Posted 8 years 167 days ago ago by Francis Meyrick
A topmost peak
lacks any people
Higher. The west wind pierces
All night: chillier. You ride the snow
To pass a hanging cliff,
Cross a cloud to watch
The torrent spew.
The fame gallopers. It’s hard
For them to find the road
Pao Hsien (9th century Buddhist hermit)
a quiet night, and I am at home, sitting outside on the porch, relaxing
under the emerging stars. A cool Guinness has hit the spot, and I am
mellow, full of dreams, and silent thought. I have been pondering a
How much apple pie can you eat?
life “more than money”? Filthy lucre? Doesn’t there come a point
you’ve had enough? Or at least a sufficiency? Our Modern World seems to
create people who never –ever- have enough. They crave more. And more.
Constantly. Not just money. They want fame, and power, and to
remembered in the History Books. To “cement their legacy…” To what??
Will they ever be happy? Content? When is enough – ENOUGH?
And what is fame? It’s an illusion…
On freezing nights
You arrange to meet me often
Silent talk beyond
Silent talk, beyond human space? What’s that?
don’t know, I’m just a chopper jockey, but I can guess. And my mind,
flying down ancient airwaves in my mind, crossing ridges, and cautiously
testing canyons (wires, my friend, watch the wires), sees old shadows,
old flames, and old loves. Writing/scribbling is good. But it should be
just a modest side show. Something done gently, with feeling, but also
with a simple humility. There are more important things in Life. Much
more important. Silent talk. Beyond human space. The essence of a Man
trying to understand his little place. Trying to relate. Comprehend. The
I read the same guys on the forum that feel they
are absolutely OWED to be paid 6+ figures to be a Helicopter Pilot.
Others are happy to have a stable job and work hard to do a good job.
They mean well by their employers. They are thrilled with the position
of trust their company puts them in. And they know more money would be
nice, very nice, but profit margins can be tight, rainy days might be
coming, and no helicopter company makes a small fortune. That only works
if you start with a huge one. And besides, for every pilot steadily
employed, how many thousand resumes are stacked on the H.R. desk? How
many guys are driving trucks, working in offices, and would give
anything –just anything- to start at a fraction of my salary?
quiet Guinness has passed my lips, smoothly, and I gaze at the stars,
and reflect on ‘Silent talk’, ‘beyond human space’. And my mind takes
me, logically or not, at warp speed, back to a small, seemingly
primitive and undoubtedly impoverished village in Papua New Guinea. And
myself, standing there, tongue hanging out. Desperate. Craving.
I remember sighing. The stylish couple, Rolex-and-Gucci, had beaten me to it.
The object of my affections? Of my unbridled lust? A crocodile…
It’s an ancient native ritual in remote parts of Papua new Guinea. To
be initiated, you have to sleep with a pubescent female To-oro Ma’ori
No, I’m just kidding.
all started some months earlier, when a brother pilot had shown me this
absolutely drop-dead gorgeous wooden crocodile. Hand carved. Open mouth,
teeth, “I’m hungry” scowl, and all. He told me where he had bought it.
In a small, native village, a few miles from one of our regular ports of
call. I had to wait a month, but then, full of fish, our boat put into
that exact same port. Awesome. I spent that night at the local hotel,
and the following morning, I got a ride out to the village concerned. No
dice. Either the wood carver was out of village, or he was sold out.
No crocodiles. Rats. I would have to wait until we next docked here
Months went by. Our next offloading took place elsewhere,
to my frustration, and thus it was multiple months before I landed at
this port again. Same routine. Spend the night at the local hotel, have a
good steak, and chin-wag with any tourists wishing to engage me.
was in this manner, that the hobo helicopter captain (straggly beard,
sawn off shorts, exhausted once-white T-shirt, white socks and sneakers)
met Mr and Mrs Rolex-and-Gucci. Tourists. Gracing the locale with their
That, admittedly, was not their real
name. Their real names I have long since forgotten, but I formed the
impression they were Italian. Suave, sophisticated, immaculately
presented, Rolex-and-Gucci, and dining at the table next to me. How we
struck up a conversation I don’t know, but I can guess. I probably
knocked a beer glass over, and drew their sympathy. Or else I just
hollered across, the way I do: “Bongiurno! You are liking Papua New
We then got engrossed, and he-with-the-Rolex
lectured me about a variety of subjects. That was kind of him, ‘cos I’ll
take all the heducation I can get. I need it. And I know he had strong
views of the local populace. In particular, when it came to haggling
prices, he was quietly adamant that they were all thieves and crooks,
and you just had to beat them down mercilessly. Her-with-the-Gucci
nodded grave assent. Thieves and crooks. Something about his prosperous,
well oiled exterior told me that he had a lot of experience haggling
for every last Lira. It emerged that they were going shopping the next
day, targeting local arts and crafts. I mentioned I was doing the same,
and that drew a further exhortation from him to be sure to haggle
tenaciously. I promised I would haggle like I was fisting my last
The next morning, I was up early, ate a hurried
breakfast, hired an old jalopy taxicab, no brakes, no air conditioning,
no suspension, driven by a sixteen year old maniac, and set off
purposefully on the Great Expedition. To retrieve –hopefully- a fine
pubescent female To-oro Ma’ori wooden crocodile. I couldn’t wait. The
countryside sped by, my crazy driver would honk like crazy going through
villages, chickens would squawk and scatter, and Life was good. I was
bound to bag me a crocodile. Even his blood red, betel nut juice spit,
fired carelessly out the window, from whence it would blow back all over
the side of the car, was unable to dampen my spirits. That’s why the
sidewalks in PNG are all stained red. Chewed betel nut. A mild narcotic.
arrived at the village of my quest, and I legged it over to the shop.
