The City of a Thousand Pillars

We are hearing much about Iran in the news these days. The nation of 82.5 million people has been a thorn in the side of some Western “democracies” since their Revolution in 1979. Once again that thorn is being cited as a major threat to civilization as we know it. I will not begin to claim that I am knowledgeable enough on modern – or earlier – world politics to understand it all but I can say that Iran has been a country that has fascinated me for many years. And particularly the ancient site of Persepolis.

The Cyrus Cylinder which the Shah claimed was the first declaration of universal human rights was the symbol of the elaborate celebration at Persepolis.

Back in 1971 the media was awash with coverage of the celebration of 2500 anniversary of the Persian Empire. In October of that year Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi – whose link to the Dynastic succession of Cyrus and Darius owed more to US and British intervention than historic fact – held what became known as the “party of the century“. And the site of that mammoth, and expensive, celebration was the ancient ruins of the City of a Thousand Pillars: Persepolis – the City of the Persians. And so an item for my bucket list was born.

The banqueting tent held 600 guests with 60 members of ruling Royal families and Heads of State dinning at a single serpentine table set with a seamless hand woven table cloth. Princess Anne was heard to remark that she hoped never to eat peacock again!

Fast forward to an airline employee contest in 1978 where your’s truly won two tickets on Gulf Air – at the time one of the most luxurious carriers in the world. They flew out of London to Shiraz, a legendary city of poets, literature, wine and gardens; and the gateway to Persepolis. My friend Gary and I had started planning but the best laid plans etc. By January 1979 the Shah had left the country and the Revolution was in full swing. It was no longer safe to travel there. Persepolis was to remain an unchecked item on the bucket list.

So why this lengthy retelling of old disappointments? Well I have had now had a chance to see the City of the Persians if only in photographs. Carole, a French photographer, has made it her mission to follow in the footsteps of the Emperor Hadrian and share her photographic experience. Almost as insatiable in her travels as the Emperor she has covered and photographed much of the world known to the Romans of the time. And this week she took me as close to Persepolis as I will probably get in my lifetime. I thought I’d share it with you.

following hadrian photography

The magnificent ruins of Persepolis, or Parsa, lie at the foot of Kuh-i-Rahmat, roughly 650 kilometres south of the capital city of Tehran, and 70 kilometres northeast of Shiraz in the Fars region of southwestern Iran. Founded around 518 BC by Darius I (the Great), the site served as the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire and was intended and designed to display the splendour and majesty of an empire that stretched from Greece to India. Sacked by Alexander the Great in 333 BC, the site lay hidden, covered in sand until rediscovered in 1620. Persepolis was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1979.

Coordinates: 29° 56′ 4″ N, 52° 53′ 29″ E

Persepolis, a Greek toponym meaning “city of the Persians”, was known to the Persians as Parsa. It was a monument complex of structures built to the commands of the great Achaemenid kings between about 518 and about 450 BC. An inscription…

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This, That, and the Other Thing

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve brought the world in general and both my faithful readers up to date with events at the corner of Water and Prince. I’m sure breathes have been baited and anticipations run highish so without further palavers here’s a few tidbits of news.

It’s called “groaking” and these two have it down to a science.

Starting as always with the Hounds from Hell – I know what’s important and what people really care about. Nicky and Nora have had their yearly check-ups and great was the surprise when the 4th year vet student was told they were 10 years old. Nora seems to have rebounded from her back problems however I’ve noticed she has moments when she slows down – for her! Now that spring is here and her friends Steve, Jerry, Sarah and Cathy from the Parks Department are back in their orange vests (pockets brimming with treats) she wants her two or three long walks and is most indignant when they are cut short. We are trying, often unsuccessfully, to keep the running, jumping and tussling to a minimum.

What’s your problem? The mat say “HOME” and we’re making ourselves “at HOME”.

Nicky’s main pursuit is the sun; his motto is “there is sun then it must be basked in”. Forget that it is still only in the one digits there are rays to be caught! And don’t forget to leave the door open and if the humans are cold they can put their sweaters on.

Holland America’s Zaandam is small cruise ship as cruise ships go these days however May 1st it still brings almost 2000 people (passengers and crew) into Port each visit.

The arrival of HAL’s Zaandam in port on May 1st signalled the beginning of cruise ship season. During the summer the Zaandam’s in almost every week alternating Tuesdays and Wednesdays depending on where the journey began, Montreal or Boston. Over June, July and August five or six other ships will visit town irregularly however come September through October there will be ships in port almost every day – on at least five days there will be three ships visiting. And on one day mid-September there will be four cruise ships disgorging upwards of 5000 passengers onto our fair shores. Let’s hope that lessons learned last year will bear results this year but just in case I think we will get the hell out of town that day.

