xinhuamen”. unknown-2Its multiple eves sweep upward as wings. The gate entrance is flanked by large calligraphy signs with patriotic sayings and a couple of soldiers in full dress, and behind them, a massive gold written exhortation “Serve the People”. The theme is red and gold with sky blue accents under the handsome tiled roofs.

Six of us walked through the gate into the courtyard with Gordon in the lead and turned left approaching the “Hall of Purple Light”, the most important meeting hall. There we took seats in luxurious upholstered chairs with side tables laden with porcelain tea utensils and steaming Longjing dragon well tea. I took in the carved screens and silk paintings around the handsome room as the translated conversation between Gordon and Premier Li covered predictable ground. Then my turn came as I brought the blanket up to Gordon who presented it to Li. Their chatting was amiable, accompanied by occasional hand signs meaning tight collaboration, most of the talk merely confirming our commitments to work closely together. The whole thing lasted only 30 minutes and frankly I don’t recall any specific phrasing that was said. The ceremonial pictures were taken – all with film since it was 1985; mine are in some big box in Downtown Self Storage. As usual in China when its over its over, all shook hands and we left.

Gordon led us to Tsinghua University where he gave a lecture on Moore’s Law. After another meeting or two the Intel party split up. Bill Clemow and I went to Jiao Tong University in Shanghai where I gave a lecture on Open Systems Theory. I recall looking out of the Sheraton windows and seeing block after block of the teeming city streets stacked with large bok choy cabbages sitting outside in the freezing cold. Gordon invited Francis and me to join him and Betty on a trip to Guilin and the Li River but I declined.

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Mount Kinabalu, Borneo

I was into high altitude trekking at that point and elected to fly to Kota Kinabalu in Borneo where I climbed Mt Kinabalu which at about 13,500 feet is the tallest mountain in SouthEast Asia. I regret now not going with Gordon and Francis. While I worked closely with Gordon on this and IBM, it would have been special to get to know him more personally. I was invited later to go fishing in Alaska with him but again declined and my good pal John Miner joined him instead. Anyway enough of that.

In 1989, only four years after our meeting with Li Peng, the ten years of loosening the tight reign of the communist totalitarian state began to give way to popular demands for even more freedom. Frustrations with corruption, unequal economic success, and suppression of free criticism resulted in an explosion of protest around the country. Beijing’s Tianaman Square saw tens of thousands and sometimes a million people demonstrating for more freedoms. Riots, protests, and arrests broke out throughout the country. There was no agreement on response in the Politburo Standing Committee of Zhao, Li Peng and 3 others, much less with the “retired” paramount leader Deng, nor the Politburo as a whole. Li Peng was the fiery leader of the “crackdown” set. When Zhao left to take a trip to Korea, Li took charge of the country, coordinated with Deng and began pushing a hardline response.

There was back and forth until in mid-May when hunger strikes which had been underway for weeks prompted response. The party leadership decided this was all a threat to order and their control so ordered a tougher crackdown. Martial law was declared and masses of troops dispatched to Beijing. On June 1 LiPeng issued a formal report to the Politburo calling the protestors terrorists and counterrevolutionaries. This report was the justification for military action. Zhao having been ousted, Li was now the senior member of the Standing Committee and with Deng decided it was time to clear the square with military force. On June 3, outside the

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XinHua Gate

Xinhua gate of Zhongnanhai, where we had followed Gordon in for his state meeting, tear gas swept as the army and protesting students clashed. As the day proceeded the order was given by Li Peng to “use any means” and by late evening the army was killing people. The battle continued for the next 3 days as the army gradually exerted control. One estimate is 250,000 military occupied Beijing; there were dozens if not hundreds killed in other cities; the leaders were eventually rounded up and hundreds imprisoned and executed. Amnesty International estimates that from several hundred to one thousand were killed. There is no consensus on the true reach of the crackdown but there is allusion to, country wide, millions being investigated and “tens if not hundreds of thousands” being jailed.

Late in the summer of 1989 I saw Gordon and Betty at a garden party for Ed Gelbach’s 65th birthday.images-1

As I chatted with him I said “Gordon, what did you think about your friend Li Peng and that crackdown in Tiananmen square”.

“Gee”, Gordon said, “and he seemed like such a nice guy”.

POSTSCRIPT:  Oct 18, 2016..speaking of incestuous politics, corrupt dynasty building, and our upcoming election…in flitting around cyberspace today I spied this in the venerable South China Morning Post: “Li Xiaopeng, the governor of coal-rich Shanxi province and the son of former premier Li Peng, is tipped to become the new Communist Party boss of the regulator of top state-owned enterprises, sources in Shanxi and Beijing told the South China Morning Post.”  I was surprised about 30 years ago to realize that progressiveism leads, in some mentally twisted fashion, to powerful national governments which leads in turn to deeply seated nepotism…ugh.

OLA’S BIRD SAFARI, GJESVAER, NORWAY

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gjesværstappan

http://www.falkefoto.no/blog/birding-the-north-cape

I am posting this on my blog after having posted it 2 months ago on Facebook. There is only a little new information but I have added a number of pictures. I do like to keep my longer ramblings in one place, which is this blog.

Gjesvaer village with 4 rock sanctuary in distance

Gjesvaer village with 4 rock sanctuary in distance

“As I start this I am sitting here on a wharf dock in Gjesvaer, Norway at about 71 degrees, 5 min, North latitude. It is Saturday July 23 about 2pm. I am writing this because many people’s experience at NordKapp, Norway, the highest point in Europe and close to 330 miles above the Arctic Circle have been somewhat marginal weather wise. I have been thinking of how much others would have enjoyed what we are fortunate enough to be experiencing so I will try and describe it. Maybe if you’ve been disappointed you will come back and luck out as we have.

How we got here:
While we were on the Hurtigruten Ferry boat on our 5 day trip from Bergen to Skjervoy, Margo’s cousin Carolyn, who lives near us in Bend, mentioned that the cabin book on the excursions had some interesting stuff.

our ferry boat "Kong Harold"

our ferry boat “Kong Harald”

So I was looking at it and noticed that at Honnigsvag, the town near NordKapp, there was this thing called a “Bird Safari at the Stappan Nature Reserve/Bird Sanctuary.” Since we had seen Puffins on the RIB boat trip in Boda I thought, “well that might be nice” to do in addition to going to Nordkapp. We were planning a 5 day road trip after we finished visiting Anne Marie

Anne Marie and Carolyn

Anne Marie and Carolyn

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with cousin Linnea

and the rest of Margo and Carolyn’s 14+ cousins in Storslett, Nordreisa (which is itself at 69.46 degrees North – 215 miles above the Arctic Circle).

So the first evening in Nordreisa a cousin named Lars Eric, who is a well traveled guy, a dentist who lives in the Loftoten Island metropolis of Finnesnes, asked “what are you going to do at Nordkapp”. And I said, well we’re going to go to the cape itself and then we might do a “bird safari” – Lars Eric immediately pumped his hand in the air two times and said “YES!!!”.

Lars Eric is quick to call Ola

Lars Eric is quick to call Ola

Turns out he and his wife had just come back from there and said it was way cool. He immediately grabbed his phone and called “Ola” (pronouced OOla) and reserved us some rooms. He told us we’d be staying in a particularly nice style of accommodation and one which is uniquely Norwegian – in a ”rorbu” in a small fishing village. A “rorbu” is a small fishing shack which sits up on a fishing pier; in amongst the boats; almost always painted bright red.

typical rorbu

typical rorbu

We set out 5 days later with a rent-a-car and drove through the mountains, fjords, and tundra, stopping in Alta and Hammerfest. In Alta we had a great lunch with cousin Kolbjorn and Barb, then a tour of the 6,000 year old petroglyphs. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has amazing images of the hunter gatherer life style over the millennia. Kolbjorn used to play on the rocks as a child, before they had been discovered.

