Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

 

ALCHEMY

2015, acrylic on canvas, 18” x 24”, $700.00

These combined forms are the elements in a new chemistry. Imagination is the key to unlocking the formula.

In 1971 my friend, Dicken and I decided to travel on a small bus heading from New Delhi to Istanbul. There were about twenty of us on the bus. One young aristocratic British man, Fabian, was standing by a window looking at the scenery in Pakistan. I noticed a beautiful ring on his finger and he told me that it had been in his family since the fifteenth century. He took it off of his finger to show me. Suddenly the bus jerked and the ring flew out of his hand and out the window. Aghast he ordered the bus to stop and went outside to search for it, but to no avail. He then decided to leave the bus, saying that it was cursed.

We went through the Khyber Pass up into Afghanistan. At a caravanserai outside of Kabul I helped to nurse a young Frenchman who had a serious case of Hepatitis. On the Hippie Trail the French travelled in one group and all other nationalities travelled in a separate group.

Everyone on our bus was a Hippie except for an elderly South African lady who was traveling to Iran to change Krugers for Pahlavi gold Rials.  Strangely though there was a man and woman who sat in the back of the bus, both dressed in gray suits and were carrying large briefcases. When we crossed from Afghanistan into Iran the couple were told that their papers were not in order and they had to return to the Afghani border post. The rest of us stayed in Taaybat and played volleyball with the local police.

It was hours before the bus returned. The couple in the gray suits were gone and our driver was under arrest. Supposedly he  had picked up a hitchhiker who in the course of the return ride fell off of the bus and was killed. His family demanded a large compensatory payment which the driver did not have.

As a result we were all loaded onto the bus under armed guard and driven to Mashhad, the burial place of Ali and the principal figure of the Shiite sect. Everyone was put into a small hotel and ordered to stay until the compensation was paid. I could not afford to stay in the hotel so I stayed on the bus. Everyday radical Islamists would gather and throw stones at the bus. They felt it was a sacrilege for the bus to be parked within such a close proximity to the tomb of Ali.

Exasperated I jumped off of the bus and hurled insults  at the crowd and then ran back on the bus. The crowd began pushing the bus trying to turn it over but, like out of an old Western, police on horseback dispersed the crowd.

It was almost a month before we could leave. The bus had been confiscated so we had to hitchhike and take trains. In Trebizond we rode in a carriage around the shore of the Black Sea while waiting for a train to take us to Istanbul. I was expecting money at Barclays Bank in Istanbul but there seemed to be some confusion and I thought perhaps the money was in Athens. By this time I was feeling very weak and ill and alone. I made my way to Athens, often sleeping on the side of the road and sometimes in the rain. My appearance was rather startling as I had cut my waist length hair in Afghanistan and was wearing a white Afghani wedding garment. The only shoes I had were felt Tibetan boots and the soles were wearing very thin.

When I arrived in Athens there was no money waiting for me. In desperation I took to begging in the streets and because of my pathetic appearance I made a goodly amount of money. Each evening I would return to the hostel and treat everyone to retzina. One day, while begging, I passed out and was taken to a hospital. It turns out I had hepatitis, pneumonia, bronchitis and dysentery. The United States government repatriated me.