Such as it was. Several plastic sheets staked to the ground, and all
sorts of amazing stuff spread out for sale.
Including… one wooden crocodile!
bummer! Oh, no. Mister and Missus Bongiurno Rolex-and-Gucci had beaten
me to it. And Signor Rolex, even now, haughtily, was haggling over the
price for the crocodile. My heart sank.
He was offering twenty-five dollars. (twenty-five?) (Is that ALL?)
saleswoman, an older, large lady, (all that coconut milk, they say)
with a quiet dignity, was countering with sixty dollars. Down from
Sixty-five. (Sixty-five? Is that ALL?)
Twenty-six, from Rolex.
Sixty, from Mrs Coconut.
Twenty-eight, from Rolex.
Fifty-eight, from Mrs Coconut.
went by. I was pretending to look at everything else. But I was afraid
my tongue was making slobbering noises. I wanted that crocodile, so bad.
More minutes went by. Rolex was up to thirty-three, and Mrs
Gucci was frowning, thin lips, shaking her head, as if she was saying
that was FAR too much.
Fifty-five, from Mrs Coconut. She
seemed tired. We were the only customers. Maybe she had not enjoyed a
good day. They were kind of way off the beaten track.
Rolex would make as if he was moving away, and I would take a hidden
deep breath, ready to pounce like a Muslim on a Bacon Cheeseburger.
Nope. He would move back a bit, fiddle-faddle about, and come up one measly dollar.
my way of thinking, it was absurd. The crocodile, 28 inches of him,
was beautifully carved. The detail was outstanding, and it must have
taken some local craftsman weeks. The cash income of many families was
about a hundred dollars a YEAR. They survived in a subsistence style
agrarian way. Hand-to-mouth. Some chickens and goats. Coconuts and
berries. That crocodile represented somebody’s dedicated work, a very
important source of income, and was worth every cent of sixty-five
bucks. Besides, he was mine. If Signor Rolex would budge over just one
His mistake. Finally. He stepped
aside just a smidgeon of a butterfly’s wing, to look at something else.
He would have stepped back a bifurcated, dissected second later. And bid
another measly buck.
Too late, Spaghetti…
as a flash, like an Irishman hearing the siren call, the song of the
Ages, the ultimate poetry, i.e. the statement “I’m buying”, I pounced. I
almost shoulder butted him, as he tried to step back. He’d maybe
already figured I was hovering…
“How much for the crocodile?”, I asked, breathlessly, as if I didn’t already know.
“Sixty-five dollar!”, the mature, nice lady spoke, amusement in her wise eyes. She hadn’t missed much either.
“Deal!”, I spoke. Pulling out four twenties. The fastest negotiation & haggling session ever.
me, I sensed laser hot eyes of loathing and contempt burning into me.
If I had been flying at night, Signor Rolex would have dazzled the
cockpit. Good thing I wasn’t on NVG’s.
I handed her the four twenties, and she started counting out the change.
think he’s beautiful!”, I said, clutching my newly acquired, hand
carved Papua new Guinean crocodile. And then, on an impulse, I added:
“Keep the change!” She stared in surprise, then her tired but dignified
face lit up. Beside me, I sensed the laser burning, cockpit dazzling
intensity go up another magnitude of Lumens.
She nodded and smiled, and then she said:
“Here! Please, you take this as well!”
And she handed me some carvings.
“Here! Please, you take this as well!”
And she handed me some sea shell beads. And more carvings. A statue. A shield. More stuff. And more. And yet more.
“Oh, no”, I gasped, delighted but embarrassed all at the same time. “I can’t possibly take all that!”
she politely insisted, with dignity, and, laden down, arms full of good
stuff I wasn’t remotely expecting, I suddenly realized she too, was
making a statement. For the benefit of Rolex-and-Gucci. I realized that
somehow, her quiet pride was coming to the fore here. Her matriarch
standing was in evidence. I guessed she packed a wallop back in the
village. And I guessed she was fed up with the likes of Rolex-and-Gucci.
Her statement? With which I totally agree?
is just a tool. A necessary convenience. That’s all. It should never be
the be-all and end-all. A religion. An obsession. How much apple pie can
you eat? Eh? Dumb ass…
Life is simply NOT all about fighting and clawing for that last, measly, hard scrabble, dirty dollar.
and Gucci had plenty. Expensively dressed, dripping gold. Oozing self
satisfaction and pretentious ooh-la-la. But they would always want more.
They would never, ever be satisfied. And they would never, ever take
any of it with them. That mature and thoughtful lady from the jungle of
Papua new Guinea knew and saw all that. She wanted just enough for her
family to live on for the next few days. They had no running water, no
indoor plumbing, primitive electrical infrastructure. They lacked all
the mod cons that Rolex-and-Gucci took for granted, as theirs by
(alleged/assumed) superior birth right. But the Matriarch had pride. And
insight. And I think she liked me. The bearded galoot, with the
tattered shorts, the worn sneakers and the dirty big grin.
Amen, ma’am. I applaud you. I concur with your sentiments. I like you too.
Thank you for Isaac, my crocodile.
He occupies, all these years later, a place of honor in my sitting room.
In fact, here he is…