Monday, August 5, 2019

“Dragons Turning into Lotus Flowers” and other adventures with the art, motorcycles, lau, and bia hoi of Hanoi


Caroline, the little one, and the  Statue of the Bodhisattva Avalokisteshvara
 Nguyen Sang 'Young Girl and Lotus Flower'
Little Thúy, Author: Trần Văn CẩnOil on canvas


Scenes from the Museum of Fine Arts, Ho and the Motorcycles.

It rains and rains and rains every day here.
Some days twice.
Often  all day.
Today, the sun shone.
So we explored art.
We had planned to go to Sapa to hike.
But the mudslides and the prospect of another travel day kept us here,
With our pool and easy walks everything.
You could spend a life exploring the wild streets of Hanoi.
Eating and taking it all in.
We’re happy with a week.
So we take it slow.
Coffee and writing.
“Every day we’re here I like this city more,” notes Caroline walking out.
Half the time we hear stories here, we have no idea.
So we look for ourselves.
The guides offer us more questions. 
Inside prehistoric images of dragons, serpents, salamanders and snakes climbing the clouds to the skies.
As legends grow.
The images remind of the Nuraghi people we learned of last summer in Sardinia.
The shape of time twists, with remarkable connections between cultures and  ideas,
People and places.
Transcending the particular.
More similarities the longer we look.
And differences.
The statue of Hindu God Shiva looks like an Aztec.
Floor after floor of the history of cultures and ideas and the people of this place.
Objects and clues.
Attempts  at explanation.
How to make sense…
…the tendency existed concurrently within the orthodox propensity...” notes the museum on the ground floor of fine arts in prehistoric times,
At  the dawn of history.
“Is this what happens when you ask a person who has never seen a tiger to make a tiger?” wonders the little one.
Walking along, she gravitates to her mom.
I get a snack and a sneer.
She gets a hug.
Always the yin and the yang replies Caroline.
The kids are both teenagers now.
The art of the everyday is a struggle.
Characters sneer at each other.
Pulling at a lion.
A dragon looks more human than many people I know.
The art of the everyday is a struggle,
Always has been.
We make our way upstairs to the contemporary galleries.
Where the crosscurrents of French expressionism and modernism intersect with a distinct Vietnamese subjectivity.
Stark portraits.
Woodblock prints of Ho.
Kids.
Childhood.
War.
Landscapes.
Battles against invaders.
Japanese,
French,
American.
Cambodian and Chinese battles eternal.
A generation ago, the kind
People we’ve met would have been
Thwarting back empires.
Rebuilding as Americans and French bombed.
And sought to control
Their fate.
“Germans join us against the French capitalists,” reads one painting in German,
During the war against the French.
The struggle is everywhere.
Its all over the art.

Off to lunch.
“So why do you put lime in a coconut?” Caroline asks.
“You are asking the hard questions,” the little one replies, as we enjoy pho.

The suns out.
We make our way to the Tram Vu Temple.
Ageless form.

“You are from New York?”
Our taxi replies in the Cab.
“In Hanoi, people are crazy,” he explains.
“Just like New Yorkers.”
He doesn’t like the Chinese or  the Cambodians.
“What about Trump?”
We ask.
“I used to hate him.  But now that he’s fighting China we like him.”

The temple is from 1010.
Its one of those sights we would have missed if we’d rushed out of town.
Hanoi exquisite.

More temples.
The Trom Quoc Pogota.
Swimming.
Watching the scooters at the Odeon,
A symphony of near collisions.
Parents with kids.
No helmets.
Everyone riding.
Not quite colliding.
I could sit here all night.
Its better than a movie.
Lau, and bia hoi on the street.
Everyone sitting about, chatting, a woman making desserts for those who drop by. 
Let me buy that for you, said Caroline says to the boys across from us.
Let me buy that.
No you don’t have to.
Its ok.
Ha ha.

Trump laughs at calls for gun control.
It’s a weird time.
Rascals here and there.

Sometimes its ok to be on the road. 






















































































































































































































































































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