Archive for grandpa

Endless Laps

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience, Sacred Geometry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 29, 2012 by javedbabar

Samuel stared at the throbbing red machine with awe. “Where did you get that from?” he said. “That go-cart costs four thousand dollars! How did you get your dad to buy it?”

“He didn’t buy it,” said, Adam, looking so pleased with himself that he could burst like a punctured watermelon. “But I own it.”

“So you stole it – good work!”

Adam looked even more pleased with himself, which was barely possible. “I didn’t steal it. I got it free. You can get one too if you’re quick. The dealer has gone bankrupt and has to get rid of his stock immediately, but he’s not allowed to sell them. Don’t ask me why. My dad says it’s to do with tax on cross-border trade. He’s giving away a hundred go-carts. Go and get one.”

Samuel wasn’t sure if he was being taken for a ride. He made a move to go but then turned back and said, “Are you kidding me? You had better not be. Can you take me down there?”

“I’m sorry, I can’t. My dad said I could only have the cart if I promised not to ride on public roads. It’s illegal. I can’t drive it along the Lucerne Valley Road.”

Samuel saw a car two kilometres away, ran into the road and stopped the driver. He explained his desperate situation and got a ride into town. He arrived not a moment too late, bagging the last go-cart going. He was over the moon.

The issue then was to get it home without driving on public roads. This was no problem for Samuel. He rode through farms, along forest tracks, across people’s yards, and made it back to his private road.

Every kid in Lucerne seemed to have a go-cart. Roaring was heard all around the valley, growling in forests, bouncing off cliffs, and collecting in the old quarry and caves. The valley seemed to be inhabited by spirits, a place of legendary monsters.

Kids were allowed to race carts in the Industrial Park. Though it was technically a public amenity, it was legally owned by a private entity. Village Hall behaved like an administrative Cyclops, and chose not to see.

The races became a weekly fixture, and the air on Sunday nights was filled with growling beasts. Samuel made excuses for the first few races, but then was noticeable by his absence. People began calling him a chicken. It couldn’t last. He had to appear on the race track soon but he was afraid. He was afraid of driving fast. He was afraid of losing. He was afraid of killing someone. He was afraid of dying.

On Saturday night he hardly slept. He was thinking of making another excuse. It was a sunny day, he could say he went to the lake.

“Samuel, it’s for you.” His father handed him the phone. “It’s your grandfather.”

His grandfather? Why was he calling? He only called once a year at Easter. He picked up the phone. “Grandpa Albert?”

“Yes Samuel. I hear you’re racing today. Wait for me. I’m coming.”

“Why are you…” His grandfather hung up.

Just before the race, Samuel sat in his go-cart, sweating. He would lose. He would kill someone. He would kill himself.

A thin figure walked towards him, bent over and whispered in his ear. “You are the driver. Have no fear. Don’t worry about what may, or may not, happen. Just drive.”

The figure removed all of his clothes. The crowd gasped. His whole body was tattooed with black and white checks, a living GO.

The starting bell sounded. While everyone stared at Grandpa, Samuel roared away. His Grandpa understood that Karma depended on action. He also understood the Tao. His black and white body encompassed yin and yang, enabling universal motion, or at least his grandson’s.



Posted in Lucerne Village, Unknown with tags , , , , , , on June 7, 2012 by javedbabar

Grandpa was pleased they’d built a new playground in Lucerne. His grandchildren were on the other side of this vast country and he saw them only twice a year. Now he could watch children play daily; it would be something to look forward to.

It was a pretty fancy playground; in his day there would have just been a roundabout, see-saw and swings. This playground had those, but also a complicated climbing frame, something that looked like a maze, and a series of long tunnels. The central features were two artificial hills, one higher than the other, the launch and terminal for a zip-line for children to ride along in a suspended tyre. The red metal fence enclosing the playground had only one entrance, with a hut beside it, manned by a guard.

