The Tardy Times

    The Gongoozler's Journals

I HAD NOT forgotten the many scenes of poverty and pestilence, the crushing crowds, the constant swirl of traffic, the cosmic chaos of the country. India was the epitome of culture shock. Perhaps in my subconscious I had put those memories aside, choosing to remember the architecture and artifacts, the sensuous smells of jasmine or wisteria garlands, and spice-laden food, the seductive colors of saris, the generosity and kindness of the Indian people.  Within hours of my arrival in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state and the country’s fourth-largest city with a population of 7 million, the assault on the senses came rushing back. The filth-strewn streets, the  open sewers, the exhaust-belching buses – all seemed worse here than any city I had visited two years ago. . . Some call it the Detroit of India. By comparison, America’s Motor City could be called the Paris of the Midwest. . . . A sign at a Chennai roundabout said, “Obey All Traffic Rules” – a lovely thought here in the madness of Bedlam.

IT IS a condition of birth that a San Franciscan must be near the water, whether it be the Bay and shipping docks or the Pacific Ocean and Land’s End. In Trieste, the expansive and majestic Piazza dell ’Unita Italia on the Adriatic Sea provided the comfort of home. . .
    (James) Joyce spent many of the years between 1904 and 1920 in Trieste (and Zurich, Switzerland), publishing “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” and working on “Ulysses.” As I rambled the bridge/walkway crossing the canal, there was Mr. Joyce. A slight man, with tilted hat, thick glasses, a book, and cast in bronze. If memory serves, it is the first time I’ve had a conversation with a statue. We talked of his love for music and his singing talent, his years in Paris, and his memories of “dear, dirty old Dublin.” 
    It may be time to cut back on the drink, what with talking to statues and all.

My time in “old Europe,” as the former Secretary of Defense termed France and Germany after those nations questioned the misadventure of the invasion of Iraq, was at an end. Another example of the arrogance and ignorance of the current U.S. leadership: During a press conference in Paris with Bush and then-French President Jacques Chirac, an American reporter addressed a question in French to Chirac. A smirking George W. Bush commented, “The guy memorizes four words and plays like he’s ‘intercontinental’ and ‘que bono’ – (and says) ‘now I’m literate in two languages.’” It’s the typical bullying style of a man too ignorant to know his own appalling limitations.
   I’ll take the old Europeans instead of Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice, Wolfowitz and Bush, leader of the New Visigoths. Instead of sacking Rome, they are sacking the Mideast.  

Joe Shea retired as a longtime sports copy editor at the Chronicle after a copyboy stint at the old Examiner. The Gongoozler is his alter ego. Very alter. These excerpts come from his extensive journals from trips abroad.
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