I watched a film last night quite by accident called The Way Back. It was released in the States in 2011 and I'm not sure it did all that well here but that may have had something to do with a great many subtitles as it begins in a Siberian Gulag (is that meant to be capitalized?) and of course you know they speak Russian in Siberia for the most part and have captured all sorts of prisoners so there's that to contend with. English, American or otherwise is limited initially. I watched it by accident because I was starting a new hat and the pattern is just ridiculous and if I don't pay attention I muck the whole thing up and have to rip it out eight or nine times until I get it right. I didn't much notice the film until it was too late to stop. Subliminally I'd hooked right into it. I was expecting something cheesy; my gain as it turned out. So the story line goes something like this: Three men plan an escape which will involve multiple insurmountable obstacles, making their way out of Siberia (covered in snow and ice) without food (always without food), getting over the Himalayas, surviving each other (personalities, it's always a crapshoot), and then there's the Gobi Desert. I should mention the three men became seven (I think) before they even got through the wires, one of which suffered night blindness brought on by malnutrition and later picked up a hitchhiker of the female variety which made things sort of interesting.
But the Gobi Desert. That's the part that got me. I don't mean to suggest that any other part of the film was less riveting because it wasn't, it's just that the Gobi Desert had my attention for personal reasons. Many years ago, probably as far back as 1995 or 1996 I had this absurd fascination with this 500,000 square mile tract of absolutely unforgiving basin formed by the Himalayans. The Gobi has extreme temperature fluctuations and in Mongolia temperatures have been recorded as low as -27F and as high as 99F. Much of this desert is bare rock. Right now the Gobi is expanding due to deforestation and over grazing and I could go on for pages on that subject but it wasn't what had my attention twenty years ago (it may not have been an issue twenty years ago). What had my attention were the snow leopards. I just couldn't seem to reconcile something like a snow leopard with a desert as unforgiving and vast as the Gobi and yet there they were along with a fair number of other living things.
I wanted to go to the Russian Steppes and walk into the Gobi. That wouldn't have been sensible so I decided I'd have a horse. That wouldn't have been sensible either so I decided I'd need a reliable Mongolian guide. Eventually I forgot about this more or less because my life was lifing and I didn't have a great deal of bandwidth to spend on a journey of that sort of proportion.
My father wanted something too. He wanted, I think, to ride the Trans-Siberian Railway all the way to the end. The last time he mentioned it was years ago and that was only to say it was too late. When I asked him why he said he was too old to ride that rough for so long. I didn't know what he meant until I looked it up and realized padded seats or not, 5,772 miles is rough. Or I guess if you've got to take the damn thing back that's sure as hell one kind of rugged. If I could find a way to take him and have it be bearable I'd do it because I think I understand. It might fill a part of who he is in a way that maybe nothing else could.
I wonder about the Gobi.
I'm standing in Lila Hall last week and I see my sunburst and I see how pale it is against my skin and I wonder if that has anything to do with my distance from the mirror and the fact that I'm not wearing glasses and when my final savasana is over I walk up to the mirror and look right at it. Damn. That thing is missing more than it's yellow. It just looks like it's been stripped down, sand blasted, left out in the elements for too long and I think about the Gobi right out of the blue and this is what life looks like. I think I need to contact Lucia's friend who dropped out of Pratt when she decided she really wasn't interested in stop gap animation after all and got herself an apprenticeship at a local tattoo shop in Brooklyn where she developed a remarkable set of skills involving mostly three dimensional tattoos. I was duly impressed. Eventually she came back to Connecticut and has a thriving business. Possibly her parents have forgiven her. I hope so; she is astonishing, the best I've ever seen. Oh, wait, and she's happy. That actually matters.
I had Elizabeth photograph my stomach this morning which is something I've been meaning to do for months because I wanted to look at them side by side; the photograph from April, 2009 and the photograph from January 30, 2017. I notice a few things one of which makes me want to say, oh, fuck you already. So that, oh, fuck you already is because my tattoo is not sagging. Stomachs change and mine changes its mind on a regular basis. Does it want to weigh 128 pounds or does it want to weigh 148 pounds? That is my twenty pound range and trust me, on my body it's a lot. My tattoo is intact. Cool beans. I think from the moment I was told it was going to sag I had this nagging fear it was just going to go to pieces. Maybe in another twenty years it will go to pieces and maybe it will not. I just needed to get that off my chest.
By the way, as an aside, I refer to my stomach as Raul. I named it. Seriously. It's my way of making peace with my body. When I am uncomfortable with my body I hide it and I notice this is not healthy so I've made peace with the fact that my weight distribution has changed and if I weigh 138 and not 128 those ten pounds no longer go to my ass they now go to my stomach. Bastards. I name them collectively Raul. I go to yoga with my tummy uncovered because I do not want to be any more uncomfortable than I have to be. I proudly show Raul to the mirror.
Try that some time.
Abrupt segue back to the Gobi desert and my tattoo...
When I looked at the photographs side by side this morning the first thing I thought of was the oldest man in the film last night and how he looked vibrant and healthy when they left the gulag even though it was clear he was at least half if not an entire generation older than the rest. When they came out of the desert he was nearly washed away but he was still there. Twice I think he asked to be left behind to die (maybe only once, I'm not sure) and at least once he was picked up and carried instead and this reminds me why I don't travel alone through my life, why I collect people along the way even when I don't seem to notice the collecting.
The Gobi Desert. A horse, a guide, and probably at least one other person, maybe three.
So here they are, April, 2009 followed by January 30, 2017. When it is repaired I will post all three.