Why Is It So Hard To Say Goodbye?

IMG_035240 years I’ve known George. That’s a long time to stay friends with anyone, let alone someone you only met in your late teens. I have friends that I grew up with and still keep in touch with even today and even though 6000 miles separate us, but to meet someone in a different country, befriend them and stay in touch for such a long period of time, well that’s unusual. George lives in China, Hong Kong to be precise and for the past year or so, he’s been fighting lung cancer. He never smoked, rarely drank and did all sorts of things to promote good health and longevity. His mother and father died of lung cancer, and his brother was cured of lung cancer, but George, being the workaholic that he is, never went for regular check ups, never went for blood work and never had the slightest incline that he had tumors until one day, walking up a flight of stairs, the same ones he’d walked up many hundreds of times previously, he was cut down with shortness of breath. A soccer player, and fitness fanatic, George thought he was having some sort of coronary episode, but after a few simple tests, tests he should have taken years ago, the news was brutal and final. And so his battle began. 7 chemo sessions, radiotherapy, drugs et al. Over the past five or so months George has tried them all. They’ve taken 5 liters of fluid from his lungs three times. They have prodded, pulled and pushed his body to its limits. They have given him good news, bad news and more news that’s in between. None of it now matters, because George now lies in the Queen Mary hospital in Aberdeen Hong Kong, gasping for breath as this horrible disease spreads into his other organs. Not the happiest blog I have ever written but one which adequately describes in the briefest of terms how it feels to watch and listen and digest death as it overwhelms ever so slowly, a friend or loved one who you can only remember as being fit and healthy normal human being.

Which brings me to the title of this particular blog. Why is it so hard to say goodbye?

I intend to fly out to visit with George tomorrow, just as I would do with any other of my friends who needed support or encouragement should they ever find themselves in such dire straights. The issue is, what exactly do you say to someone who knows they don’t have long to live and someone who you’ve shared good times and bad times with for so many years? Someone you’ve laughed with, cried with, traveled with and dined with. Do you act like nothing’s going on? Do you bring up the tragedy of it all? Do you ignore their pain and make them feel loved and try to bring them a moment or two of laughter? What I’ve learned in the past when confronted by similar situations is that most of the people I’ve known with a similar plight never actually believe there is anything wrong with them. When quizzed, they all, perhaps through that inevitable fear of death, brush aside any thoughts of demise and insist that recovery is just around that never-ending corner. We could call that optimism or perhaps the last threads of our own being. No matter the situation, when faced with the prospects of confronting a dying friend for the very last time, it’s hard not to bring up the past, bring up the present and not look forwards to a future that you know they will never be a part of.

When I get to HK on Sunday I fully intend to show George this picture, the one above. That was a stellar day not so long ago. A day we spent in Monterey CA together, looking at 17 mile drive, Fisherman’s wharf and then ending up at the BBQ joint in Seaside where they were having a bikini car wash for charity and all the ladies washing cars took and instant fancy to George. That was a fun day and that’s a day never to forget. We all have lots of days like that, but too many of us choose to recall bad times or wallow in the grief that follows the good, hoping perhaps for a little more sympathy or a way to make self-pity our final prayer. No matter what, life is short, and saying goodbye shouldn’t be a chore, after all, it might not be goodbye for too long, none of us rally know. We all hope, but we don’t know.

While writing this, I know George is still alive and fighting. Perhaps it will be weeks, perhaps months or perhaps days, but in the end, George will complete the process which will eventually transform his being into the next world, a world that maybe, just maybe, is better than this one and a world where saying goodbye is only the beginning.

