Tag Archive for mongolia

Mongolian graffiti

Flatbush, Brooklyn, yesterday.  No, I have no idea.


Baton Rouge, St. Paul, Dallas

I have to talk about Dallas, but I, a writer, find myself at a loss.  I write fiction; I take time, re-write, polish each word, each phrase.  This situation — Baton Rouge, St. Paul., Dallas — is too ragged and raw for that.

So I’m going to do something I haven’t done on this blog. I’m going to refer anyone who wants to go to Frank Bruni’s Op-Ed in today’s NY Times.  He says what I would want to say, and beautifully.

How America Heals After Dallas

Thank you for any kind and caring gesture you can make today, and tomorrow, and every day.

140 dead in Baghdad

During Ramadan. And they dare to call this a holy war.

The only counter to this brutal horror is beauty, though at times it seems weak protection.  Nevertheless.  This is the land the Mongol armies rode; it’s seen its share of terror.  And now look.



Happy Tsaagan Sar!

Mongolian New Year, that would be. Like anyone else, Mongolians celebrate holidays with food. I haven’t been in Mongolia for Tsaagan Sar, but we did do a lot of eating this last trip. Here’s our guide, Alma, and our drivers, Naara and Ogi, setting up the kitchen:


And here’s one of many memorable meals:


Happy Tsaagan Sar!

Mongolia photos

Happy New Year!

Usually I post here, then cross-post to Facebook and Twitter. This came my way via Facebook, however, and I’m sharing it here because these Mongolia photos are so gorgeous and I’ve seen every one of these sights and places! Do yourself a New Year’s favor and check them out.

Chinggis is my homeboy

Chinggis Khan would roll over in his grave if he heard me say that, except chances are he was never put in the ground.  In his day people of importance often received “sky burials” — their bodies were taken to a high mountain and left for the birds to devour. It was an honor.

Chinggis is everywhere in Mongolia. The best vodka is named for him, and the best beer.  Whatever it is, if it’s best, it’s called Chinggis.  Outside Ulaan Baatar they’ve built a giant, by which I mean giant, statue of Chinggis on his horse, ready for battle.  Stainless steel, with actually quite a good museum in the underground base.  (Click on any of these to see more on Flickr.) You can go on up in it, like in the Statue of Liberty.  How big is this thing? Back in the day they used to cut the horse’s manes short so they’d bristle.  The bristles in the mane of Chinggis’s horse here are people.

chinggis statue with people-bristles in the horse's mane


The man himself.

royal torso with mongolian symbol on belt


Royal hand with scepter and distant gers.

royal hand on scepter with gers far below


He’s got his eye on you.

royal eye


There is one problem, however. The place where you emerge from the statue into the light is perhaps not as well thought out as it might have been.  Here’s me, emerging.

emerging from the statue

May you be written down in the Book of Life…

…for a sweet New Year.  It’s about to be Yom Kippur, so I’m signing off for the next 24 hours, but I wouldn’t want you to miss me.  So here’s something to contemplate: me on a camel in the Gobi Desert.  See you on the other side.






Travel anxiety, Part II

(If you missed Part I, it’s yesterday’s post.)

Well, I’m packed.  If I don’t have it it’s not coming.  Since I’m not leaving for Mongolia until Monday this may seem extraordinarily early, and for me, believe me, it is.  Though my mother always packed days before she was ready to go, in case something she’d been planning to take was found to need washing or mending.  Me, I usually pack the night before, or, in the case of an afternoon departure, the morning of.  But tomorrow morning I’m going to the Rancho for the weekend, and I’m leaving Monday morning for the airport.  So effectively this is the day before, and since I’ll be at a book club gig tonight (folks who read GHOST HERO and were kind enough to invite me to the discussion) this is about as late as I can push it.

Also unusually for me, I’m checking a suitcase and taking a backpack plus a small bag.  I never check, always manage with a backpack and a 19″.  Guilty with an explanation: I’m taking some kid’s picture books as a gift for the guide’s little girl, and they were just one toke over the line for the suitcase.  Also, I intend to leave my travelin’ clothes behind in Ulaan Bataar so, three weeks later when we get back there and I need to rush to make my plane for the loooong trip home, I’ll have something clean to wear.  Now I have a bag to leave them in.

I also defrosted the freezer this morning.  Because it just COULDN’T WAIT until I got back, could it?

He who starts on a ride

Packing for Mongolia, for which I leave on Monday.  Travel anxiety has begun to set in.  Am I taking too much, am I not taking enough, am I taking all the wrong things, I don’t have enough clothes for hot/cold/rainy/dry situations, do I have enough shampoo/vitamins/dramamine…

And of course what it’s really all about is, I’m going to the OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD FOR PETE’S SAKE!  And it’s not even really about that, either.  We’ve talked about this before on this blog and some of you were good enough to share your own  travel anxieties.  It’s about, I’m stepping so far outside my comfort zone I can’t even see it from here.  The packing madness, the one more shirt, the summer socks and winter socks, the extra moisturizer just in case — it’s all about taking my comfort zone with me.

I don’t do this any more when I go to Europe, though I used to, or when I travel in the US.  I’m famous for how lightly I pack.  Objectively, what I’m packing for Mongolia is pretty light, too, for, um, Mongolia.  But even going to Boston, I get this same exiled feeling, which is at the heart of the matter.  What do you MEAN I can’t stay here?  Right smack 100% in the middle of my comfort zone?  Where I know how things happen, how they work.  I have to LEAVE?  Whose idea was this?


More on this later — excuse me now, I have to go make another list.

(I’ll finish the quote in the title in my Sunday night post before I leave.)

Action scenes, action scenes, oh how I hate action scenes

I’m close to the end of my new Mongolia-set thriller.  I’ve got my six bad guys and five good guys all in the same place.  Now come the big confrontations, battles, deaths, heroic sacrifices, and finally the revelations of What It’s All Been About.

To do this I have to start separating these eleven people into small groups and showing each little confrontation, battle, death, and heroic sacrifice.  Otherwise it’s just one big confusing shoot-out with the reader waiting for the dust to clear.

Right now I’m working on two good guys and two bad guys on a hillside.  The bad guys have more guns but the good guys have more brains.  There’s a lot of climbing around on rocks.  Shooting, hitting, shooting, missing.  I think someone’s about to cut someone’s throat.  I hope so, because there are seven people to go and the author has a deadline here!