Kolbjorn

Kolbjorn at Alta

On Friday Juli 22 we pulled into this tiny spot on a map called Gjesvaer – a fishing village that sits on a peninsula about equidistant as Nord Cape in latitude and to the immediate west of the actual, most northerly mainland tip Knivskjellodden. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gjesvær )

What is here:
It is Saturday. I am sitting outside on the wooden wharf of “Ola’s Bird Safari” in a kitchen chair with my feet up on one of the several pine picnic tables. Ola said I could bring the chair out of the little cabin since we decided to stay here all day and not drive up to the tourist center at Nordkapp. The wharf’s main function is to serve the 80 foot passenger ferry that Ola bought and brought up here from southern Sweden to carry visitors out on safari.

The wharf sticks out into the sea about 30 yards and runs 50 yards along the shore. The sun has been shining brightly since Thursday afternoon when we left Alta. It is 16+ degrees Celsius which is about 60 I guess. The rorbu fishing cabin is actually one of 4 common wall units built along the wharf.

our dock and red rob

our dock and red rorbu, Ola’s excursion boat to left

We have the west end which is the center of activity for Ola’s business of running 2 hour boat excursions out to the massive rock islands on the horizon. Ola’s wife tells us she will fix us breakfast in the morning if we’d like.

Our picnic table sits in the direct sun about 20 hours a day! In the night time the sun is above the horizon but the cabins block its rays as it has sunken to only a few degrees above and is behind the cabins. We are surrounded by the calls of several types of gulls that continuously fly by, the lapping of gentle waves on the pilings below us, and the smell of the 58 dried cod that hang next to us on the ancient drying rack. Ola calls them “tourist cod”.

Margo on the dock with tourist cod

Margo on the dock with tourist cod

In front of our picnic table are three layers of water stretching off to the Northwest. The water has been smooth as glass, there seems to be no current – it is as if we are in a Canadian lake . There are small islets that separate the three inlets. We look out on only a small portion of the open ocean through them; perhaps 2 degrees of horizon. The islets are flat like pancake batter dripped onto a skillet, bottoms like rulers. Around the inlets there are dozens of smallish rocks from the size of small swimming pool to as large as a tennis court There are no trees; the islands large and small are covered with boulders, grass, and moss.

We are unbelievably lucky to have this great weather. After hearing from so many how bad the weather normally is at NorthCape, the supposed northern most point in mainline Europe, we are here having clear, warm sun 24 hours a day. As we pulled into our cabin and safari complex on Friday at 4:30pm ( http://www.birdsafari.com) evening the sky and ocean are the brightest blue imaginable. Our 2 bedroom + kitchen and LR rorbu is serviceable with clean new pine floors and think down comforters. We open the windows as there are few mosquitos around then sit and relax on the dock, soaking in the warm sun, admiring the view. We sat here all day today except for taking two 90 minute bird safari’s. We are reading, journal writing, eating, napping, drawing, and chatting with the other tourists who pile out of their tour buses every few hours to go on Ola’s boat ride through the bird sanctuary. This happens every couple of hours until between 0900 and about 0200. The midnight safari is quite popular. Every once in a while Margo and Carolyn have a cold Mack Pilsner. There is no ice cream here.

sunset from the picnic table

“sunset”  from the picnic table

The Bird Sanctuary:
Beyond the three ranks of small islets are four enormous, large rock islands. It is the fabulous nature preserve and bird sanctuary called the “Gjesvaer Stappan Nature Reserve” and is primarily built around these enormous rock islands sticking up about 1000 feet – named Storstappen, Stauren, Bukkstappen, and Kjerkestappen. Beyond is nothing unless you clip the east corner of Svalbard Island – otherwise continue on to the North Pole. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gjesværstappan )

Friday evening, after our arrival, we walk 200 yards down the coast to the Stappan Cafe for dinner of fish soup, fresh crab legs, and Bacalao. As we sit we see the sign promoting their sea safari’s…I ask the waitress “can we go on an evening safari?” She proceeds to call the skipper and owner who is on the water and replies in the affirmative. “Why not?” We all say, “sign us up!” So that is how we met Roald Berg

Ronald with 2 mermaids

Roald with 2 mermaids

and his small four person boat the “Aurora”. By eight Friday evening we are moving smartly over the calm sea, in the unending arctic glow, and into the mass of islands and rocks that is Stappan. We begin our first of what will be 3 trips into the Reserve in 24 hours. Magic light bathes us continually and keeps the air a warm 60-65 F. http://www.stappan.com shows Roald with some of his fresh crab.

The sanctuary is famous for its Puffins and Sea Eagles**. There are about 3 Million birds which are here in the summer nesting in and about the 4 large rocks. Of these 1.5 Million are Puffins. Like at Cannon Beach but a few million more.   The Puffin are everywhere but never closer than 20 feet from the boat. They are floating in large rafts on the water, swarming like bees off the crests and faces of the enormous walls, and nesting in the grass that climbs up the flatter slopes.

puffins - 10's of thousands

puffins – 10’s of thousands

As we approach in the boat most paddle energetically to take off into the air, but many dive furiously under the water. When a Puffins takes off from the water he flaps his wings into the surface for 10 or 12 flaps then sticks his yellow webbed feet out behind him like Superman’s’ cape and the skims across the pond like surface for 50 yards until he begins to climb. img_3577There are piles of them swimming and taking off in all directions.

Above, as you lean back and gaze, is a seemingly random and furious swirl of tens of thousands of Puffins along with every other sea bird you can image: Alk’s, Gannets, Guillemots, assortments of Oyster catchers, Petral’s, Arctic Terns. Several types of gulls from Kittiwaks to Great Black-backed. On rock ridges sit hundreds and hundreds of Shags and Comorants – all with their foot long necks and heads pointed together in a single direction. On Saturday afternoon with Ola in the big boat and about 40 tourists from all over Europe, we watched a crow fight 3 Sea Eagles. He seemed to have dropped his catch but the eagles still kept after him; they disappeared behind a rock cliff and the crow never emerged.

Roald's buddies

Roald’s buddies

Around one set of small rocks is a pack of 30 to 50 harbor seals whose heads pop up to greet Roald.

beautiful Gannets

beautiful Gannets

There is a recovering herd of snow-white bodied Gannets arrayed in lines up the northwest ridge of the largest island Storstappan.   Our guide Roald Berg saw the first nesting pair in about 1981 – they have grown to over 1500 nesting pairs. They are graceful flyers and beautiful with long light golden necks. They can live for about 30 years. We have never seen them before.

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soaring eagles

Eagles are the second biggest draw to Stappan. There are about 150 to 200 nesting here. There have beautiful white tail feathers as they reach adulthood at about 5 years. They soar, soar, soar above the massive rock then dive in a fast glide down to the sea on their 2.5 meter wingspan. Saturday evening with Roald on the “Aurora” Margo and I counted 25 in one view frame..he said “What? I counted 70!”

White tailed Sea Eagle

White tailed Sea Eagle

….  you oughta COME HERE!!

So we have definitely lucked out. We’ve gone once on Ola’s big one and twice on Roald’s small 4 person one. We had about 48 hours of clear, warm sun with nary even a breeze.

Alta Petroglyphs

Alta Petroglyphs

We think the wind stopped at Alta’s Petroglyph Museum when Cousin Carolyn sacrificed her 45 year old precious Sami silver neck charm to the weather gods. Thank you Carolyn.

