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Don know bout dis! Dat Rhydmic cat be aksing us fo somting on ‘My Place’ an we feel like we be spoil-sports not to humor his ass. Axshually, we tried coupla times to do dis by a short ‘comment’ to his post, but like I be sayin a few days back, som of dose ‘comment’ numbers be a reeal mind-fuck an it don look like dey got thru. So we condescend to dis.

Maaan, RD – like yo be dumb or somting?!! Yo mean to say yo dint figure out dat Flower Book be DE PLACE fo ma maan an me? Wit all dat nachural beauty, dose dogs, dat tranquil vibe an da music we be choosin. What more maaan? We don be talkin bout sex an dat sheet here coz dat be taken fo granted, right? All dat city axshun, partyin an all dat odder mind-bendin numbers be happenin in da interim as it were, so dat be like a welcome break, but for me an ma maan, Flower Book is where it’s at. Dig? Need we say more?

Now – bout dat ‘tag’ sheeet. If we be aksed to nominate somone to follow our asses an tell bout his, her or its place, den we be goin for dat Looney-ass Bin-man. We be bettin dat he be goin to som weird-ass places at warp speed  in  dat enterprisin starship he be havin down dere in dat basement of his, an we shuurre be likin to know what place dat he be preferrin. You tink he be risin to dis maaan? If he don’t, jus lever his ass gentle like. We tink he be a good ol sport too.

Hope dat was cool wit you. Be seein yo!

Now you be cool too, hear?

It was one of those lazy Saturday mornings in the city. Friday night rocked – and soared – with all the usual suspects playing their parts to perfection, making for an outstanding dusk to dawn. The Dancer has left earlier – for her regular Saturday morning routine teaching dance. Java hasn’t emerged as yet – doubtlessly on ‘auto-pilot’ for a soft landing after the experiences of the past twelve hours. I’ve got ‘Pavane’ by Gabriel Fauvre on the machine – just the sort of soothing melody and orchestration to set off the declining buzz – still slightly in evidence. I get my coffee – hot, dark and sweet – like some other things that turn me on – and move to the laptop to check mail.

Riiiing…Riiiing….Riiiing

I pick it up. The reedy, crackling falsetto is like nothing I’ve heard before and it took me back for an instant. It didn’t even wait for my ‘hello’:

Is that you Java?

I regain my composure after the initial shock of that unreal sound:

Java isn’t here right now

Pause:

Would you like to leave a message?

Another pause – and then the falsetto gets back through the receiver:

Yes. Please tell him that Leon called – about a business proposition we talked about recently.

FLASH, went the synapses, neural connectivity faster than the speed of light and the old brain had it all sussed out in no time at all. It had to be Java’s Secret Agent Man – the falsetto should have got through the haze in my head, but the name clinched it.

Okay Leon, I’ll let Java know you called. Will you call back or do you have a number he can call you at?

Another pause – I’m beginning to wonder if this guy takes his time before he utters a word as a matter of course, or if he is being cagey about being tracked. Java’s story of their meeting and what transpired is replaying at high speed on the internal screen. Then, after what seemed like ages:

Er, umm, you see I’m not sure of my movements over the next few days, so maybe I should call back later – what would be a good time to catch him?

It was my turn to pause – and make a lightening assessment of how to handle this. I wondered how he got the number. Java never mentioned exchanging contact information. Should I commit? Then finally:

Why don’t you try around six this evening – he should be back by then.

Another pause – this was getting to be like a phone call in slo-mo.

Aaahhh.. please tell him I’ll try, but otherwise I’ll leave a number with you – it’s a friend’s place I’m staying at, but if no one answers don’t worry, as my friend is away and I only stay there when I’m here on business.

So he gives me the number, thanks me for my time and hangs up. As I take the note off the ‘postit’ I sense a familiarity about the number Leon has passed on. And then it strikes me – it is the number of the phone-booth near the Bareass Boulevard Bar – the very same phone that was used during that Trishaw Mafiosi episode – the one that Mo pretty much controls. Shit! The last thing I want happening in my life is intrigue, I think to myself, as I get back to the laptop and the coffee – now tepid and unappealing. So I get me another and think about replacing Fauvre with something slightly more upbeat. Settling on one from my old vinyl collection, I get Emerson, Lake and Palmer doing their version of Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ and return to the coffee and laptop. I’m just getting into how ELP handle Mussorgsky’s ‘Promenade – the recurring theme that represents the walk between each of the pictures at the exhibition, when..

Heeey maaan, want anodder cup? I be fixin one fo me.

I shake my head. ELP is just getting into ‘The Old Castle’ and I’m with them, but Leon’s call bursts through the other layers and I tell Java about the call.

Saay whaat maaan? I bin wonderin when dat cat be showin up again. I know fo shurre he aint goin to let go of dat stack of cash – all in dose crisp, green, hundred dollar bills!

So how’re you going to handle this guy?

Sheeet maan – I jus tell him da truth – dat I don hav his bread.

Yeah, but Cher does – doesn’t she?

So?

So – you think he’s going to let you off that easy? He left the package by you and left the Bar, so stands to reason you kept it, seeing that he showed it to you and Cher. He has managed to get our number – so he must’ve made some enquiries – he may even know that Cher and you left with the package.