 

Fireworks Should Be Banned

downloadI’m sitting here in my office at 8.30PM on July 4th and my wee doggie is sitting petrified on my lap. As I look out my window, thousands of people are waiting for the annual fireworks display to begin, a display that will commence in about an hour and a half and will last about 15 minutes. In the meantime, since 7PM last night, July 3rd, and throughout the day today, I have been subjected to sporadic explosions, some small, some large, which have not only scared the heck out of me, but have literally driven my dog to insanity. It’s 86 degrees outside right now, it’s light, and it’s fucking noisy! Why do people insist on doing this? The animals hate it, I hate it, and what purpose does it serve? When did this ‘firework’ tradition begin? In the UK we have ‘Bonfire’ night. On the 5th of November every year, the same day Guy Fawkes tried to blow up parliament, in 1605 BC, we light bonfires and set off fireworks, none so elaborate as in the USA, but noisy enough and frustrating for not only those who dislike them, but for the poor animals who absolutely despise them. My friend Mary in Portland OR has her 12-year-old dog on puppy tranquilizers, just for today. I must admit, with Lola, my dog, shaking like a leaf as I type this piece, I too am tempted to go to the vet and get him to prescribe the same so that she doesn’t suffer again. Every year it’s the same. 9 PM rolls on in and BANG! Kaboom! Poof! Scared shitless and scared to the point of no return, a state that no animal and no human should have to endure. I know it’s tradition, I know it’s all part of the culture, but for goodness sake, with the drought the way it is, how stupid can anyone be letting off fireworks into an evening where the wind is gusting, then still, the grass and forests are like a tinderbox, just waiting for that one spark so the can erupt in flame, and every single animal, either domesticated or wild, has to suffer the indignity of fear unwillingly bestowed upon them by moronic behavior that goes beyond all common sense.

Fireworks should be banned, banned for good. Put on a light show instead, as they’ve done in some of the worst drought hit areas in CA. That way we will all get peace enjoying a show that will make great viewing, delightful music and keep our wildlife and countryside free from the possibility of yet more death and destruction.

To all my American friends, Happy 4th July. Stay out of trouble and keep smiling. You only became independent because we let you!

What Is Up With Killing Dogs?

I read on the BBC today that in China, Yulin to be precise, there’s the annual dog meat festival taking place right now. This is sick beyond words. Read the article, complain, Facebook it, Tweet it, do whatever you can to stop this barbarism. What is up with China? What is it that these people don’t get? Why is mans best friend now a unhappy meal. It’s ridiculous in this day and age that we allow this to happen, although, as my friend in Portland told me this morning, ‘when you’re hungry…’

This is not hunger though, this is barbarism. A ritual that can be terminated if enough people get together and create a big enough fuss. As I said, get on it, send it to all your friends, and do what you can to stop these people butchering more innocent dogs

 

www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-33220235

 

 

Hands Down-India Wins!!!

IMG_0486With three cars surrounding the BMW I was sitting in, one on either side and one in front, we crawled to a halt as a man riding a donkey jumped the central reservation of the two lane highway we were about to enter, getting hit immediately by another on coming vehicle, one that was trying to overtake us on the right hand side, hitting the donkey broadside, throwing its rider ten feet up into the air and then down straight through its windshield, severing his head into two parts. The donkey, oblivious to it’s now decapitated owner, made haste for the other side of the road and safety. The rider, now dead, and brains splattered all over the road, remained in two distinctly separate pieces. My guide turned to me, hands firmly on the steering wheel which he now gripped with some angst, and with a certain casualness and a huge smile, said, “Do not worry, he is dead. Happens all the time here in India. The donkey is safe by the looks of the way he ran away, and that’s a good thing!” Welcome to India!

On the road to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, a new road, built to make the journey from Delhi palatable, (the old road took 5 hours, the new one 2 hours), there were no other cars. Why? Because the road costs $10 to drive and the vast majority of Indians cannot afford to venture out and enjoy it’s three lane British motorway like feel. It was sensational, driving at 80 MPH for 200 kilometers without seeing a single car, not even a cop car. Passing through three toll booths, each one emptier than the other, with toll collectors who just seemed to hang out and chat with one another, surrounded on either side by brick making facilities, yes, building bricks, which created the most vial of smells and pollution that was so bad, blue sky is something not seen in that area since independence in 1948.