Leaving:

The weather is certainly uncertain up here as many know. As I was writing last night in the midnight sun a fog bank that Ola was watching moved in and we have not seen the sun since. It is now Sunday morning and we will drive to Karasjok, the Sami capital. I hope we will break out of this mist by Honningsvag because there are a hell of a lot of reindeer wandering among the highway. Everyone should come here and have a great sail on the Hurtigruten and we wish you luck out in Gjesvaer as did we.

Reindeer galore

Reindeer galore

We are actually:
…at 71.05.53 latitude which is about 5 miles south of the famous “NordKapp – Northcape” 71.10.21. Of course the highest point is actually Knivskjellodden which is at 71 degrees 11 minutes and 8 seconds so we are saying “we went to NorthCape the highest point” anyway even though we are 3 miles as the crow flies from Knivskjellodden when we go to the islands of the Reserve to watch the birds…
….By the way, if you left our picnic table and headed out through the clear channel directly to the North Pole and continued on down the opposite longitude of about 155 degrees West you’d land pretty much exactly at Point Barrow – the northernmost point in the USA. **GEOGRAPHY!!  🙂

** How far north latitude is…?? (degrees.minutes.second) :
each degree =~ 69 miles;    each minute =~ 1.15 miles

Arctic Circle 66.33.46
Storslett 69.46.05
Knivskjellodden 71.11.08
Nordkapp-NorthCape 71.10.21
Gjesvaerstappan 71.08.24
Gjesvaer village 71.05.53
Point Barrow, Alaska 71.23.20 (about 20 miles farther north than Gjesvaer)

** Taxonomy of The Bird Sanctuary
Puffins (Fratercula artica)
White-tailed Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla)
Gannets (Morus bassanus)
Alk (Razorbill) (Alca Torda)”

The Ferry route to Gjesvaer is by Honningsvag – top of Europe

Sunset Ghosts

I have had only one experience that I could possibly call SUPERNATURAL….
I’ve never been sure that it was, but, I had just talked to my old friend Peter and he agrees that it was a strange evening. So I thought I’d recount it.

I do believe that there are probably more than a few sentient beings in this enormous spread of billions of galaxies – many of whom may have powers well beyond ours.  So I open about UFO’s although I’ve never seen any myself.
I’m unsure about parallel universes or dimensions impinging on ours…why bother?
Extrasensory perception? Probably.
Don’t know about time travel but certainly flying in a slight haze in the upper deck of a 747 from Portland to Amsterdam with a valium under the belt could be construed to be some primitive method of teleportation.
I think our next big breakthrough will be figuring out how to get close to the speed of light and expect that to happen in the next thousand years.
Angels? – sure.
Devils? – no need – enough of our own.Unknown-4

…But I do pride myself as being a sort of sceptic of the Sherlock Homes type – there is a natural and causal reason for almost everything that we experience as bizarre, unworldly, or miraculous – it’s just hard to believe it sometimes.

Well that covers pretty much everything for me.

Except for that early spring evening in San Francisco in 1968.

I had recently returned from a combat year in the Vietnam War and was very grounded in reality.  But I was living in San Francisco and as the say “the goddess was loose”.

The City was full of neo-pagan things.  Everyone was talking astrology, incense & crystal shops with pyramids extant filled up Upper Grant, Haight Street, and the old chocolate factory where Pete’s grandfather and grandmother had worked, which was now a mall down by Aquatic Park. Psychedelia, kaleidoscopic, mind-bending experiences seemed to be everywhere…and their cohorts of hallucinatory substances were indeed everywhere.  The interesting thing was that the hallucinogens had taught us that we live in just one way of seeing things yet there are indeed other ways which are just as real and valid.

So when Patti Pere showed up one night talking about white, swirling ghost creatures swimming around her car, as she drove through Golden Gate Park, it was natural to think some drugs might have been involved.  That was not the case.

Patti was one of the most beautiful girls I’d ever met.  Pete had shown up at school one day with her on her arm – I don’t know where they had met but they soon became inseparable.  After we graduated and went our different ways to Vietnam and returned, their romance had seemed to lose its fire.

Yet we all remained friends, living in San Francisco, living a poem, soaking in the cold mist, singing our own songs, hanging out on the wharfs listening to the fog sounds, in the fall and winter of love and then on until Pete and I headed for Europe in August 1968 and Morocco and Firenze and Frankfurt…….. but that was later and now we were and Rod McKuen was writing and the street lights were dim, in that magic place called The City….  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=233rTu8wdhg

It turned out Lou Branson had left Santa Clara University for his spring semester and he and I were renting a house out in the Sunset where the evening fog rolled in most evenings.  Lou was doing his disc jockey gig, I was finishing up my active Army duty at Oakland Army Base.  Pete was working as a child psychologist and living with his Mom but crashing many night with us.

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Patti? 

 

Patti had decided to make some bread off her fantastic looks and was a Playboy Bunny at the San Francisco Playboy Club.  (see this Vanity Fair article on the start of that now past away institutionhttp://www.vanityfair.com/news/2011/05/playboy-clubs-201105 ).  We all thought that was funny-haha because she was one of the nicest and sweet girls you could meet and almost a total opposite of the common misconception of what the bunnies were like.

the Sunset District

The Sunset

Anyway one evening in about April Lou, Pete and I were sitting in our living room out on 47th Avenue near Ortega – as per standard practice in those days we were on the floor since we had no furniture, just mattresses.  We heard someone running and stomping up the front steps and then a loud banging on the door.  We recognized Patti yelling, “Let me in, Let me in”.  All three of us went to the door and Patti rushed in.

We could tell in a flash that she was panicked – her face was contorted and eyes as large as silver dollars – she looked like a woman who had spiders crawling all over her head that’s how frightened she was.  In between deep gasps she said “They are following me, They have been flying around my car ever since I was in Golden Gate Park.  They are singing to me.” …

let me do it this way – here’s what went down:

Patti, Patti, what the hell’s the matter said Greeve
Are you ok? are you ok echoed Pete
– Oh my oh my, she gasped, oh my, oh my
Lou moved out onto the porch and taking her arm brought her into the flat.
Her face was pale, blood drained.  Her eyes wobbled like the surface of a bowl of water on a New York subway car.
If Patti perspired her arm pits must have been dripping.
We boys led her thru the arched hall and into the living room.

Greeve helped her sit down on some pillows..
what’s going on he said?
Patti’s voice jumped up and down as she said
– I was coming through Golden Gate park and these white cloud like things appeared.
WHAT! said Lou
– yes, they were all around the car
were you moving?
– yes dummy, I was driving through on JFK Drive
well what were you doing asked Pete
– You know I met Suzanne, the gal who has the oils and incense shop  off of Stanyon Street and decided to come over here to see you guys.
ok, but what are those things flying around?
-I don’t know, Pete, I don’t know.
what do they look like
-well like I said they’re white, and puffy like cloud people, or cloud children
what are you talking about?
-just what I said and they were singing to me.
Singing??
-Yes
Like what were they singing?
-Just melodies like humming, they wanted me to play, and they were calling to me, come out come out
Are you kidding?
…she stands up..
-they were swirling and doing spins and summersaults and calling to me
were they like angels or ghosts?
-sort of but they keep moving

OkOk wait a minute..here sit down, sit down
she sits
Start from the beginning where were you..??
-Look after I left work and headed over here I stopped at Suzanne’s…
yeah well, wait a second..did she give you any acid? or mescaline or anything
-No no guys I don’t do that you know, I didn’t even smoke any dope
Nothing?
-No, I was just buying some oils she was telling me about
did she put it on you?
-yes some on my arm
Wow!