It’s Java’s turn to pause:

Know what maaan? Les jus call dat Cherry lady and aks her if she still has it.

So he does. Cher picks up – no doubt just roused from her deep slumber in an attempt to recover from last night’s revelry.

Hey Cher baby! Yeah hon, sorry bout dis wake up call an dat, but we be tinkin dat yo would have yo pretty lil ol ass outta bed by dis time. Yeah? Now yo watch yo mout hear – dat aint no way for a nice lady like yo to be talkin. No. No, no ,nooo waaay babe. Heey, but yo lissen up now – dis be important. Remember dat cat we met at da Bareass Bar? Shuurre yo do – how could yo forget Leon?!! Aaanyways, da man has sussed out our number and called dis mornin. No, no I be in bed. Yeah, guess he wants his bread back. What??? Yo still have dat package, right? Sheeet girl – yo whaaat???!!

He gives me this look – raised eyebrows, eyes rolling – could mean anything!

Tell yo what den – I be pickin yo sweet lil ol ass up – when? Allrighty den – Bareass Boulevard at noon. Yo be cool now, hear? Later babe!

Java hangs up and looks more than slightly stressed. I wait for him to get over what ever it is got him so shook up while ELP has exited ‘The Old Castle’ and is into a blues variation to end side one.

Know what our girl do wit dat bread maan? She be so spooked bout keepin it at her pad an she don wanta bank it, so what does she do? She bury dat sheet!

I shake my head in disbelief.

Where?

She say she go to da cemetary an fine her mamma’s grave – she do dis late evenin like – makin shure nobody’s aroun and she pull out dis garden fork she bring wit her and den she bury dat sheet in her mamma’s grave!! How bout dat sheeet?!! I be hopin it still be dere – or we be in deeep sheeet – dig? I best be takin off for dat Bareass Bar and see how dis pans out. Be seein yo!

He gulps down his coffee and heads for the door. ELP has survived ‘The Curse of Baba Yaga’, their own inspired interpretation playing off Mussorgsky’s composition, as well as ‘The Hut of Baba Yaga’ and are just entering the ‘Great Gates of Kiev’ – Greg Lake’s take-off on the original. The music takes me back to those spacy days in LA – now however, it doesn’t sound half as good as it did then, so I get Johann Sebastian to fix the vibe and get myself a beer.

I’m not sure I’m looking forward to the rest of this episode, but I’m sure there will be something more to it. And if you’re interested – and if you stay tuned, I’ll turn you on to how it went.

But for now it’s back to Bach!

I was watching Benecio del Toro on ‘Inside the Actors Studio’ discussing his role of Dr. Gonzo in ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, the film version of Hunter S. Thompson’s story about a weird, wired and crazy trip that only someone as insane as Hunter Thompson could come up with, or rather, live through. Johnny Depp played the Gonzo journalist as pretty much close to perfection as he usually does with most roles. He did have the advantage of spending loads of time with the man, so his getting all the subtleties of the character down exemplified his technique and commitment to his craft.

Anyway, back to Benecio and the interview with James Lipton. He actually put on forty-plus pounds to play the role of Hunter Thompson’s lawyer Oscar Zeta Acosta – ‘Dr. Gonzo’ in the film – and, he said, he didn’t have the advantage of spending time with the real thing (like Depp did), as the good lawyer just upped and disappeared mysteriously and hasn’t been seen since, so he had to do the next best thing and spend time, together with Johnny Depp, getting to know Acosta through the eyes and mind of Thompson, whilst Johnny was busy absorbing Thompson’s personae. I thought that his (Benicio’s) performance was as good as he gets, although critics’ views were divided. However, in the end, vindication came in the cult following both he and Terry Gilliam’s (yup, the same guy who was part of the Monty Python gang) film earned since it was released in 1998.

Hunter S. Thompson (for those who don’t know) was the original ‘Gonzo Journalist’ and a very strange character to boot. ‘Gonzo’ journalism is defined as ‘a style of reporting that blurs distinctions between author and subject, fiction and non-fiction’. The book came out of the experiences Thompson and his lawyer Acosta had when Thompson was doing a piece for ‘Rolling Stone’ on the controversial death of Rueben Salazar, a Mexican-American journalist, at the hands of the LAPD. They left Los Angeles together for so many reasons, and headed for Las Vegas to kill two birds with one stone by covering another assignment he had for ‘Sports Illustrated’ on the Mint 400 Motorcycle Race held there in Vegas. The experiences encountered on the trip was developed into the first person account by his nom de plume – journalist Raoul Duke – about the trip with his 300 pound Samoan attorney, Dr. Gonzo, to cover a narcotics officers’ convention as well as the ‘fabulous Mint 400’. As the trip progresses the duo get sidetracked searching for the ‘American Dream’ assisted by copious quantities of alchohol, marijuana, mescaline, LSD, cocaine, and all sorts of other drugs, inebriants and stimulants – even ether!! The story is hilarious, weird and amazing, employing Thompson’s ‘gonzo’ journalistic technique and style and exposing it to a wider public. Critical acclaim followed, including being heralded as “by far the best book yet written on the decade of dope” by the New York Times and a “scorching epochal sensation” by Tom Wolf, pioneer of ‘new journalism’ and author of ‘The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test’.

