warm smells. I remember voices singing in old church, and smell of frankincensethat clung to candle lit walls. I remember sleds and warm animal breath in coldair, fat women in colorful babushkas, and tired men whose eyes, flush withArmagnac, would light up as the slender fingers of insistent balalaika playerscarried them all off to place of jovial agreement.From these days, Spoonman learn to speak language of the blind. All thoughtsand words touch us in different ways. There is soft touch, words that hold andcomfort, and tell us that love is like warm fire. Come closer little one, rest here bymy side. These hands will hold you, protect you, and bring you good fruit andcheese. And there is hard touch; words that scold, that steer, that drive on yakand that fight over right way to live. Words that nibble at your ears like hungrylover, and words that slap side of your face like deceitful friend. This is languageof the blind, and in the dark cold winters of childhood, this was our native tongue.I would have been happy to stay in those mountains and be friend to reindeerand yak, to eat good goat cheese, and to watch my mother grow old, but thatwas not to be. I was taken, at age of six, by my father; first to Krasnoyarsk, thento Ulaangom in Mongolia, then to Chengdu in China, to Burma, to Rangoon, andfrom there by freighter to Djibouti, up the Red Sea, through the Suez toDamascus and back to his world; a world of cut-throats and thieves, full ofdisease and addiction, all because his knees were bad and he needed me to puton his socks, to bring him his opium, and to listen as he rambled on... stories ofancient glories.I stayed with him for nine years. We traveled together - Morocco, Istanbul, Cairo,the Sahara, the Congo. We knew streets and landmarks, better at night than inthe day. We stayed in brothels, tents, once elegant hotels, becoming friend toprostitutes, opium sellers, traders and shopkeepers, foreign journalists far fromhome and corrupt little bureaucrats with bad teeth and oily hair. And always thestories, the stories he would make up to accompany each artifact that he wouldsell. He would say, "When the story is perfect, the sale is made." I rememberthem all, their shape and smell, those Hittite and Babylonian artifacts that werethe toys of my youth.This was our life, the only life I knew, and though he was not kind, still he was myfather. I think he knew that he needed me more than I needed him, but still I didlove him. The part of him that was of this world was pathetic of sorts, and smellylike all bodily functions, and weak like alcohol in the bones; but the part of himthat was not of this world, was mighty and pure, like a high mountain bird thatsaw all there was to see, and spoke in tongues of what he saw to his fellowphilosopher kings, who were in fact, a bunch of drunken lunatics - but still I hungon their every word.