IMG_0211Agra wasn’t too far into the distant brown horizon and as suddenly as this new road had begun, it ended, not with a bang, but with a true shock to a system already in turmoil. An Ox, then a few cows and then monkeys, yes monkeys, running wild on roads that were fit for the only vehicles that seemed to fit, tuc-tuc’s. Some single seater, some laden with dirty washing, cow dung patties, or dead animals, such as wild boar, and some overfilled with passengers, normally 6 or more seated in a space suitable for 2. Culture shock would be a mild exaggeration on how I was feeling at the precise moment we crossed a bridge and an Ox ran out in front of our new BMW, which by the way, stuck out like the sore thumb amidst the chaos of poverty we were now driving against.

Destination Taj Mahal. Excitement? Perhaps. Disappointment? Well after parking, meeting my new guide and walking the half mile or so in 112 degrees of heat from the parking lot to the grounds and entrance of the Taj, sweat rolling off my back, each step taken with the deliberate avoidance of feces, from humans and cows and dogs and pigs and monkeys, one could only feel disappointed to be shown round one of the worlds wonders and then stopping to think, “hang on, this is just an empty dome” OK so it was built 360 years ago, some feat, but Jesus Christ walked the planet some 2000 years ago and his miracles seem far greater than this eccentric piece of real estate. The history of the Taj is interesting, but only if you want to hear about an ancient government and king fleecing his own people whilst determined to build a palace and mausoleum for his already dead wife. Oh wait, sounds a lot like today’s politicians! I liked the building, I liked the premiss, but for God’s sake, how can this be a wonder of the world? It’s situated next to the biggest shit hole I have ever seen, yes, greater than any shit hole China has to offer, so my friends, I take you back to the title of this blog, India wins hands down!

India, or at least the parts I saw, is by far the biggest shit hole I have ever had the misfortune to visit. I apologize in advance to all my friends from that country, and all who have to live there. I am sorry that you have to read this and apologize profusely if you are upset by my observations, but the truth is often hard to take, and what I have written above, describing in detail just a minute part of this vast country, is absolutely true and in general, heartbreaking. To witness such poverty first hand, and to have the opportunity to see it again and again over three unbelievable days, just makes me appreciate China even more and for me to appreciate China, you know, if you’d read my previous blog, that India must be really desperate.

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Why China Will Always Be A Shithole

Russia-Bentley-Continental-GT-Mud-18As I sit on the 17th floor of my ‘so called’ 5 star hotel in Chang’an China, a not so leafy suburb of Shenzen and DongGuan City, I am struck by the fact that all of the nicely uniformed kids parading up and down like military conscripts in the school yard opposite my window, will have a future in this rat infested, polluted atmosphere we, the rest of the planet, call our personal workshop. The air is dank and filled with grey unyielding carcinogens, as the sun tries to rise yet again above yesterdays industrial production and today’s desire for more of the same. You cannot breath, it’s hard to see further than the quarter-mile of hazy landscape that is set forth in front of nothing but continued and unabated construction, and the sad part about all of this mess is, the closer you look, it only appears to get worse.