Hunter S. Thompson shot himself in February 2005. The following description of the aftermath is from Wikipedia:
On August 20, 2005, in a private ceremony, Thompson’s ashes were fired from a cannon atop a 153-foot tower of his own design (in the shape of a double-thumbed fist clutching a peyote button) to the tune of Bob Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man, known to be the song most respected by the late writer. Red, white, blue and green fireworks were launched along with his ashes. As the city of Aspen would not allow the cannon to remain for more than a month, the cannon has been dismantled and put into storage until a suitable permanent location can be found. According to widow Anita Thompson, the actor Johnny Depp, a close friend of Thompson (and portrayer of Raoul Duke in the movie adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), financed the funeral. Depp told the Associated Press, “All I’m doing is trying to make sure his last wish comes true. I just want to send my pal out the way he wants to go out.” [5] Other famous attendees at the funeral included U.S. Senator John Kerry and former U.S. Senator George McGovern; 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley; actors Bill Murray (who portrayed Hunter S. Thompson in the movie Where the Buffalo Roam), Sean Penn and Josh Hartnett; singers Lyle Lovett and John Oates; and numerous other friends. An estimated 280 people attended the funeral.

Check it out!

I wonder how it is going – the Literary Festival, that is. Java and I couldn’t make it – some of us have to work for a living right?

After being at the receiving end of some stick from various quarters about questionable use of tsunami funds, the ulterior motives of the chief organizer and a good deal of controversial discourse and exchange of views on Nazreen’s blog, things are bound to get interesting – if nothing else. The list of guest authors is reasonably impressive but the reason for some of the topics for discussion, as discussed below, is a bit mystifying with regard to their connection to literature. The idea itself is commendable and hopefully the organization of the event will be glitch-free so that the participants and the audience will not be inconvenienced, making for the next annual event (so we are told) to be looked forward to.

Naz’s blog on the Festival sure generated interesting observations and quite a bit of flak that slowly descended to levels bordering on the banal, with the racial or ethnic and nationalistic elements overshadowing all else. Wisely, Naz closed comments before the missives degenerated any further.

The ‘interesting observations’ category contained views on some of the ‘writers’. As ‘an observer’ pointed out, many of the names of participants on the site promoting the event could not be construed as writers of literature. The comment ended with “…if you were having a book festival… invite all these people…don’t call it literature…”. Naz very smartly countered this by agreeing to separate the ‘writers’ from the ‘participants’, by which I guess she meant that the ‘moderators’ and some ‘panelists’ would be distinctly apart from the ‘writers’.

Looking at the programme on the Festival site, I was struck by the three of the ‘items’ on the schedule for the 11th. One was conducted by David Robson and Channa Daswatte and was billed as anecdotes on the Bawa brothers – Bevis and Geoffrey, another was four architects discussing Geoffrey Bawa’s influence on their work and the third was a walking garden tour, conducted by Channa Daswatte, of the Lunuganga gardens that is meant to be an ‘insight’ into the vision of Geoffrey Bawa. The 12th had another ‘walking discussion’ about the Galle Fort conducted by Rajpal de Silva, billed as an expert on Dutch history. The 13th had a panel discussion on whether tourism could help the environment. Just what exactly these ‘items’ had to do with ‘literature’ is something I couldn’t figure out, so I’m waiting for the Festival to end to ask Naz and others connected with it if and how these were connected to the crux of the event and also if they went off well, considering that this is a Literary Festival and has nothing to do with either architecture or Geoffrey Bawa. I do know some of the panelists and moderators, as well as some of the organizers, so a reasonable cross-section of views could be expected. And then there are those who actually attended some or all of the events, so I’m sure we will have enough material with which to analyse.

There’s also the possibility of fallout from the differences of opinions resulting from Nazreen’s blog and other blogs as well. For instance, ‘Vaharai’ told David Blacker (in a separate skirmish resulting from Indi’s blog on bombings) that he will be “watching” him at the Festival. This then gets into the realm of intrigue, or does it? Almost like a movie plot – the unknown sympathiser of a cause stalking the outspoken ex-army author – with intent to what? To observe and report? To observe and critique? To observe for any other purpose? And will ‘Vaharai’ be in the back of David Blacker’s mind while he is there? All manner of possibilities enter the sphere of the imagination.

It stands to reason that some who attend will look to find reasons purely to put the event down and knock the effort, whilst supporters will probably be gushing about how great it was. And of course the ‘objective’ ones, who will, in all sincerity, attend so that they could gain from the experience – in which ever way their value system assesses it. Different strokes for different folks!

In the end, however, it would be excellent if this Festival is a super-success so that everyone concerned – established writers, budding writers, literature freaks, groupies, the tourist industry in general, the country and last, but by no means least, the organizers – will benefit from it and the resulting views would justify this being an annual event that more and more folk would look forward to. What do you think?

