Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Visit to the police laboratoire - it's all in the DNA. Not.

Last week in Paris I got ahead of myself. I was so excited after my visit - the second one! - to the Police laboratoire and frustrated that I couldn't upload these photos from the cafe where I'd get WiFi or weefee as the waiter said. Or explain why I can NOW commit crime in Paris!

 While I was on the tour with C. the head biologist and expert trial witness she insisted my visit follow the route of evidence. Which is how the lab works; first the police evidence arrives comme ça.
 Under seals
 Then the scientific technicians do their thing. Which includes striking a pose - did I forget to say they're a lot of fun?
 On the tour where we're heading to the blood analysis lab to pull DNA out of blood samples that arrived in those evidence envelopes above. C. showed me the police report; a headless, armless, male torso had been discovered outside Rouen and their remit is to help identify the torso victim via DNA.

Part of the process to obtain DNA from the blood - this was much more involved than I'm showing. It's an involved process with different labs and super high tech machines whose names I can't pronounce.
 Tools of the trade.

We followed through the whole process on each floor.  C. took my DNA, which will rest in the French database for eighteen months. Why? In case I contaminated anything on my visit to the lab ie involving their work or this headless, armless torso.  When I was de-robing I joked to C. that I needed to be on good behavior and couldn't commit any crime or I'd be a suspect, right?
Au contraire, she said, once I register your DNA 
Your sample exonerates you for eighteen months. She winked. Now you can plan your perfect murder and get away with it legally.
I like how she thinks. Here's an update she sent me on the headless, armless male torso from le Parisien. The lab helped ID him via DNA. The investigation now has four suspects in his murder - all women.

 This is translated from le Parisien sent to me by my new BFF, my scientific contact at the lab. "The girlfriend of the homeless found dead a week earlier and the mother of the latter are among the suspects.
The investigation of the case of the body found dismembered and decapitated Monday, November 4 near Rouen progresses. According to information from France Bleu Normandie, four women were placed in custody Saturday and indicted.
They all knew the 45-year-old homeless man whose body without a head, feet or hands was found wrapped in a tarpaulin and covered with cellophane at Amfreville-la-Mivoie (Seine-Maritime). It is about the companion of the victim, two friends of this companion and the mother of this one.
Two of the indictments were "for murder and damage to the integrity of the body, and two others, for voluntary abstention to prevent a crime or an offense against the integrity of a person" "said Saturday evening in a statement the public prosecutor of Rouen, Pascal Prache.
The circumstances of the murder remain unknown, as is the potential motive of the suspects. It would nevertheless be a "premeditated" act, ensures the local radio.
On Wednesday, legs and arms that may belong to the body discovered were also found in the area of ​​Pont-de-l'Arche, south of Rouen. "It is possible that this is related to the dismembered corpse and beheaded," said a judicial source."
Cara - Tuesday

Monday, November 12, 2018

Japan 2018: A Journey of 165,000 Steps

Annamaria on Monday

According to the app on my phone, I walked 165,139 steps (67.2 miles) and climbed 70 flights of stairs in the thirteen days I spent in Japan in late October.   Roughly the equivalent of climbing to the top floor of Chrysler Building 

My favorite NYC building, BY FAR!

Or walking Times Square to Philadelphia 

Thanks to my vagabond nature, I have taken scores and scores of trips in my life.  For many, many reasons, the one from which I have just returned went straight into my pantheon of voyages.

Here are some favorite images from my time with Susan in her adopted country, were she introduced me to its beauties - both the artefacts of its culture and the natural beauty of its lands.

Created by mankind and Mother Nature
Some of people were exotic
Some looked 100% familiar to denizens of anywhere in 2018
Some were too cute to be believed 
Mother Nature's displays were all surpassingly beautiful.
The artefacts of the popular culture range from astonishing...
(This the back of the driver's seat in an ordinary taxi??)
...to surpassingly cute...
...to LOL bizarre uses of American pop cultural ideas.  Look at what it says
under the red swatch.
One of the first places we visited, I have to admit, made me envious.  Tokyo has a historical museum with accurate dioramas of the time period Susan writes about.  How I wish I could see the times and places that I write about so presented.   BUT!  Then there is the fact that the town, the people, and especially the bridge that I saw in the museum were familiar to me.  I would have recognized them even if Susan had not pointed them out.  You know why?  I had read her books.  And her prose descriptions made me see them clearly and remember them.  A picture may be worth a thousand words.  But Susan's writing is worth a thousand pictures. 

I have proved to myself that I can get in and out of a Medieval sedan chair. 