So Patti had come into the living room of our flat and had sat on one of the pillows in the otherwise empty living room. So, to try and make sense of this confusion here’s a recap:
Around 7 pm on that cool spring evening she had left her apartment in the Marina headed over to see Louie and me. She had decided to stop by an “oil shop” which a friend had told her of. The shop was run by a very mystical woman – perhaps a good witch – and she sold a vast array of different oils. Patti had tried some of them. She maintained the witch swore that none had any psychedelics like LSD or THC. Patti did not take any drugs or alcohol so I believed she had probably tried to vet the oils well.
She left the shop near the Panhandle and

Golden Gate Park hovers

Golden Gate Park hovers

proceeded to drive down through Golden Gate Park. Suddenly, as she wound through the massive, dark corridor of cedars and ocean pines, two or more bright balls of shimmering white light appeared, hovering around her moving car.

The lights were moving smoothly around the windows: front and back, side to side. As they appeared and swung around and around they began to sing a wordless, unearthly song. Patti fought to maintain focus on the curving park road.
Then the objects began to call to her in light and charming voices: “Come Out Come Out – Come Out and Play with us”. She was not frightened, she could sense these things, creatures of some type really, meant her no harm. They were friendly and wanted Patti to join them. She said she thought they must be ghosts. As she left the park, and entered the avenues by our flat, the light balls continued to sing and swirl in their strange dance.
As Lou and I listened, and Pete questioned her, we were telling her quietly that “things are ok, you are with us now, we’re by you, don’t worry we’ll take care of you”. Patti maintained that she wasn’t scared, particularly. She didn’t think they meant her harm – it was just so weird, so unexpected, so otherworldly. But she was definitely unsettled, her eyes were almost panicked. They had a vacant look, staring off into another realm.
Abruptly Patti jumped up and ran to the front window. “They’re there” she gasped, “They’re there, can you see them”?. Then she turned swiftly and ran through the dining room to the back kitchen window. “They’re there, can you see them? They are flying around! Outside the apartment. Moving so fast. Can you see them? Can you see them?” She ran back and forth through the 3 openly connected rooms; living room, dining room, kitchen. You could stand anywhere and look from the front window to the back window; she did that, turning from window to window, moving swiftly or running back to front.

Pete and Lou moved to and fro with her touching her arms and her back, slowing her down a bit. Making sure she didn’t crash or trip in her obsessed dance. Looking out the windows with her, seeing nothing ourselves. As our concern mounted I turned on all the lights in the three rooms, made sure the doors were both locked, checked the windows too.
Finally she stopped. They had disappeared for a moment.

Patti sat down, breathing hard, looking all around, trying to calm herself. As she put her hand on her chest she lay back on one of the big pillows. “What is it Lou? What is it?” she said in a light pant. We tried to calm her. In a few minutes she snapped upright with a start – “There they are – they’re back. They’re singing to me again. They are begging me to come outside and join them. They want me to join them.”
I was now getting nervous. I didn’t believe in supernatural apparitions, UFO’s, ghosts, or goblins. But Patti, despite being of the emotional sort, had never been known to see things or hear things. Clearly she was under the spell of some type force. I didn’t know what to do.

Then a thought occurred to me.
In my bedroom I had a hand made, yarn “god’s eye”. Red, blue, and yellow thread wound into a diamond shape around two eight inch long sticks, with some beads embedded here and there. I had gotten it at a street fair in The Haight. It was a Mexican or Southwest Indian artifact I believe. I scurried into my room, retrieved it and brought it out to Patti and Lou.Unknown-2
There was a good sized nail pounded into the upper center wall of the arched opening between the apartment’s living room and dining room. It had been left by some former occupant. I grabbed a chair, climbed up on it and then carefully and firmly hung the god’s eye on the nail in the arch wall. Then climbed down, put the chair back, and went over to the pillows where Lou and Patti sat. As I sat down with them I said:

“Here Patti, I’ve put this god’s eye up there. It will keep any evil spirits away.
“If these ghost are good ghosts then we have no problem, and you can just sit down, relax, and enjoy them.
“You don’t have to go out with them.
“If they are bad or evil the god’s eye will protect us.
“They cannot bother us with this here”.

Then, at that exact second, without the slightest warning or provocation, the god’s eye fell from the nail to the floor, slamming into the hard wood, and all the lights in the house went out.

All three of us screamed in the pitch dark like howler monkeys in a Costa Rican rain forest. Louder than a Blue Cheer riff in the Avalon Ballroom. We yelled and yelled again, and grabbed each other, and screamed some more.

Blue Cheer - first heavy metal band

Blue Cheer

The lights remained out for two or three minutes and then as fast as they had gone out, they came back on. We were in shock.

The ghosts, the god’s eye falling and the lights all going out…all at once..with no human provocation.
Weird.

So that’s my one and only brush with the otherworld.

It doesn’t sound like much but there is no explanation for it. Lou, Patti, I…we all talked it all over, looked at it from umpteen ways and always agreed on the details. Lou is dead. Patti lives down towards Monterey. I believe Pete in Cortona will still corroborate them although his mind is not what it once was – must be the sangiovese.

Later, the next evening, I went over to a sometimes lover who lived across the street and asked here if her lights had gone out. “No” she said, “No, no lights went out. I’m sure because if they had my two girls would have been scared”. Strange.

I have written about synchronicity in this blog before but this was not that – this was something else. What? I don’t know.

Kashmir Customs

Kashmir is one of the beauty spots of the world.

Set in a number of valleys on the southwestern elbow of the Himalayan Mountains it has snow covered peaks sporting rugged glaciers. The valley floors tend to be elevated in the 4000 to 6000 foot range with the peaks of the Greater Himalayan range to its north reaching above 17,000 feet.

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The Vale of Kashmir

Its centerpiece is the “Vale of Kashmir” – a luscious valley as rich as anyplace on earth. Nearby my Oregon home is the Hood River Valley, full of apple, pear, plums, ’cots, berry’s, grapes – a magnificent cornucopia of riches – the Vale of Kashmir is probably 5 times its size and just as rich. Emperor Jahangir called it “Paradise on Earth” in the early 1600’s.

Politically it had one of the several post-colonial disaster stories similar to Vietnam and much of the middle-east. India, Pakistan and occasionally China have been fighting over it since The Partition; portions are occupied by high altitude artillery forces and the borders are dangerous – you wouldn’t want to wander near them. It has only been opened to “tourism” for short periods over the last fifty years.

When I was in my mid thirties I was fortunate that it had recently opened and so got to go to Kashmir, starting in Srinagar, its capital, for

srinagar

Srinagar

several weeks of trekking. We were guided by Hugh Swift, a Himalayan explorer who had written the Sierra Cub trekking guides to all the Himal. (see this fine book on Hugh Swift: The Traveler, An American Odyssey in the Himalayas at Amazon).

We had met in Delhi, flew to Srinagar, and then hiked from Pahalgam up past Mount Kolahoi, (peaking in a pure triangle at 18,000 feet), and its magnificent glacier. Then we intersected the road to Kargil where we hopped on a busted up bus into Ladakh towards its capital town Leh. After a memorable week hiking around that classic country we flew back once more to Srinagar, the Kashmir capital for some sightseeing.

Pahalgam start of trek

Enter Pahalgam, the start of the hike

I remember well several things about that 15 days of high altitude trekking.

We had a troop of horses to carry supplies – herded by Balti or Gujjar tribesmen (the easiest way to tell the tribes apart are the style of cap they wear – Balti men have flat wool pancake like ones. We had spent the afternoon before lunch riding the small ponies around Pahalgam and were excited about setting off. images.jpegSomeone called “ hey check this out” and we all surrounded one of the pack horses that had a 5 foot diameter wicker basket tied on. The basket was full of live chickens, 20 or 30 of them, our sole source of protein for the first week or so. Good for a chuckle.