‘Commenting’ or responding to a post can be a real pain in the ass (depending on the site I guess). One site wants a jumbled mess of letters to be reproduced in a box, one wants a box clicked on to say this is not spam, and others have other odd requests to be carried out, or the comment will not make it to the one you are directing it. Some sites however, have no such problems or obstacles to letting you send your comment through. Got me wondering why only some sites had the rigmarole to surmount – what’s the big deal with all the crap? ‘Simplest’ always seemed to me the way to go, so if one site allowed comments to go through without any bullshit attached to it to make the task more difficult, why not others?

Just a bit ago I tried passing on some words of wisdom to this love-lorn school teacher who is barely coping with a bad case of the blues, so I got my message in the box and was then ordered to re-type the message as follows: “Anti-spam measure: please retype the above text into the box provided”. There was this little sliver of a ‘box’ with a number next to it by the message and it seemed to me an unnecessary hassle to do this – that is to re-type the entire comment, so I highlighted the comment, copied, and pasted in the slit I assumed to be the place the ‘direction’ indicated. There was this other little box with the caption ‘say it’ under the first message, so I clicked on that one assuming that the comment will zip through cyberspace and land at the intended destination, giving the heart-broken school teacher, now probably getting her saree together for another day of teaching school girls with a heavy heart and her mind across the ocean hoping against hope for some miracle that would get the love of her life back into her waiting arms, some advice on how to handle her pain. Alas, it didn’t work! The site had this message come up to say:

One of the following things has happened:
1. you retyped the text in the image incorrectly;
2. the time allowed for retyping the image has expired;
3. the image in the previous page has already been used for submitting a comment.
Please return to the previous page and try again. (If items 2 or 3 above apply, you will need to reload the previous page.)

And so, moron that I can be at the best of times, I tried again – all for the sake of giving this undoubtedly despondent lady the benefit of my wisdom – a major ego trip to be sure! And, you’re right – never happened the way I intended. I got the same message again – I’m probably doing one of three things wrong and would I try again!

Well, enough is enough – and not even the compassion I felt for the heart-broken school teacher was sufficient to put me through this trip again. Instead, I silently cursed the genius(es) that thought up these obstacles to the freedom of expression, got me a second nice steaming cup of coffee, focused more on Tellemann’s ‘Ulster Overture’ playing on the classical station MAESTRO on WorldSpace and got to getting this whinge off my chest.

The sound of the rain outside at 6.30 am indicates that it will be another one of those gloomy days up here in the hills. But Java and I will make the most of it I am sure – with the dogs and the music for company.

The super weather up in these hills didn’t last very long from three days ago, as it has been a pretty steady drip with the occasional heavy spurts in between, yesterday, as well as today. The drive to Monaragala yesterday (work!) was the same – it rained steadily all the way there, whilst I was there, and all the way back as well – ‘miserable’, to put it mildly! So now the atmosphere is damp, there’s a drizzle outside, WorldSpace has got Oscar Peterson doing ‘The girl from Ipanema’, the dogs are curled up by me as I do this – so what else is new?!! Boring? On the contrary – Java’s up to his usual trip whilst up here. He’s been busy with ‘cleaning’ the Sinsemilla and getting the stems and irredeemable junk out and is now concentrating on making a few numbers that will last awhile. And that is always good for elevating the spirits and setting the stream of consciousness flowing in all manner of directions, and for encountering the most surprising concepts and visuals along the way.

Heeey maaan, wan me to get yo a beer while I’m getting mine?

C’mon Java, you know better than that! Does a bear shit in the woods or what?

Jus checkin maaan. Be right back wit yo brew – an mine too an then we can get down to som serious-ass contemplatin to dis selecshun on WorldSpace – music ta make dem juices flow – providing yo have da right combinashun of catalysts – is dat da right word maaan?

He leaves for the fridge, the dogs following closely hoping for a bone from the stock. RIFF, the jazz station on WorldSpace, is getting a wee bit ‘draggy’ so I switch to THE HOP, the station that specializes in 60’s and 70’s rock and R & B – and sometimes 50’s as well – ‘hit makers and soul shakers’, as the DJ puts it. The name of the station no doubt originates from the 50’s term ‘hop-head’ and, appropriately we have Mick and the Stones belting out ‘Let it bleed’ as I turn it on. Java returns, dogs in tow, obviously not having got around him for those bones they were hallucinating about. Otis Redding has come on – ‘Hard to Handle’ and, as Java lights up, the sweet smell fills the room as the smoke billows out of his face. The Byrds follow Otis with Dylan’s ‘Tambourine Man’ as he passes the doob

Know what maaan? Dis song be written by dat ol Robert Zimmerman bout jus what we be imbibing right now – check out dis verse dem Byrds be doin right now.

Java turns up the volume:

Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind,
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves,
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach,
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow.
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands,
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves,
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to.
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you.

Dat cat shuurre had a way wit words right maaan? Poetry in moshun dat set a whole generashun questchuning da values of dere parents – helped on dere way wit all dem mind-alterin substances dat Leary an his frens helped spread da word about. Musta bin great times huh?

Crosby, Stills and Nash have succeeded Dylan with their ‘Sweet Judy Blue Eyes’ – sweet harmonies and great melody.

It’s not a bad way to spend a gloomy morning. The drizzle’s still on, the temp’s around 17C, the birds must all be huddled in their shelters, not being evident as they usually are – must be a real drag for them during these rainy days. And the music goes on.