Everything was privatised these days, maybe even playtime; he wondered if there was an entry charge. “Gooday Sir,” said Grandpa. “What a fabulous playground you have here. Is entry free?”

“Of course it is. We’re not going to charge these angels. What do you think we do – rob children?”

Grandpa didn’t like his choice of words; they were unnecessary, but he smiled just the same. There was no harm in being friendly. He said, “Okay, thank you. Have a good day.”

As he entered the playground, the guard called out, “Wait a minute! Where’s your child?”

“My child is forty-four years old,” said Grandpa. “He’s on the East Coast, rearing my grandchildren.”

“What? You don’t have them with you? No? I’m afraid this playground is for children.” He gave Grandpa a suspicious look. “Adults can enter only as guardians. That’s a strict rule. No unaccompanied adults.”

Grandpa was disappointed. However he accepted that in this paranoid modern world, they needed to keep adults away from children. Because of a few sick individuals, the most natural thing in the world – an old person interacting with a young one, sharing generational wisdom – was forbidden. It was, in a sense, even purer than a parental relationship, which primarily served genetic interest.

Grandpa watched from beyond the red fence. He ate an apple and sucked on mints as he watched children playing. They were sort of enjoying themselves, but things didn’t seem quite right, and it took him a while to notice why.

This playground ran like clockwork; children were moving between attractions in an orderly manner, their moves timed to coincide. What was going on here? Weren’t playgrounds meant to be chaotic places with children running wild? How would their enthusiasm express itself, and their sense of adventure? Their curiosity, feelings and emotions? Why were they behaving in such a strange way? Grandpa was confused and went home.

He thought about it all night, and in the morning returned to the playground. He said to the guard, “I’m with my grandson today; he’s visiting from the east coast; look there he is.” He pointed to a child on the zip-line, and the guard nodded him in.

Grandpa chatted to some children. They all seemed scared. He noticed that within each group one child acted as leader, shepherding other children around. Sometimes quite casually, but at other times they pushed and bullied. Many children wore grazes and bruises, and worse than this, they wore looks of fear, and of pain.

His casual questions and observations revealed that The Authority ran a programme designating superior children as Lifetime Leaders (LL). Their job was to develop their own leadership skills, and via this process, shape other children’s characters to be downtrodden; to become yielding, malleable future citizens.

A Lifetime Leader reported Grandpa to the guard. He was arrested and banned from the playground forever.

One Stop

Posted in Lucerne Village, Uncategorized with tags , , on February 17, 2012 by javedbabar

The gloomy day was disappointing; Jason had been expecting sunshine, at least in the morning to get people out. He needed customers on his first day as a stall holder. His college fees were due by the end of the month.

His uncle had dropped him off on his way to work, way too early, but he was here at the Transparent Temple – nickname for their fancy community centre – before everyone else. In business this is known as an opportunity.

Jason set up three decorating tables, and arranged his Grandpa’s stuff upon them. His mother had not handled his loss well, and her way of coping was to erase his memory entirely. His Grandpa had been a hoarder all his life and she had wanted to throw everything out, but Jason had said he’d sell it instead.

The annual spring sale was a Village tradition – full of juicy jams, wild cakes, herbal candles, and forest art. But no other traders were setting up. Jason’s heart dropped – did he have the right day? He checked the Spring Sale application form. Yes, it was today – March 20th, Spring Equinox.

Midday came, and Jason realized something terrible; there were no other vendors. The plus side to this was that he had the best – and only – place in the market – right in the middle of the hall, visible from every direction. But he wasn’t sure how beneficial this would be as there weren’t any customers either. It was raining very heavily outside, like rippling sheets dropping down. He should have realized that business would be affected.

Jason was alone in the great hall, surrounded by his Grandpa’s memories. His holy books; his English tea set, his German cutlery, and Japanese crockery; his antique typewriter; his pinstriped 3-piece suit; his top hat and cane; his shirts, his socks, and his shoes. There were also many unpacked boxes that his mom had wanted out of the house immediately.