The night before we had set out from Srinagar I had asked Hugh, who would be my tent mate for the three weeks together, if he knew where I could get some hash. I had spent the afternoon out at the city marketplaceasking around with no luck.

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downtown market in Srinagar

We started out on the climb on a dirt path through the luscious fir forest. I had taken the rear guard, which has always been my preferred spot, whether scuba diving or hiking. After 2 miles or so Hugh dropped back to my side. As we walked he said “did you see that guy back there?” He meant a small wooden shopping stand, alone out in the wood, where an oldish man had sat on his elevated floor. “That’s where the good stuff is.” I asked Hugh how he knew. He said these little market stands throughout the mountains always had the fine hand rolled resin; and that as he had walked by him, in Balti dialect, Hugh had asked if he had any. “Ask him for Charas” Hugh said.

"the good stuff"

“the good stuff”

A few afternoons later I recall the sense of strolling along a smooth dirt path above 12,000 feet as the sun warmed us, seeming to float above the valleys in the crystalline air. We only lit up a couple of times – we needed no more than what God had provided.

One evening as the sun passed below the ridges,

we climbed through a rough narrow valley headed north to its end.On the west slopes we encountered a stone hamlet where 3 or 4 children stood watching us from the flat, slate roofs. Two women, cloaked in sooty shawls silently stared. These were the summer grazing lands of the Gujjar and these were some of the first families to ascend this spring. The men were not here – they were higher yet with the sheep. Their huts were made out of rude stones, piled without mortar yet clearly standing for probably centuries.

It was at that point I realized that the Himalayan Mountains

The Kashmir Himalaya

The Kashmir Himalaya

were not a wilderness; that, although we might see no one for several days, no matter where we were were below 17,000 feet, some shepherd or goatherd was never far away; and that it had been this way for thousands and thousands of years. There is no wilderness in the eastern hemisphere – the only remaining wilderness in the world in the time of our fathers, was in North or South America. All the rest has been cultivated and domesticated over thousands of years. If man can live there he will. 41DRjBehJ1L._SX298_BO1,204,203,200_This explained the “gently lyrical communication with wild nature” (J.T.Flexner) of our American “Native School” of painting as beautifully described in his book That Wilder Image:
“Gaze on them, till the tears shall dim thy sight, But keep that earlier, wilder image bright.” (W.C.Bryant).
As we descended in twilight from the ridge towards our camp spot for the night my hiking companion, a gal from New York, splashed through some snowmelt marsh and muddied her boots – she cursed me for leading her into it.

It was the next day that we were told that due to a late spring, the snow pack was too heavy for the horses to go over the normal pass.

Hugh asked me to come with him and the wranglers as they took the horses around a different way. After about an hour of climbing we reach a snow covered ridge about 50 yards long with a narrow path above a large snow field dropping off about 500 feet. We unloaded the horses and began to ferry the loads over the snow to the clear path. It was easy enough and not too dangerous – the snow was firm and cold – but enjoyed working with the Balti’s. After they repacked and started down the trail we saw the rest of the trekkers down below the snow field, Hugh said “let’s walk down the snow” … that lasted about three minutes until our boots slipped and we started a long slide down the spring corn snow coming to a gentle slow stop at the flattening bottom.
The husband of the mud-woman came up. He was pissed that I hadn’t asked them to go with us. I told him Hugh had just asked me. I guess he thought I was trying to show off. If Hugh had wanted the other men along he would have asked; not my decision at all.

Along in there sometime we hiked up to the face of the Kolahoi glacier, the largest in these parts.

Kolahoi_Glacier_andMt.Kolahoi(5425m)_North_view_-the_highest_mountain_in_Kashmir_valley

Kolahoi Glacier

It is one of the fast retreating glaciers that is meticulously measured in the Himalayan Range. At the time we walked 4 hours up the moraine to the start of its river. It was about 10,000 feet elevation – since then it is estimated to have retreated over 600 meters and is now at about 12,000 feet high. Hugh had been working on writing his new revision to the Sierra Club Guide to Trekking in The Himalaya and as we sat in the hot sun he read to me his new description of the place where “you meet the roaring snout of the glacier as it slides through the mountain like a snake” or something like that.

That night we ate the last chicken. We heard that tomorrow we’d buy a sheep and have lamb. WOW!!! Nothing had ever sounded more delicious. We had been eating chicken for a week. We watched the transaction as we walked in the bright, warm sun the next day. That night we had lamb stew and afterwards sat under the billion stars along with the Balti’s and Gujjar’s singing to each other… we did nursery ditties, old cowboy songs, and Bob Dylan; they sang we know not what. From that day on we had lamb for dinner every evening for another week. When we finally pulled into Leh after a scary but beautiful two day bus drive along the headwaters of the Indus River the owner of the newly opened inn opened his arms to the twelve of us in welcome and made a small speech which he ended with the declaration of a Special Meal in our honor – “roast lamb”. Oy yoi yoi NOT AGAIN!.

LADAKH:

Well, just to sum it up a bit we hung out in the Ladakh and the valley of the Indus for 6 or 7 wonderful days. High altitude hiking can be dangerous – an Intel friend, Avtar Saini, had a colleague die in his first day hiking where we had gone; but we were well acclimated. We climbed up into the silent valleys to about 17,000 feet taking pictures of the Bahral sheep and soaring eagles.

Indus Vally

Ladakh, the valley of the Indus River, about 11,000 feet

The whole country is above the tree line except on the narrow banks of the Indus River which begins its 2000 mile run down through Pakistan to the Arabian Sea.  While there we visited the magnificent monasteries and talked with members of this unique and ancient people. It gave us a peek of how majestic Ladakh is.  I have been going through pictures we took in 2005 and have decided to write a dedicated post on this marvelous country…stay tuned.

 

 

 

DAL LAKE:

Well shortly after, we returned to Srinagar, this time taking a plane and retracing 15 days of walking and buses in 90 minutes and here starts the tale I meant to spin about Kashmir and Customs.

There is a unique and wonderful place here in the Kashmir Valley. It is called the “Jewel in the Crown of Kashmir”; it is a large shallow lake which spreads out throughout marshes and woods.

Dal Lake Kashmir

Dal Lake

Dal Lake is its name and it is famous throughout the Indian subcontinent. It is fed by small streams, springs, and the run off of the hills and mountains beyond which provide a rich nutrient basin for dozens of types of water plants including reeds, lotus, water roses, water lily’s, ferns, and poppy’s. The water is slow moving and quiet. Channels cut in narrow wanderings through the small jungled islands and floating gardens lead to boat based market gatherings.  There are magnificent gardens here.

Shalimar Garden Kashmir

Shalimarbuilt in about 1619 AD by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir – they were named Shalimar which in Sanskrit means “abode of love”…yes, the perfume is named after this park.

It is a romantic place.  One stays in large houseboats with the insides lined with carved sandal wood – living in an incense box.

imagesThe lake is covered with small, flat bottom gondola’s gently moving across the green water, carrying them around on their business or just for pleasure. The little two person boats are poled by hand with the poler standing on the small rear deck. MARKET-VENDORS-ON-DAL-LAKE-KASHMIR-1999-1-C31951So you can imagine, you and your partner sit in the cool shade under a paisley awning on soft mattress and cushions while you glide through the rushes and market boats. An evening glide with a willing partner can lead to romance I am sure, as the pole man hums and sings under the stars.

