2--aboard an Irish freighter in a storm in the middle of the North Atlantic, the ship tossed about by huge waves, heading for Belfast. Christmas night we drank with the radio officer in his cabin (he'd written several Fawcett Gold Medal paperbacks, detective novels), watching a barometer suspended on the wall swing back and forth between two marks, coming to within an eighth of an inch away from each. I asked what would happen if the barometer touched one of the marks and he told me the ship would go over. I realized an eighth of an inch on the wall equated to far more in actual distance, but it brought home the notion (corny, but it has stood me in good stead ever since) that we're all an eighth of an inch away from oblivion at every moment of our lives.
3-on location, a Roman epic being shot in a valley in Asturias--my first wife and I were extras (I was a Goth, she was a camp follower) paid five dollars a day, living with hundreds of other extras in a tent city that doubled in the film as a Roman encampment. In the late afternoon we took a sleeping bag and climbed up on the hillside to get some privacy, and when we came back down at twilight we found that almost everyone had put on their costumes and were engaged in Bacchanalia.
4-a Belgian girl named Renee, with whom I planned to go to India, and I smoked ourselves stupid, watching the patterns on the blue and white tiles on our hotel room walls shift from one configuration to another. Around noon AM we took a streetcar out to the Cairo Zoo and sat drinking lemon sodas at a cafe in the zoo center, watching the crowds. That night we attended a party in the Khan Al Khalili bazaar at some rich Egyptian's place, an event of which I recall very little, only that I woke up back in the hotel with a girl named Tracy and that Renee had gone off with someone else. Two days later I asked Tracy if she wanted to go to India.
5-Outside Ann Arbor, Michigan, snowed in, my second wife, myself and my four-year-old son. We couldn't even get out of the driveway, and thus, with no demented uncles, racist cousins, or psychopaths of various stripe to interfere, we had our happiest Christmas ever in our little country cottage.
6-My band was stuck in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Xmas Eve because of a blizzard. We started drinking in a dive bar around six PM and were joined by a about a dozen men and women who had been laid off from a big department store, given their pink slips on Christmas Eve, and were in a foul mood. Their pissed off-edness and our depression meshed in a good way, and we kept the party going early into Chrstmas Day at our hotel. Nothing really changed, just the one night, but that was more than any of us expected.
7-Tibet. A village not far from Dolpo. Little twisting rocky streets, stone houses with slate roofs and black mastiffs barking atop them. Thunder and snow falling. My wife and I felt abandoned by the familiar and very far from home, so we went and drank beer with the Chinese cadre, the sole law in the place. We talked about America, we exaggerated its bounty and its villainy. He was so drunk he understood only about every fourth or fifth word, even though my wife spoke Tibetan. "Oh yes," he kept saying, and laughing. "Oh my, yes!"
8-A tiny mountain village in Morazan Province, El Salvador. Clouds had moved in during Christmas Eve and you could scarcely see a foot in front of you. Banana leaves stirred like feelers in the white mist. I sat outside a little whitewashed house, while beside me a 14-year-old girl cleaned her rifle and two gnomish children passed a paper sack back and forth, its bottom soaked with glue. It was like a dream someone else was having about the world I lived in.
9-Christmas day, I went with my girlfriend Katie to Siddha Yoga Dam temple on Staten Island to reclaim the last of of her possessions. She had been a cult member. The Swami, Swami Guruja, persuaded us to stay for dinner, which was very good--I have to say that religious fanatics in general make great cooks and interior decorators. During dinner the Swami became belligerent and started to call Katie "wanton." I began calling him Swami Kruckerman (He was a Jewish guy from Brooklyn) and threatened his life. Walking home, past the crack houses and hookers on Westervelt Avenue, there were so many empty crack vials on the sidewalks, it was like a kind of glassine hail we crunched underfoot. We stowed Katie's stuff in my apartment and went into Manhattan, where we found a room in a midtown hotel and drank vodka in a Russian restaurant in the Village until Staten Island was a distant continent and New York Bay an ocean.
10--Phnom Penh. Met friends at the world's greatest bar, The Foreign Press Club, which looks like the bar every Hollywood set designer assigned to a far eastern project has been trying to get right forever and keeps getting wrong. That evening had my fortune told by a famous fortune teller, his shop at Wat Phnom a masterpiece of kitsch, neon and day-glo Buddhas and so on. He advised me not to seek happiness, to strive for accomplishment instead. That night I ignored the advice and strived for both and a taxi girl stole my passport. Yet still I try.
Have a great one!