Chapter 23 – With a Mind Stuck in the Gutter
The day after I’d arrived in Litang but the day before I’d gone to the sky burial, I woke up and found out exactly why the hotel I was at – which had probably been the nicest in town – was less than ten bucks a night. In addition to the heat not functioning and having to sleep with several layers on to combat the below freezing nighttime temperatures, the “hot shower” that’d been advertised on the outside of the place was no more than a hose attached to a sink placed next to a hole in the concrete floor that all guests shit down.
To satiate my morning hunger, I stopped in a local place for some bao and xi fan then went off exploring the town. On my way out to a monastery that had been called Litang Chode – even though it wasn’t wider than it is tall – there’d been a dog resting on the sidewalk that didn’t make a peep when all the local people walked past it, but when I did it started barking and decided to come at me. I ended up sprinting down the street with this fucking racist mongrel on my heels until it finally ceased the chase about a block away and returned to its resting spot.
After I’d popped in the monastery and did some exploring – I’d hate to sound ungrateful for the experience, but Litang Chode had been about the fourth Buddhist monastery I’d been to out in Kham Tibet and they’re pretty much all the same – I was walking down the town’s main road when I saw a huge crowd marching towards me, waving red and gold flags. I thought it was some sort of political protest so I tried to avoid it as best I could by walking on the other side of the street.
After the main part of the mob had passed, a few stragglers followed – one of whom had been some young dude with a cigarette dangling from his lower lip.
“Basketball!” the guy said while pointing at me as we crossed paths.
“What? Hey, yo, you speak English?”
“Basketball,” he repeated.
“Wait, that’s what everyone’s marching for? Basketball?”
“Basketball,” he said one more time, gesturing towards the crowd who’d begun to file into some sort of miniature outdoor stadium that’d been encircled by policemen holding machine guns.
Since I had nothing to do until the following morning, I decided to go check this shit out. Ticket purchase was not necessary and upon walking in the stadium, it was very strange to see everyone in the crowd wearing winter jackets while the men on the court just wore shorts and jerseys, simultaneously subjecting their skin to a brutal thrashing from the high altitude sun as well as the icy winds.
The stands had consisted of about ten rows of concrete ledges surrounding a concrete court, most of which had already been filled by the roaming crowd I saw on the street. Just as I’d been about to park my ass in an inconspicuous spot near the back, the old Tibetan man next to me reached out and handed me a flattened box. My expression must’ve conveyed my confusion because he went on to non-verbally show me that he and everybody else had sat on boxes to keep the dirt from the ledges off their asses.
“Xie xie,” I thanked him and he nodded back at me.
Soon thereafter, the game started and the fans were super into it. Each team’s cheering section – it was the red team versus the gold team – would participate in huge orchestrated chants and even though baskets were few and far between and passes often ended up out of bounds, spent most of the game shouting and clapping. For the first few minutes of the matchup, I’d actually done the same until I realized that the guys on the court were neither mentally nor physically handicapped and had all just been a buncha ass-clowns who had no idea what they were doing out there.
The funniest thing about this situation however, had not been how much those guys sucked and still managed to draw so many fans, but the fact that each time a player sat on the bench it was as if a mandatory cigarette was in order. Throughout the game, the entire bench mob was chain smoking fag after fag which may have been the direct cause of their lack of hustle and diminutive skill sets. After three terrible, excruciatingly painful quarters of basketball, I left when the Red team had been beating the fan favorite Gold by about five and went to go check out some more of the town.
At some point I decided to pop into some little shop to grab a bottle of water. Behind the counter in the place had been a woman about forty years of age. She wasn’t super attractive or anything, but she wasn’t a total dog total either. Without beating around the bush and divulging any unnecessary descriptions or details, what I’m trying to say here is that I’d have banged her if I had the chance.
As I set the bottle of water on the counter for the woman to ring up, I offered her the Tibetan greeting of “tashi delek.” In return, she looked deeply into my eyes and through tightly pursed lips stuck her tongue out at me. To be perfectly blunt, the way she’d positioned that mouth muscle looked a lot like mine does when giving cunnilingus. As such, the gesture came across to me as super sexual.
I paid for the water and whatever but before I could go this woman waved me through a doorway that led into the living space of her home, of which the shop had just been a front. Once in her living room which had been infinitely adorned with photos of the Dalai Lama as well as those of Lhasa’s Potala Palace, not knowing what to do I pulled out my camera and snapped a few photos then showed her the results. She liked them very much and once again showed me her tongue.
Because neither of us knew each other’s language, we just kinda stood there staring at each other’s faces. Admittedly, I had half-an-erection because I thought she was coming on to me and wanted me to bang her right then and there. I was contemplating making a move but then some dude that I assume had been her husband walked into the room whom I greeted with a hasty and awkward “tashi delek” before skedaddling.
I’d later find out from a piece published by the Los Angeles Times back in 1997 when the movie Seven Years in Tibet had just come out that it’s a pretty good thing I hadn’t attempted to tongue-punch this woman’s fart-box. The article said that, “A 9th century Tibetan king, Lang Darma, known for his cruelty, had a black tongue. As Buddhists, Tibetans believe in reincarnation, and they feared that this mean king would be reincarnated. Consequently, for centuries Tibetans have greeted one another by sticking out their tongues demonstrating that they do not have black tongues, that they are not guilty of evil deeds, that they are not incarnations of the malevolent king.” It also said that in recent years the gesture has evolved into a sign of respect and, from what I could gather, has absolutely no sexual connotations whatsoever.
A few photos from the day in Litang…