Already this cruise ship season Nicky and Nora have had their pictures taken five times. I am tempted to buy them little straw hats with red pigtails and tell people they are Anne’s dogs. I figure $10.00 a photo should help pay some of those vet bills??

Lillian Roth in 1971 during the recording of the original cast album of her last Broadway appearance in 70, Girls, 70.

In my surfing for bits and pieces about Lillian Roth earlier this week I came across a reference to her grave marker at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in West Chester County, New York. It came as no surprise when I read that is simply gives her name, dates and this comment on her life:

As bad as it was it was good.

A welcome sign of the season on Peake’s Quay is Carron’s little red Chip Shack. The self-proclaimed – and rightly to my mind – Queen of Fries she has the best French Fries on the Island if not in Canada. Fresh cut PEI potatoes, double fried to a nice crispy brown-gold outside and butter soft inside. We were in line on the 7th when she was up and floating by the dock and had our first “small” bag of chips of the season.

Another sure, if not necessarily all that welcome, sign that spring – and tourist season – is here would be the blue awning up on the terrace at Peake’s Quay. Which means that Friday and Saturday nights on Water Street will be “festive”, yes I think that’s the word they want us to us “festive” until the wee hours of the morning. Ah well we choose to live in tourist central so suck it up buttercup!

Happy to say it was an almost capacity and very enthusiastic house for the performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 by the PEI Symphony Orchestra on April 14. Photograph by Darrell Theriault for the PEISO.

You may recall that a great deal of my month of April was taken up with Gustav Mahler in preparation for the performance of his Symphony No. 3 by our PEI Symphony Orchestra. With all the build up there was a chance that the performance itself could be a bit of a let down however Maestro Mark Shapiro, the orchestra and choruses met the challenge of both the work and the anticipation. The horn section – sometimes I think Mahler had it in for the brass players – shone in some of the most difficult passages in the brass repertoire. My friend David had mentioned that he hoped the string section was up to that heart-breakingly beautiful final movement and I assure him they were. It was a remarkably fine performance and made at least one audience member very proud to be involved howbeit tangentially.

The children and women’s choruses along with the hard-working horn section waiting for the downbeat at the beginning of the 4th movement. Photograph by Darrell Theriault for the PEISO.

As remarkable as the performance was the audience reaction and involvement. In his brief remarks Maestro Shapiro observed that we were about to climb a mountain – audience, orchestra and chorus. And this audience was very much involved in that climb. During the interval after that lengthy first movement the talk was mostly about what had just been heard and more than one person remarked to me in passing that they were eager to hear what was to come. The reaction at the end went beyond the now de rigeur standing applause – there were whoops, whistles and some good old fashioned foot stomping. We had reached the summit of that mountain – perhaps a little flushed and winded but definitely triumphantly there.

I don’t know how I missed it but yesterdays was Lost Sock Memorial Day! And today is Clean Up Your Room Day; don’t know about you but I think they should be reversed.

Jin Chan Has No Place in the Bedrooms of the Nation!

It matters where you put your amphibian! Oh grow up!

The Daoist immortal Liu Haichan with his Golden Toad in an early 16th century painting by Zhang Lu. There are several legends in the mists of Asian mythology linking Jin Chan with Liu Haichan and his quest to become one of the Immortals.

For many years I bought 6/49 Lottery tickets with the firm intention of becoming, if not a millionaire at the least a thousandaire. For many years I have been disappointed and I think I have found out why. My Jin Chan was in the wrong position! I know! I know! Dear reader your clenched fist went immediately to your mouth to stifle a gasp! But it’s true. Our Money Toad wasn’t were it should have been all these years.

There are a few versions of how Jin Chan (the Golden Toad) came to be. It is said that the greedy wife of one of the Eight Immortals stole the Peaches of Immortality from Hsi Wang Mu, the Goddess of the West. She then fled by the light of a full moon intending to sell them for precious gold coins but growing hungry ate one. She was immediately turned into a toad for her audacity and as further punishment the Gods gave her the tail of a tadpole rather than fully developed legs. But this punishment did not dissuade her from her greedy ways: to this day whenever there is money coming into a house or business Jin Chan appears during the full moon eager to share in the new found wealth. Her appearance can only herald one thing: untold wealth!

Our Jin Chan lacks the fiery red yes that many have but her expression almost dares you to take that I-Ching coin out of her mouth!