There was commotion in the doorway. What was going on?

A sullen crowd rushed in; Jason didn’t recognize any of them. A man walked over to him. “Oh, it vaz so terrible!” he said with a German accent. “Our bus vaz stuck in vater. It vas up to our chests. Ve had to carry de children on our shoulders. It vas a great big flood!”

Jason hadn’t realized the Valley was flooding. Heavy rain must have burst the dikes. These poor people seemed tired and scared. His first thought was to make them some tea in the bone china tea set, but then realized that he had no means to heat water. But hang on a minute – didn’t his Grandpa have some camping gear? Jason looked inside the boxes and found a camping stove and tin kettle. He filled the kettle up from the bathroom and soon had it boiling. He passed around cups of tea.

Danke,” said the German man, taking trays of tea to his fellow wet passengers. They smiled at him from around the room.

They must be pretty hungry too, thought Jason. He rummaged around in the boxes and found some powdered egg and hard biscuits. He’d seen his Grandpa’s army uniform and campaign medals, but never his rations. He’d kept them for over sixty years! Jason recalled him describing army food as “indestructible.” He’d said, “They should have made the tanks out of that stuff!”

Jason pulled out a pan and cooked up a mess of scrambled eggs, and laid blobs of it on biscuits. His German friend passed them around his fellow passengers, and there was a chorus of “Dankes”.

The caretaker of the building came in looking troubled, but smiled when he saw the catering operation. He said, “Good job, lad. Keep our visitors happy. The tourist dollar is half the Village economy.”

“Excuse me,” said the German man. “Do you know vat iz de situation regarding de vether?”

“I’m afraid the whole Village is flooded,” said the caretaker. “I think you’ll be here for a while. Maybe a day, maybe a week; no one can say.” The German man’s face fell, but then recovered. “Just make yourselves as comfortable as you can. I’ll come back with news.” The German man shared the news with his tour group; a wave of muttering ran around the hall perimeter.

Once the shock was absorbed, people began wandering over to Jason’s stall. They rummaged through Grandpa’s stuff, asking questions about items, and how much they cost. He had a captive market. He thought of doubling the prices, but thought that Grandpa would not have approved. Grandpa had both seen Prisoners-Of-War and been one himself. “They were just like us, boyo,” he’d said to Jason. “Cold and hungry and frightened. They were just like us.”

A lady examinded cooking utensils. The caretaker appeared with bags of spuds and carrots. He said, “A farmer left them here yesterday but hasn’t shown up today. Can you use them?”

Yah,” said the woman, and called over her friends. They grated the potatoes and cooked a stack of rostis. Flour and sugar appeared – and soon there was also carrot cake. Someone began to play Grandpa’s accordion, and an old man raked spoons along the washboard. People began dancing in pairs, and then in groups, like flowers opening outwards, and then returning to their centres. They began opening their suitcases, removing items, and sharing them out – Schnapps, fruit breads, chocolates, and ginger cakes. It became a great festival of spring gift giving. “Just is like Fruhlingsfest,” said a pretty blonde girl.

Jason too offered his items freely, but the Germans insisted on paying for them. They had heard that he was raising money for college. By the end of the day, all of his grandpa’s items were sold and Jason had made $5,000. The only thing left was a framed photograph of his grandpa, which someone had purchased and then returned, saying, “Your grandpa saved us today. You mustn’t forget him.”

Morning Light

Posted in Lucerne Village, Unknown with tags , , , , on January 18, 2012 by javedbabar

Grandma’s ritual was to light a candle daily. She said it kept the spirits away. “There’s good spirits and bad spirits,” she said. “But you don’t know which is which. So you better play safe and keep them all out, or you’ll be in for a nasty shock one day. You’ll run round looking for matches, but won’t find any.  And even if you do, the candles will have disappeared. And if you find the candles, they’ll be damp or rancid. The spirits are quicker than you. If you miss your chance in the morning, that’s it.”