It was Java’s idea to follow the post about the kalayathanya with one on The Master and I guess it would be appropriate, if nothing else. For sure it would impossible for me to find anyone else I knew (or know) so well who was/is a legend in his own time to write about.

Most of what I know about Chitra is from personal contact and this would include the stories he would relate concerning stages of his life and work – the childhood memories of his father’s theatrical interests and productions, the ‘western’ influences through movies which starred Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Clark Gable, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, classical music which his father would play on an old gramophone and, of course Shakespeare, a dominating presence in his father’s life. He would talk of his schooling, earlier in small private schools and later at Wesley College. He spoke of his continued interest in theatre, appearing in his father’s production of Siri Sangabo when he was fifteen years old, of studying Kandyan Dance when it was considered ‘weird’, and being considered even weirder when he left Colombo to live and study with his guru in a village of Potuhera, near Polgahawela. How he left for India to study at the Kerala Kala Mandalam and later at Rabindranath Tagore’s Shantiniketan, where he partnered Tagore’s granddaughter in the production of Chandalika. Returning to Ceylon, he performed at the Regal Theatre for Queen Elizabeth II in 1954, he was also booed by the social-yokels – the culture-vultures of the Colombo elite when he dared to appear on stage with most of his body exposed – a first, I guess – in the 1950’s. He was ‘first’ in many areas of his expertise and if not for him the appreciation of the traditional Sinhala dance forms would not be anywhere close to what it is today. Thanks to him these dance forms have been and are continuing to be appreciated by connoisseurs of Dance all over the world.

Heeey maaan, what bout all dat odder stuff he be talkin bout – all dat interestin sheet bout famous folk an dat stuff? Jus in da teatre-world he talk bout giants like Marcel Marceau, Martha Graham, Doris Humphreys, Paul Taylor and more recently Susanne Linke, the group Pilobilus and the Battery Dance Company – all dese folk visit him in da family home at Colpetty – where de dance school be from da time he start it. Any dancer come to Ceylon, and later, Sri Lanka, dey go see Chitra and Vajira and watch dem dance and hear dem drums – an blow dere minds to know dat such rhythms and movements were comin from sooo far back in time in dis country – unchanged! He be in awe of dis an he go on som heavy philosophical trips when he be in da right mood to illustrate his theories on dis highly advance indigenous cultchure, remember? Den yo remember his anaysis of stagecraft an how he dvelop dose lightin scripts an directions when dey be tourin places like Russia in da 50’s an Australia an all over Europe in da 60’s. An his stories bout his actin in English plays like Otello an Emperor Jones – dose lil ol anecdotes maann, dey be hilarious. I kept tellin him to dictate his memoirs – fuckin best seller if he done it – wit all dose expicit bits included, an maaann did he have some of dose!!! He be lookin soo good, great physique and dancin like a God – dose chicks be fallin all over his ass, an I could see why! He also be tellin us bout how he conceive ‘Karadiya’ when travellin by train from Colombo to Matara to give dancin classes – seein dose fisher-folk pullin on dere nets give him dat idea, an he conceive da music bein influenced by ‘Song of the Volga Boatmen’ ( he remember it sung by Paul Robeson, he say). Dat Amaradeva be composing his music at dat Colpetty house, maaan, him an Ananda Samarakoon (he be da dude dat wrote dis national anthem in dat house), an Sunil Shantha an Somabandu, Prema Kumar an Lionel Algama – dey all be livin an workin dere in dose early days. Mus have been a hell of a time, huh? All dem artistes, doing dere ting, livin an workin togedder – fuckin great ol time. He say he love every minit of it – dose times, dey never came fo him again.

Java’s right. Chitra had an amazing life and myriad interesting experiences. He really should have done the book of his life’s story. There is a book (now out of print), but that is more of a compilation of articles and reviews and does not touch on the incredible adventures he experienced. He moved among a variety of individuals from a cross-section of society – from the villagers he lived with while studying the dance and who he continued to meet throughout his life, to the highest strata in whatever society he was in and in between as well. And he took it all in his stride – altering his character to suit the occasion, but being genuine to them all. He was above petty politics, had a distinctly low opinion of the practitioners of this profession and was quick to condemn discrimination of any kind. His temper was as volatile as his other emotional responses and he commanded a respect among the members of his troupe that was unmistakable. His love of wine, women, song and anything else that would make him feel great was never concealed and he reveled in it – whatever it was at the time. His sense of humor was also right on and he was quick to pick up on most things by pure and unerring instinct.

There was also that ‘other side’ to him – as there is with most sensitive artistic types. He could be very difficult to be around, particularly for those closest to him and tantrums were not uncommon at his home. He could be completely ‘off the wall’ and the people concerned sometimes wouldn’t even know what he was on about. I guess the Ying-Yang extremes manifested extremely with him in all aspects of his being. Be that as it may – those closest to him, though at times at their wits end, were loyalty personified and no matter how difficult he was, they were always around for him when they were needed. When he was depressed, after he was virtually forced out of his landmark home and school in Colpetty and he moved to Mahara, he had to live alone for most of the week, as Vajira had to live in Colombo to keep the school and classes going. He was a hermit of sorts during this time and enjoyed the solitude – for a while, that is. His urge for the good times would take over and he would meet his few close friends for an evening’s indulging in conversation and good company – with all the trimmings.