Well, since the houseboats are on the lake, the floating markets come to you. Each morning a stream of gondola’s passes by the outdoor deck of you houseboat, where you sit drinking tea, offering you an array of pleasures for your day.
First comes the fruit boat selling mangos and bananas,
then the flower boat with bundles and arrays,
then the veggie guy,
soon a meat chap with chickens under ice.
Eggs and dairy,
bread and chapatti’s,
supplies and fabrics,
they all come to you in the little dinghies. The houseboy asks what you want for dinner and then gets the herbs and spices from the herb boat.

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a piece of raw opium

Of course if you need soap or  tooth paste you merely wait for the drug store boat who has just about anything you might desire in that “segment”, legal or illegal including every addictive drug known to man.  This is how I happened to end up with two hand rolled balls of local black Kashmiri, a stamped piece of government Pakistani, a jawbreaker size piece of opium, and a sweaty encounter with the US Customs Service.

THE RING

So it happened there was romance from different direction also on this trip.  Waynette, my wife of 6 years, and I had been having some rough spots; learning things about each other that were unexpected, and sometimes pretty troubling.  This 4 week trip was kind of a time to get away from each other and see how we felt.

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typical Indian gold and jeweled marriage ensemble

One of the things that seems a bit symbolic today, although not to me at the time, was we had jointly decided to have her wedding ring redesigned.   We had bought a diamond from a fellow named Harvey Dinstman, an important New York manufacturer of Omega watch cases and a well connected man in the worldwide jewelry business but Waynette had never liked the white gold, simple design.  An Indian colleague had introduced us to one of the finest jewelers in Delhi.  As you may know for centuries Indian families kept their wealth in ornate, heavy, large format, and beautifully complex gold jewelry.  They have some of the greatest jewelers in the world and their work can be flawless.  Buying jewelry is a family affair and it was fun to take on the project.  So prior to heading up to Kashmir, I had left the diamond ring to be redesigned into a fluid, art nouveau-ish, yellow gold, single ring with added rubies.

So when we returned from Leh to Delhi, and before we flew out on the long trip home on Pan Am 002 (0r 001), I grabbed a putt putt from the Delhi Oberoi  to the jewelers where the lovely, redesigned ring awaited.  I picked it up, returned to a chinese dinner which made me sick, and in the middle of the night took off to Hong Kong, sated with a barrage of strange culture over the last month.

I have been close to trouble with customs three times in my life – and they all involved cannabis.  The first was bringing back a 20 pack of “mama-san” rolled, filtered numbers of pure Vietnamese herb, which, in my stupor from a last night party in the NCO club at CamRahnBay, I had left on the top of my suitcase right where the customs inspectors at McCord AFB would have seen them if they had asked this Lieutenant to open my suitcase, which they didn’t – RHIP (Rank Has Its Privleges).

The second was the full cavity search in the mid-night crossing of the RioGrande which I wrote about in https://gerrythetravelhund.wordpress.com/2012/09/22/return-from-the-void-part-2/ .

And the return from Kashmir was the last.

As I hung out in the Hong Kong Mandarin stranded by a typhoon ( see https://gerrythetravelhund.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/fan-tan-macau-1981/ ) I carefully packed the hashish and opium.  I bought candles, opened up the windows wide, and dripped fragrant wax all over the plastic and paper wrapped black slugs.  Then put them in carefully unwashed socks, also fragrant; then I pushed them into the toes of my hiking boots and stuffed dirty underwear down in the boots.

Then it occurred to me that if I just put the redesigned engagement ring in my pocket I wouldn’t have to declare it and pay the duty, (with all the hassle of proving the diamond and gold had not in fact been purchased).  But of course since Waynette was looking forward to seeing the new ring, Unknown-2 I had to retain the little ring box to repack after landing and present to her.  So I threw the empty box into the suitcase as I took off for Kai Tak airport and the non-stop PanAm flight to San Francisco.

The 747 from Hong Kong landed in SFO at the usual morning hour.  I was a bit nervous with the opium and hash in my jungle boots tip but figured the wax and dirty socks would mask the smell and so was not expecting too much of a chance that I’d end up in the calaboose.  It was 1981 and the first “Drug Czar” appointment under President G.H.W. Bush was still 8 years away so the heat was not red hot.  (By the way twas a mere 12 years after the first Drug Czar appointment that the “War on Drugs” was declared a failure by the “Global Commission on Drug Policy”).  Anyway it was San Francisco, which had always been soft on drugs, and I looked more like a businessman than a drug-mule.

Never the less I was nervous as I walked into the industrial drab, cramped customs “hall” with a beat up Samsonite and a large blue trekking duffle. There were 3 lines and tables as I lined up for the bag inspection.  ( I don’t know when they stopped opening the bags nor why they did so – seems like the customs inspections have all been delegated to our four legged sniff-dog friends).  I was two people back in line when I realized that I was going to be inspected by a woman.  I immediately flashed on the female border guard at the Rio Grand bridge in Laredo and the full body search.

She made me open the Samsonite. After pushing a few clothes around she stopped, saw the small jewelry box, checked the declarations form, reached over, picked up the box and looked at me. “Where’s the ring”? was all she uttered. It took me a second to process but almost immediately I said, “In my pocket” with a small shrug. Time stood still as we looked at each other. Then she raised her arm and pointed to what I knew was the door to a private room, THE private room. “Ok you go over…” as my heart stood still she paused for a second …. the frown on her face deepened as her eyes turned to steel..then she said “Aw, just get out of here, go on”.

WOW!! salvation – she was giving me a pass, on the ring, on the full luggage search, on the customs fee, on punishment for the stupid attempt to avoid a hundred bucks duty, and for most importantly relief from what would have been a massive legal mess, charges potentially for drug smuggling, maybe a felony charge, probably a firing from my job, maybe time in the hoosegow, certainly a big fine. Oh Mama Mia.. It had been close.

So as I walked out of customs and met up with my wife my feelings turned to her.  The trip had started out a a tentative parting, and as we  re-engaged it was clear that our differences were still there but I also knew that there was an exciting world out there with people who I could bond with.  It had been a great month away and I felt the freedom knowing that our marriage was a choice not a sentence and with that we recommited to each other and our family and many more years of raising our wonderful children.

Postscript:  Well what happened to the hash and opium one might wonder?  Well when we first started dating Waynette introduced me to an old friend of her – Joe Pinciaro.  They had worked together at  Paul Masson Winery.

We will sell no wine....

We will sell no wine….

(Many of our first friends together were from the Santa Clara Valley wine business which was California’s premier wine region before the ascension of Napa – Mirassou, Almaden, and later Ridge were populated with old friends of Joe and Waynette).  Joe became a close friend and later our brother-in-law as he married my younger sister Meg and they had our lovely niece Katie Elizabeth.  Joe was working and living in Sacramento, while we had our bought our first house in Santa Clara.  I had gone on a long business trip when one evening Joe turned up to spend the evening at Casa Greeve with Waynette and Jenny.  After dinner and putting Jen to bed they pulled out the Himalayan stash…they lit up the opium.  Joe reported later that “it didn’t seem to do anything while we were hanging at the house but I started driving the 2 hours to Sacramento and when I go to Vallejo it seemed like the whole world changed” … ???  Waynette took the hash and rest of the opium and flushed it down the toilet.  She couldn’t recall why! So I never got to try it.  Kooks, all of us.

BERLIN STONE

Last evening we talked with old friends over dinner about Berlin.  In 2008 Margo and I traveled to Berlin.

It was my first visit, other than for business, and Margo’s second, she having been there in 1970 when The Wall still stood.
The single most impactful thing we did was to visit the Holocaust Memorial which is not to be confused with the Holocaust Museum.