Grandma never missed her chance in the morning. She was up at dawn to light a candle, wherever she was. This was tricky when travelling, as naked flames are forbidden in hotel rooms, but she’d say, “Spirits know if you haven’t lit a candle; hotel managers don’t know if you have.” This proved to be generally true. Except for the time when the hotel manager was alerted by the smoke alarm, and activated his sprinkler system. Grandma claimed that he was an evil spirit who didn’t play by the rules.

Grandpa didn’t like her lighting candles. Firstly he thought it was dangerous. Burning candles were the number one source of house fires in the country. Secondly, he thought it was superstitious. Thirdly – despite secondly – he felt that if you thought about something, you made it more likely to occur. So lighting candles was self-defeating. It was best to not think of spirits at all.

Grandma said, “Now there are five hundred people in the Valley, and two thousand in town. But when we first came here, we were the only ones living out here in the bush. I was a city girl who’d married a country boy. It was a greater wilderness than any I’d imagined. It frightened me. That’s when I began lighting candles. And that’s what my grandma used to do too. She lit hers to honour God. Mine were mainly for hope.”

A country boy works hard to survive. There’s no easy money or taking days off. As well as being a trapper, logger, and miner, Grandpa was also a hunter, carpenter, and farm hand. He did it all. The logging and mining kept him away for weeks at camp; he could be gone for a month or more. These were the most difficult times for Grandma. The candle became a reminder of him. A light to keep him safe. A beacon to guide him home.

The light was Grandma’s daily companion, and she saw its subtle changes. Of course these depended on the type of candle she used – beeswax, paraffin wax, soy wax, tallow, or spermaceti. The flames burned mainly orange, but within that hue were many others. Like a lover of fine wines, Grandma saw their infinite variety. Every flame had something to say.

A good candle was a good candle for Grandma, whatever it was made of – except resins and gels, which were unnatural. If the candle was well-constructed, unscented, and undyed, it burned well. But in truth it was the wick that made the candle. Its capillary action drew melted wax up to the flame to vaporize and combust. And as the candle burned, a good wick curled back into the flames. It was not the fuel, but was itself consumed.

Grandma noticed that similar candles burned differently. It had less to do with the candle than the day. She saw that all candles burned violet on birthdays, and green near Christmas; they burnt red at Easter, and blue on anniversaries; they burned yellow on happy days, and darkly on days of sadness. When they finally got television, she saw that good news led to pink flames, and bad news to grey. The flame was still orange, but its hidden colour was revealed to her. She didn’t tell anybody about it. It was her secret knowledge, and she didn’t want people to think she had cabin fever.

As soon as she lit a candle in the morning, usually with an Agni match – made by East Indians in the City – she knew what kind of day it would be, and was able to prepare herself for it physically and mentally. If it was indigo, she would pin back her shoulders, shove her chest out, hold up her head, and push against the assaults lined up for her. If it was lemon, she looked forward to a day with her feet up.

One winter morning the candle wouldn’t light at all. She tried many times with her Agni matches. This had never happened before. She changed the beeswax candle to a paraffin one, then a tallow one, then a soy wax one, even her Grandma’s antique Spermaceti. But none of them took. Grandma went upstairs and put on a black dress. Maybe today was not a day to keep spirits away with candles. There was a soul far away that needed to come home.

Dark Harp

Posted in Lucerne Village, Unknown with tags , , , , on January 8, 2012 by javedbabar

The crowd at the Great Hall funked and grooved. They shook their bootys and whirled round and around. They were more dervishes than dancers, their souls lost in sound.

The Harpees didn’t play here too often. Ever since they won the World Fusion Championships, they were always touring. But this was their home town, and they didn’t forget their own. They were a twelve piece band with two basses, two sitars, bongo drums, tablas, two trumpets, keyboardist, harmonium, violinist, and lead harpist. Each instrument played its part beautifully, but the harp was what made their band really special. The vibrations of its strings climbed high, touching people’s hearts and dreams. And it was a unique instrument. While other instruments gave feedback – muddying the music – the harp never did. It produced only pure sound.