He was honoured by many, including the Institute of Aesthetic Studies of the University of Kelaniya, that awarded him a Honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree in Fine Arts and by the Government of France, whose ambassador visited his death-bed to award him the Chevaliers dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres just two days before he passed on. The award is for ‘significant contribution to arts or literature or propagation of these fields’. And among previous recipients are Claudio Arrau (who Chitra knew well), Anthony Burgess, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Allen Ginsberg and Robert Redford, which puts him in very good company.

There’s so much more to relate, but the ability is limited – especially for a forum such as this is. However, as Java said, this was something we wanted to put out but the opportunity never came up. So, with the ‘opening the kalayathanya’ post happening, this seemed appropriate.

Chitrasena was surely one of the most unforgettable individuals I have ever known, not just for his accomplishments in the areas of dance, culture and theatre, but more, as an incredible ‘universal’ being.

The Dancer was pretty stressed – not that it was much of a change, given the circumstances during the recent past leading up to the day! And now the day had finally arrived – after years of hard work, heart-break and all manner of other factors that the family had to bear, the Dance School was a reality and the morning’s programme would be the second of the ‘rituals’ to take place. The first was ‘the real thing’ – an all-night ritual on the day appointed by the Guru with all its astrological significance, for the initiation of the Chitrasena Kalayathanaya (written of in my post ‘From the sublime to the ridiculous to the sublime’ sometime in October). This one was to introduce the students and their parents to the new Dance School – the first real home for this amazing First Family of Dance in Sri Lanka, since they were made to move from the original base that had served them as their home as well as the school from its inception in 1944, until they were ‘eased out’ in 1982. And since this time, it was a matter of hiring halls for classes and rehearsals and going through the most trying times in order to keep the spirit of the Dance School alive and kicking. But they did – in spite of all odds against them – and survived, to make Chitrasena’s dream a reality. The tragedy is that the great man passed away a little over a year ago and was not able to experience the day.

The site was granted to Chitrasena for the establishment of the Kalayathanaya by the government of Chandrika Kumaranatunge, who was a pupil at the famous Kollupitya landmark in her early years and who has remained a loyal admirer of the art of Chitrasena and Vajira. She was acutely aware of the difficulties faced by the family and always lamented the fact that previous governments (her mother’s included) had not seen fit to provide the facilities for a permanent Dance Academy so that these icons of Sri Lankan culture would have a repository where they could preserve, pass on and sustain the tradition and maintain their standards of creative artistry that they had evolved to shape and aid in the evolution of the indigenous dance forms of Sri Lanka. Chitrasena was largely responsible for preserving the indigenous dance forms and rituals, making them accessible to the general public by presenting them in a theatrical form without distorting their content. And then he took it a step further, by adapting the traditional dance movements to create an alternative genre, resulting in the Sinhala Dance-Drama and the Sinhala Ballet as we know it today. Vajira, first his pupil and later his wife, made her own significant contribution to the Sinhala Dance idiom through her own artistry as Sri Lanka’s first Prima Ballerina and then as a choreographer par excellence. Together they fashioned Upeka – and later Anjelika, who would also follow their illustrious parents’ path. Upeka grew to be a star in her own right, taking over the leadership of the Dance Company in their tours all around the world, garnering excellent reviews from distinguished international critics and contemporary artistes, whilst Angelika excelled in the art of mime, which she combined with her dance prowess to create a number of memorable characters in the family’s creations.

And so, in addition to the students and their parents, The Dancer and family invited a very few of us friends and supporters to the opening. It was a modest affair and the traditional lighting of the lamp was followed by a short introduction by Heshma, Chitrasena’s grand-daughter and daughter of Anjelika, who is playing a prominent role in the re-establishment of the Kalayathanaya in its new premises. As Heshma informed all those present, the building that was being inaugurated is ‘temporary’, in that it will serve as the center for classes, rehearsals, performances (of sorts) and other Dance School matters, until the ultimate goal of the Dance Academy complex is realized. The scheme, she said, has been designed, but as funding is in short supply they would have to manage until it all falls into place. And this, she said is where it will take off from. Till then they would carry on, as ever, desperately trying to raise the funds to make Chitrasena’s dream (now at least partially fulfilled) a reality. So if anyone out there has the inclination and / or means to assist in a truly worthy cause, check the family out and join in the effort.

A short programme of dance and drums, which included an item by the younger students and later by the older ones, ended with a traditional puppet show, which kept the children enthralled. Kiribath and the usual traditional breakfast fare followed.

And then I beat a hasty retreat to the hills.

I had to leave later than I usually do – unavoidable! But it was just great to be back in the hills after the long break in the city over the holiday season, where the heavy social engagements with their attendant accoutrements must surely have taken their toll on the system. The drive up was enhanced by a super morning – a far cry from the drives back and forth over the past several weeks, mainly due to the nearly incessant rains during that period. Thankfully, most of the earth and rocks from the innumerable earth-slips had been cleared off the road and their sides and much of the new road was well on its way, although there were no signs of any preventative measures being taken to inhibit repetition of the slides  – so what else is new in Paradisio?!