Actually these are not the proper titles for the two places.The Memorial (which is the subject of this post) is actually “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe” (Denkmal fur die ermordeten Juden Europas);
the Museum is the “Jewish Museum Berlin” (Judisches Museum Berlin).   The museum was designed by Daniel Libeskind who also designed the new World Trade Center in Manhattan, the War Museum in Dresden (see my post of March 4, 2015 on Dresden), the Denver Art Museum, and the San Francisco Jewish Museum among many pieces.

These are two completely different experiences. The museum is a typical Holocaust museum in a stunning architectural piece.
The Memorial is an interactive experience of the most insightful, troubling, and emotional kind.

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sky facing tops of the monoliths

The “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe” is a large field (5 acres) which spreads out before you populated with thousands of enormous monoliths. The upper, sky-facing surface of the array creates an undulating wave like vision.This was conceived and designed by the architect Peter Eisenman with collaboration of Richard Serra, the noted steel plate artist. It is next to the US Embassy and a block south of the Brandenberg Gate.

Margo and I spent an hour wondering through the grid of 2,700 slabs.

They are polish, smooth concrete. All are the exact same length and width when viewed from the top i.e. looking down on their tops surface or top surface plane. Their height varies and, for the most part, the variation is gradual among contiguous sets of monoliths.

the monoliths

the monoliths

This gives it the wave appearance. The wave is also impacted by the face that the ground surface also undulates so you have a very fluid sense as you walk among them. The aisles are straight but the height rise and fall is disorientating and many of your sight lines are blocked by rising ground. You are in a channel. This gives you a sense of confusion as if you are in a maze. Each slab using the identical rectilinear size, only the height varies.

The top surface plane is about 7’ by 3’ = coffin size. The height above ground varies from 7” to almost 16′. When you are walking through a path of 16′ tall slabs you feel claustrophobic and it is easy to forget what direction you started walking from or where you are headed.Berlin-Holocaust-Memorial-13

After we had spent and hour wandering we both needed to talk about the feelings, images, and thoughts the scene evoked.

The monoliths are easily understood to be about death – tombstones or stelae, even though there are no carved words or designs on them.  Certainly coffins – many are lying on the ground about two to three feet in depth off the waving, curving surface of grey cobbles. Some sink to one foot or inches; some are flat on the surface

The metaphors are almost inexhaustible –
a maze signifying the complexity of trying to navigate the Nazi system and the concentration camp madness to live;
a maze signifying the getting lost of friends and family – “where have they gone”? “where are they”? are they dead? or alive?
a maze where you can wander until death.images-5

Different sizes represent the variety of pain and suffering – most enormous, some smaller – never ending as you never exit

Large stones say “I am alive”, I have survived!
small stones as one shrinks in suffering.
shrinking into nothing, into the earth

No stones occasionally – here and there a tree or shrub takes the place of a stone…rebirth?

Each stone plain, without adornment – in the end there is only life – we are born naked and alone as we so die.

Endless channel stretching out it seems forever. Will this never end?

wave floor w shadows

wave floor w shadows

The channel floor rolls along in wave like surface, and recall the ups and downs of daily life, in turn recalling Frankel’s conclusion that to survive one must embrace the waves, even of the camps.
The rank upon rank of identical and quasi identical stele says “We are one people, of one faith, of one culture”
But there are no two stones alike actually, they lean and vary in depth – signifying they were individuals
Small size for the children large size for the leaders
In the center where the stories are 15 feet tall you are stifled and caught…no signs of life outside the endless blocks

Margo stands at the side and says:  120px-LookingBackOnHistory “as one walked into this you gradually disappeared, never to come out, lost forever.”
The stones with unendurable weight, the weight of oppression and the times.

Underneath all this weight is a room where the names of all the known Jewish Holocaust victims are continuously read out.

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the 5 acre memorial

This experience in itself is worth a trip. Our friends agreed the Memorial was the most impactful experience of their visit to Berlin  .

A French Funeral – January 3, 1969

I’d spent the night before in an empty boxcar in the rail yards of Genoa. I had hopped a train from Florence, hiding from the conductor force, moving surruptitiously from car to car, hunkering
down in the toilets.

sleeping quarters

sleeping quarters

After a successful bluff of an angry ticket puncher, claiming in broken spanish that acute stomach “issues” were keeping me on the commode, I had made it from Pisa and slipped off into the dark maze of trains.

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Citroen 2CV

It always takes a long time to get from the center of a city to the highways and it was midday before i reached the end of the Ligurian Sea and approached the french border.

Memorably I had been picked up in Citroen 2CV DeuxChevaux …a front wheel drive, air-cooled, 600cc beast whose name 2CV meant 2 Steam Horses, whatever that meant (BTW, looking up tax horsepower on wiki will introduce you to a vast bureaucratic heaven!). The 2CV driver figured himself a mustang wrangler as he whipped the little beastie at breakneck speed around the lorries on the 2 lane road between Savona and Cannes. I still don’t know if he was drunk or just had a death wish. He was a youngish Italian guy whipping a french mini – I thought it a bit odd and prayed for my life. Dropped alive outside the Cote d’Azur, a truck took me on to the outskirts of Aix en Provence by late afternoon.
I walked through the lovely town, its pruned plane trees lining the main street, shading the shop lights coming on in the mid-winter twilight. In 1969 ’twas still barely out of the 19th century.

main street Aix

main street Aix today

With only a little over ten dollars and at least 2 or 3 weeks travel in front of me there was no budget to eat. I was on my way from Rome to Morocco in pursuit of some hashish which I expected to find cheap and plentiful in Marrakech and intended to sell at the Club Voltaire in Frankfurt-a-M. I had left Rome a few days after Christmas, ridden my Suzuki 250cc motorbike to Florence, left it with my younger sister Meg who was going to Gonzaga there, and headed out the day after a two day New Years Eve blowout in the bar of the youth hostel. I had my sleeping bag, canvas pack, Acme boots and a sheepskin lined leather jacket and didn’t expect to need much money for food and none for rooms as I banked on a 4 or 5 day trip which should put me in the medina. This was the day of “Europe on a Dollar a Day”, and that was living large at that, anyway I expected to be moving most of the nights and catnapping under overpasses if it rained. So it was about 7 pm on January 3rd 1969 as I left the Centre Ville and stuck my thumb out.

Ten in the evening had come and gone and I was still standing in that Aix scruffy patch between a ditch and the highway towards Montpellier. No one had even slowed down let alone asked where I was headed. I was getting discouraged – the temperature was dropping, wind starting to blow, my unlined leather gloves were pretty useless. There was barely a strip of shoulder where interested drivers could safely pull over. No stoplights and only dim streetlights. A very poor spot to hitch.images-9

Guys have different approaches to thumbing a ride. In the 60’s no one used “destination signs”. It was a clever idea until bums ruined it with beggar signs; but no one ever had good, clean, “folded shirt” laundry cardboard much less a thick felt-tip … they hadn’t been invented yet. Some just stand there with a listless thumb hanging, others move the arm and thumb in sweeping gestures or jigging for fish motions. Some look the driver in the face, others pay little attention.