Rufus gave a final flourish, and set all of its strings vibrating. He dropped his head sharply to end the number, and the rest of the band followed his lead. There was huge cheering and applause. The band thanked their loyal fans who had set them on the road to stardom, and called it a night.

Before Rufus had even stopped sweating, the manager of Resonance – the recently completed apartment block in the centre of town – came to bug him. He wanted The Harpees to endorse his building, continuing its musical advertising campaign. This had included taglines like “Sounds good!”, “In tune with you!”, and “Live in harmony!” Rufus said he didn’t have time right now.

No matter how many times you’ve done it before, teardown is always a messy business. There’s always mounds of boxes, jumbles of plugs, and a jungle of wires. The building’s steps made it even more work than usual humping the gear. Finally everything was loaded, and Rufus drove home. They had to hit the road tomorrow, so he left his gear in the truck. He didn’t sleep well that night, which was unusual. He usually soared heavenward.

The next morning was the worst of his life. He checked and rechecked but the harp was gone. Had he misplaced it, he wondered? Or had someone taken it in error? After all, instrument cases were all dark and bulky; they could easily be confused. Yet he recalled placing it into the truck carefully. He really didn’t want to consider it, but the only real possibility was that someone had stolen it!

Rufus held his head in his hands and snarled like a dog. He was so angry, he could not think. He could only feel colours.

When his Grandpa gave him the harp, he’d said, “It’s been in the family for centuries, and I have been its guardian for fifty years. It’s now your turn, Rufus. But don’t lock it away somewhere. It is alive I tell you! Play it! Play it! Play it for the world!”

At first it had been hard to know what to do. It wasn’t the coolest instrument, or the easiest to master. Dull black wood with a hundred strings. But Rufus persevered and became proficient. He started out as a street-musician, then joined a chamber orchestra, and later a local experimental band. He played so well that he displaced the lead guitarist, and became “lead harpist”. Eventually they changed their name from The Spudees to The Harpees, and the stage was set.

“All instruments have souls, and they respond to others,” his Grandpa had said. “But this harp has seen too much in its lifetime. It braved two wars. Now it makes its own music, that is all, and doesn’t echo the sounds of other instruments. It is like a great person, who is sure of himself but wary of the crowd. And because he stands apart bravely, he attracts others.”

Rufus hadn’t known what to make of that, but the musical benefits were clear. There was no feedback, and thus clarity and force in performance. Its sound would rise above all others.

But now the harp was gone. He had lost it! Rufus snarled again. His hearing was so keen that he could detect the quiver of a nearby string. But he knew that even if he drove around the Village, house by house, playing other instruments, the harp would never answer back. It gave no feedback. Its special quality was now its loss.

Of course they cancelled the rest of the tour. Rufus stayed at home. He was mainly quiet, but sometimes found himself snarling.

That night there were strange occurrences in the Village. Dogs barked non-stop, and the glass in shop windows kept trembling. Reflections distorted and shook.

The next night everyones’ car alarms went off everywhere, and many streetlights shattered. Everybody in the coffee shop was talking about these strange events. Had there been a series of small earthquakes? Or maybe some kind of electrical-field reversal?

Only Rufus knew. The harp had broken its long silence. It was responding to his call.

The third night, the Village fire-trucks’ lights and sirens came on. Also those of the ambulances, and the police cruisers. The centre of town was like a fairground. Emergency personnel all turned out in response to the sirens, and it’s a good job they did.

The Resonance building crumbled into dust. It wobbled initially, and then fell flat. Fortunately the manager had noticed some cracks that evening, and evacuated the buildings’ few occupants before he disappeared. No one was hurt.

Some days later, among the rubble of Resonance, was found a large black instrument case. Inside was a dark harp.