Jin Chan takes several forms but the one constant is the coin in her mouth. Traditionally it is the ancient I-Ching coin that she clenches tightly, almost ferociously. These coins with a square hole in the centre have often been consider a powerful defence against evil spirits. Often she also keeps a small ingot of gold in her talon like claws along with the strings of a coin purse. In some iterations she is sitting (guarding?) a loose pile of coins her fiery red eyes defying you to touch them. And when she shows up wealth is sure to follow!

Thing is with the little bast creature is that according to the (highly variable in IMHO) laws of Feng Shui she has to be in a special position to greet your incoming wealth. She should be in the SE corner of a living room (the wealth area!!!), preferably at hip level never on the floor (though one Feng Shui site says it must be on the floor ??), facing towards the entrance but not directly at it as that would indicate that money will flow out of the house. And it should never be in the kitchen, toilet, bathroom or BEDROOM!

And that dear reader is why I am sitting at the dining nook table in Charlottetown typing this missive on an outdated laptop rather than lounging on the deck of my yacht in the Greek Islands dictating it to a studly young secretary. Jin Chan has been sitting on my BEDSIDE table ever since she was purchased from a rather shady lady in Shanghai who promised me untold wealth – and the torrid attentions of a studly young secretary! (Well actually she said a curvaceous blond so she obviously made a few wrong assumptions.)

But that will all change! As of this morning Jin Chan has been found a new more auspicious position. She is in the wealth area of the living room, she is facing in the general direction of the main entrance but inward, and she is on an end table at hip level. And she is not in the bedroom.

So come on Jin Chan do you stuff! Let the wealth start pouring in!

May 7th is a day of several celebrations only one of which I’m willing to consider celebrating. It is Poem on Your Pillow Day, Cosmopolitan Day, and Roast Leg of Lamb Day. And anyone who thought it was Cosmo Day that I would observe underestimates my love of lamb.

A Rose is a Rose is a Window

During the three years back in the mid-70s when I went back and forth between Toronto and Paris I attended Mass fairly regularly at Notre Dame as it was often the closest church to where I was staying. I will admit that as buildings I always preferred Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre across the river and Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois just behind the Louvre but for a building of such size and grandeur worship at Notre Dame still had the feeling of being a “parish” affair. And indeed Notre Dame de Paris is a parish church – for Île de la Cité …. and the world

North Rose Window Virgin Mary Jesus Disciples Stained Glass Notre Dame Cathedral Paris France. Notre Dame was built between 1163 and 1250 AD. Virgin Mary Rose Window oldest in Notre Dame from 1250.

But it’s the having not the keeping that is the treasure.

The Lost Hotels of Paris
Jack Gilbert

Early reports claimed that only the North Rose window survived the horrible fire at Notre Dame de Paris yesterday. However the Archbishop of Paris confirmed this morning that all three had been saved as had the great organ. And as investigations begin reports of other treasures being found unharmed bring some consolation at the destruction that it appears a simple spark may have started.

Much has been written in the past 24 hours and there would be little I could add however my dear Dr. Spo expressed a few thoughts that I’d like to share:

Spo-Reflections

Someone and I recently had experiences of mono no aware viz. the passing of Time and the ephemeral element of such. Last weekend he had dinner with a friend of ours whom we haven’t seen or heard from in many years perhaps decades. Someone reported it was a nice but sort of sad for our friend had clearly aged; he was not as ‘sharp’ as was.  They talked of times together (circa late 90s/early 00s) at places no longer open with friends no longer in touch.

While traveling to Michigan last weekend I wanted to eat at Olga’s, a Greek restaurant I regularly visited in my college days back in the early 80s. Olga was a vivacious young woman then who was just opening her first store. Last Saturdays’ food was the same but the place didn’t have the ambience of my college days. There was a sense of fading to the…

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Would I Lie To You?

Yes, but only about the important stuff!

With his comment on today’s announcement that it was both Pencil Eraser and That Sucks Day my friend Pierre seemed to question the veracity of my allusion to WFBJ’s fondness for pencil erasers. Now I have no idea where his fetish for the way he displayed that fondness came from – perhaps it was learned in the hallowed dorms of Yale? But here is proof:

Now if a Time magazine cover is insufficient evidence I suggest following this link to a Getty Image (I won’t post it as I can’t afford the fee the good folks at GI are charging these days nor the law suit for doing so illegally.)

Actually there are times when I feel that the world could use William F. these days – I may not have agreed with him on many things but he at least was open to debate.

As well as there being official (???) days for so many things there are dedicated weeks of the month. This week is Organize Your Files Week – good luck with that!