Flower Book was looking great on a clear day in the early afternoon sun – the herb, veggie and flower beds visibly recovering from the beating they took during the recent spate of rains. The dogs did their thing, expressive as ever. But the most telling impact was from the change of vibe from just a few hours ago. The ‘hard to put into words’ ambiance is just so contrasting from that which exists in the city, that a different pace immediately comes into play. I guess in the end, it is the level of awareness that determines the energy-levels that could be achieved – in the quest for whatever it is we seek.

Java was bemused after his run-in with the Secret Agent. It had all been quite accidental, but the possible repercussions were threatening his peace of mind and that, to Java, was a major bummer. It all started, as he related, when he was sitting at the Bareass Bar with his brew in hand, mulling over the prospects of another day with The Cherry Lady aka Cher.

Know whaat maaan? Dis all be yo fault. If yo hadn’t got me to help Cher out wit her sundry chores – dis be da last time ever, hear?

Anyways, so dere I was, brew in hand an smokin one of ma speshul roll-ups when up come dis dude an sit right nex to me. Sheeet! An I be da only one sittin dere. So I’m tinkin, dis cat gotta be eider gay or he be feelin reeel lonely an want som company, but I say nuttin – jus sit dere tokin ma smoke and sippin ma brew. Da man aks da bartender for a bottle of Chilean White an I can see he be checkin me out. I’m sittin dere pretendin I be engrossed in da Sarah Vaughn blues number dat ol Mo got goin in his sound room an I pay no tennshun. Den, his com on line:

Hey mister, got a light?

I turn roun and get ma fust good look at da man – pretty weird lookin dude – Levis, an wearin one of dose faded Trishaw Mafiosi tee shirts dat say Arrack Attack, ratty lookin pair of thongs, broad belt wit dis heavy outlandish buckle dat (I checked it out later) said Wild West Rodeo an had a buckin bronco in relief in da middle of it. His face look weathered and like somting outta a Humphrey Bogart movie – one of dose baad-ass mah fuhs – pencil mustache an all dat sheet, his hair be combed back – black an greasy slick.

So I feel aroun in ma pocket fo ma Zippo an flash him a flame – he be smokin B & H gold pack – an he lights up. Den he stick out his big ol hand an say in dis reeely weird-ass near falsetto-voce:

Thank you very much and what is your name my friend?

All in one go. Fust I near fell off dat stool at da soun of dis weird voice an den, getting ma sheet togedder an tryin to be soo cool, I tell him. He goes:

Java huh? What kind of name is that and where are you from?

He speak fast an witout much spresshun – an dere’s still no one else at dis bar. Mo has replaced Sarah wit Ella Fitzgerald doin ‘Thou Swell’, an her indescribable voice – it float tru dat open space, catch dat gentle breeze dat be blowin tru dose Araliya branches an com right up an blow pass us two at dat bar.

Dats ma Rasta name maaan. Yo be hip ta Rastafarians?

He look puzzle-ass an amused at da same time – if dats possible. On second tauts, I know I should’n have aks him dat an carry on da conversashun. Anyways, he replies:

Isn’t that some kind of cult from….

Yeah!

An I get back ta ma brew and take anodder deep hit from dat roll-up – now reaching da butt end, so I grind it out in da ashtray on da bar. I see him lookin at da stub, kinda curious. I shine him on an take anodder gulp of brew. He moves his bar-stool closer and lowers his voice:

Listen Java, you look like a pretty interesting fellow, how would you like to be of service to…

He looks around sorta furtive like, and jus den I hear dat familiar husky tone of our very own Cherry Lady:

Hey Java, sorry I’m late sweetheart, but I swear I’m going to make it up to you, okay?

She pulls up a stool and goes:

Say who’s your friend?

Jus what I needed – thanks be! I turn to da dude an say:

Hey maan, I didn catch yo name, dis is ma fren Cher who I be waitin on all dis time.

He’s checkin out Da Cherry Lady. He start from her legs, all shapely an fine, den go up her short skirt, check out her belly-button (she gotta have one of da cutest too!), his eyes be travellin up her midriff an den to her ample tits – nipples strainin agains dat tight-ass blouse of hers. His eyes linger dere for a bit an den he check her face out an smile his leery-ass smirky grin an say:

Pleased to meet you I’m sure, my name is Leon.

I see how Cher reacks to his weird vocal aberrashun, but she manages to control herself. She gives me dis look dat speak a whole slew of words, so she don have to say nuttin – we have dis unspoken language we do wit looks an vibes

Leon slips his hand into his pocket, pulls out dis card an gives it to me. Leon De Lay, it say – CEO, Spam & Jam Co. Ltd., Dealers in Spread for Bread. Gets me wonderin if dis ‘bread’ mean da reel ting or if it be da hip euphamisom fo ‘$$$’, but I say nuttin an put da card in ma pocket.

I’m looking for investors and also partners that can help with establishing my business, so if you are interested let’s get together sometime and discuss the possibilities. It’s a great business that I set up some time ago in Los Angeles and we deal in security and related areas of investigation and such. There’s lots of potential in this country and lots of money to be made.