Owls in captivity

Fish too
We visited many shrines and temples.  I had several to show as a group.  But Google Blogger in its typical unhelpful behavior shuffled them into its own idea of the right order.  It's nearly midnight in NYC and tomorrow in Tokyo. This blog is due to launch in minutes.  So here are two favorite temple pictures with more to follow.

We sailed across a lake in a pirate ship, sort of.

Stunning is only word to describe the iconic mountain.  Here are some of the hundred or so photos I took of it while entranced.

Susan told me that the cycle-shaped trail you see on the left of the snow cap
is the trail she took when she summited this splendid peak
 After seeing Fuji two days in a row, I could not help imagining that the beauty and simplicity of the Japanese aesthetic evolved and was inspired by the surpassing splendor of this most beautiful of mountains.  Look at these temple roofs.  What do you think?

Fuji, day two of viewing--at sunset

I took a lot of pictures of Susan taking pictures.

I made it to the top of three of Susan's 100 summits and about 80% of the way on the fourth.  What a privilege this whole trip was.  With Susan as the best of all possible guides, it was much more than a tour.  It was a master's degree class, a love-fest, and blast.

 Here is a snippet of the kind of introductions she gave me.

 There's more.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Lost in the Wild, Redux: Sometimes You Must Get Lost To Be Found

--Susan, every other Sunday

I'm not precisely lost in the wild, but I am in the mountains of Hakone this weekend, hoping to summit seven peaks (all near or over a thousand meters high) in three days. My ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) is lovely, and almost a century old, but has no wi-fi - so since I can't get a new post up this week, I'm checking in by phone-based-mobile-hot-spot to share a post from early 2017 that resonates with me particularly right now, for many reasons.

I hope it will re-resonate with you as well.

It took me more than 40 years to embrace the person I am inside, and I had to go halfway around the world, and lose myself, to do it.

Iga castle, Iga-Ueno, Japan

Like many writers, I often felt like a misfit toy. I was happier in worlds of my own creation than in the real one, where I felt I never quite belonged.

I sat in my room and created adventures to replace the ones I lacked the courage to pursue any other way.

And then, in the summer of 2015, I boarded a plane with my family and flew to Japan on a research trip that would change my life.

The Great Buddha at Nara - even bigger in real life than I'd imagined.

After years of devouring mountain climbing books, I finally stood at the peak of one I actually climbed.

Summit marker at Mt. Mizen - my first Japanese mountain.

After decades of gazing in awe at National Geographic photographs of Japan's iconic Great Torii, I took my own.

The entrance to a sacred space.

In fact, I took a whole lot more than one.

A dream come true, and a calling found.

I had never felt so close to any place, or so certain that I'd made the right decision in writing about Japan. Wherever I stood, whatever I saw, the country sang to my heart and inspired my soul.

When the time came for me to go home, I watched the landscape fall away with longing, nose to the airplane glass and wishing desperately to return.

Me, watching Japan fall away beneath the plane.

The following year I returned--this time, alone. I screwed my courage to the sticking place and did what I never dared to do . . . I traveled the length of the country by train, staying in new hotels and thousand year-old temples.

I watched the sun rise over the rice fields of Shikoku:

Dawn in Tokushima

and the moon rise over the alps.

Moonrise in the old post town of Magome.

I hiked on the Tokaido and Nakasendo - feeling the weight of history where tens of thousands of feet had walked -- and wandered the paths of Okunoin, where 250,000 people lie in silent, peaceful graves.

Okunoin, Mount Koya, Japan

To my surprise, I never once felt lost or homesick, even though I'd never gone so far or spent so long alone. Each morning felt like a new adventure, each night the end of a lovely dream. The more I hiked, and climbed, and saw, the more I understood that this ... the life I'd been too scared to live, the world I'd been too scared to see ... this was the life that I'm supposed to live.

The gateway to adventure, and to home.

Instead of feeling separate, I felt a part of something, close to something, in a way I'd never been. I love my family, my friends, and my home, but I also felt the need, the call, to share this lovely country and its history through my stories (and through photographs, as often as I can).

Autumn at Okunoin.

I always knew I would love Japan--I've loved its history, language, and culture since childhood, and that hasn't changed. If anything, it's merely spread to my son . . . a generational love.

My son and me at Ginkakuji (the Golden Pavilion) in Kyoto.

What I didn't expect is that traveling there--a place I expected to feel lost--would leave me feeling found.

I'm not sharing this to brag about myself (or Japan, though if you like what you see, I do encourage you to go), but rather to issue an invitation to anyone else out there who's feeling lost, or scared, or powerless. The world is big, and wild, and terrifying, but it's also ancient, beautiful, and beckoning. Sometimes, you have to step outside your comfort zone to find yourself.

Not all who wander are lost, indeed. And sometimes, you need to get lost to find the place where you belong.