In two hours it will be time to leave my tiny oasis and venture out once again into the ‘wild west’, although today isn’t nearly half as bad as it was twenty years ago. Chang’an is considered to be an affluent Chinese city, boasting a golf course, which is as yet unfinished due to legal issues, a Wal-Mart, filled to brimming with exotic delights such as dried sharks fin, magic mushrooms and all kinds of foods that are deserved of one quick inquisitive glance before one is overcome by odors that reek of disgusting vomit and perhaps reminders that life ends as suddenly as it began. Chang’an also contains 12 Apple stores, 6 Nike Towns, and as many Rolex shops as one could possibly fit in a main street that runs almost 800 yards on either side, all of which are fake and neatly stacked with exact copies of their original’s fair. The tree-lined sidewalks are littered with yesterday’s news, broken bottles, vomit and spit and an endless river of used cigarette butts, seemingly cast aside on concrete because the trash cans that occasionally occupy space on that very same street are already filled and brimming with millions more. An air of apprehension is evident, no matter where you walk or drive. It’s a kind of disease, where many adults, stand or squat in their own ‘spaces’, just waiting for something to happen, and it rarely does. And yet out there, on the roads, which are now completely grid locked because everyone wants to own or does own a car, something that’s only happened in the past 3 to 5 years, it’s unimaginable chaos, fueled by impatience, intolerance and a general disregard for any acceptance that the law of the land should be adhered to in any way shape or form. In other words, it’s survival of the fittest and one wrong move and you’re dead. The people here do not care. It’s a fact, sadly expressed by their inability to accept that other citizens are their brothers and sisters, that people have rights, that they are a nation built on togetherness and not on the selfishness of greedy individualism. Everything is unfinished or sadly forgotten, from the high-rise buildings that house tens of thousands of people, all sparkly and very desirable from the outside and mostly shabby and extremely underwhelming on the inside where cracks can be seen from the top to bottom in the construction, rats and mice are an infestation that don’t seem to bother any of the residents and where , to the amazement of anyone visiting from the West, families of 20 are seen to be occupying 1000 sq feet of space, with nothing but ease and an acceptance that one day there will be 21 or 22.

Western ideals and influence, a doctrine that has perhaps woken this once sleepy giant and given it the realization that a materialistic path is for the greater good, a complete fallacy when you see the way the populous of modern day China handles their greed and their thirst for more of what we in the USA would describe as our God given right. The fact of the matter is that you can change the place, but you can never change the culture. Ten years ago most Chinese people believed a jaguar was an animal found in Africa. Now, a Jaguar can be found on virtually every street corner in every town, driven erratically by some farmer or business man, made whole and extremely rich over the past few years during China’s industrial boom time, and now found to be flaunting his or her wealth in the form of what was once considered to be western mythology, a luxury motor vehicle. I had a meeting some weeks past in a place just outside the center of DongGuan city. Underneath the office I was visiting was one of the most incredible sights I have ever seen in my 35 years of visiting China. The DongGuan Bentley dealership, situated inside what could only be described as modern day shithole of construction, bricks and rubble scattered all over the front entrance, litter randomly spread inside a half tiled floor where three brand new silver and gold Bentley motor cars were lined up, each one with a price tag of $555,000! Capitalism gone mad, where capitalism was only a figment of imaginations ensconced in gardening and flower arranging. A condescending opinion of course, but one well founded on experience and situation.

Reflecting back to 1979, the very first time I crossed the border from HK into Shenzen China, I was amazed that a populous so large could be so tolerant. Over the years my amazement has evaporated into disgust at the way people the people of China have changed, not so much from the standpoint of warmth friendliness, but more from their aspect of greed and disillusionment. China is huge, it has 1.6 billion people, and believe me, none of them really want to be living there. Now that America and it’s cohorts have made inroads to a culture that was once sublime, their focus on life is 180 degrees polar opposite of what it was, but yet their culture remains steadfastly stuck in a place none of us care to remember or recall. They are polite, warm, friendly, hospitable people, but they have no regard for cleanliness or most of the other things that we in the west find acceptable in the form of sanitation. Yes, China is growing, built rapidly by a government trying to catch up, but China is dangerous. It’s suffocating the rest of the planet, perhaps not deliberately, but certainly slowly and surely. They have little regard for life that is so precious, perhaps because there are so many who care so little for so few.

China is a godsend for some, a liability for others, but no matter what, China is here to stay, probably rule and definitely to remain dirty and rich!

