Author: Lawrence Winkler
Page count: 363
Lawrence Winkler is an ancient physician and phenomenologist, traveler, mushroom forager, and amateur naturalist. As a young man, he hitchhiked around the world, for five transformative years.
His middle age is morphing from medicine to manuscript. He has a passion for habitat protection, including the (hopefully) final repairs on a leaky roof. Westwood Lake Chronicles was his first book.
He lives on Vancouver Island with Robyn and Shiva, tending their garden and vineyard, and dreams.
Tell us about your book:
The Final Cartwheel is the story of a young doctor’s return home, after a five-year hitchhiking odyssey around the world. Through East Asia, Indonesia, and around the Antipodes, the circle becomes unbroken.
How long did it take to write the book?
What inspired you to write the book?
Five year hitchhiking odyssey around the world
Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?
Whenever I get a spare moment and my writing moccasins are near
What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
Where can we go to buy your book?
Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble
Any other links or info you’d like to share?
Excerpt from book:
End of Strife
Laura Bowman: “Isn’t that illegal?”
U Aung Ko: “In Burma, everything is illegal.”
Beyond Rangoon, 1995
I landed in Burma when it was still Burma. I landed in Rangoon when it was still Rangoon. I landed in a military dictatorship, in humidity, decay, and cigar smoke.
It could have been Havana, if my revolutionary reincarnation had gone through more crucifixion. The Cuban marriage of Catholicism and Communism was about the extinction of the self, through submission to collective control; the Burmese union of Buddhism and Socialism was about the extinction of the self, through the individual attainment of enlightenment, through an impossible contradiction.
The ratio of corruption to competence was encouraging. The smiling faces of the inept immigration officials cleared the middle path for me out of the terminal, where a hopalong Indian babu loaded me into his taxi for the drive to the YMCA.
We drove by the 300-foot spotlit towering temple spire of the Schwedagon, a seven ton golden hypodermic tipped with 5,448 diamonds and 2,317 rubies, injecting karma into the night sky. The Schwedagon was twenty-five hundred years old, the oldest pagoda in the world. During his visit in 1889, the golden dome had made an indelible impression on Rudyard Kipling.
“This is Burma.” He said. “And it will be quite unlike any land you know about.”
Legend has it that the eight strands of Gautama’s hair the Shwedagon contained, were brought from India to Burma by two merchant brothers. When King Okkalapa opened the golden casket in which they were transported, ‘there was an incredible tumult among men and spirits … rays emitted by the Hairs penetrated up to the heavens above and down to hell … the blind beheld objects … the deaf heard sounds … the dumb spoke distinctly … the earth quaked … the winds of the ocean blew … Mount Meru shook … lightning flashed … gems rained down until they were knee deep … and all trees of the Himalayas, though not in season, bore blossoms and fruit.’
My own reception at the YMCA was somewhat more subdued. The Fat Man provided the only sleeping space remaining, on the stage floor beside the piano. I drank Vimto and played Beethoven, until the fatigue worked its way down my arms and into my fingers.
My last ounce of energy extinguished the floodlights. A squadron of mosquitoes and a wounded grandfather clock chimed two hours off my life. Big-bong Bing-chunk… Big-bong Bing-chunk.
I was still semiconscious in the Gold Kazoo, when a large pair of mirrored sunglasses shook my shoulders. I looked up into a green Burmese jungle hat, and a smiling black moustache on a tanned mustard face. He was just like they said he’d be.
“MingaLAba.” He said. “I’m Roy.”
“I’ll bet you are.” I said. “Where you been?”
“MandaLAY.” He said. “You got the duty free?” I handed him a bottle of Vat 69 whiskey and a carton of 555 cigarettes. In Bangledesh, they had told me it would pay for my entire week upriver and incountry. Roy looked it over, and tapped me twice again on the shoulder.
“Ready to go?” He asked.
“I just got here.” I said. It was four in the morning.
“You only have a week.” He said. “Burma big country.” I rolled up the Gold Kazoo painfully, wondering why I had just paid six kyat to play a piano.
Rangoon was a British bastardization of Yongon, which in the local dialect literally meant ‘to run out of enemies,’ or the ‘End of Strife.’ My strife was just about to begin, in its dark humid low altitude decomposition. Because electricity was intermittent, there was no reliable power to run elevators. Other than the Schwedagon, no buildings were constructed higher than the set of stairs you could climb in the heat.
I stowed Serendipity in favour of a smaller bag that Roy provided. Room in the truck would be at a premium. He suggested I buy a ticket from ‘Tourist Bummer.’ Tourist Burma.
“Why?” I asked
“To show them you go somewhere.” He said.
“But I am going somewhere.” I said. He told me our trip was ‘special,’ and a train ticket would cover our tracks. He prodded the Fat Man to accompany me to Tourist Bummer. I bought passage to Mandalay, for a dollar.
My upcountry adventure travel companions were waiting impatiently, back at the ‘Y.’ This was the group I would spend the next week with, crammed in the back of a yellow pickup. Introductions began with Tony, a friendly 32 year-old hairdresser from Los Angeles, recently divorced, and deep in heartbreak. There was Jo, an English naturopath, hosing down the planet with her alternative remedies and lifestyle choices, as a talisman against impending menopause. Her partner, Vivian, was an older mother of two, afflicted with a more advanced case. Christianne was a bitter Belgian with a jutting jaw that led every one of her efforts to get a bargain on everything she would consume.
And finally, and not many things are ever final, there was Dominique, a 26 year-old French Napoleanne, traveling the Far East for the previous four years, who had made a small fortune as a stripper in Japan, and collected addresses, just like Button Nose in Darjeeling. Dominique had a nose ring, before transflesh metal was a more universally accepted artistic form of individual expression. You could tell it was there to provoke anyone into pulling her around by it. She could turn her charm and accent on and off like a rivet gun and, by the time we returned to the end of strife, I would be riven with rivets. It was going to be a long week.
Roy introduced us to our drivers, James and Henry.
“Aren’t you coming?” Jo asked of Roy.
“No room.” He said. Reexamining the iron cage behind the cab, I think he meant that for at least three of us.
Leafy avenues led us around corner teashops and along fin-de-siècle colonial architecture, to the Strand Hotel, in an abortive attempt to buy more export quality cigarettes. There would be no more change in American cash.
We turned north in our yellow truck, just before noon. Whatever few traffic signs there were, were facing the wrong direction.
No one spoke at first, but the ice gradually melted as the sun rose higher, past waving Burmese, semiarid rice paddies, receding pagodas, and the realization of the adventure before us.