John Farnan co-inventory of the GK&thePips Hitchhiking move

John Farnan co-inventory of the GK&thePips Hitchhiking move

Years earlier I was hitching with John Farnan and another fellow, maybe Gibby, from South Lake Tahoe up north to Stateline after a mighty snow storm. The three of us coordinated a “Pips” like dance move. It’s real hard for more than one guy to get a ride – even that creative move failed and we had to split up. I always stayed active and alert – trying to look as legit as possible. I always try to look in the car as it approaches – scoping out the drivers and passengers. Soft eye contact is good. Obviously your chances are 100 times better with a male driver and maybe one passenger. Once hitch hiking home from high school, about 25 miles, a friend and I got picked up by two really, really drunk sailors. Before we got out of Williamsburg we conveniently remembered we had left a wallet back in school and asked them to let us out. Perhaps we recalled the three poor sailors who had died when their car swerved off the road and into the trees by Matoaka Lake. I cannot remember ever getting picked up by a lone woman and I have hitched several thousands of miles, coast to coast as well as up and down the eastern and western seaboards. Once, when hitching with a girl friend thru Andalusia a truck driver stopped and offer to take her but leave me in the dust – we declined. A guitar is always good; a dog will leave you hanging out for days.images-10

Guys also have different approaches when a car slows down & begins to pull over. I think it is imperative to pick up your pack or guitar and start making a move. You want to set the hook – they need to realize some responsibility for getting your hopes up. This is the best way to nullify second thoughts or the complaints of the wifey (“ Andre, what the hell are you doing? I hope you are not going to pick up that guy!”). If you stand and wait for a waving invitation it’s most likely it won’t come and if your jeans are dirty it will scare the ride off.

So the hours ticked by and a deep darkness came down on the surrounding trees. As the winds turned chilly my spirits were sinking. Eight turned into nine turned into ten. Traffic thinned out. I began to wish for my beat up Suzuki. There were no freeways outside of Germany and the traveling mode was probably going to be catching rides from one town to the next. So I was thinking about getting to Arles, then Montpellier, Narbonne, Perpignan, Barcelona, Valencia, Murcia, etc etc until getting to the ferry from Algeciras to Maroc. I had to cover 4 or 5 legs a day, each two or three hours driving, to make it to Marrakech in 4 or 5 days and I was stuck in my first leg in France with the middle of the night approaching..

All of a sudden a big wide body Citroen sedan began to slow in front of me. I was stunned to dimly make out a fully loaded car. Not only did the car have at least 4 people in it but it looked like they were all women. WHAT THE HECK??? I naturally assumed they were pulling over for some reason other than me so, contrary to my normal sprint to the car door, I slowed down to a walk. The shotgun door opened and a mature woman in a dress suit stepped out and waved me to come forward. Hmmmm….as I covered the 30 feet to the waiting gal I could see sure enough that the car was full of women but then I realized there was a man driving. Well that was a positive move for my chances. The back door opened as well and another women climbed out. They both seemed to be in their mid thirties, medium tall, well dressed.

One asked me where I was going.
I replied to Spain.
The gal from the front said “Ok, if you’d like, get in the back”.
I handed her my pack as I climbed into the back seat.

Maman's Big Citroen Sedan

Maman’s Big Citroen Sedan

I looked at the driver as I moved towards the middle and he uttered a greeting.
Then as I settled I greeted the other passenger, sitting at the left rear door. … “Well what to my wondering eyes should appear?”

On my left sat a senior woman of at least fifty-five or sixty years. She was dressed rather severely in a black outfit. Here hair was conservatively cut and she had a pleasant face as she looked frankly at me and gave me a small smile. The doors closed and we pulled out off the shoulder and into the french night. As the car picked up speed we began a round of introductions. The 40 something man behind the wheel turned out to be the husband of the first woman who rode shotgun. On my right in the back was her sister. On my left was their mother. I was mystified – what was a sober, middle aged family of obviously conventional, bourgeois women doing picking up a young, somewhat tattered, long haired bohemian in the middle of a dark and windy night out in the empty fields of Provence?

a short detour….. I always get a bit pissed off when people complain about how rude the French are. Sure, they usually are talking about some Parisian waiter who done ‘em wrong, but they seem duty bound to generalize. Invariably they spent only a few days in some big city. On that first trip to Europe in 1968-1969 I spent 15 months in nine countries and only this one night in France.

most beautiful restaurant in Paris??

most beautiful restaurant in Paris??

But I have since then, altogether, spent probably at least 120 days over some 30 trips in France and the only rudeness that comes easily to mind was a late night argument with a Paris cab driver outside Lucas Carton over who was going to sit in the front seat of his taxi – me or his dog!

I lost that argument and had to find another way back to the hotel. One just has to make a fair effort at speaking their language. Even just a couple of “bon jours” and “comment ca va’s” IF delivered with a bit of music and a roughly approximate pass at a reasonable accent will start you off on the right foot. I don’t speak french well even after six years study – that was 7th through 12th grade. If Madame Ringold hadn’t scared me off and forced me to switch to German in college I would be able now to get fluent after a few weeks. But on that winter’s night in the luxurious back seat of the hydropneumatic, self leveling suspended, big, old, four door sedan I had only been out of french class 6 years and could cobble together a conversation pretty well. So here’s what happened.

The mother began to talk to me in mixed French-English. They were from Perpignan. A small city at the foot of the Pyrenees and only 20 miles from Spain. They were on their way home from somewhere near Nice after burying Henri (fictitious name), her husband and the girls father. She told me she’d said to her family just a short time before “ You know, I’d like to do something special for Henri, something different, spontaneous, and unexpected; something kind” No sooner had she’d said that than she saw me with my thumb out on the side of the road. So at a point when my morale was approaching its nadir here came this streaking, good luck wagon. Not only was it a ride , it was a full nights drive essentially all the way across southern France.

Unknown-10

always a winner

We settled back into the warm corduroy of the sumptuous back seat. Snuggling between the two fair smelling ladies I felt like a teddy bear. So we began the leisurely chat of travelers. Where were we from, where are we going. What we thought of this place or that. What were our favorite foods. Which of course led to maman suggesting to the front seat daughter that she break out some food and drink. We drove on through the winter night with baguettes carved up into sandwiches with jambon and brie cheese and glasses of fresh wine. Fresh fruits and dried ones. Delicious cookies or perhaps cakes. I was in heaven. The chatting continued. How was I to survived? Was I alone in Europe? What siblings I had. What our home towns were like. What she planned to do now as a widow. What my parents did. Which jobs their families had. What our plans for the future were.

As the evening passed on the daughters quieted down, the son-in-law concentrated on the road. As we moved through the flat plains of Lanquedoc the clear night sky showed lots of stars and our rambling turned to that master of the night and Antoine Saint-Exupery and “Le Petit Prince”. Unknown-9We agreed that it was a wonderful book and one of our favorites and talked about our favorite parts – the hat, the rose, the snake, the astroids. It reminded me of home and Margo Peter and Margo Mullen and Cheryl Lirette, all friends from Mme Ringold’s french class at Walsingham. With those bittersweet thoughts I too dozed off.

I awoke as our driver pulled to the gravel shoulder. “Here we are in Perpignan” he announced. It was about 4 am – we’d been traveling about 6 hours. They asked if I would like to come home with them for some breakfast. I declined politely since I still had all of Spain, the Straits of Gibraltar, and most of Morocco to go. With hugs and handshakes they let me go. I walked a bit until I found a field. I walked in it a few hundred feet, unrolled my old army issue down sleeping bag and promptly fell into a deep sleep. As the Med sun climbed into morning and warmed my bag and me I sat up to see a field of green speckled here and there with some flower. It was good to be moving south. I got up, packet the bag away, walked to the road and put my thumb out as the first car sped by.

So I had spent less than a day in France out of 15 months – 5 or 6 hours with a french family, and as I mentioned I would not return to France for a decade. But when I hear people crabbing about French rudeness I always recall that lovely evening and have never forgot their generosity, kindness, and a bit of courage too. My sweet wife Margo had a similar experience while hitch hiking around Ireland, being picked up and squired through the country side by a fellow named Patrick Keane – you never forget those offerings. So 2 nights later I had hit the Costa del Sol and was on the ferry to Africa. And a day after that later we killed a guy which you can read about in my post dated Dec 8, 2011 called “Marrakech Express”

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