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How Many Wankers Can Be President?

imagesOk so there’s only 18 months to go, right? 18 months and already they are lining up in their droves to get to the White House. How stupid are we to accept that this next race will take in over a billion dollars in donations, last at least a year and a half and surpass anything ever seen before from a campaign standpoint and all for what? For us to complain again in two years from now that nothing has changed and that whoever is gracing our TV screens every night at that point in time is no better than the last idiot who lasted 8 years and did nothing. That’s exactly how I see politics in the USA. It’s like an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, all wind and piss with terrible acting and the occasional drama. Something you’d walk out of if you didn’t know any better, and the truth of the matter is, the public in this country do not know any better! We are blindfolded and blinkered and sucked in by the same bullshit coming from mouths that can do no more than spout out consistent crap about how they will change everything. How can they change everything when really nothing is there to be changed? The system is so flawed, slanted, tainted and subversive, that change of any sort would be impossible no matter who takes over from Obama. We are passing the buck from one lame duck to another without the slightest knowledge of why. People here see those glossy ad’s, those slick commercials, and all the other things that each possible candidate does to make him or her look like they will ‘rock’ when they become President, but the absolute truth is, each one is just a by-product of the machine that runs them. They are filled with insincerity, and a lack of understanding on how we, the real people, feel, and want to be treated. Being totally consumed with power and greed, each possible candidate is on a path to glory that makes no sense to anyone but themselves and the idiots that surround them. This country is completely backwards in coming forward. It’s progress into the 21st century is not only being hampered by a lack of understanding on what we want from those who will represent us, but also from this insane urge to go out and be the biggest arsehole they can possibly be.

Let’s talk about Hillary. She needs no further introduction than that her of first name. How can anyone vote for this liar and cheat? 10,000 emails, all missing, and oh, by the way, they weren’t official?? My arse they weren’t official. What was she hiding and why were they deleted and what else is she hiding from us now that we know there are financial and fiscal irregularities with the Clinton Foundation? And yet, here she is, Hillary in full swing, ignoring her improper conduct and going at it as if she was the patron saint of blow jobs. Why would you vote for her?? Because you are stupid.

Carly, another one name into making sure you know who she is without the addition of any last name bias. A lady who lost over 30,000 jobs during her tenure as CEO at HP, and someone who has never held public office of any kind. Although having said that, it might be a blessing she hasn’t! She’s shown that she has no idea how to run a large company, so how can she possibly run the country? Why would anyone in their right mind vote for her? Because you are stupid!

I’m not just ‘woman’ bashing here, look at the rest of the list! To date, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and now, as of today, Mike Huckabee again!  Do any of these make you jump off your seat the way Obama did in 08 and say, “Yes! I’ll vote for him?” Nope, me neither. All wankers, each and every one of them. And of course even though he promised ‘change’ Obama did nothing. So much for jumping up and down with glee.

So what do we need to do to make real change and deliberate progress and what do we need to do to have a sensible campaign that lasts 6 weeks and not 18 months? The answer is simple. move to the UK! Their election takes place on Thursday for the House of Parliament, and the campaign, although tedious, boring and of course filled with liars cheats and even more idiots, has lasted only 6 weeks. Get in, get it done and get on with your lives! Not a bad way to go if you can stomach it. What could be worse? 6 weeks of British humor where 650 ish members are elected and then sworn in to serve then forgotten about for 5 long years, or 18 months of American madness, where one finalist takes office and looks down upon the rest as mere serfs?

In truth there is only one answer. Dictatorship.

 

Nervous Flyer?

IMG_0384One click and this picture says it all. Taken yesterday at San Jose Int Airport at 7.10 AM while I was enjoying breakfast in the Brit. This lady walks in, orders a pint of lager and proceeds to drink it all in about 3 minutes while she made haste through her emails from the previous day. She downed the beer, left a $20 and went on her merry way. To where, have no idea, I do know that although she looked frazzled, fearless and ready for anything the world might throw at her, she also looked like she could use another.