travel

vladimir putin from the sidelines of history

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many years ago, 2002 to be exact, i made a trip to mainland china. it was one of those two week deals where if it’s tuesday it must be shanghai type things. all in all very interesting especially the great wall. however, there were a couple of “incidents” that sort of stand out. one concerning vladimir putin and i’m still really not sure what was up with the other one.

first off, during the trip we stayed in xian for a few days. a lovely very old walled city with a moat around it. that would be in the really old part of town. we were on our way to see the terra cotta warriors outside the city. a truly wonderful experience if you get the chance to do so. on the way there we stopped at a factory that made small terra cotta figurines of the actual warriors, horses, and such at the site.

while at the terra cotta factory there was a guy standing around with big sony video camera on a tripod. i went up and started talking to him about his camera. he had an odd accent. turns out he was a russian tv news photographer or that was his story. he said they were doing “set ups” as putin was visiting the factory the next day before he went to see the actual warrior site. i didn’t speak to the talking head that was with him. anyways, after chatting with the ruskie and getting him to pose for some video i wondered off taking more video of the factory. suddenly, this extremely nice looking chinese babe came out of nowhere like a sudden heart attack and asked me in very good english if i’m getting some nice pictures. this kinda freaked me out. who was she? where did she come from? i said yeah and blew her off. i think she may have been chinese langley. did she and the chinese think i was cia as well?

yes, well, then it got a bit weirder.

later that day we were at the terra cotta digs when 3 guys in very bad suits walked past us. i immediately made them for russians. one of them stopped turned around and gave me the eye for a minute or two. guess he had heard about me from someone at the terra cotta factory. or something. i ignored him. putin was to be at the site as well the next day. so i guess they were just some more russian “cultural” folks checking stuff out in advance. did the russians think i was cia too? what was going on? we heard a day or so later the chinese closed the place for 3 hours so putin could look at the shit by himself and not be disturbed. i hope he had a grand time.

several days later we were in guilin. a lovely spot in south china almost to the north vietnam border. the main touristy thing there is a four hour boat ride down the li river. wonderful scenery. amazing stuff.

after a long day of sightseeing, dinner, and probably too much beer we went to a chinese stage show in the hotel where we were staying. a nice show and more beer. however, i had a hard time staying awake.

after the we show got in the elevator to go up to our room. two nicely dressed westerners get in too. for some reason we are the only people in the elevator. which was very weird because of the number of people who had been watching the show and were now heading back to their rooms in the hotel. we get up to our floor. the men stayed in the elevator and as we get out one of them says, in an aussie or british accent, good night, john. yeah, no shit. i had never seen those guys before. i just ignored them and kept on walking. however, i was jolted.

very spooky and strange and the last time on the trip that i noticed anyone taking any interest in me in a langley sort of way. i had completely forgotten this little incident until i was reading some old emails. even now it seems very bizarre. we were at least 600 miles from xian and the russian, chinese terra cotta warrior deal. now out of nowhere i had british MI6(?) guys wishing me a good night. hmm…odd…very odd.

this originally appeared here in july of 2014. with all the stuff going on about and putin and you know who, i thought it would be nice to re-visit the post.

jmh

fly me to the moon

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we’ve landed
again
in
las vegas.

actually more
like
drove in.

sinatra
live
at the
sands.
&
some ella
soothe
&
cool
the ride.

we like the
drive.
once
past
barstow

the real
deal
desert
kicks in.

the austere
moon like
desert
filled with
dappled
colors.

crystal city
and our
favorite
hotel
the
palazzo.

visions of
foie gras
dance in
our
heads.

five chances
to play
dress-up
for
dinner.

dead
ghosts
like frank
&
the soprano
crew

walk
the
casino
floors
once again.

i suppose i’ve always liked las vegas. i think it might even be hereditary. mom and dad were married there in the spring of 42 just a couple years before he shipped out to euroland and the war. yeah, sure there was a fairly long spell when i’d hit lake tahoe, rather than vegas, either on pre or post dove hunting up in the central valley. it was nice. quiet. a good place for cards and drinks. plenty of drinks. a late breakfast around 10 or 11. steak. eggs. carbs. plenty of carbs. then campari and soda. with a twist. until i’d fall into bed whenever. even a nice elevator ride chat with patti labelle once. drink still in hand. i oozed how wonderful she and her sisters had been that night down in the showroom. i hadn’t seen them. it just seemed like the right thing to say. though i’m sure they were. or maybe getting off on the wrong floor and scaring some guy so bad he hid in the ice/coke machine room. i thought i was on the right floor. ah, no. two floors from where i was supposed to be. poor dude. i wonder who he thought i was? yeah, tahoe. nice place. maybe even in the winter. i wouldn’t know.

back when i was a kid when my folks hit vegas, tahoe, reno, carson city etc. i was dragged right along. my dad would look for a dice game and mom would find some quiet slot area and i’d watch her play. it would last for awhile but eventually some guy would show up and tell my mother i wasn’t welcome. i’d end up out in the car. napping or people watching until it was time to leave. i guess i was lucky i wasn’t kidnapped or worse. but then those were different times. stuff did happen but not nearly as often as these days.

when i got older but still not 21 i’d play the slots with mom. usually the same end however. i was told to leave. i was also lucky i never hit a jackpot. they would have kept it. no sitting in the car though. i’d just wander. looking.

one of my favorite vegas trips was right after i got back from the nam. my folks took me. the trip was on dad. i don’t remember much other than a very nice dinner at the top of the mint hotel. perfect red fatty protein. then after dinner mom and i went to a show. vic damone and jan murray. vic was great. jan was killer hilarious.

that trip was the first time i followed dad around while he looked for a dice game. he knew what he was looking for, and maybe or maybe not, he’d find it. the game. he had an instinct for it. when he did find what he was looking for and played. he won. i could never figure it out. maybe if he’d taught me craps at age 5 instead of poker i’d know. at any rate, it was always interesting to tag along on his dice game hunts.

they’re both gone now. though i’m sure when the brown eyed girl and i make one of our vegas runs they tag right along. dinner at joel robuchon’s or bouchon. happy that we’re happy. how do i know this? hmm, yeah. ok.

my dad passed away a couple of years ago. mom a few years before that. we had planned a vegas trip in june but dad got sick. or sicker. we had to cancel. he passed away not long after. we went in july. we usually make a pit stop at a mickey d’s in barstow. as we were leaving this big fly made an appearance. you know doing one of those fly dance things when it’s hot and sorta humid. buzzing you. it even made it to the inside the car.

the most persistent fly i’ve ever seen. as we got back on the 15 we played the game of cracking a window and shooing it out. somehow it always managed to get back in. this went on for a while. we eventually got it out of the car but it somehow attached itself to one of the windshield wipers. all of this at 75 miles an hour. it hung on for a time then miraculously got sucked into the cars ventilation system and ended up back inside the car. unharmed. the brown eyed girl and i looked at one another and at the same time said, it’s dad. maybe it was. maybe it wasn’t. maybe we’ll never know. but, well, you get those feelings at times. that’s all i can say.

las vegas. yeah, it’s hereditary.

jmh