He give us dis look of expectashun, waitin fo us to reack. Cher, curious as she be, can’t resist:

Just what is it that you really do? And ‘spam and jam’ and ‘spread’? Sounds like some processed food that you are dealing in – what does this have to do with security and investigation?

Leon gives us a whinny-giggle – sound weirder dan anyting I be hearin in a loong time, maan and den he say:

Weeelll, you know how it is in this type of work, one can’t be tooo obvious. ‘Spam & Jam’ has more to do with disinformation and inhibiting communications than with food. We do a lot of very secretive work with government agencies and private establishments, so with the current ‘situation’ in the country, my contacts have put me onto some very important people here who are happy to use the services I provide. It’s an opportunity to make significant contacts and lots of money.

Yo mean like detective work, maaan?

A little bit, I guess, but really it is more in the area of espionage and that sort of thing.

Cher flashes dat ‘look’ at me an she turn back to Leon:

So why is it you picked on Java and me?

Weeelll, see when I was making my preliminary research and analysis about this city and the types that would fit into my scheme of things, I found that a good place to make contact with a variety of people that are not really ‘run of the mill’ was this Bareass Bar and then the first time I walk in I see Java and think to myself – this has got to be auspicious, just look at that chap – and then a bit later you walk in! Just the very types I’m looking for and know will fit in with my line of work, so what do you say? Interested in hearing more?

Cher an I, we exchange ‘da look’– an dis one means dat she wants me ta take dis over. Meanwhile da Bar is slowly fillin up wit da Saturday morning regulars tricklin in. Mitty checks us out an waves, Bastin an his lady walk tru da courtyard but dey don see us jus den. Leon looks at us, impatient for our reackshun – his beady eyes shiftin between Cher an me.

Saay maaan, dis almos soun like a ‘dirty tricks’ type number to me. Is dis all legal sheeet yo be into? An what kind a re-mun-a-ray-shun yo be talkin bout here?

Leon gives us anodder of dose whinny-giggles an in his weird-ass voice:

Hell no my friends. This is all very much above board and extremely kosher – if you know what I mean. In fact, I have the entire cooperation of the most important members of your government, as well as some of the most reputable organizations in the country. I have even been approached (he lowers his voice) by the ‘other side’ – he gives Cher a wink – you know who I mean!

Den, before we know waaz goin down, he gets dis drum shaped ‘man bag’ out. It be a sleek lookin leather job dat has a brass tag dat say ‘RHYTHMIC’ (da brand, I guess) on it and at da lower left hand corner, a small embossed ‘LOSE PROOF’ – damned if ah know why! He unzips one seckshun an takes out dis brown paper package. He carefully open up one end an give us both a look, his eyes going back to dat package. Sheeet maaan, it be a whole bunch of hundred dollar bills – all green an crisp. An den he say:

There’s a whole lot more from where that came, so just say the word and we can take a drive to my hotel where I can fill you in and we can talk.

Cher and me – we do anodder of our ‘unspoken’ number wit dem vibes and look, an den, just as I am bout to tell dis cat dat maybe we can meet anodder time as we have som important work dat Cher have to get done today, dis big ol dude come up do da bar an tell Dan to get him a sandwich an a glass of red wine. He looks at Cher an me an he nods. Dis is a big-ass guy maan, swarthy, nearly black in complekshun, close cropped hair, heavy-ass mustache an dat hard-edged look dat only a certain type be havin. I nod at him in return and den look back to respond to ma maan Leon, to see him headin fo da men’s room, his Rhythmic ‘Lose Proof’ man bag slung over his shoulder. An dere, by his bottle of half-full Chilean White is his brown-paper package.

Da heavy lookin dude gets his wine an tells Dan behind da Bar to send his sandwich to his table, he give us a look an moves away. Da Cherry Lady an I do da ‘look’ number between us again, understandin perfeckly what each other is thinking. I leave her at da Bar wit ma brew, Leon’s wine an dat brown-paper package full of dose hundred dollar bills an go off to check da men’s room. I open dat door an dere’s no one dere – no sign of Leon. So I get back to Cher at da Bar – she jus look at me an she knows! We wait dere a while shootin da shit bout dis, dat an de odder while havin our drinks, but all da time wonderin bout Leon an his trip – not to menshun dose hundred dollar bills. I pull out his card an see a number, e-mail address an website on it, so I call da number an da voice on de odder side say dis number be out of service. Cher checks out dat website on Mitty’s laptop – no such animal! So we send Leon a mail an a few minutes later dat Mailer Daemon informs us dat da mail is undeliverable. So Cher an I, we finish our drinks, Cher puts dat package in her big ol bag, we wave bye-bye to Mitty, Bastin an Dan behind da Bar and walk out. As we pass da big-ass heavy lookin dude he nods at us again – an we leave.

So da Cherry Lady and I, we do her chores wit not a word spoken about Leon or his bread.

Java fixes himself a joint, gets up and gets the sound going – Jethro Tull – ‘Too old to rock and roll but too young to die’. Ian Anderson’s always good for some literary lyrics and near manic fluting. We get into the music and watch, as the smoke makes wispy patterns against the paneled ceiling

January 2007
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Ephemeral Ruminations by Java Jones is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.
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